By on January 23, 2017

Aftermath of the demo derby Focus, Image: © 2013 Matthew Guy

Gearheads like ourselves are particularly susceptible to the siren song a car, especially if our own Id deems it to be a ZOMG good deal. This is the deep and perilous financial rabbit hole into which most of us fall.

All of this was on prominent display this weekend at the annual Barrett Jackson classic car auction this past weekend in the Arizona desert. I stood across from a guy who, wild-eyed and armed with a bidder’s number, was bound and determined to win the 1964 Austin-Healey in front of us on the block. He was successful, and I wish him well, Lucas electrics and all.

I wager most of us reading TTAC have a story of getting waaaay too wrapped up in the auctioneer’s patter or throwing caution to the wind on a particularly sketchy Craigslist ad … including our esteemed Managing Ed.

When young Mr. Stevenson still lived in the land of blue tartan, he and I would drop by the ADESA auction from time to time. This was the Saturday morning public auction, you understand, featuring the cars that had gone through the wholesaling process at the original dealer, probably passed through the hands of several BHPH lots, before failing to garner any bids at the Tuesday morning dealers-only auction.

These were not, for the most part, what most sane human beings would consider good cars.

After chuckling at a duo of wet-behind-the-ears BHPH owners who inexplicably paid good money for a tattered, faded, gold Chevrolet Aveo hatchback with a stick and no A/C, a first-model year Focus rolled into view. I use the term “rolled” very loosely because its back wheels were sporting an alarming amount of camber and tilting at angles not recommended in any Ford service manual. I turned my attention to the B lane where a lumpy Econoline was groaning its way past the block.

With buyers shunning the Econoline like an especially virulent leper, I cast my eyes back to the Focus in time to see the auctioneer’s gavel swing down and take a sale … to the tune of $200. I turned to Mark, ready to laugh heartily with him at whatever loon spent three days’ work at minimum wage on a compact Ford as rusty as an anchor. I could not do this, however, because Mr. Stevenson was too busy signing paperwork being thrusted in front of him by a bidder’s assistant.

Mark drives his recently acquired 2000 Ford Focus home from the auction along Highway 102, Image: © 2013 Matthew Guy

I think his original plan was to fix the thing and sell it for a profit, but a quick inspection of the swiss-cheese rear suspension linkages quickly scuppered any foray into amateur auto sales. He ended up entering it in the local demolition derby where, as a two-time winner myself, I can say he did a fine job and took second place in a field of a dozen or so cars. I can’t remember his prize. I think it was $300. It was probably nothing. (Second prize was a concussion. –Mark)

Anyway, my point is that just about all of us have foolishly bought a hopeless car at some point in our lives, whether it was kept and turned into a money pit or quickly disposed of is dependent on your own personal stories.

A few years ago, I purchased a 1982 Ford Crown Victoria station wagon, which turned out to be made entirely of rust. When I tried to hoist it, I positioned my hydraulic floor jack neatly under a jacking point on the frame, fully extended the jack … while all four wheels remained squarely on terra firma. I named it Big Ugly.

What is your gearhead folly?

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82 Comments on “QOTD: What Gearhead Folly Has Befallen You?...”

  • avatar

    That top photo is one sad piece of automotive ruination.

    That’s OK with me, because I never liked the Ford Focus in any of its various guises.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, I loved my old Focus.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a first gen Focus hatch, bought it new, drove it for 12 years. Really a fun car for not much coin, and was not expensive to keep. There are a couple of plastic cooling system pieces and the plastic clutch master cylinder that have about a five year life expectancy, but are inexpensive to replace.

        Most of the remaining ones are pretty well used up, though.

    • 0 avatar

      Glad you guys enjoyed your Focus. I didn’t hate them, just not a fan of the styling. Perhaps also it was because early on I had a rental Focus on a business trip, and having the steering wheel off-center to the driver really felt weird.

      Apparently they were durable cars.

      • 0 avatar

        They were definitely odd looking, particularly the hatch. Mine was Grabber Green in color, and my wife hated it, didn’t really want to be seen in it. The interior had a Gallic flavor, with some odd angles. It’s not a car you bought for its styling.

      • 0 avatar

        Never really noticed if the wheel was off-center, Zackman…

        But Focuses (Focii?) were definitely better when they were not the base, rental-bait editions. Mine was a ST with a manual, the uprated 2.3 and suspension, and it was great to drive. The base 2.0 versions with an automatic were, shall we say, uninspiring.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Too many to list. A mustang, a Jeep J10 pick up. Though, I have squandered more dough on the handful of new cars that I have purchased than the old heaps that I have played around with. Gotta learn the ropes somehow.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    Points for using the word “folly” on the internet. My first car purchase was kind of a folly – the ’87 Audi 5000 drew me in with its style, velour, and in-theory sturdiness and reliability.

    It only had the style.

  • avatar

    My car purchases have been well-considered, but my folly has been installing the cheapest cat-backs I could find. I’ve made that mistake thrice.

  • avatar

    My 3rd, and last, 92-93 Accord was a multifaceted lesson in car buying. I blew through a million red flags on that one.

    – 190K miles on the body
    – Modified
    – Engine smoking (I intended to do a swap)
    – NYC car (body beat to crap on its frost heaved hellscape)
    – Owner of the car couldn’t read or speak English (his son was the translator)

    It did have working A/C though, which was better than the 2nd one I bought. But after the hellscape conspired with my used aftermarket suspension (!!!!) to bang the oil pan on the road and kill a 3rd oil pickup (and consequently prompt a rod knock)- on the way to pick my wife up from the airport no less- I finally threw in the towel.

    Best part… I didn’t even need a car for work; I was taking the subway. Granted, there was some need initially, as my wife and I lived on different ends of Brooklyn at the time and wouldn’t have worked out without my car. And even after we moved in together, beach trips and Costco runs that would have been impossible with public transportation were a breeze with the car. But looking back, spending ~$400-500/mo in insurance (liability only!) and parking (when I could afford it) alone, along with countless hours scrambling for alternate side parking… total waste. We probably would have spent less on cabs. But some of us only learn things the hard way.

    Once I junked that car my life immediately went on an upward trajectory. The hundreds of dollars I had in my pocket enabled my wife and I to move out of a now-gentrified-then-rough BK neighborhood to a deluxe Manhattan apartment, as well as build savings, travel, etc. I learned so much from that POS, including how much of a trooper my wife is.

  • avatar

    I bought a 1993 Plymouth Laser RS AWD. Turbocharged 4G63 DSM pocket rocket. It had a few mods on it, upgraded evo3 16g turbo, front mount intercooler, cams, SAFC2 fuel management, upgraded injectors and fuel pump, etc etc. When I got it (2006) it was a pretty nice little runner of a sport compact. Previous owner said it would do 12s in the 1/4 mile, and had a 13.2 timeslip from the stock turbo, verified by one of my best friends at the time (and still today actually), but the problem was that the timing belt had broken and it needed a head. $2k later and I had my first project car. It was going all well and good, my friend and I built it back up and whatnot, he used his DSM experience from his Talon to show me the way in places I had no idea where to go, and it was generally a good time, when we were wrenching on it.

