By on January 7, 2016

92-95_Buick_LeSabre

TTAC Commentator Matador writes:

Dear Sajeev/Sanjeev,

I own two cars (and two older pickup trucks): a 1995 LeSabre with 223,000 miles and a 2001 Audi A6 Avant with 165,000 miles on the clock. I drive 80-100 miles per day for work. Between work and personal miles, I drive about 45,000 miles per year. The trucks aren’t daily driven too often and are only used when I need to move something that won’t fit in the wagon. Gas isn’t that cheap!

The Buick isn’t going anywhere. It was my first car and I am a firm believer that you don’t sell your first. I would like to drive it a little less, though, keeping it for special occasions. Since the Audi is my main car, the Buick only receives about 35 percent of my overall miles. I love the way that the Buick handles and I am a huge fan of the 3800’s reliability.

I would really like a Buick wagon, but the Century wagon doesn’t appeal to me at all and the Roadmaster is out of my price range (I could have two Rivieras for the price of a decent Roadmaster wagon). I’m not partial to any brand, or against any brand, though I do find Hondas kind of boring.

The easy choice would be to get another A6 Avant, but maintaining one Audi is a bit of a task. I absolutely love that car. But as a second car, I don’t know …

We’ll say that the budget is $5,000. I prefer luxury/brougham over sportiness and the car can’t be from before the 1998 model year.

So, B&B (and Sajeev), what would you go with?

Sajeev answers:

Paint yourself in a corner much? I say stuff like this and wonder why as I dig myself out of five cars stuck in project car hell. But I digress …

I recommend the last Ford Taurus Mercury Sable wagon as it fits the need and I’m a raging Ford Lincoln-Mercury fanboi. Here’s my road test of the sedan: The ride is brougham-esque and the Sable is a durable, easy to repair and practical wagon.

The Vulcan V-6 is a cast-iron vest of bullet proofness, though later models had a cylinder-head defect that showed up years and 100,000+ miles later. Who knows how common this was, but there it is.

I’d opt for the Duratec V-6: They are easy to work on (just remove the wiper/cowl assembly) and the extra power and efficiency is welcome. Think of this mill as an Audi with none of the classiness, none of the repair bills and far more NVH control and performance than a (non-supercharged) 3800.

But you love that Buick, and I appreciate sentimentality. Since the right wagon doesn’t exist for $5,000, given what you like (brougham-like ride, 3800 V-6), just buy the cleanest GM W-body you can find that has the nicest interior and the fattest stack of service receipts. It’s no Roadmaster or Audi Wagon, but it’s right up your alley. My favorite out of the later W-body gang is the Oldsmobile Intrigue. It felt the least beancounted and even looks kinda modern to this day.

I’d start my search with the Intrigue. But if a Taurus Sable grabs your attention, make it happen … for me!

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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112 Comments on “Piston Slap: Because You Don’t Sell Your First!...”


  • avatar
    DeeDub

    Is he looking for a wagon? It isn’t clear. If not, the answer is 98-00 LS400. If he is, the answer is: who still makes wagons?

    • 0 avatar
      flameded

      “Is he looking for a wagon? It isn’t clear. ”

      “I would really like a Buick wagon, but the Century wagon doesn’t appeal to me at all and the Roadmaster is out of my price range”

      I dunno, seems kinda clear to me.
      ;)

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      A wagon isn’t needed anymore, but at the time of writing (July), it was more important. I used to service computers, and I basically used the Audi as a luxury cargo van. I do E-Commerce now, so a mid-sized sedan is plenty now.

      I mentioned those two cars out, because I figured that there would be loads of recommendations for them regardless of the 1998 bit….

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Which Intrigue was a wagon model? Haven’t seen that one. Sajeev wat r u saying!?

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    A Saab 9-5 wagon would suit his needs and budget, be way less of a hassle to maintain than an A6, and use less gas. Those iron-block 2.3s are million mile engines, transmissions need a flush every 100K, and the bodies are made with real steel.

    Other than that, I’m drawing a blank. Maybe a later A4 wagon? Doubt you could get a decent E Class for $5,000.

    • 0 avatar
      drfritznunkie

      @heavy handle, any personal experience with the 9-5s? I’m looking to replace a Volvo 850 wagon with 200k that continues to run despite what my GF does to it, and I don’t really want another 850 which limits my choices for modern wagons. I’ve always liked Saabs, but the older ones my friends had always seemed to be shop queens.

