By on October 13, 2014

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This week’s AMA is a double-header, courtesy of reader Mark, who might be the only person who will cop to owning both a Cadillac Catera and a Jaguar X-Type.

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Hello there!
 
Many among us would question a man’s motive for buying a 1997 Cadillac Catera.  Internet lore speaks of the horrors wrought upon aspirational Boomers by the Catera’s forebear, the Cimarron.  Dancing cartoon ducks and Cindy Crawford couldn’t draw attention away from the lowly badge-engineered, Lumina doppelgänger, awful-in-a-dealer-install-Landau-top profile.  No amount of praise for road manners and “initial quality” could mask the Catera’s premature tensioner failures and long list of gremlins that no doubt put serious miles on tow trucks well into the early 2000s.  
 
What, then, do we think when this man doubles down and puts his hard-earned cash toward a 2004 Jaguar X-Type?  Surely he must be bereft of his faculties!  One Pokemon short of catching them all.  Maybe it was those sensual British curves wrapped over Ford Mondeo hard points that captivated him.  Perhaps he dismissed all those “ten worst” lists featuring both of his cars as so much haterade poured over all the near-luxury those low-information plebs would never attain in their lifetime.  Maybe he’s a cat person and couldn’t do without a Leaper on his hood.  
 
Be it a case of one flew over the Cuckoo’s nest, or one man’s quest to prove the Greater Fool theory has a terminal threshold, this is my story and it only ends when the cars stop moving under their own power.  Ask me anything.  
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105 Comments on “TTAC AMA: I Own A Catera And An X-Type...”


  • avatar
    number9ine

    Hi, I’m Mark. Let’s get all the obvious stuff out of the way:

    CURRENT CARS
    1990 Mazda Miata – 2013 (project)
    1997 Cadillac Catera – 2014 (station car)
    1999 Porsche Boxster – 2008
    2004 Jaugar X-Type – 2014
    2006 Porsche Cayman S – 2014
    2008 Porsche GT3 – 2014
    2013 Airstream Interstate (Mercedes Sprinter High Roof 170″ WB 3500) – 2013

    WHY?
    I live in New York (Hudson Valley) but spend a significant amount of time in Phoenix, AZ for work.

    The Catera is a station car for when I’m in NY. My parents had an ’86 Cimarron, so sins of the father, &c. My favorite thing about the Catera is the sheer amount of wear and tear despite only 55,000 miles on the clock. Lower control arm bushings shot? Water temp sensor doesn’t work? AC needs recharge? One headlamp aimed two feet in front of the bumper? Trunk only opens with remote? Driver HVAC blend door stuck on cold? That’s the short list of what I discovered *before* I bought it. SOLD.

    I had a 981 Boxster S as my PHX daily driver and loved it, but the 997 GT3 was my unicorn car so when I found a pristine example I traded the Boxster for it. After the first few speedbumps chewed the GT3’s front splitter I decided to get something a little more practical for the day-to-day. The X-Type was on my Porsche dealer’s lot; it looked and drove well so I took it home. The headliner is starting to sag in the back, there was a funny smell because the cabin filter housing has a scoop I am convinced was purpose-built to catch all the water from the windshield and deposit it in the passenger footwell, the headlights were fogged from too many hours baking in the AZ sun, and the first week saw the dealer installing a new water pump at their expense. I really like the color combo, and cosmetically it’s a 9/10.

    One may get the impression from my list that I change cars more often than I change pants. Far be it from me to disagree. What I can say is that the GT3 and the Airstream will both be with me for a long time. The Cayman is my wife’s daily driver and she never sells her cars (the Boxster is hers too).

    PRICE
    The Catera was advertised for $2500(!) with 55,000 miles. I paid $1700 because I admired the moxie of the kid selling it for college money (book is maybe $1200).
    The X-Type was advertised at my Porsche dealer with 120k miles for an eye-watering $7000. I paid $5500. Yes, that much.

    • 0 avatar
      Jim Yu

      Tip of the hat to you, good sir. I’ve considered buying both, but of course never did. My mom had an X-Type. I drove it on the Road to Hana and it got atrocious gas mileage and felt like it was twice its size around curves. Still, I was shopping for an X-Type wagon as recently as this summer.

      • 0 avatar
        number9ine

        The X-Type wagon is a looker. Gas mileage on my beast is dismal, 19 around town and 24 on the highway. That’s what my GT3 gets.