    Now, like EVERYONE told me not to buy the thing except my friend who knew how to fix em and what was wrong with it, and he had full confidence we could get it running, which we did! What we did NOT account for was the previous owner’s neglectful and abusive nature having a tendency to cause endless issues for the car. Long story short, in the 8 years I stubbornly owned that car, I put 987 miles on it. Not per year, TOTAL. I finally got rid of it when I replaced the rod bearings in the engine after a nasty knock from spinning a bearing, and then it promptly decided to throw one of the rods through the block to repay my generosity in maintenance. That car blew coolant lines, blew intercooler pipes off regularly, caught fire once, had endless transmission problems (it was an auto), and even once had an ECU problem so bad that for some reason the car could only be driven home after removing the gauge cluster. Absolutely the worst car I have ever owned, but when it ran and ran right, it was an absolute blast.

  • avatar

    “I wager most of us reading TTAC have a story of getting waaaay too wrapped up in the auctioneer’s patter or throwing caution to the wind on a particularly sketchy Craigslist ad ”


  • avatar

    I know I’m going to love all the stories .
    Apparently I’m *still* too stupid to learn from my past errors in this arena .

  • avatar

    Recently went through this with a ’00 Maxima SE that I bought this summer for $1600 from a guy down the street. 142k miles, better than average body for the area (read on for the scary truth), 2 previous owners with the people I bought it from owning it for 9 years and doing at least a modicum of maintenance (including a fresh set of Bridgestone tires). I just wanted a cheap beater for keeping salt off my 4Runner, and just to have a second car to tinker around with I guess. I had grown wary of fruitless craigslist searching, the vast majority of cheap cars in the “by owner” section are shady car flippers and used car lots selling wrecked junk with absolutely no history. So buying the maxima from a guy in my neighborhood was a breath of fresh air. That elation kind of biased me on the short test drive, which uncovered a check engine light (par for the course in inspection-less Indiana), a noisy exhaust, but also a smooth transmission, strong and smooth motor, and what felt like a quiet and if somewhat soft suspension.

    It was driving it to work the following week that I realized just how shot the suspension was: felt like I was riding on bumpstops over any small bump, and going down slab concrete at 40-45mph the car entered a hilarious and nausea inducing rocking resonance. Later I also started to feel a bit of shift -flare in the 2-3 upshift when accelerating briskly, I noticed a water leak into the passenger footwell from the cowl somewhere, and the worst thing, a very rotten lower radiator support. I was kicking myself over that last one, I knew of this issue on gen 4/5 maximas, just totally blanked on looking for it when inspecting it.

    I ultimately ended up installing quick-struts on all 4 corners, did the front brakes, did some body work to fix ugly scrapes down both sides of the car, buffed and polished the paint to a high state of shine, cleaned and freshened the interior including a very moldy-smelling HVAC. Threw in some fresh black rubber floor mats to cover up the worn and nasty carpet, installed some rain guards. The car was actually driving very well and looked very presentable inside and out at this point. Fresh coat of tire gel and she was ready for prime time: sold it for $2350 after a few weeks of waiting and holding the line on price. The buyer was overjoyed at the car, even with its growly exhaust and CEL, it was quite frankly head and shoulders above just about anything else for the price at the time. The buyer commented on how smooth the ride was compared to what the Maxima was replacing, and I’m sure they were impressed with how clean the car was inside and out. So overall I just about broke even in terms of what I bought it for, the parts I put in (not counting my labor, particularly on the body work), and I honestly only used it for 2 months out of the 3 that I owned it. Chalk it up to a fun experiment.

    Despite all the issues and work it needed, I honestly miss that car, I miss driving it. the $1600 ES300 that replaced it is a fundamentally more solid, much better car that I trust to drive across the country. But the Maxima just felt more fun. I always wanted to launch away from the light with it, take on ramps at the edge of traction, blast some Bone Thugs & Harmony on the way to church in the bad part of town :p

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      The ones we hurt, are you and me!

      • 0 avatar

        You a Coolio man?

        Out of the Bone Thugs stuff I’m partial to

        1)Fo’ tha love of Money
        2)1st of tha Month
        3) Tha Crossroads

        Any number of Tupac songs hit the spot as well.

        I will say that the Lexus does a much better job of handling the bombed out roads down that way, even on its tired 208k mile struts. I’m really close to pulling the trigger on some fresh stuff for it (plug and play quick struts in back, rebuild strut assembly in front)

    • 0 avatar

      I had a few Maximas of that vintage. I have mixed feelings about them. On the plus side, they were quick, roomy and surprisingly refined given the low curb weights. But what kind of killed them for me forever was the transmission options. The 4AT was just a dog that probably sapped an additional 20% of the engine’s potential, but the 5/6MTs were bad in their own way… coming from Hondas, the shift and clutch actions were just abysmal. Seems like a general Nissan trait as the Z I had later had the same problems.

      Aside from that… solid cars. Sometimes I miss mine too.

      • 0 avatar

        “surprisingly refined”

        not suspension-wise IMO, but the motors absolutely yes, the VQ30 feels every bit as smooth as the 1mz. In overall construction (interior in particular) and how it goes down the road my ES300 feels like an absolute tank, the Maxima felt a lot lighter, closer to a compact car sort of. It definitely felt lighter on its feet as well as away from a light, the transmission tuning felt more sporty, where the Lexus is all about oozing away from the light. In corners, the Maxima cornered a lot flatter, I could take the on ramp on my way to work at 40mph. The Lexus feels flustered taking it at much over 30 mph, and in general the overall driving dynamics discourage such antics.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow, if you weren’t in Indiana, I’d swear you bought my 2000 Maxima. It had most of the same problems you described (no muffler, CEL, worn suspension, flare). Mine didn’t have the bad rad support, stink nor body scrapes, but was the same in nearly every other way including the sale price.
      It wasn’t powder blue was it?

      • 0 avatar

        No, black.

        Reading up on the forums, all the problems that reared their heads are super common and predictable, and mostly amendable if you’re willing to put some money into it. My biggest peeve was with that stupid rear axle. The trailing arm bushings are these big fluid filled things. They leak out over time and there is no economical or easy way to replace them. Energy Suspension makes poly replacements that apparently made the ride rather stiff, and that’s literally it unless you source an new OEM replacement axle (>$1k).

        In general, the amount of rust on the body and the fact that it was a real structural concern in the case of the lower rad support was very off putting. Even more so when I look at the underside of my ’96 ES300 (4 years older, more miles) that’s been in a similar climate and has a like-new subframe and much less rust on the body. Add to that how much better the suspension held up on the Lexus in comparison, with 60k more miles on it.

        The shift flare can be fixed with a set of new solenoids ($300ish new OEM), taken on its own is not bad, but for a $1600 car with rust once you add up all those cheap-ish fixes it’s just not worth it. At that point you either run it into the ground without putting any more money in (what the PO had done) or get rid of it (what an OCD guy like me had to resort to).