      For some reason I have 2004+ stuck in my head as the years to buy a 9-5.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        2004 and 2005 are the years to get if you prefer the old Saab interior and body style. They went to a more generic GM interior for 2006-09 and a different exterior.

        1999-03 aren’t bad, provided they’ve had the oil sludge kit installed (any car that’s still in good shape in 2016 has probably had it done). There were structural improvements (front subframe) and power upgrades that make the 2004 and later cars more compelling.

        They can become shop queens if you use cheap aftermarket parts. Original parts are (usually) reasonably priced and available online, so there’s no good reason to replace an OE tie-rod end that lasted 10 years with a Pep Boys part that’s good for 6 months.

      • 0 avatar
        PartsUnknown

        Fritz, I’ve owned three 9-5s at various times – most recently a 2004 Aero sedan that I kick myself daily for selling.

        Everything heavy handle said is correct. The 2.3 and Aisin tranny are bulletproof (or find a manual – even better). The front suspension is very stout. On the wagon models, look for a saggy rear – higher mileage 9-5 wagons will usually need rear shocks, otherwise the added camber will chew up and spit out rear tires.

        Just be diligent with routine maintenance and you’re good to go.

        One final thought – I found the 9-5s very easy to work on, especially compared to some older BMWs and Audis (shudder) I’ve owned.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      How’s the reliability of everything on the 9-5 (Sedan and wagon). My Audi has never stranded me, but it seems like I’m always fixing something. If the Saabs are less demanding, it’s definitely a viable option for me….

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Reliability is good overall, no major issues but a few common ones, as with any car. Check the saabcentral.com forums to get a feel for what goes wrong.

        • 0 avatar
          matador

          Thanks for the forum mention! I’ll be reading through that a bit today.

          Right now, I know virtually nothing on Saabs.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The best answer for old used car in rural Montana is abandonware Swede brand. This is known.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            I’m in Wyoming, but in Montana, there are a lot of Saabs. In Billings, Dana Motors used to be a Saab-only dealer. They sold a lot of them!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Haha, derrrr. Those states blend in my mind, since I have been to neither and they’re roughly in the same place.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            No problem. Here’s the short list of stuff you need to keep-up with.
            Plugs. The correct NGK plugs are less than $10 for a set of 4, and easy to change. You should swap them out every year.
            Crank angle sensor. Will lead to an intermittent no-start when it fails, located between cylinders 2 and 3 on the front (radiator) side of the block, accessible from below.
            Ignition cassette (coil pack). Will go every 8-10 years, easy to swap. Throws a code well before failure. Use the OEM part.
            Air Flow Meter. Not particularly trouble-prone, but it will go eventually.
            Turbo bypass valve. Cheap, accessible, throws a code when it fails.
            Oil. Synthetic only, Mobil 1 0-40 is common, and works well.
            Dead pixels on the info display (99-05). BBA-Reman rebuilds these and provides a lifetime warranty.
            That and transmission flushes every 100K should keep you going for a very long time.

          • 0 avatar
            PartsUnknown

            Just to add to hh’s list:
            -Pixel issue was fixed in ’04 and later (smaller font)
            -Rear shocks on wagons, esp. if mileage is over 100K
            -Motor/tranny mounts – not particularly trouble-prone, but I had to replace mine in two of my 9-5s around the 100K – inexpensive maintenance item.
            -On the DI (ignition) cassette, non-OEM Chinese versions are readily available and cheap, but are inferior and failure-prone. Buy from a reputable parts source (Pelican Parts is one) and confirm it is OEM – you’ll pay a little more but it’s worth it for this key component.

            And matador – I owned a 2004 A6 wagon. Nice car, never left me stranded, but in terms of reliability, the 9-5 blows it away.

          • 0 avatar
            PartsUnknown

            Also – another very active forum is saabnet.com. Lots of knowledgable folks on there.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            That’s good to know about the reliability. I’ve never been stranded, but it’s always something! For a car with 177k miles now, it has it’s share of personality!

            Also, ask most Audi C5 owners- the pixel displays are terrible! Mine works alright in the winter, but in the summer, you can’t read anything off it. I just shut it off and live without.

            It’s not like my Buick has one anyways! ;)

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            My 00 A8L had the ENTIRE gauge cluster replaced within the first two years by the original owner due to those pixels.

    • 0 avatar
      S1L1SC

      E320 wagon up until 2003 (i think that was the last year for that generation) can be found under $5k in good condition – will take a while though. I have been close to pulling the trigger a couple of months ago, then other stuff claimed the “fun” budget.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Also, clean up those white walls!

