Piston Slap: The Saturn's Soft Sell to Craigslist?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the saturns soft sell to craigslist
TTAC Commentator TitusL writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I always appreciate your sound advice and commentary on the TTAC website, which is the reason why I’m reaching out.

After 18 years of ownership, I’ve decided to part ways with my 1998 Saturn SL2. The car has been reliable and has been easy to do routine maintenance on as little things popped up over the years. I’ve maintained it well, and the paint, body, and interior looks better than some cars half its age. However, with most cars of its vintage I’m starting to see “senior car” problems rear their ugly heads, and in certain instances I’m having to consider buying 2nd & 3rd generation replacement parts — yes, I’m talking about you, catalytic converter! Add to that the fact that there has been infinitely many technological improvements over the past 20 yrs. Which even further validates my reason for wanting something a bit fresher.

As of current, I’ve been trying to “soft sell” the car on a Saturn enthusiast website, with no takers yet. I would consider selling it on a more opened car listing website but I’m conflicted about this option because: 1) it is a high mileage vehicle (208K) which would leave me exposed to getting low-balled by a few bottom feeders looking for a good deal. 2) I don’t want to sell it to someone who will beat the hell out of it, forcing it into an early grave and leaving it to potentially become an organ donor at a local pick-n-pull. I would be mortified if I saw my Satty featured in a segment of “Latest Junkyard Finds” on TTAC.

So am I crazy to feel this way? I’ve already began the process of purchasing another car so, I don’t want to keep my Saturn (plus, my wife won’t allow me to have three cars). But I also want it to go to a good home, since its been apart of the family for so long. What are your thoughts?

Sajeev answers:

Oh damn son, this pushes all the buttons: look at the undesirable perfection of that fine machine!

While blurring the license plate I noticed the deep blue paint job, low slung (now) classic three-box sedan body, and how pleasant it’d look beside my 1989 Lincoln Continental Signature Series: proud, upstanding blue front-wheel-drive sedan brothers they’d be!

Or not. Anyway, my idiotic pursuit of worthless vehicles qualifies me to answer your query.

Selling an antiquated sedan means you’re getting lowballed, but you have no choice: sell at market/trade-in value and it’ll have a short, painful life before getting scrapped. It’s not the buyer’s fault, it’s your fault for not selling at survivor* car status.

In my case, the Continental is a $2,500 ride; pricing at $4,500 ensures the intended owner/caregiver knocks on your door. You might sell for less if the buyer fits the bill, but that’s not the point: you saved a modern classic from the scrapper!

Post on the model specific forums, but tell “Bring a Trailer” to turn back around. Ditto Hemmings/Cars/Autotrader/eBay, as their fees ensure you’ll spend a disappointing chunk of the sale on their cut. The only answer is Craigslist (and now Facebook Marketplace) as I hope you heard about a little thing called SEO.

Here’s how to write a Craigslist ad for classic cars: offer a well-written story that isn’t too rambling and free of weasel words, be HONEST about flaws, show value in your upkeep, include all keyword intensive text (i.e. fill out every portion of the ad), take high contrast/high quality images (like the one above, but with more sunlight), then faithfully republish (on CL) every 45 days.

It works: I’ve sold cars in less than 24 hours and obscure car parts ( JL Stealthbox for 95-01 Explorers, anyone?) with this technique. Ask to be contacted by text message. Swipe left on all lowballers, scammers, etc: easy!

To get you motivated, I whipped up “my” Craigslist ad. It’s too long, but whatever, I got a story to tell:

1989 Lincoln Continental Signature Series, Cold A/C, Restored, RARE, Survivor

This Lincoln Continental is a survivor car from the 1980s. It was originally owned by my aunt, she bought new and refused to part with it until recently. It’s the upgraded Signature Series finished in dark blue inside and out. It has the optional leather seats, JBL audio system, auto-dimming mirror, integrated garage door opener and factory alarm. Of course Continentals came with power everything, the trunk has a soft close feature and this was the first car (sold in America) with dual front airbags. I have the brochure explaining how airbags work!

Continentals were based on the 3.8L V6 Ford Taurus, but this is an expensive car from the ride, handling and even the “thud” of the doors when closing them. For those who remember, Continentals had trouble spots which my aunt addressed: revised head gaskets/new cooling system/decked cylinder heads, rebuilt transmission, and the air suspension was replaced with coil springs and new shocks. It currently has 118,000 miles but the gauges say 150,000 because I had to replace them.