        To a degree the Lexus is in the same boat, I’m mulling over dumping about $650 worth of new struts and about $300 for a new set of tires into it, or just run it for another year as is to get my nerdy $/mile number down to where I’d like it to be and maybe then sell it.

  • avatar

    At the ripe young age of 13, I purchased a 68 VW Beetle with a good body and a blown engine for $75. At 14, I purchased a 63 VW Beetle with a shot body and a new engine for $150 with the intention of marrying the engine from the 63 with the 68. My dad, who was an engineer, never could get the wiring sorted out so we never did get the 68 to run. I sold both cars to a mechanic at the local Pontiac dealer for $300 (a $75 profit). He towed them home and drove the 68 back to my house an hour later and proclaimed that the wiring issue was a “really simple fix”. [sigh]

  • avatar

    1941 dump truck.
    15 years old. Second high school friend in two years was laying out in our town’s mortuary. Everyone in town knew that mortician. Got my first job which included tax deductions from that mortician. (Such fun; Digging up Ms MaCelheny from the paupers plot in the adjoining cemetery after her estate turned out to have enough left for a “decent” burial.)
    With every shovelful from the six feet of dirt over her casket I could see what would turn out to be my first “car”. Out in the dirt field next to the cemetery, right behind the mortuary’s rear parking lot sat the most beautiful 1941 GMC dump truck. Just sitting there. 216 straight 6. Splash oiling. Single barrel carburetor, glass float bowl, see through glass on the fuel pump. Floor mounted spring loaded push button starter. I was a high school sophomore.
    Cost $20. Got it running after a 45 minute lecture from a older high school friend who understood the relationship between “fuel-compression-spark”. That was the one and only class on auto mechanics in my life.
    Took awhile but it ran nicely(!) Even the hydraulic lift bed. No rust at all in that part of the country so that was never an issue. Boy, after living in Michigan on and off in my career, I came to see how serious the rust issue is for people who’s states still use salt on their roads in the winter ❄️. Wow(!). Quite a mess.
    Only problem with the dump truck was that the bed was way too high to get my brand new pride and joy Snapper lawnmower in and out. Between a small lawn mowing business and doing cars on the side my high school years were a pretty lucrative time.
    The only reason it … my first “car”… turned out to be a bust was: no one seemed to want a pre war (which war was that?) dump truck as a work truck or as a DD. Oh well. It was fun.
    PS. I’ve had years of adventures in the engineering centers of all the big-3 in Detroit from what I learned under & over that beast. My years down the street from the Cadillac Clarke Street factory at the now empty Detroit Clarke St YMCA.
    I was at ground zero witnessing the demise of a once great industry. It’s almost unbelievable what America does d to itself. Each of the big 3 in those years when microchips were first applied to ICE control. The industry had about 350,000 hourly workers for each of the big 3 just in Michigan in those days.
    Today? Somewhere closer to 35,000.
    Such a disaster. Everyone … most everyone… outside of the upper Midwest seems completely unaware of this. Oh well. …shit happens. But rarely on this scale.
    It’s been interesting……. and it
    all started with that “car”.

  • avatar

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a folly of my own. The only one I can really recall is my dad’s ’73 Citroen SM, which was utterly magnificent the 40% of the time it ran.

  • avatar

    Buying a rust-free ’86 Monte Carlo SS for $4400. And then spend $2500-ish on a performance 355 for it, another $1500 on a built 200-4R transmission, dual-exhaust transmission cross-member, redoing the entire interior, tires, stereo, and even new t-top rubber trim.

    All to get a car that was too powerful for the stock suspension / brakes.

    I ended up selling it – quick sale because I was moving – for $3500!

    I was pretty much car-ed out at that point and just wanted it gone. It sure was a stupid way of spending money but I learned that I really wasn’t as much as a gear head as I thought I was. Now I do simple repairs but leave the complicated stuff to the mechanics.

  • avatar

    First, foremost, and last folly was trying to make a 1979 Mazda GLC into an SCCA GT5 race car. Lots of money and time thrown down that particular rat hole.

    If you’re going racing, get a car that is popular and has lots of support. Even better, get a purpose built race car rather than cobbling up a roadgoing car into a racer.

  • avatar

    I plan out all my automotive purchases, and never buy junk.

    What a strange thing to glamorize.

  • avatar

    I spotted a 2002 Golf GLS TDI on Craigslist in the summer of 2011 at a small dealer in New Hampshire. $4400 and it had something like 202000 miles on it. I’d always wanted a Golf, so I bought it after test driving it and thinking things looked okay.

    I intended to keep it a while, but I got sick of it and wanted something new.

    I replaced a bunch of stuff including suspension all around, brakes all around, new rear calipers, new E-brake cables, suspension bushings in the rear trailing arm, etc… In the end I spent about $3000 on it including a complete timing belt job.

    Sold it about a year later for $4600 to a TDI enthusiast. I won’t repeat that mistake again! New or gently used from now on. I’m getting too old to deal with neglected used cars.

  • avatar

    High school – my first ever car that I bought with my own cash was a red 1968 Firebird with rusted out rear quarters and a black vinyl top. It had a 2-speed Powerglide and the rare 160mph speedo (wishful thinking!)

    The original Pontiac 350 had been replaced by a 400 from 1974. And the tires were shot. And the windshield wipers didn’t work. And one time the throttle cable snapped. It was a rolling deathtrap that cost me so much in gasoline that I could never get anything fixed on my part-time, just barely more than minimum wage job.

    I ended up selling it to some guy who just got out of prison, and was living in a trailer in the backyard of his parents. Oh yeah.

  • avatar

    Bought a 2001 VW TDI on eBay in 2012. The car was in Miami, I was in Chicago. The plan was to fly down early Saturday morning, drive back all weekend, and go to work Monday. Foolproof.

    I won the bid, put down the $500 deposit, and booked my ticket. Flew down and the seller picked me up at the airport in the VW. We drove back to his place and the car seemed fine. That said, there were some red flags that I saw in hindsight:

    Red flag #1: Seller expressed surprise and possibly some concern that I was planning to drive this car 1000+ miles home. He had apparently thought I was flying down to inspect it and shipping it back.

    Red flag #2: He informed me that he periodically had to top the coolant up but that he would give me a jug of distilled water to take with me.

    Red flag #3: The car did not start the first time I turned the key. Seller was able to get it started for me.

    I should have run at this point, but I was alone 1000 miles from home, at this guys house, with $500 plus a plane ticket invested already and no way home. I had also seen the car run perfectly on the 25 minute trip from the airport. So I reluctantly handed over the money and hoped for the best.

    Needless to say, the car overheated before I made it out of Miami. Adding water didn’t help of course. My only saving grace is that I was able to limp it to a Midas just off the highway.Unfortunately they were getting ready to close for Saturday and weren’t open Sunday. I knew at this point I was in big trouble and just had to get home. I ended up leaving my contact info with Midas, walking several miles across Little Haiti to the airport, and finding a flight back the next morning. I called the seller, but he had “gone out of town”. He did help me arrange shipping, like he had planned to do all along.