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      That’s not my Buick! This is the LeSabre that I actually own:

      http://www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/comment-image/292869.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Not quite as tidy as the headline photo, haha. But for those miles not bad.

        • 0 avatar
          matador

          She still shines when I give her a bath. That photo was taken last winter, but she looks pretty much identical today. Because of our Wyoming gravel roads, the dirt is virtually unavoidable.

          The Buick is a $700 car. It’ll never look like one that was a grandmother’s garage queen. I still double-take at them!

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      Actually, that Buick in the lead photo is a 1992 or 1993. They removed the word Buick, leaving only the crest starting in 1994.

      That’s a 1992 or 93 car, or the grille has been swapped….

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Matador! My brougham suggestion for you is the Caprice Classic Wagon, which is not nearly as popular as the Roadmaster Estate, and not nearly as rare as the Custom Cruiser.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1993-Chevrolet-Caprice-/291590983026

  • avatar

    Is the Ford Freestyle any good? It is a big wagon that looks like a child’s drawing of a 15 year old Audi.You can get them for 2-5k around me.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Many of the Freestyles have big time CVT issues, same CVT as the Five Hundred/Montego when they had AWD. They’re an avoid.

      Not sure if they ditched the CVT for a proper auto for the later ones, as I do still see some of those around.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        You’d have to get a Taurus X to avoid the CVT. Same vehicle with the 6F transmission and the 3.5L V6. Get that instead.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          BUT THEN, it won’t be anywhere near $5k.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Then pay $5K and pray that the Batavia CVT doesn’t ‘splode.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Batavia can go away! It’s far away from anything and there’s no reason to go there unless you’re a farmer or work there making bad CVTs.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            Reliability is important. I’m in Wyoming, so it’s 40 miles between towns. I don’t want to spend $5,000 on a known risky gamble, and pray that it works.

            I did that once with the Audi. I’d rather not gamble again….

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The 2008-10 Taurus X should be dropping into that price range. Maybe $6K-$7K right now. I would highly recommend one.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I think the issue with the Taurus X might be finding a good one for sale that isn’t too far. As example, there are 0 Taurus X models on there right now, they’re all Freestyles.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            The cheapest Taurus X that Cargurus shows in Denver looks to be about $8,000. They’re falling in price, but not there yet. In another couple of years, that may be a very sound choice….

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      Toyota Highlander is heavy, rides well, adequate power, the Limited trim levels are luxurious and early models are overbuilt tanks by today’s standard. 01-07′ should fit your price range. Rear wheel bearings are a weak spot, $40 parts + 2hrs labor each. Very reliable, great ride.
      My car in college was a 1992 Buick Regal

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “Toyota Highlander is heavy, rides well, adequate power, the Limited trim levels are luxurious and early models are overbuilt tanks by today’s standard.”

        Yup! Got that right.

        My 18-yo grand daughter scoots around in our old 2008 Japan-built Highlander V6 Limited 4×4, and loves it. Takes it off-road to archaeological digs.

        No problems in well over 115K miles. Never been back to the dealer since we bought it and still factory original except for tires and battery.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Gotta agree on the saab either 9-5 or 9-3 wagon, should give him a lot of life, he could go the volvo wagon route , just change the tranny fluid. Since he has an A6 wagon and that does most of the mileage a saab would feel right to him, is in his price range and has great seats, no small thing when your ass is in them for so many miles per day.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      Are there known faults? I avoided the Audi 2.7T for those reasons, going for the “safer” 2.8 choice. But, those Audis are still known for expensive timing belt services, front suspensions falling apart, and other gremlins.

      I don’t know the story on Saabs though. I know they were GM owned, but I don’t know what’s Trollhatten and what’s Detroit on those cars.

  • avatar
    matador

    It’ll be about an hour before I get to work, so I won’t be able to answer too much until then. But, this was originally written in July, so a little bit has changed since then.

    I used to work servicing computers, meaning I had to carry a lot of stuff with me. I do primarily E-Commerce now, so a wagon is not needed. A sedan will do just fine.

    Also, Audis are ruled out. I’m not going down that road again….

    I’ll answer the other questions as soon as I can!

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      From what I’ve seen, the Roadmaster sedans are a lot cheaper than the wagons.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Not to mention, more attractive (at least IMO). Gotta love that formal roofline.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        Roadmaster wagons are insanely priced! They’re almost hitting Jeep Grand Wagoneer pricing.