        I think the handling isn’t too shabby, considering the weight. The suspension isn’t tuned for comfort like the Catera though.

      • 0 avatar
        number9ine

        The X-Type wagon is gorgeous. Gas mileage on my beast is atrocious. I’m getting 19 city, 24 highway, which is the same mileage I get in the GT3.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Internet lore suggests the Catera can be fixed with some sort of swap, or so the legends go. Has this ever occurred to you?

      I think your Porsche dealer should be charged with robbery, although I suppose it would depend on when you acquired the X-type. I might cough up $2K-3K for one of those today with those miles, and even then I’d still blow it on an X308 instead.

      • 0 avatar
        number9ine

        If I had the time and energy to bother with a motor swap in a tired old chassis, I’d probably start with my Miata instead. I have new A-arms with bushings in the box from RockAuto, once I sort out how the Catera is supposed to feel I might get creative.

        There are plenty of X-Types in OK condition out there for similar money to what I paid. That’s not to say anyone should pay that money, or buy an X-Type for that matter. With the water pump alone I’m closer to parity than I was when I started, and the car had some maintenance done prior to sale you won’t find in other examples (new Pirellis, brakes, tune-up).

    • 0 avatar
      mike1dog

      You need to buy a Lincoln LS, so you can have the diabolical trinity of oddball unloved luxury cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Speed3

      Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all drove brown manual diesel wagons?

    • 0 avatar
      MoDo

      Years ago I had a recession job selling cars and one of my first customers traded in a Catera. At time of exchange he handed me a stack of receipts for all the new parts it had received, which I kindly left on the passenger seat to help it get through the auction, which is where we were sending it after giving him a whopping $500 for it.

      I then drove it to the wholesale yard, car drove almost exactly like my moms old 1991 Chevy Lumina. Well, the Lumina actually drove better, but very similar.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        He must have done a Lumina suspension & steering rack transplant on it then, because for all its woes, the Catera (rwd,heavy rubber bushings), had deeply German driving dynamics, much closer to a BMW than a sh!tbox fwd Lumina.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The Catera was a Malibu and (short lived) Olds Malibu-Cutlass doppelgänger, not the Lumina!

    • 0 avatar
      anti121hero

      Always thought it was a badge engineered malibu until I looked at one and realized it was rwd and very foreign

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      I see my Catera as much closer to the design language of the 2nd gen Lumina, but the P-90 and Epsilon ‘bus are definitely barking up the same tree.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I’m sorry, I just don’t see how anybody can say the Lumina is closer than the Catera/Malibu. People online think they’re the same car, asking which they should buy of the same model year.

        http://images1.americanlisted.com/nlarge/1998_chevrolet_malibu_ls_28346999.jpg

        http://www.classycars.org/Cadillac/cadillac1998catera.jpg

        http://trialx.com/curetalk/wp-content/blogs.dir/7/files/2011/06/cars/1998_Oldsmobile_Cutlass-2.jpg

        For real though.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          I suspect the Lumina the OP was referring to is the Middle East version which the Catera is closely related to:

          http://www.drivearabia.com/chevrolet/chevroletlumina00.html

          It’s a shame there was never an LS1 version of the Catera. If there was, we might look back on it with a little bit more fondness.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree. The similarities in the C-pillar, accent line along the side, and the general roundness of the design make the Lumina a much closer “twin” than the Malibu.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      The Catera was a badge-engineered Opel Omega built at the Russelshiem factory in Germany.

      It is warmly received by Opel enthusiasts in the U.S. where ever and whenever Opel enthusiasts gather. I’m not sure where or when that is, other than Carlisle, PA in the third weekend in May.

  • avatar
    JohnnyFirebird

    I just got killed at the auction on a low-mileage 2005 X-Type 3.0 AWD. That car haunted me for about a year. Does yours have the howling transfer case? That cost much money to fix, and then the repair failed right after selling it, then cost more money to fix again before sending it off to auction. I’m never touching an X-Type again.

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      No howling transfer case, but the accessory belt tensioner started making a noise that made me think the car had a head gasket issue. Took it back to the dealer, that’s where they found the water pump was starting to leak and fixed that along with the tensioner.

      The X-Type is definitely showroom poison in Phoenix, no one wants or needs an AWD car in this climate.

    • 0 avatar

      Transfer case is a common problem (the forum seem to suggest it has about a 50-70k mile life span sometimes less. It was one of the things that scared me away from buying one 6 months ago. (94,000 miles clean manual trans all service records owned by a college prof. asking 2,500 and was having trouble getting it.)