    The car ended up needing a water pump, thermostat, etc. Once I got it home it ran for a couple months before needing a head gasket, an oil pump, and a few other things that ended with me even more frustrated with this adventure. I ended up selling it as a non-running project for well less than I paid, leaving out plane tickets, shipping, and repairs.

    No more eBay, and no more VWs.

    • 0 avatar

      “He informed me that he periodically had to top the coolant up but that he would give me a jug of distilled water to take with me.”

      LOL!!! The only flag redder than that one used to fly over the Kremlin…

  • avatar

    I keep giving used Porsche Cayenne’s a hairy eyeball. For some reason, I think maybe I should give one of those a shot when the lease is up on my Accord Sport.

    I’m insane.

  • avatar

    I see a John Deere 7000 TEN series (either a 7210 or 7410) open station with MFWD in the background. I thought it was Hi-Crop or high clearance at first, but those have much larger front wheels.

    • 0 avatar

      Being the son of John Deere salesman and having an extensive brochure collection at one point, I HAD a copy of the brochure from the introduction of MFWD. That was something the company definitely crowed about.

      • 0 avatar

        1982, right? With the 50 Series and “Caster/Action”? Before that, the FWA system was “hydrostatic,” AKA hydraulic.

        My father has probably every brochure of every piece of JD equipment from the early ’40s to now. His old winter hobby (every farmer needs one) was to buy and sell farm literature of any make or color. He’s starting to get out of that now, but he does still dabble in it, and he’d never sell his personal collection.

        • 0 avatar

          The year escapes me but I remember “CASTER ACTION.” I had a larger collection of the Lawn Equipment brochures, Dad was actually a Lawn Tractor salesman but of course the dealership was full line. Dad had chrome hubcaps on his old 112, he was a true enthusiast about anything with an engine.

  • avatar

    I wanted to tinker toy and bought a ’92 Pontiac Bonneville for $550. I had also just made a tidy profit flipping a BMW 318i. First, I always liked early 90’s Bonnevilles, but what attracted me to it was that it supposedly had working A/C, new tires, and the 3800 had a good reputation for reliability. Plus, at the time there wasn’t a whole lot of running cars listed for what I was willing to pay for one.

    Red flag #1
    There was only one picture on CL (the good side).

    Red flag #2
    The girl selling it was chain smoking the entire time I was looking at the car, looked like a seasoned meth addict, and casually explained to me that she was a “semi-professional” pool hustler.

    Red flag #3
    The car was absolutely filthy, with fast food containers casually thrown about the cabin–NOT a sign that someone took care of it in any capacity.

    Reg flag #4
    It clunked and knocked over the smallest of road imperfections. I figured I could cheaply fix this stuff over one Saturday afternoon. No way.

    Red flag #5
    The car had about 212k miles on it and the engine was caked with so much dust and grime, you couldn’t see the “3800” lettering on the top

    Red flag #6
    It was missing so bad, I had to floor it to get it up to 55mph. The girl who was selling it told me it just needed a tune up. Like an idiot, I assumed it was likely a minor issue. Trying to make it over the Sunshine Skyway bridge (430 feet tall) on my way home was one over the most frightening driving experiences of my life as I thought for sure I would be rolling back down in reverse.

    Once I got it home and looked at the spent hulk leaking fluid all over the driveway, the mind-numbing stupidity of what I had just done finally began to sink in.

    After cleaning the Bonneville up a bit, replacing some of the damaged body hardware with junkyard replacements, and trying unsuccessfully to get it running right, I finally sold it at a $200 loss after almost 2 months on CL. I’ve bought really cheap cars before that were actually fairly dependable,

    • 0 avatar

      Very sad. I have a soft spot for that generation of Bonneville (the ’92 specifically) because Dear Ol’ Dad owned one. His best friend Bob owned a 1995 SSE in green with a tan interior.

      • 0 avatar
        Corey Lewis

        Sounds like that green one needed gold badges and lace alloys.

        • 0 avatar

          I think both had the “turbo fan” style alloys. Dad went to look at his Bonneville on the used car lot after his buddy Don, the used car salesman, called him about a recent trade. His was just an SE model with a bench seat and column shift but got the alloys because he thought the tires that were on it were too worn.

          He was told “well we won’t put new tires on it but we’ll swap the wheels for the wheels on this Bonneville over here.” Across the lot was a black SSE with the turbo alloys and nearly new tires.

          I still can’t believe the dealer put nearly worn out tires, steel wheels, and hubcaps on a SSE to sell an SE – even to someone who was a long time customer.

          What were they thinking?

    • 0 avatar

      I learned earlier on back when I had bought/sold a few motorcycles through CL, the very simple rule of judging the car and its upkeep by the previous owner and their dwelling. If the person has their own life together, and has a well maintained and taken care of house, there’s a good chance that same attitude extended to their automobile. The same principle applies to how the CL ads are written. Good grammar with a decent overview of the car’s condition of features, some time taken to take decent photos of the car cleaned up, good signs. A picture taken through a screen door out onto the street of a grime covered car, not a good sign. I actually saw an ad similar to that for a beat up crown vic for sale with the seller’s motivation being “need to bail my bf out of jail.” Sad, but I would definitely not be calling them to buy their car.

      Recently the craigslist flippers that buy cars at auction and sell in the ‘owner’ section have taken to photographing cars they are selling in suburban neighborhoods to ad to the effect of being a personal owner selling their own car. But read the description and they’re fairly easy to figure out.

      On a w-body note, I keep eyeballing the late-90s Grand Prix GTp coupes on CL, clean examples pop up regularly for about $2500 or so. The biggest question is what sort of rust lurks under the rocker panel covers, and what sort of shape is the transmission in?

    • 0 avatar

      In craigslist speak…

      “Needs a tune up”

      Translates to:

      “Runs like $h¡t and I don’t know why.”

      • 0 avatar

        100% this. Many car-oblivious people are still in a “points, plugs and carbs” mentality where they think that just throwing on a new air filter and a bit of cleaning of the MAF or something will cure a serious misfiring, poor running condition. Modern engine control systems are remarkably resilient and well designed in terms of how well they can make the engine run in sub-optimal conditions, and plugs easily last 100k miles and beyond. Distributors with their wear parts and mis-timing issues are likewise becoming a thing of the past.

  • avatar

    I guess roughly a dozen of my previous cars would fit in here, but to some of you yet another dozen may apply, though I was quite happy with them, considering how cheap they were.
    Maybe I should write a book?

    After owning a bunch of cheap old Fords, some rusted out Volvos and some noise Audis and Hondas, but before getting into the three CR-V’s I’ve owned lately (with a Ford Monedo and an Audi 100 in betweenish) I ‘finally’ decided I should try a BMW. Partly because I know too many people who think they are actual sliced bread, and partly because it was dirtcheap for being a 4wd wagon with 190-something ponies.