        The sedans are gorgeous, but I do like the looks of those whale wagons!

        • 0 avatar
          GermanReliabilityMyth

          The writer mentioned not using his trucks daily because “gas isn’t that cheap.” Which is true. I had a 1 year tryst with a ’96 Roadmaster wagon. Got it for a fair price and did some needed maintenance to it, got it a set of tires, etc. I tell you what, though, it was a lot of things. Comfortable, ponderous, able to fit a whole IT department and hard on gas. I drove like a grandma in that thing, which is appropriate, and was typically relegated to ~14 MPG in city commuting. I also took it on a long distance highway trip out of state and netted between 21-22 MPG going a reasonable speed on the highway (72-75 MPH), albeit with the A/C on. Granted, the highway mileage is way better than what my ’07 Ram gets but the city mileage is just about within spitting distance of what it gets. So…maybe that’s not a good option for the writer.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            It’s too old to be likely too.

            At the time of writing (July), I really needed to move a whole IT department. Today, though, I don’t, since I’ve changed careers.

            22MPG highway would be acceptable, but I’d like more. Our K3500 crew cab gets 14MPG. I can’t afford to justify that, and I don’t need the capabilities of a truck too often for work anymore.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    If you drive 45,000 miles per year, have driven your previous cars 223,000 and 165,000 miles, and still only have a replacement budget of $5,000, it sounds like you have been using up your vehicles faster than you can pay for them – or just as fast anyway. This puts you in a dangerous position because any $5,000 ride that you can get comes with a constant threat of multi-thousand dollar repair bills. (I hope that $5,000 isn’t your last $5,000 – that you kept a reserve for repairs and contingencies.) If your miles are mostly commuting miles, it might be time to look into either looking for a closer job or moving. If you can find a Toyota Camry Hybrid (or even better an Avalon Hybrid) that is close to your price range, you should consider buying it. You would save about $1,500-2,000 per year on gas a today’s $1.99/gallon price. A toyota Prius would be the most economical, but they are better in town than on the highway. If you get reimbursed for miles, then with any of the used Toyota hybrids you should “make money” on a per mile basis.

    If you need a wagon, a B5 VW Passat wagon from 2003-2005 should be in your price range, and there may even be a TDi diesel available to give you high 30s highway MPG, but when anything goes wrong, repairs are expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      drfritznunkie

      One look at the front multi-link suspension on a B5 should be all you need to see to avoid it. My dad has a 4motion B5.5 and over the holidays the lower rear connecting arm popped out as the dealer didn’t use the correct flanged nut on it. It was my first time working on one, that was all I needed to see to know I want to work on one again…

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      $5000 is my “car fund” savings account. That doesn’t touch my checking, savings, or emergency fund.

      We live in Wyoming, so our commute isn’t abnormal. Moving is out of the question- we’re staying on the farm we own. There isn’t anything feasible for closer work. I carpool with a family member who works about 10 blocks from my office- she makes around $20/Hour, and would see that go to $10 for any closer job. My job is now E-Commerce (Was only a part of it at the time of writing in July), so mine could be done from home, making a 10 mile commute to the Post Office, but that wouldn’t save any money, as we’d still have a car going to pretty much the same place. In a few years when she retires, my mileage will be down to a more normal 15k per year. Right now, my miles are about 98% highway.

      I don’t get reimbursed much- only for business trips down to Cheyenne. I profit about $250 on those trips (Including “depreciation”), but they’re only twice per year.

      If there are $5000 hybrid options, I’d be willing to go that route.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Well at the Gov’t auctions we discussed in the comments of a previous article the older Prius are getting down to near the $5000 mark at least in my area.

        • 0 avatar
          matador

          Are they a good choice though? Wyoming surplusses a Prius every now and then, but would they fit my needs? I drive 98% on the highway, and I know absolutely nothing about the reliability or cost of upkeep on one.

          I’m open to a Prius if they’re a sound choice, but I have no knowledge there.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            In taxi use the second generation have been known to go 200-300K or more w/o much fuss. The first generation had iffy battery packs but if it is still in the fleet then it probably has had the battery replaced.

            You do not want a Civic Hybrid though their batteries suck and their MPG is barely more than the regular version. That is why they go real cheap at auctions and their value is actually ~$1k less than the regular version.

          • 0 avatar
            eamiller

            The Prius is probably the most reliable Toyota made. The thing you have to look out for on those cheap ones is the battery. You may need to replace it, but I believe there are multiple aftermarket options which aren’t too pricey. Other than that, you’ll probably never find a car with lower total cost of ownership than a Prius. You should consider that when deciding on your budget.