  • avatar

    So this is the car that spawned the current Cadillac engineering revolution. I think the Aurora also played a role in influencing current Cadillacs.

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      I LOVE the gen 1 Auroras, which just shows that I’m a sucker for abusive automotive mistresses. GM did a lot right with that car, but it came at the wrong time.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I love them too but much like the maligned crush you had in high school who drank after school/did drugs in the bathroom/cut herself/dropped out/suffered abuse from parents or boyfriends, they can’t really be saved. I know this from bitter experience.

        “In those days, I didn’t understand anything. I should have judged her according to her actions, not her words. She perfumed my planet and lit up my life. I should never have run away! I ought to have realized the tenderness underlying her silly pretensions. Flowers are so contradictory! But I was too young to know how to love her.”

        “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”

        Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

        http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2180358-le-petit-prince

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Thought: The gen 1 Aurora has much in common (styling prowess, sales, oddball, abandoned, timing) with the final 9-5.

          • 0 avatar
            number9ine

            Le Petit Prince! Those words may be a little too precious to describe my fascination with the Aurora, but I did look for them when I shopped for my Catera. There were no first gens that weren’t total disasters, but plenty of the fish-faced second gen to be had. Blech.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I find the gen2 in pearl white over parchment to be very appealing.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Yes, Le Petit Prince helped me learn an important life lesson in 2001. Regarding Aurora I’ve read similar internet lore to Catera suggesting they can be saved with a swap, but have never seen it. This YT video claims it can be done: youtube.com/watch?v=2C3nX01N1Yk

            However much like the flower, no matter how much it is watered, some things can’t be saved.

          • 0 avatar
            number9ine

            There’s something about the Gen 2s that strikes me as GM parts bin engineering, especially for the interior. Big rubbery steering wheel that wouldn’t look out of place in a TrailBlazer, controls that probably came from some Buick, and a general sense that no one cared as much about the product to make it as bespoke as the original felt.

            When you’re pushing the $40k territory at the turn of the millennium, that’s a real problem.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            For the mostpart, I thought gen2 was just a Saab + some Buick interior. I never liked the big Saab-style vents.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’m reaching here but the Gen 2 Aurora was supposed to be “Antares” (so, the Eighty-Eight Royale as-it-were), it was never intended to be an Aurora, which itself was supposed to slot where Ninety Eight was in that near-Cadillac style Olds. GM dropped the Ninety-Eight level “Aurora” once the decision was made to shutter the brand but moved forward with Antares production (which was probably too far along to be worth canceling).

            http://encyclopedia.classicoldsmobile.com/concept/antares.html

            http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1996-08-25/travel/9608240239_1_alero-achieva-olds-aurora

            http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/9704185621/olds-antares-sit-between-intrigue-aurora

  • avatar

    Once owned a Mercury Mystique-an acquaintance bought an X type (still has it too). Lots of common parts.

    The Mercury lasted 125k. I can’t imagine the X will go much further.

    She loves it, leaping cat and all…..

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      I suspect that X-Types were bought by the kind of folks who settled on the car because of significant cash on the hood, or some misguided notion of luxury.

      Those same folks probably did a poor job of keeping up on the kind of maintenance an AWD British Ford would require.

      My example did come with receipts and appears to have been treated well over the years.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        There’s a lawyer here at work with a white over black VDP X-Type. I like how the car was too small to script out Vanden Plas. And how the car didn’t deserve the Vanden Plas name.

        • 0 avatar
          number9ine

          You gotta hand it to Jaguar, they really doubled down on the X-Type. Not like they had any choice, but they did make some incremental improvements to the platform over time.

          I had a new XF Supercharged as a service loaner a few weeks back. Brutal acceleration, but materials and fit and finish were no better than your average contemporary Lincoln. Seems not much has changed.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I have always found the XF lacking. It doesn’t have the heritage look, but it’s not big enough to make a grand statement without such heritage styling. And it hasn’t aged well either, IMO.

            It’s just “some car,” and Jags should be more special than that.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Regarding XF, what is your opinion on long term ownership? S-type’s issues are well known and it seems like the cars can in theory be keep on the road like the X300s, but I am wary of model specific stupidity or parts made of unobtainium.

          • 0 avatar
            number9ine

            I really, really liked the XF’s motor (and the brakes felt great, giant floating calipers and all).