    1992 525iX, shadowline, manual with leather interior, and ‘only’ 200k miles.

    It was a bit rusty, and the summer tires that came with it were massive on 18 inch rims with a decent lip, but everything worked, and it was road legal.
    Lost what was left of the splines on the front driveshaft after a few weeks, on my way from work, and apparently that makes it not go forward at all… (not at all embarrasing to stand still by the road while all my colleagues pass me)

    This kinda local BMW spares place (only a two hour drive away) told me they had a used front driveshaft they could send in just a day or two, although it was a bit more expensive than having one sent from Denmark. After a few weeks, they finally realized they really didn’t have one…

    Got one from Denmark, really quick fix, once you get the car rolling, because offcourse the handbrake gets stuck if it’s parked more than two days…

    Tried to change the doorhandle, because the original was damaged when the car had been stolen two owners back. Car alarm does not recognize new door handle, locks drives door permanently… ‘Fixing’ it requires partly destroying door card and building a door handle assembly from a mix of the two. (there are literally more moving parts in one 90’s BMW 5 series door than there are parts in a whole Ford Sierra)

    Front spring breaks, kinda loud, but never realized what the sound was. Until a couple of days later when the broken spring cuts the front wheel open…
    Order new springs. Break open front outer CV joint by accident, but luckily a used one came with the car.

    Have to borrow friends Golf mk3 diesel to drive SO to hospital to deliver our youngest son…

    BMW springs have an insane amount of pretension. Normal spring clamps can barely make them short enough to fit dampers

    Break two bones in left hand. Have friend with already broken hand drive me to hospital in a Opel Vectra with broken gearlever.
    Have surgery. Wake up from aenestethics in massive pain, as morphine painkillers apparently just makes me sleepy. After waking up a dozen times I get Kodein instead (iirc)
    Finally waking up properly in the evening no one at home answers phone. Turns out my GF and two youngest sons had rushed to the hospital as my 18 month old son had a hernia while I was in surgery. Go down to childrens ward to be there when he wakes up.
    Having one 18 month old and one newborn with basically one working hand for 6 weeks is all fun… I still have 5 titanium screws in my hand but the scar doesn’t look quite as cool anymore.

    Finally spring, summer tires way to big for car with failed autoleveling rear suspension being replaced with aftermarket dampers. Rubs everywhere, crashes on bumps. Also not easy to use floor jack on rusted jacking points. Trade for stock decent E46 wheels.

    I did some other small repairs on the car just to find out that it’s really a rusted out wreck, built by people who like to over-engineer stuff just because they can. Bought more parts but gave up before fitting any.

    Finally sell car at a loss after 9 months, having lost some weight and saved thousands on gasoline.
    After a way to hot summer in leather seats and no AC, finally buy lighweight nippy Japanese CUV, which is way more fun to drive, way roomier, cheaper to run, it’s even quicker all the way up to 60, and keeps working perfectly (apart form a broken rear spring thanks to hauling a caravan on rough roads) for two years before taking a Mitsubishi head on…

  • avatar

    My second car, a piece of junk Taurus SHO that I bought at age 21. It was 8 years old with 68,000 miles.

    I was in love with the color combination (dark red on gray) and the sound of the Yamaha V6 through mostly rusted-out mufflers. I blew through several red flags:

    – obviously crappy body and paint work on the right rear of the car, accompanied by glass in the carpet
    – a coolant leak
    – an ugly hack repair job on the front-seat upholstery
    – missing componentry from the JBL stereo

    Turned out that the previous owner had been abusive and the selling dealer was a scam artist. The car was on its fourth (!) clutch, had (I’d found out later) been run without any fluid in the transmission, had substantial chunks of the wiring harness missing, and several engine accessories were ready and waiting to die.

    The trouble was, even after fixing all that stuff the car didn’t get any more reliable. I should have cut my losses but doggedly kept the thing for six years and nearly 80,000 miles, through several times the purchase price in repair costs.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, remember that “what fun cheap car should I buy” thread from the other day? A SHO was one of the candidates. Money pit.

      I’ve never heard of anyone who bought one used and didn’t have to deal with the previous owner’s (or owners’) hoon lifestyle choices.

      Same reason why I’d never buy a WRX, FiST, FoST, GTI, etc used.

    • 0 avatar

      As soon as 4K rpm hit, all sins were forgiven.

  • avatar

    First one was 90 Pontiac Sunbird GT (turbo). My logic at 19 was “oh, that’s the last thing that will break”. This was repeated during the repair of the AC (twice), the turbo (twice), the radiator, the head gasket, the timing belt (non interference thankfully), the paint, the suspension, etc. After buying it for $1800 in 1997 I sold it in 1999 to a Saturn dealer for $500 because I was moving and nobody wanted it. Probably spent about $10k in repairs during that time. I was such a moron.
    Next one was the Ford Probe. It was a steal to buy, but after the sale I realized that the wife got it as part of divorce proceedings and the ex had sabotaged it, thus the cheap sale. He put something in the gas that gunked up the lifters, valves, etc and made it knock and ping something awful. Also it had (from what I could tell after the fact) been driven under the back of a semi or something tall. The hood never latched right, the pop-up headlights pointed at the sky never to be aligned properly. The inside door card on the passenger side would just fall the hell off sometimes. I figured after the Sunturd, I would not get burned by the shop yet again. I got a 101 piece Craftsman mechanic set and took the head off myself. Sent it out for port and polish, cleaned up the funky cylinders (caked with nasty black crud) and cleaned up the lifters. Put it all back together but the lifters were still wrong. Bought some new lifters, put it back together. Put a camshaft in the wrong way, it would not start. Took it to mechanic who fixed it with the promise that I never come back. During the repairs, the sunroof leaked and filled the footwells with about 4″ of water. Inside of car smelled like death. I took nearly entire interior out, took seats to car wash and pressure washed them, cleaned floorpans and all plastics with simple green. It smelled good when it went back together and sold it for about $1500 despite having spend much more on the repairs, tools, etc. Still worth it, learned a ton.
    Last one is current, BMW 545. Since I’m such the pro I can fix anything right? Ah ha ha, the idea of “fixing” a BMW from 2004 is just absurd. This thing has never stopped leaking oil for more than a week at a time. So many expensive problems, it’s hard to keep track. See for yourself if you care:

  • avatar

    Being a BMW driver, I wanted a performance sedan during the E46 era, did not want another E36, and even in ZHP form I thought the 330i was too tame. So, I made the mistake of buying a used 2002 Mercedes-Benz C32 AMG.