            Getting 40mpg without even trying is pretty nice. The Prius basically gets the same city and highway mileage.

            I would try to find a 2nd gen, as those are so much nicer than the first gen. I believe Steven Lang is also Prius lover.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            The Prius is a little weak on the highway. Make sure to take a test drive before buying.

            If it’s a government auction, you should test drive another Prius from the same generation at a dealership.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            How is the Prius in the winter? I’d definitely test drive one before I looked at one- there’s no way that I’d do blind faith on something that different from what I’m used to.

            Can the car be used temporarily with a bad battery while one is on order if need be? And, can I swap them, or is it off to the Toyota dealer to get it put in?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The Prius should be fine in the winter if you don’t have the OEM tires on it. It’s ground clearance is 5.3-5.5 inches, but that isn’t much different than other compact cars.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            The Battery pack is critical to the operation of the eCvt as used in Ford and Toyota Hybrids so no battery no go unlike some of the Hondas where they still have a starter.

            Replacement is easy and Dorman includes full instructions for their reman packs which is the most cost effective way to go other than used with a minimal or no warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Sorry but not every $5K car comes with the threat of expensive repair bills. For $5K you can get a very nice, low mile Panther that will go another 100-200K w/o the threat of multi thousand dollar repair bills. There are also lots of Buicks that can be had in that price range too that have a lot of miles left before repair bills that are thousands of dollars. Now you’ll probably have more hundred dollar repair bills with the Buick instead of the Panther.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        I think a $5000 car can be very reliable too. You won’t buy a BMW for that money, but a Panther/DN101/H-Body can be a good proposition.

        Heck, even my $700 Buick has taken me 40k miles so far. And, it’s not a cream puff by any stretch of the imagination!

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Quote: I’d opt for the Duratec V-6: They are easy to work on (just remove the wiper/cowl assembly) and the extra power and efficiency is welcome. Think of this mill as an Audi with none of the classiness, none of the repair bills and far more NVH control and performance than a (non-supercharged) 3800.

    Maybe compared to an earlier tuned port 170 HP 3800 but the newer 2000 on up series II engines make both more power and torque and are considerably smoother than the earlier series I motors. That and every Taurus 3 liter Duratec V6 I have driven sends an annoying vibration up through the steering wheel on take off and uses more gas than an equivalent 3800 W-body mid sizer so there are trade offs. The pre 2003 models also leak out of the heads, oil pan and intake when the miles pile on with many examples we have sold over the years so they have there issues too. Pre 2003 transaxles are also something to pay very close attention to on the Taurus/Sables wagons as the problems weren’t all ironed out by then.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      My LeSabre is a 1995, so it’s the 170HP TPI Series 1. I have no complaints on the power, but I can’t speak for smoothness on the newer ones.

      There are a lot of Vulcan Tauruses out here. I have a separate thread below about that option….

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    with a $5k budget limit… pick up a Crown Vic Police Interceptor… or Grand Marquis… you get room, comfort, and the “boulevard ride”… the 4.6L V8 is smooth, quiet, fairly economical, dependable, & cheap to repair/replace.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      CVPI or Grand Marquis is definitely on my short list.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        I knew I’d find the Panther patrol if I read far enough into the comments.

        As I think it was the Three Stooges who said it “I’ll third it”.

        Sajeev, please tell me that I’m not going crazy when I say that I look at that LeSabre and the first thought that comes to my mind is “it looks like a Panther wannabe”.

        Because it does…

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Do people keep “fat stacks of receipts” on $5k, 20 year old cars? At that level, you’re better off driving it, putting it on a lift, and just figuring out what appears to be worn out. These cars were essentially designed to be run to failure.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      If you look at the state Tauruses I listed below, the answer is yes. Otherwise, the odds of receipts aren’t too high.

      My Buick was a $700 car. I bought in High School, because it moved under it’s own power. 40k miles later, I did well. There were no receipts, but CarFax shows that I’m the eighth owner.

  • avatar
    matador

    Alright- Sajeev mentioned Tauruses. I’d say that is the most likely option. Here’s why:

    1. I’m in Wyoming. There just aren’t a lot of cars. I love the idea of a 3800-powered Intrigue, but I don’t know if I’ll ever see one. Obscure models don’t do well out here.