            The car itself was rubbish. Everything I touched felt cheap, but was clearly designed to look more expensive than it cost. All the metal was plastic. All the leather was made to look semi-aniline, but had this odd coating on it that made it feel like vinyl. French seams were glued in uneven lines across the full leather door cards and dash. The PRNDS dial gear selector felt like it would break if you twisted more than gently.

            I spent two days in the car so I didn’t get any real impressions beyond that, but it’s clear that Jaguar learned a few bad habits from their time under Ford ownership.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            How did you find the spinny vents? Do they still do that? That bit along with the gear selector rising always seemed like a super bad idea for a British car.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thx. I’ll stick to X308s and X300s for my future Jaguar headaches.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            If you’re going to put up with a PITA-to-own Jag (and really they all are), then it may as well be a big, pretty one.

          • 0 avatar
            number9ine

            I went and drove an X308. Pretty for sure, but terrible to drive. I felt like I was sitting on top of the car, not in it. Tilled like an old steam ship. The V8 was nice, but everything around it was a penalty box.

            The X-Type drives like a modern car.

          • 0 avatar
            number9ine

            Corey:

            The spinny vents were silly, and I can only imagine what one of those little motors costs to replace with labor.

            The knob didn’t rise, it was static. I guess they either learned their lesson or decided to cut cost.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @number9ine

            My first experience was in an MY00 X308 in 2001 when the car had less than fifteen thousand miles. If a Siren could be a car, this would be it. Smoothest ride I have ever experienced, from 30 to well past 90 you couldn’t tell the difference. I was 19 at the time, and even then I could tell this was a car for powerful men. Whether they (X308s) age well I cannot say.

          • 0 avatar
            number9ine

            28-Cars-Later, I have to say that the X308 I drove at my price point was getting tired, but well-kept. There was definitely a sense of occasion walking around the car and getting into it. If it didn’t drive like it did I may have bought it.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            If I was going to buy an XJ I think I would go full insanity and search out a V12 XJ40.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @ajla

            Seek help my friend. The doors to the Church of 3800 are always open.

            @number9ine

            If you ever look at another X308 stick with anything built after August 2000 at this point. Or if you feel like an adventure find a low mile MY98-00 built before August 2000 with the Nikasil issue, offer next to nothing because of the Nikasil issue, and do a swap.

            http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/industry/top-automotive-engineering-failures-jaguar-nikasil-v8

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Ugh. I could not agree more about the XF. Anodyne, sterile & cheap.

            My direct boss back in 2003 had a brand new XJ V8 Supercharged. THAT was a proper Jag. I loved, loved that car, and I could care less that it didn’t get great marks on Consumer Reports reliability index.

            It had gobs of torque, gobs of real wood and metal trim, fantastic ride quality (firm but not harsh whatsoever), and just amazing presence (without being gaudy).

            Everything from the alloy wheels, to the grille, to the hood dripped aggressive class.

            I detest the new me-too Jags. The XJs will always best represent what a big, comfy, powerful, sexy Jag sedan should be to my eyes, mind & soul.

  • avatar
    ajla

    So why get the Catera over a 4.1L Seville?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      +1000

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I actually had a chance to drive a pale yellow nearly mint ’87 Deville a few months ago. Because my expectations were basically negative I came away with a “Well it isn’t THAT bad” impression.

        I’m still not really sure what appeal the car held towards the original buyer though.

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      The Seville is the car to have from Cadillac’s late nineties lineup, no doubt. When I was shopping I did look out for them but didn’t find any in my sub-2k station car price range that were worth taking a look at.

      Then again, my Catera probably wasn’t worth taking a look at either. So it goes.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        BTW if he’s talking 4.1 that’s not late 90s – when they had the 4.6 N*.

        • 0 avatar
          number9ine

          I didn’t catch that. If he means the late eighties Seville, my uncle had one. I kinda liked those.

          Definitely in station car price territory if a decent example can be had. Maybe I’ll trade up!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        We had many issues with G-body Seville (98+) when the cars were physically five to seven years old. Granted many of those at the time were high miles (80-100K+) and sold on price but they didn’t seem to be able to withstand abuse very well. Steering racks, steering column issues, suspension issues, electrical gremlins, and this is before any burps from the ticking bomb Northstars. An SLS/STS of the period would probably just be problematic in a different way than Catera.

        • 0 avatar
          number9ine

          All true, but it would be a Cadillac in a way that the Catera definitely isn’t.

          I like Cadillacs but I think my preference for European cars made the Catera/Omega a more interesting choice for me.