    Ignored knowledge/Red Flag #1:
    NEVER buy the first year of any car. In aviation parlance, the saying goes “Never buy the A model of anything.” – this is so true. The car always needed something, and nothing was inexpensive. Signing the repair bill felt like passing a kidney stone. Here’s my favorite example:
    The transmission started slipping slightly at around 30K miles. It was barely noticeable but I’m sensitive to what my cars do. I took it in for diagnosis, and they told me this:
    1. The transmission fluid and engine coolant share a Behr radiator. Internally, this unit failed and coolant got into the transmission fluid, causing the slipping.
    2. The recommended repair? A new transmission, radiator, all trans cooling lines, fluids and a new transmission control unit (WTF for that last one!).
    3. Total bill: $6300 in 2005 dollars ($7742 today, per inflation calculator).
    I instead had the radiator replaced, all lines flushed and fluids refilled. Total cost including paying MB to diagnose but NOT repair it: $900. The trans did not slip again in my ownership, but it was always on my mind. This is only one example of multiple such repair experiences with that car.

    Ignored knowledge/Red Flag #2:
    I had heard that “A Mercedes-Benz is never going to handle as well as its peer BMW.”
    MB cars are known as luxury cars with some handling, not as handling cars with some luxury. Yes, even when AMG-tuned. I thought I could just “make it handle” with aftermarket parts. After thousands in modifications from top aftermarket sellers such as Renntech and Evosport, the car STILL did not handle as well as a BMW.

    Ignored knowledge/Red Flag #3:
    MB sold a car with >350 HP but NO limited-slip differential. I should have known better that a “software” solution was not going to cut it. Seeing a trend yet? My car ended up being the second C32/C55 in the entire USA with a Quaife LSD – and I ended up being the unpaid R&D for them too. When I sold the car, we had still not managed to solve a leaky rear diff problem. Mid-corner traction under acceleration was certainly improved, though!

    I could go on, but suffice to say I am still making other car buying decisions that are sure to be mistakes – just can’t seem to make peace with perfectly good (but boring) appliances! I should just buy an Accord and be done with the drama.

  • avatar

    Oh, man. Way too many.

    Recently, the 1996 Aerostar. I had been looking for something for months, it needed more than 4 cylinders, an automatic, cruise, and a decent seating position. The Aerostar fit all my criteria, within budget.

    Except someone had “used” this van to within an inch of its life. The only “maintenance” it received before I bought it was when something broke, they [email protected]$$ repaired it.

    During its time with me, I had cooling system issues (culminating in a blown head gasket that resulted in me dumping it), the slider wouldn’t open and once it did, it wouldn’t shut. I had to tie it closed with a bungee cord at one point. Once I got it shut, I did not open it again. I made rear seat passengers crawl through from the front. The power steering never worked properly the entire time I owned it. I had what my buddies call “arm-strong steering”.

    It was reliable, it never really broke down on me, never left me stranded. I put about 8,000 miles on it one summer, driving it up to Washington state and taking the non-freeway routes up there and back (and *a lot* of driving up there). It performed extremely well on the excursion, only a starter failure and one flat tire during the whole trip.

    When I got back, and it ended up showing signs of a blown head gasket, I sold it for very little and moved on to my Taurus I drive now.

    Then there was the time I got a ride from my dad to go **LOOK** at an Isuzu Hombre. After I got out of my dad’s truck, he simply drove away. I was over 2 hours from home (driving distance), so I had no choice but to buy it and pay full asking price. They had “obo” on the ad. But, oh, that was a mistake, not a penny less than asking price was acceptable. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I was stuck there with no cell phone and no way home.

    I grew to hate that truck, so much so that I traded it for a 1991 Ford Tempo GLS coupe 5 speed. I liked the Tempo, and given the issues I had with the truck, I don’t regret it, but I’m not blind enough to see I traded a truck who’s value exceeded the car’s by a decent margin. I think I came out better overall, though. The truck had weak cab corners, electrical issues, noisy timing chain and so on. The Tempo had no rust and only minor mechanical issues that were very cheap and easy to fix. My only regret is selling the GLS, I should’ve kept it.

  • avatar

    Ha! My current project from hell, an ’89 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser Wagon.

    The road to hell is paved thusly:

    See Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser link in Facebook Group. This is the exact colour car that I like, has turn signal repeaters, fully loaded, 307 has been swapped for a 403, cold ac, looks in very good shape for a car of its age. I am overcome with lust. I love these cars like normal car enthusiasts love a Porsche 930. There are none left in Atlanta and have been none left for many, many years.

    This car is in Missouri for $2500, I pay for car, arrange shipping for $500, car arrives in a couple of days. It’s in decent shape, but a little more Blanche DuBois than I had thought from the pictures; definitely showing its age but solid. Starts and runs great, a/c works.

    Drive car to brother’s house to impress family with purchase, which they do not approve of. Car dies on way there and has to be pushed out of the way. Go fetch new battery from Sam’s, before installing new battery, car starts up again. Install new Battery anyway. Discover over the next week that A) the fuel pump dies, B) the car has an irritating/dangerous habit of stalling after an hour or so of driving and let it sit 30 seconds to a minute and it starts back up C) the exhaust falls off. Get new starter, fuel pump, tune carburetor, new exhaust.

    Car ends up spinning a bearing within three weeks. Decide not to mess with 403, which must be at least 35 years old, and find someone who claims to be able to do an LS swap and is very enthusiastic about doing so.

    This was middle of August. Pay 1500 deposit for LS swap. A couple of weeks go by, nothing is done, a couple more weeks go by, the old engine is moved, new engine is sitting in engine bay on its side. Nothing further ever gets done to car despite repeated texts/requests/offers to buy necessary parts, and I did buy brackets/oil pan for about $800.

    Now it is middle of January and I am angry and out of patience so I have ANOTHER mechanic retrieve car and new mechanic tells me previous mechanic dropped a 4.8 into engine bay, not the 6.0 I requested, so we are going to have to start completely over. At this point I am at 3100 for car + 900 for various repairs + 1500 for previous mechanic + 800 for previous mechanic parts + 1500 deposit for new mechanic + 2000 labour + God knows how much the new Engine is going to cost + God knows what else.

    I really want this car though!

  • avatar

    A 1987 Cressida I bought for $700. I had it for a week before driving it to the auto recycling place and getting 85 for it. The engine was fine but the rest of the car a disaster. The last straw was opening the trunk to look for the jack and finding reflections in pooled water instead.

  • avatar

    1966 Rover 2000.

    Need I say more…?

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      My first car! A 1965. Did the shifter come off in your hand while downshifting around a corner like mine?

      Sister’s friend’s Toyota broke down in the driveway. When she started to give directions AAA operator interrupted her and said “Oh! You mean the Brewer residence!”

  • avatar

    My second 1984 VW Rabbit diesel.

    My first Rabbit was a gift from a family member, and was a great car for almost 5 years, the end of highschool and halfway through university. Then it developed no-start problems after sitting overnight. The only way to get it started was to tow it up to speed, then let out the clutch.

    The actual problem was a cracked rubber O-ring inside the injection pump which allowed air into the fuel system, causing the pump to slowly lose its prime when it sat. My dad incorrectly diagnosed the problem as worn out engine with not enough compression to fire. We did a compression test and it was marginally below spec. I kept saying he had to be wrong, since this was summer and it had started like a champ all through the previous winter, but he couldn’t be convinced.