    2. Our state bought Tauruses in bulk. I’m friends with one of the motor pool mechanics for the state. He owns an ex-state car (Early 2000s Taurus), and swears by them. Our state surplusses them around 100-120k miles, and they receive excellent care. Here’s what they’ve surplussed since July:

    http://www.publicsurplus.com/sms/wyominggsd,wy/list/past?page=0&sortBy=end&orgid=97940&sorg=&show=past&posting=listPast&masscopy_process=&keyWord=Ford+Taurus&startDate=Jul+01%2C+2015&endDate=Jan+7%2C+2016&catId=4&refresh=Search

    They’re all Vulcan cars, but value for money, it seems like a logical choice. There’s a good chance that I go this route unless there’s a good reason not to. Thoughts?

    • 0 avatar
      GS 455

      Here’s a link to Steve Lang’s Long Term Quality Index for the Taurus. It lets you know which years are best and which ones to avoid:

      http://longtermqualityindex.com/vehicles/Ford_Taurus.html

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        I completely forgot that that resource existed!

        That chart is definitely interesting. They show 2006 as being a good year, but 2007 (Which was the same car, but fleet sales only that year) as being worse….

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I still stand by my position that the retired P71 are a better choice than the Tauruii. They cost less to purchase, cost less to maintain and repair and it takes quite a lot of miles for the 1 mpg more you get with the Taurus to make up for those other added costs.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        I’m sure you answered this, but are the Washington state surplus CVPIs reliable? I know you have experience there.

        Wyoming doesn’t have any CVPIs for surplus. The state went almost all Taurus, and WYDOT (Highway Patrol) was a very early adopter of the Dodge Chargers.

        I could make the trip to Washington for a CVPI, but I’d need to know that I would be unlikely to be stuck with a lemon. I have no clue about how their motor pool is in terms of condition.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        If you can make it to mid May my current P71 will be up for sale. At that point the mileage will still be under 120K tires at 70-75%, two year old battery, brakes at 90%. It is an 05 that was an unmarked car that never had a cage in it, light bar or stickers on it. Despite being an unmarked it does have the full wrap around push bar and dual spots. The planned asking price on Craiglist is $2750 but I’ll take less.

        Of course it could come up for sale sooner if I find the right deal on a State vehicle before the next county auction comes up. On the other hand it might stick around for a year since this one is much nicer than most so if they are all crap at the May auction or if prices go up any more then I may keep it, be firmer on my asking price or maybe even up the asking price. Yes the price of used P71s is going up right now as they become less common at the auctions.

        I haven’t bought a state vehicle because they usually go for cheaper at the in person only count auction because they have a bunch of them that sell that one day. The state on the other hand typically only have up to 5 at a time and even then the ending time is spread out. Most of the state vehicles have their records available on line and they seem to maintain them well. Tires are always replaced before 4/32″, batteries at 4 years.

        For the county cars they are well maintained and have been reliable for me. My Daughter’s is the one that has been around the longest and other than oil changes, and wiper blades I haven’t done anything to it since we purchased it over 20K ago. It will need brakes soon though.

        • 0 avatar
          matador

          Waiting isn’t a problem. I have plenty of time! Where in the country are you? I’m assuming west coast, but that could be anywhere! Right now, the Buick still serves as a secondary car, and I wasn’t planning on doing anything until the end of Spring. March and April are busy on the farm- that would be a terrible time to plan a “vacation”.

          Spot lights are awesome! I have one on the roof of my 1986 Dodge D250 (Was a county owned truck). On the farm, it comes in handy. I don’t know why so many get removed.

          So, you’d have confidence in a WSP owned CVPI? Online, they look pretty nice, but if you gave me enough time, I could polish up our 1992 F250 that’s been sitting since 2007. Photos only tell so much.

          How are the brakes to replace? I’ve done them on an Impala and the Audi. I’m assuming they should be pretty simple on a CVPI, but I’ve never worked on one.

          Compared to dealer prices, it’s hard to argue against any auctioned CVPI. They sure are a lot of car for the money!

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Pretty much anything that you could ever need to do on a Panther is easy to do. Brake pads for example you’ll take the bulk of your time on jacking it up, removing and reinstalling the wheel.

            I would have confidence in one of the ex WSP cars for certain assuming it didn’t have an announcement. For example right now there is a car from the training facility and it is noted that it was a car used for pursuit driving training. Other times they will announce things like noisy rear end, bad trans ect.

            So yeah I’m in the greater Seattle area which of course is why I look at the auctions in WA and sometimes OR.