  • avatar

    The X-Type wasn’t *that* bad. It had handsome styling (especially the wagon), and could be had with a manual transmission and AWD paired together, although that wasn’t so uncommon then as it is now.

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      I tend to agree, there’s a lot to like about the car.

      But like any bastard child shunned by society, only exceptional traits will cause the proles to take notice. The X-Type is all right, but really unremarkable in every way.

      • 0 avatar

        “The X-Type is all right, but really unremarkable in every way.”

        You said it better than I could have. A Jaguar is supposed to shine bright, especially when it eventually catches fire and burns to a crisp (a little DeMuro humor for you)…

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Have you seen my story in Murilee’s JY Find?
    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1998-cadillac-catera-2/#comment-2070749

    What do you think? I strive for accuracy.

    The Catera is the only car I know of in modern times where just about every…single…part on the car is likely to fail. So much different stuff fails on the Catera. What do you think will be the next thing to go? Does it smell like mildew yet? Do you plan on perhaps keeping it until the near future where it’s an extremely rare pseudo collectable like the Renault Fuego? Are you a contributor on http://www.cadillac-catera.com/?

    A long time ago, I thought of swapping one and making a drift car because they were so cheap. Does this sound like a good plan? I didn’t do it because the rear suspension is semi-trailing arm like an old Datsun, and they are heavy.

    Does the X-type smell like mildew yet?

    You seem to be financially well. If you had a salary of $25k/yr, what would you buy? Would you keep these two gems?

    Have you ever been stranded? If so, enlighten me on the scenario(s).

    Here is my take on your profile.
    -You are set financially, and could probably retire now.
    -You have no children, or are an empty-nester.
    -You work hard, or have great responsibilities, but also a lot of free time.
    -You appreciate adventure, no matter where you may find it. You value experiences in life highly.
    -It is hard for you to become angry.
    -You probably jog or exercise regularly, and are in good health.
    -You don’t work on your own cars, but you keep them clean and wax them.

    Is this accurate?

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      To address the questions on the Catera:

      -I’ve read all the Catera horror story sites, and participated in the forums. Even where Catera fanciers congregate, the stories of shared suffering are what binds them.
      -Aside from the tensioner pulley recall, there are obviously other things that are pretty much designed to fail on this car. I’m happy about what does work. The motor is still strong, the handling is decent despite the bushings (any 14 year old car in the NE is likely to have bad bushings, but the Catera is said to eat them faster), the car is quiet at speed, the stereo is excellent, and the gas mileage isn’t too terrible.
      -I’ve never drifted although I have a few friends that do. The Catera would make a terrible drift car. Minus all the problems and accessory weight, you’re still talking a midsize frame with a long wheelbase. Go find an AE86 or a 200SX if you want to have some fun.

      The X-Type was caught in the freak tropical storm we had here in Phoenix a few weeks ago, but I got all the water out immediately with a vacuum so there was no mildew smell (I’m a freak about cleanliness in my cars). There’s a black foam flap with double-stick tape that Jaguar sells to correct the leak issue. Someone installed that on my X-Type a long time ago, but it shriveled from the heat.

      On a salary of $25k/year, I’d buy something less adventurous than the Catera, but in the sub-2k range. Some great examples I see out there are old stick Corollas, Escort wagons, basically anything with low displacement and a 5-speed. I’d also set aside $100 per month on maintenance, since the replacement cost of a sorted car is much more than just keeping what you have.

      I’ve been stranded so many times by so many cars. Everything from broken throttle cables on my first car (a ’72 VW Type II Westy) to overheating, to running out of gas because I was lazy, broke, or the gauge didn’t work. Each time I learned a lesson.

      My profile is a little different than your take:

      -You are set financially, and could probably retire now. Not at all. I make a decent wage and have investments and retirement funds set aside, but I’m in my mid-thirties and don’t plan to stop working anytime soon because my career is important to me. My car budget would be excessive by any fiscal conservative’s notion, but cars are really the only thing I spend big on.
      -You have no children, or are an empty-nester. No kids, just my wife and a few pets.
      -You work hard, or have great responsibilities, but also a lot of free time. I do work hard, and my work/life balance isn’t where I’d want it to be. You either have time or money in today’s world, only the extremely privileged have both.
      -You appreciate adventure, no matter where you may find it. You value experiences in life highly. I do!
      -It is hard for you to become angry. I don’t like being angry, but I love a good debate. Some mistake my enthusiasm for an argument to be anger.
      -You probably jog or exercise regularly, and are in good health. Not so much anymore. My diet in the past two years has been terrible, and I have no exercise routine. I do bike fairly often but not enough to overcome my bad habits.
      -You don’t work on your own cars, but you keep them clean and wax them. Time permitting, I will perform maintenance on my cars such as oil changes, tune-up, brakes, etc. I love to clean cars (it’s my Zen) but when I’m in PHX it’s hard to do since I park in a shared garage. Back in NY it’s one of my favorite pastimes. Whenever time is a challenge or I have warranty concerns, I have a dealer or indy service my cars.