    I wanted to try something different, not another Rabbit, but my parents were putting up most of the money and dad insisted I get another VW diesel because of the great fuel economy. So my first Rabbit became a parts car, and boy did it ever come in handy! We spotted the 2nd Rabbit at a country used car dealer.

    Red flag #1: Shifter fell through the floor during test drive, which the dealer had to fix. (It later fell through again and I had to fix it.)

    Red flag #2: Sign in the window said it included a warranty (30 days?) but the dealer said that was a mistake, no warranty with this car.

    Red flag #3: Something written on the valve cover with yellow paint pen, indicating something in the top-end had been purchased from a scrapyard. (Turns out it was the whole cylinder head.)

    Red flag #4: Recently overhauled injection pump. (Someone was throwing money at a problem but gave up.)

    Red flag #5: Engine had way more power than the engine in my old car, even though they should’ve been identical. (Injection timing was advanced from stock.)

    As soon as the temp went below freezing that fall, the car wouldn’t start and required block heater assistance. Investigation showed that the timing had been set incorrectly when the injection pump and timing belt were changed. Set that correctly. After that it was generally hard-starting, and power level was reduced to the same as my old car. :(

    Did a compression test. The tester fitting screws in where the injectors go. When I installed the fitting (properly with a torque wrench), a chunk of the side of the cylinder head broke off! Someone had over-tightened the injector and cracked the head.

    Pulled the head intending to swap my old head onto this engine. Discovered valve marks in the piston tops. Either the timing belt snapped at some point, or someone set the timing so far off that the valves had hit the pistons. The cylinder head that was on it had come from the scrapyard to replace the damaged one.

    After swapping on my old cylinder head, it still had hard starting problems. So we swapped my old injection pump onto it… and now it started fine until you let it sit overnight, then no-start… just like my former Rabbit.

    The starter also died. it was just the solenoid, but you can’t usually buy those separately. I had scrapped the other Rabbit by now and didn’t keep the starter. I went through every reman starter at every PartsSource location in the area and none of them were rebuilt properly. They either had shorted windings or slipping Bendix drive. I finally wound-up using the good solenoid off the reman started on my original starter to make a good one.

    I won’t bother going into detail about the shoddy bodywork and chunk of bondo that fell out within 6 months.

  • avatar

    The year was 1986 (November). I’d been out of work for almost a year, employment insurance was due to run out in mid-January, when I was due to go back to school for my machinist first-year training. I was broke, and needed a car. Found a non-running 1974 Mercury Capri with two-tone red-silver paint, a seized 2600 V6 and 4-speed manual advertised for $200. Figured I could pick up a serviceable engine from the wrecking yard and install it myself for around $400 more. “That way I’ll know what I have” I naively told myself. The seller was a cute blonde coed with an engaging smile and a warm friendly demeanor. I was starting to feel warm and friendly too. And suddenly gullible. The car was a rust bucket and smelled mouldy. It was of course impossible to test drive due to its fried engine status (apparently she was unaware that the oil needed to be at the very least CHECKED from time to time – never mind changed, and that the cloud of blue smoke from the back actually meant something). “Big deal” I thought. “How bad could it be?” (this girl was seriously depleting any last vestiges of common sense from my testosterone-soaked brain). I eventually found out just how bad it could be, but before I did I’d replaced the engine, registered and insured the heap. Oh, and I’d sprung an additional $200 over and above the purchase price of the engine because this particular wrecking yard informed me that their 90-day guarantee was only good if THEY installed the engine rather than me or anyone else. (this turned out to be the only wise decision throughout the entire ordeal because it turned out to need new valve stem seals. Once replaced the engine ran like atop with no oil burning issues). Sadly, this was the car’s only saving grace. The heater/ventilation system was kaput – I was almost constantly wiping the fogged windows from the inside while driving. The transmission shift linkage jammed repeatedly. the shocks and springs were toast. The corrosion in hard-to-see places was beyond repair. But most alarming, the steering rack and tie-rod ends were so worn that there was almost an eighth of a turn of the steering wheel in either direction before experiencing any response at the wheels. That’s when I decided to cut my losses and junk the car. But by that time I’d sunk an additional $1800 (stolen from my student loan, along with an additional $800 to buy a reliable beater 1976 Corolla) in nickel-and-dime repairs and upgrades. I worked full time graveyard shifts while a full-time student for the next eight months to make up for the total mis-appropriated student loan amount of $3300. Oh, and the blonde had a boyfriend. Just my luck.

  • avatar

    September 18, 2001. My POS Mercury Tempo has finally given up the ghost and I have sold it off to a nice Mexican guy, who probably parted it out. At a local iron lot I found a beautiful looking 1991 Mercury Grand Marquis GS model. 150K miles, 302 V8, AOD tranny, working AC, looked like Grandma’s car. Nice blue velour interior, the fancy factory stereo, coach lights, even. It had a trailer hitch, too!

    When I went to look underneath it, I noticed a bit of wetness on the engine oil pan. The sales shark assured me it was a bit of sloppiness from their oil change guy in the back. I pulled the dipstick, it was about a quart low and not clean. Why this didn’t register with me, I’ll never know. I think I was struck by the Broughaminess of the whole thing.

    Gasoline prices had shot up in the wake of 9/11, I bought this thing cheap, $1400 IIRC. I was so giddy to have a car that I knew, that I could work on. Like the Torinos and Panthers of my young adulthood, I would know my way around it and be able to fix it myself.

    A few weeks later, I decided to change the oil. I get it up on ramps (just like the old days) and put the wrench on the bolt. Much to my horror, after a quarter turn, it falls out of the pan. And three quarts of oil, too. The bolt was stripped and so was the tang that it bolted into. I tried getting one of those self tapping bolts, but no luck. Soooo, off to my trusty mechanic. $600 for a tow, an oil pan and associated labor.

    Not two weeks later, my wife took a bunch of the local Girl Scout troop on a weekend expedition to a campground three hours away. About an hour into the trip, she calls me from the side of the road. All of the coolant had leaked out of the radiator and the car had stranded her and four Brownies. Hellooooo tow truck. And mechanic. And new hoses, water pump and radiator. Goodbye $800.

    Of course, all of these things happened while we were as busy at my office as we could be, so I wasn’t able to work on it myself. And to be honest, I probably didn’t have all of the tools necessary to do some of the jobs myself either. They would have taken me weeks.

    In the second year of ownership, the trans started slipping. I pulled the pan and changed out the brown fluid and filter. Better, but still slipping. My mechanic imagined that the PO probably was pulling a camper or a boat and never serviced the trans. Along with the slipping the fuel mileage took a dive. I’d had enough.

    My brother in law got a new company car the following spring and offered me his old Cavalier. I took him up on it, bought it for $1000. He just wanted it out of his garage.