            Just to be clear I drive them because I don’t like spending money on cars and I can pick a CVPI up at auction drive it for 6 months and sell it for at least what I have into it. Then get another at the next auction. That way my only expenses on my daily driver/beater is fuel and insurance and the insurance isn’t even really an expense as I have broad form named driver coverage for my vehicles that I don’t have collision on. Plus my nicer vehicles stay nicer.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            It’s good to know that they’re good there. I know that some states are a lot better than others. I’d have no problems driving an ex-Wyoming state car for example, but there is no way that I’d touch one from Montana.

  • avatar
    ajla

    LSS > Intrigue

  • avatar
    Exfordtech

    Problem with the Taurus/Sable Duratech is the AX4N attached to it, the motor is on a par with the mod 4.6 for durability in my experience. The ’96 and up Vulcan had cooling system issues from day one. What I was told at the time was that the casting process for the block had been changed, and for some reason some of the sand in the mold got trapped in the block. It would migrate to the heads and resulted in corrosion issues. Coolant was turning brown in less than 5000 miles. I pointed it out to the Ford field service rep when it started in ’96, and he was dumbfounded. The concern didn’t reach the heights of the 3.8 head gasket disaster, because with the catfish redesign, the rise of the SUV, the repeat customers lost due to the 3.8 head gaskets, and the comparative quality of the Camry/Accord, Taurus/Sable sales were beginning their decline.
    If I recall correctly this was all during the time frame of Jack Nasser’s spending spree on things from junkyards to luxury brands in a quest for world dominance that most likely siphoned off money that should have been put into product in the first place.
    The last customer satisfaction program for the Vulcans involved flushing the cooling system with a caustic chemical, removing the aluminum freeze plugs from the block because they wouldn’t survive the flushing process and replacing them with expandable rubber plugs (except for the one between the engine and transaxle which was magically expected to be ok), installing a cooling system bypass kit and the coolant reservoir in some cases. I hated doing that service, changing the freeze plugs was a giant pain in the rear, and the labor time was chopped to crap.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      Did this problem with the Vulcan go all the way to the 2007 cars, or was this more of a 1990s Vulcan problem?

      • 0 avatar
        Exfordtech

        I don’t recall exactly, sales had fallen off so much in the 2000’s that it wasn’t that big of an issue as I remember. Besides, by that time we were up to our eyeballs in Firestone tires. As a guess, probably from ’03 up are ok, but still, the AX4N or AX4S is nobody’s long term friend.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    I would agree on a 2001 to 2005 3800 Park Avenue or LeSabre. The last year for the 3800 in Oldsmobiles was the 1999 Intrigue , 1999 “50th Anniversary” Eighty-Eight and the last “Regency” which was built on the 1997/1998 Eighty Eight body with the 1996 Ninety-Eight grille, wider seats and a rear bumper from 1994. The Regency was marketed to sell to the Oldsmobile buyers who could not accept the style of the Aurora , LSS or Intrigue.
    I know, I was selling Oldsmobiles from 1990 to 2004. I sold plenty of Regencys to people who remembered World War II.
    My current Park Avenue is a 2001 with less than 34,000 miles and gets 28 mpg on the highway, even in California. Of course out here we pay almost $3.00 per gallon for gas.
    When this Park Avenue was listed on Auto Trader in June of 2013 (27,000 miles at the time) the seller had calls from Wyoming and Idaho. I was the first interested buyer from southern California and the first one to show up at his home in Fullerton. It had been his late mother’s car and was driven only on Sundays to Polly’s Pies in Corona by the adult children as mom was 96 and could no longer drive.
    We are about to move to Oak Hills in the high desert as real estate in Orange County is prohibitively expensive unless you make $150,000 per year. So I will be driving the 2001 Park Avenue, the 2000 Eldorado ETC, the 2006 Rainier CXL, the 2008 “Wildcat” and the 2003 Final 500 Aurora 4.0 on alternating days 168 miles per day.
    The 3800 is the only engine that I am certain is up to the task.
    One of our Oldsmobile Club of America members is Ransom E. Olds’ grandson. His 1994 Ninety-Eight Regency Elite has 284,000 miles and runs great.
    I just ordered a 2016 Challenger SXT Plus in Plum Crazy to get 30 MPG down the road!

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      You probably can’t afford anything in California because you need 5 parking spots! Between 2 drivers, my household has 3 cars. That feels excessive at times when it comes to keeping up with state inspections, insurance, and maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        One of the perks of Wyoming. I can keep the LeSabre unlicensed and uninsured on the farm, where it costs me nothing. Drive to the field and back once a month to keep everything fresh, and I have a car that I can get plates on if I ever need to in a pinch.