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      Crabspirits, somehow my long-winded response to your post didn’t come through. I’ll ask Derek if it’s stuck in a queue someplace.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I had a 2001 Catera provided by work for 6 months and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    As for the Jag X-Type…sicko.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    So how bad is the X-type, what’s the Total Cost of Ownership so far?

    The only time I’ve been a tempted by an X-type is when it is the ultra rare station wagon model.

    Rarer than most Bentlys and Rolls Royces, yo!

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      The X-Type isn’t bad. Worse fuel economy than I expected, but all maintenance is current which you won’t see when you buy a $4500 example from a BHPH lot. New tires, brakes, tuneup.

      The tensioner pulley started making noise the first week I had it. The dealer took care of it and replaced the water pump, which showed a small leak. Not surprising at all for a car that never had the water pump replaced and lives in 115 degree summers.

      The things so far that have frustrated are the sagging headliner (I got Permatex spray and tried a DIY, but it’s coming loose again), a ride that’s harsher than I’d like it to be for a daily driver (likely failed bushings), fogged headlights (another DIY with a kit from AutoZone), and the MOST bus radio that’s impossible to add an AUX input to without spending some $500.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      If I ever needed a wagon, and I might in a couple of years I would consider a X-type. Sure it might have some maintenance issues but it’s a neat way to be break from the pack of the usual Subaru Legacy Outbacks and Volvos or CUV’s at the local garden center on weekends. Plus the Jag might end up being be more reliable after all.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    I’ve always liked the X-Type. Classic Jaguar styling in and out distilled down to a smaller platform. Sure it it doesn’t drive like an XJ, but then a Mercedes B-Class doesn’t drive like an S-Class either.

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      I thought the X305 XJ was not too great a drive.

      I’d love to drive an X350. If my wife wouldn’t kill me (she says I’ve bought and sold enough cars this year), I’d probably go find one this weekend.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Not many Cateras here, but I have a couple of Opel enthusiast friends that tried their best to keep some Omegas running not long ago. (lost contact with one, but he still had a decent Omega wagon the last time I saw him) And they were build to a lower standard than mid 80’s (EU)Fords. Keeping one nice and tidy, and running (even when they were barely 10 years old) would be near impossible for someone with no background in car mechanics and electronics. The yearly changes and mix of ’70-80’s mechanicals with 90’s electronics + GMs ability to cut completely random corners in production, also made them both difficult to work on, and to get cheap used parts for. (you coudl buy two near identical cars, one 95/and one 96 and you would need more or less the complete electric system from the donor car if you wanted the motor…)
    They were very comfortable, silent and ‘decent’ handling cars though.
    In the winter you could drive them on windy roads, and you would almost have to check the rev-counter to see if you were powersliding or not, because the car was so well behaved and quiet, well, until the rear wheels caught up again, you could feel that,and it was always a bit surprising.
    Even if the last ones were sold in 2003, you hardly see them around anymore, and never in good condition.

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      Omega Wagon! I would be all over that.

      Interestingly, the Catera gets its own funky changes over the Omega. GM decided to put Cadillac’s “Nuance” (smell-impregnated) leather in the Catera, and gave it the HVAC stack out of a US GM product. Oh, and about ten tons of sound deadening. Aside from the badges those are the only substantive differences I’m aware of.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I’m sorry.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    It’s probably a good thing I was poor when these cars came out, I would really wanted both of them.

    The Catera impressed me in the fit and finish department, it was definitely a huge step above other Cadillacs. If you got to see one when they were brand new, it really did set it apart. I personally liked the understated looks, they screwed up though putting such an anemic power plant in there.

    The X type was also a great looking car, I liked the Baby Jag lines. Jaguar lost something when it ditched their distinctive look, to me the new sedans look like some sort of Taurus and Volvo mated, just a hodgepodge of style that is very forgettable.