Sadly, most Continentals died off without this care, which is sad because the only cars (I’ve driven) that ride + handle like this are the W116 Mercedes or the original Lexus LS400. Yes, really! The steering is super easy in town, but the 32-position boosted steering firms up perfectly on the highway. It eats HUGE potholes with no complaint, with small 15″ wheels, fat tires and a tight chassis that doesn’t squeak or rattle. The independent suspension corners flat: there are large sway bars and a rear strut tower brace too. And it’s silent on the highway: even the hood insulating pad looks like a soft pillow. (It might be!)

Unlike that Mercedes and even the Lexus, this car’s massive back seat puts everything to shame: there’s so much room in a front wheel drive car! It gets almost 20 MPG in the city and almost 30 on the highway. A careful owner will love it for years, parts are dirt cheap if you know where to look, and you won’t see another one like it.

Here’s what I have done so far:

  1. New paint job (factory blue)
  2. New, NOS exterior lights (all 9) with headlight relays
  3. New Air Conditioning Compressor and NOS Head Unit
  4. New, NOS Power Antenna
  5. New Window Tint
  6. New LED interior bulbs
  7. New, NOS factory floor mats
  8. New power steering pump w/flushed fluid
  9. New Ford NOS Engine/Tranny Mounts (all 3)
  10. New power window and lock motors (all 4)
  11. New Kenwood Excelon Stereo with Polk Speakers
  12. New Battery
  13. New BF Goodrich Tires
  14. New Hood Lifts
  15. New Spark Plugs, Cap, Rotor and BOSCH Wires
  16. New…you catch my drift?

Here’s the Good:

  1. Stunning paint, it’s brand new!
  2. Excellent leather seats, door panels, carpets
  3. Non-smoker
  4. Garaged almost all its life
  5. Rust free (Houston car)
  6. No accidents
  7. No leaks, squeaks or rattles
  8. Binder full of receipts

And the Not-so-Good:

  1. Sometimes the transmission makes thudding sound going from Park to Reverse
  2. ABS brakes do not work, the regular brakes are fine
  3. Sometimes the gauges beep for no reason
  4. Dashboard is cracked above the gauges

Okay Best and Brightest: the floor is now yours.

*Yes, I am extending the definition of survivor, but these two examples are lucky to survive the scrapper in most any condition. Right?

[Images: OP, © 2018 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.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.

Join the conversation
2 of 91 comments
  • Carroll Prescott Carroll Prescott on Aug 13, 2018

    I kinda get the vibe from this post and share some of the concerns. But it is ONLY a Saturn. Your feelings for your Saturn mirror mine for my 1997 Escort bought new and driven past 175k. I have feelings for the car that are attachments of memories. But seriously, if I sold it, it is a car. I cannot control what someone would do and lowball offers are in my control to ignore. Having sold a 1969 six cylinder Mustang that I loved but had no business trying to fix, I stipulated that the car not be converted to 8 cylinders. The buyer agreed. I cannot control what eventually happened. After all, it is no longer mine. I can understand wanting to have your Saturn to go to the right home - so price it high and ignore anything that is insulting. There will be a Saturn lover out there (they aren't bad cars, just unremarkable ones). You may take years to sell it as you want, but hey, that is what you really want anyway right?

  • PandaBear PandaBear on Aug 13, 2018

    Great ad Sajeev. TitusL, seriously, you have 2 mutually exclusive choice: 1) Sell it to someone you pick, at a discount (so you have a lot of people you can choose from). You will not always be able to get the best deal as people who knows may low ball you as well. 2) Sell it for the best price and you cannot pick your buyer, which means they may not be the best people you can find, but they are lazy and want to buy your car to abuse. Typically I'd choose 2) as buyer from 1) may just put up a show and lie. You have no control who they sell the car to after you sell to them, or how they treat the car. Buyer from 2) will abuse someone's car, so if they abuse mine some other car will be saved from the abuse, nothing lost in the world really. BTW, I have a prime condition 97 Camry V6 XLE to get rid of, abuser welcome, restored survivor, anyone wants a good baby Lexus? Leather is in great condition and the whole car drives nice, 150K miles, KYB GR2 installed 20k miles ago, ICE cold AC, only problem is a mismatch sun visor, some minor suspension and engine noises, and a stuck front passenger seat motor. Asking $3k, in Northern California.

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