    As anemic and underpowered as that car was (even when freshly serviced), the fact that I could get low-mid 20’s for fuel mileage in stop and go traffic and near 40 MPG on the highway made up for that fuel-swilling parts-hog of a Mercury. I’ve not owned a Ford product since.

    • 0 avatar

      Wait ;
      You bought a clunker with a TOW HITCH AND BROWN ATF, drove it for TWO YEARS before the tranny *began* to fail (not failed) then you have the temerity to BLAME FORD ?! .
      Jesus Wept .

      • 0 avatar

        Nate: There’s a lot more disappointment wrapped up in that car than just this particular Grand Marquis. I admitted I should have been far more skeptical of the car when I bought it, but I was just crazy about it. I failed to check some vital fluids, obviously.

        This was just another old Ford in a series of them that had endless nickel and dime problems. I condensed down my experiences on the car considerably, there were all kinds of issues I didn’t bother to mention.

        Once the trans started slipping, I got out. Learned that from my previous Fords (none of which had been used for towing), both new *and* used.

        Now that almost 15 years have passed since I have considered one, all of the engineering is different, along with the materials. Several Fusions have caught my eye, along with the new Mustang. But sadly, I wont’ be in the market for too many more new sedans or Mustangs before I retire.

        To be honest, I’ve had cars from all kinds of different manufacturers, some were great, some sucked. But the majority of cars I had were Fords, while some were great, more of them weren’t. Your mileage may vary.

        • 0 avatar

          Understood better than you imagine but ignoring the basics means : it’s going to fail .
          Most here would be appalled at the trash I drag home then waste time, money and incredible effort trying to make into something reliable if not pretty….
          You alls know I’m a Generous Motors Corp. fanboi and apologist, nevertheless I’ve had some really nasty GM Junkers that stubbornly resisted all efforts to make them go again .
          You sometimes simply cannot fix a Friday car .

          • 0 avatar

            To be honest, after the oil pan fiasco, I woke up one morning realizing I hadn’t done due diligence on this car and wondered what else I had missed. I found out pretty quickly.

            I too, am a GM fanboi, but I’ve had several of those that were “Friday” cars. They thoroughly tested my patience, truly.

          • 0 avatar

            Yabbutt ;
            ‘Friday cars’ will teach you to be a better Mechanic, non ? .

  • avatar

    ” … years ago, I purchased a 1982 Ford Crown Victoria station wagon, which turned out to be made entirely of rust. When I tried to hoist it, I positioned my hydraulic floor jack neatly under a jacking point on the frame, fully extended the jack … while all four wheels remained squarely on terra firma. I named it Big Ugly.”

    Oh hey, I bought a 1982 W123 station wagon (230 manual), which turned also out to be made entirely of rust.
    Same thing with the jacking up, it was the under seal holding it together. Scary. I named it the Wobble Wagon due to it’s interesting handling characteristics, loaded a Land-Rover Tdi in the back and drove it to Spaghetti western country in Spain where we swapped the Tdi into my Land-Rover.

  • avatar

    Over in Europe, the original generation Ford Focus was something of a revelation, as it replaced the unloved and half hearted mk5/6 Ford Escort, a car developed by accountants and nearly ruined Ford Europe (they redeemed themselves with the 1993 Mondeo, sold poorly in the US as the Contour).

    My own folly was a replacement for a nice little Clio (nicely styled successor to the 5 aka LeCar) which was totalled.

    I took my $1000 insurance payout and went car shopping. Being young and (I thought at the time) a pocket full of cash, the seedy world of backstreet used cars was my oyster.

    I eyed up a Ford Orion – the sedan variant of the previously mentioned horrendous mk5 Escort. 80k miles, 1.8 Zetec engine (same as the XR3i!) and all for under my budget!

    Young and naive, the dealer needing to jump start it to get it running was probably the first bad sign. A quick spin round the block and a deal was done.

    The next bad sign was when it started coughing on the way back home. I thought it just needed a service. Checked the fuel gauge, it was broken. On an oil change, turned out the oil used in it was thick lumpy stuff, for good reason, as the 5w30 a Zetec needs was soon leaking out from somewhere. As was the fuel pump, which caused it to cut out until the temperature increased. Wishbones were dodgy, leading to pretend-torque-steer. Rear passengers felt carsick, not helped by the handles for the windy up windows being broken. The rust over the rear arches meant it would fail it’s next inspection anyway.
    The only car I ever scrapped.

  • avatar

    I’ve made many mistakes, but two were real doozies.

    First was, late 1980s…I had gone back to university at age 29, with the insane dream of finishing. Meantime I needed wheels…not primo wheels, just weekend and event wheels.

    Not far away, a hilljack was selling a Tennesee van – a 1969 Chevy Van, the old Chevy II-based flat-front van. Completely renovated interior as half-camper, half-sin-bin. Back doors were bolted shut, and then glassed over. Not good, but it was a smooth, professional job.

    Little rust. And that was what hooked me.

    The brakes were shot. The SOB drove it to my place, after my short test drive…I wouldn’t do it. The condition was, he wouldn’t get paid until he got it to my apartment compound. And he did, and took my money…and off to the races.

    The brakes were the least of it. Now, it was a pedal hinged under the floor, but that was the least of it. More pressing were that the front-axle kingpins were shot. And NOBODY had equipment to press them out! The Chevy dealer didn’t even have the BOOKS. Garage after garage shined me on; and I even approached the Voc-Ed people. They didn’t want it; their teachers were all about the new K-Cars. FWD, that’s the future.

    Then I found that the Chevy six, improbably, had health issues. Cylinders three and four had little compression. At least, a head gasket; maybe more.

    There was NO ROOM to work on that engine in the van. The doghouse didn’t unbolt from the floor…only the top open. GM recommended taking the engine out from UNDERNEATH.

    And that was it. Dreams of seeing the Grand Canyon from Ohio, in my vintage Chevy van, went by the wayside. I put it up for sale for half what I paid for it, using the student newspaper, and was delighted at the chance to be rid of my worries.

    Oh, but I wasn’t done!

    Ten years later…I had a new job that involved off-road traversing. In winter. I wanted a Jeep and I wasn’t overloaded with money. Well, what’s tougher than an AMC CJ-7 with a Rambler six?

    I found one for sale cheap…and it had…a FIBERGLASS TUB on it! A neat conversion, too. Didn’t have the canvas top fully mated to it…no side curtains. But…hey…no rust! Frame was in good shape, too.

    Again…sap that I am…had the seller drive it to my place. And that was the last time it ran under its own power.

    That engine was TOAST. Now, I justified that in saying there was no reason why I couldn’t just hoist another AMC 6 in there, out of a boneyard – in the late 1990s, there were still plenty of wrecked Hornets around. But I couldn’t even identify WHY the engine wasn’t starting…part of the reason was, I didn’t have time, working 70 hours a week on the new job. Nor a garage. And it was winter.

    The landlord didn’t love it as much as I did, either. He let it sit for two months and then read me the riot act.

    I wound up giving it to one of those car-donation charities. Ohhh..that STILL hurts…

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