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      There are some things that amaze me about both of these cars. The Catera still has that leather smell and relatively little wear for its age, and the wood in the Jag looks brand new.

      It’s never too late to pick up a used and abused example of your own to bring back from the brink!

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin Jaeger

        I must say some Cateras seem to have aged very well. Up here in Canada most cars of that era have been taken by rust but the surviving Cateras seem to be holding up fairly well. Whether the leather interior was luxurious or not is debatable, but it certainly seems to have been durable.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          The biggest let down with the 2001 Catera company car I had was the motor. It was a British built 3.0 liter that was unrefined & weak.

          Other than that, the car was extremely quiet, had a very excellent ride quality (it was extremely stable at high speed), and the interior trim was as German as anything BMW or Mercedes were building (it was German designed & assembled, after all).

          Fortunately, I never had to deal with the long term maintenance and lack of reliability.

          If you ask a competent mechanic whether the motor is worth taking a risk on, they’ll just laugh and laugh and laugh.

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    Nothing to add other than I thoroughly enjoyed your intro and responses, and I hope to see more of your writing on this website in the future. I for one would love to read more about your fleet of CR nightmares.

    I do have a question actually: has your fleet always been so large, atypical, and redundant (two seat sports cars and pseudo-lux crap piles)?

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      Thanks for the kind words. Here’s the list of cars I’ve owned over the years, and when I owned them:

      1972 Volkswagen Type II Westfalia – 1986-1998
      1986 Ford Escort Wagon – 1997-1998
      1987 Chevy Cavalier Coupe – 1998
      1988 Ford Taurus 2.5L – 1997
      1988 Volkswagen Jetta GL Coupe – 1996-1997
      1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet (Triple White) – 1998-2000
      1997 Volkswagen Jetta GLX – 2003-2006
      1999 Volkswagen New Beetle GLX 1.8T – 1999-2001
      2000 Volkswagen New Beetle GLS 2.0 – 2002-2003
      2003 Porsche Boxster S – 2004-2009
      2004 Volkswagen GTI 1.8T – 2003-2005
      2005 Volkswagen Passat Wagon GLX – 2006-2011
      2005 Porsche 911 Carrera S – 2009-2013
      2010 Volkswagen GTI Autobahn – 2011-2014
      2013 Porsche Boxster S – 2013-2014

      I’m sure you can see a trend toward German cars. In over ten years of Porsche ownership I’ve always had a separate daily driver, all of which have been comfortable and almost trouble-free. With so much of my budget in the weekend cars I’m challenging myself to go cheap on the daily driver front, but it’s hard to give up the creature comforts. I see it as a challenge to have my cake and eat it too, hence the pseudo-lux crap piles.

      When I’m done getting high on headliner glue fumes and wet-sanding headlamps I might just come to my senses and buy daily drivers that need nothing. But what’s the fun in that?

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    Thanks for doing this – it seems you’ve actually gone out and bought the cars I was always tempted to buy but just pulled back from in a fit of either cowardice or good judgement. The list of cars I’ve been very tempted to buy recently – Catera, X-type, S-Type, Lincoln LS, Aurora, and Porsche 928. With my mechanical skills how bad could they be, I ask?

    My main hesitation has been cost and availability of parts for these somewhat unloved orphans. So what has it been like keeping these cars running? Any horror stories of absurdly expensive parts only available from a single source? Or only available with shipping from Europe? Or scouring German E-bay for used Omega parts?

    I don’t really mind doing the work to fix things but it’s no fun if you can’t get parts at something approaching a reasonable time and effort.

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      Let no man accuse me of good judgment!

      There’s gonna be some unobtanium parts, but that’s true of any car that’s more than a decade old. For the Catera, I found the control arms with bushings pressed in for cheaper than the bushings alone, less than $100 total. I plan to pay someone to put those in and save me the hassle (thanks to my Catera I’m a job creator!). For the X-Type, the water pump was a $400 Jag part that I didn’t pay for but much of the rest is straight from the Ford parts bin.

      I am still looking for a decent and cheap set of replacement headlamps for the Catera because one of the housings has a broken adjustment screw. I see some aftermarket sets that are OEM design and offer the later halogen projectors for $50 apiece, which I think is pretty darn cheap. So I haven’t met with any nutso parts prices yet, but that doesn’t mean they’re not waiting in the wings. If it doesn’t involve engine-out work and if I have the time, I’m always inclined to try it myself.