        ——–

        I bought that Buick when my grandfather was dying. My mother and I stayed until 2AM to take care of him, and I was a High School senior at the time. How I got through that year on 4 hours of sleep is beyond me, but it probably explains why I don’t remember any of my schooling from that year.

        That Buick is what I had to show for those years. The Buick stays with me for life- if she burned to the ground, I’d try to buy back the carcass just to keep it.

        That was the hardest time of my life, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I thought we already decided the Matador Buick/Truck problem? The answer was DN101 Taurus followed by a call for a Legend/RL.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      This question was submitted in July, well before that thread! I think we’re reaching the same conclusion, though (Sans Acura- I’m amazed that nobody’s mentioned them)

      For those interested, this is the thread: https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/11/junkyard-find-1965-ford-thunderbird-landau-hardtop-coupe/#comment-6743649

      The pull of the state Taurus is strong. Plush and comfortable, with no brand image to add value. Sounds like a winner!

      Unless there is a 1999 LeSabre that shows up with really low miles….

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Actually now that I think about it, Panther won out over DN101 due to AXOD concerns. Scoutdude went on to post a great deal of useful information on them at the time. I think that was the thread which encouraged Dal to buy his Legend as well.

        • 0 avatar
          matador

          I remember Dal got his Legend. I’ll have to read that again. That thread is bookmarked on my computer!

          I’d like to again thank everyone who has helped, both on that thread and this one.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The one thing I will add on the Taurii is that for the best value you want the fish mouth models. Around here the fish are aging out of the fleet rather and being replaced for miles. So I’ve seen many with far fewer miles than the 00-up models go for less at the same auction. For example at the last live auction there were a couple with 80k or so on them that went for ~$2250 while the non fish with 110K or so go for ~$2750.

        It seems that when in a motor pool people didn’t like being seen in the fish mouth models so they didn’t rack up the miles as quickly.

        Another thing worth mentioning when buying auction cars is that 1 man 1 car cars tend to be in better shape than pool cars because there is no question as to who spilled coffee all over when only one person has a key. While pool cars people are more likely to think eh who will know it was me. That being said 1 man 1 car cars can be trashed it just seems to be less common.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Legend owner here… first-gen RL, oh my yes. The cars are cockroaches.

      Legends are a bit of a crapshoot because of the head gasket issue. You can maintain them to prevent the failure if it hasn’t already occurred… but if it’s already occurred you are sunk, and in the early stages it can be quite hard to tell. They also are all pre-’98.

      I got lucky with my car. The EGR system was nearly blocked, but not totally blocked, so just enough cooling gas was getting into the cylinders to prevent detonation and keep the head gasket intact. Now after a good cleaning and a set of spark plugs the car is running like new… with 185k on it.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Legend owner here”

        I like to take partial credit for this fact ;)

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I get some too for picture critiques!

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Deserved for both of you!

          I really like the car after owning it for a while. It’s got that old-Honda engineering magic, where everything is well built but nothing is excessive. The low cowl gives a feeling of immediacy. It’s super-easy to service; everything is held together by 10mm and 12mm bolts. It drives and rides really well despite the worn-out struts and (I think based on some excess vibration) engine mounts. Cold start has no hesitation and no smoke. After 185k it has just one rattle that I can find. Eventually I’ll replace the struts, mounts, and crappy tires, and at that point I expect it will drive like a new car.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Incidentally, a member of the Church of 3800 should appreciate Legends (both generations), first-gen RLs, and first-gen TLs because the C engine is also a 90-degree V6 that lasts forever if well maintained.

          The motivation for the 90-degree angle was a bit different, though. For Buick it was for commonality with the V8. For Honda it was to enable a lower cowl (and lower deck on the NSX). When safety regs finally forced a higher cowl on Honda they also moved to a 60-degree V6, which runs smoother and sounds less growly.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    You can totally get a nice GM B-Body wagon for less than 5k. Keep looking.

  • avatar
    glwillia

    Mercedes-Benz S210 E320 wagon, with or without 4Matic (depending on whether or not you live in a snowy area). The M112 V6 is crude but reliable, these cars are very comfortable, and you can get a pretty decent one for well under $5000. For reference, the 210 is the 1996-2002 (2003 in wagon) E-class, it was the first curvy Benz with the quad round frount headlights.


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