      The Cateras are so cheap you could buy a parts car for near scrap money and put it under a tarp out back for that true redneck flavor. Or skip all that jazz and install an LS1.

      For the 928, do it. Great car, has its share of problems like anything else but the depreciation means you can pick up a decent runner for not much more than my Catera cost. Plenty of DIYers out there who love their 928s and see the mechanical stuff as part of the ownership experience.

  • avatar
    sproc

    Absolutely love this series. Test drove a ’99 Contour SVT new and loved it. Probably would have bought it had I not gotten orders to Japan shortly after. Coincidentally, two years later flying out of Narita, they had a new X-Type on a pedestal, and I really thought it looked sharp. There was something about that shape that really worked for me.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    To put in perspective just how terrible the Catera was, The Cimarron was a Honda when compared to the Catera whose only equal was a Trabant

    The Catera came right on the heels of the Cimarron, Cadillac is like the guy who wants to do himself in, shoots himself in the head and misses, then hangs himself and the rope breaks

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA… AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

      Dude, I spent plenty of my formative years rolling in my parents’ Cimarron, it’s the first car I ever drove at eleven years old. Everything but the seats looked cheap and broke easily, noisy V6 engine, and probably the most obvious automotive example of selling on brand equity alone. The Catera had some real quality issues out of the box, but it was at least a product designed to compete as an executive car prior to being adorned with the wreath (and duck).

      I think someone above noted that the Omega is a well-regarded car in its home country despite the issues.

      And who stateside wouldn’t want a Trabi to roll around in? Sign me up.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    My dad had a last of the breed “old Jag” ’96 XJ-S convertible, which he traded for a “Ford Jag” ’98 XK8 convertible. The difference between the two cars was stunning. The XJ-S had prince of darkness electrics galore. I was once driving home at night in it, headlights and brake lights working, but no dash lights or tail lights. A cop pulled me over and said “Jag huh. Yep. Get it home and get it fixed.”

    The driving position was horrible, and the “tech” amounted to a cassette player stuffed into the tiny dash. It felt *special* though particularly when compared to the all business, extremely boring Mercedes SL of the time.

    Compared to that car, the XK8 was completely soulless. The tiny elegant dash of the XJ-S ballooned into a huge slab of walnut with radio and HVAC controls that were too cheap for Ford Fiesta. The amazing leather of the XJ-S gave way to similarly god awful crap that felt like touching a plastic bag.

    The second generation, recently departed XK is only a minor improvement over the first in terms of interior materials and design.

    Totally agree on the XF, swap out the nose and you could mistake it for a Volvo. The new XE which is Jag’s second stab at the X-type formula is similarly bland, and the interior is similarly low rent and uncompetitive.

    Jags used to be unreliable with terrible resale, but there was also a sort of bargain Bentley quality to them. Now they are just unreliable with terrible resale.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I believe the 4.0 V8 in your dad’s XK8 suffered from the Nikasil liner issue as well.

      http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/industry/top-automotive-engineering-failures-jaguar-nikasil-v8

  • avatar
    mjz

    Made the mistake of leasing a Catera. (Remember when ER jumped the shark by introducing a character named Lisa Catera?). Was on a first name basis with the service manager, let’s just put it that way. Good looking car though. Mine was a Sage color, with Ivory leather, chrome wheels. The experience I liken to dating a very pretty girl who has a truly serious personality disorder.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Lisa Catera was Chicago Hope, bro (only reason I know is b/c gf watched it & I had a crush on that fair dame at the time despite the show being ridiculously over the top).

      http://members.tripod.com/d_kronk/images/sted.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        I stand corrected, sir! It was a long time ago, and I have tried to blot out my experience with my Craptera from my memory banks as much as humanly possible…shudder, I just remembered when the interior footwells filled with water because of a plugged drain at the base of the windshield and the service manager blamed ME for having parked under a tree at some point during the lease!

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      Subliminal advertising FTW!

  • avatar
    robc123

    What I am doing is getting it and immediately replacing, motor, trans, wiring, exhaust (maybe), brakes, power steering, shocks.

    These cars are so cheap because even when you do that you still need to refresh, seats, foam, headliner (if southern), carpet.

    That cost is pretty big for a $3-12k starting out car- you gotta really like it, and its kind of a sleeper with a LT1 under the hood. As I am looking at a series 3 xj6, don’t think I will ever get my money back- but for a sedan, but I think the looks are just great. If I wanted to get some money back or maybe par, then a conversion on an old RR would be more sound.

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