By on April 20, 2011

Before Lexus began it’s pursuit for perfection. Before Acura had built the Legend and seared the J.D. Power surveys. Even before there was such a thing as an ‘affordable sports sedan’. There was this car.

The Baby Benz was on the periphery of what was class-leading in the early-80’s, and what was clearly class-lagging by the early 90’s. It had great handling but… not a lot of power. Great pedigree but… not cheap at all for an entry level luxury car. Lots of features… but boy did it break your bank account when they broke. And break they did.

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By on March 15, 2011

Have you ever seen a car truly ratted out? I’m not talking about the Oscar Madisons amongst us who leave their food wrappers in their cars til’ kingdom come. I’m talking about a real rat car. Interior seats with more thread than fabric. Transmission shifts that make the car jerk quicker than John Ashcroft at a Mardi Gras. Panels with more dents than…. you get the idea.  The owner of this Grand Prix decided to get an advanced pharmacology degree during the waning moments of ownership. He was kind enough to bring what was left of the car after his latest meeting with the local magistrate, and with $410 left on the note I could…

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By on March 1, 2011

Jack Baruth thinks that any vehicle can be entertaining to drive. Well he’s never owned one of these. This 5-speed base model is a masterpiece of simplicity… and boredom. I used every trick I know to find happiness with it. Rev it in fifth. Rev it in third. Hypermile it. Even throw in a sound system to replace the chintziest radio this side of a Tercel EZ. Nothing worked. But then again this Prizm has almost nothing that can break in it either. This generation Prizm is arguably the most reliable GM model of the 1990’s (thanks Toyota!). And with only 126k miles and $1500 in the hole I can…

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By on February 15, 2011

Forget about Prius envy. Back in the Y2K era the Prius was about as loved as… well… a Suzuki Kizashi. Gas was cheap and the crown & glory for suburban Mom’s who liked to, drive, was, a ‘big’ vehicle. It could be a Suburban, an Explorer, or in the case of the Lang brood, a Chrysler minivan. We loved them back in the day.

Our keeper for about three years was a 1996 Grand Caravan that I bought for $2950 back in 2002. 102k, an unloved 3.0L V6, rear air, power locks but manual windows. It was a strange bird that never saw the light of depreciation. We sold it for $2800 in 2005. Between then and now we must have owned 40 other minivans. Homegrown frugality and Hurricane Katrina helped me become a trader of minivans rather than a keeper. Cheap gas went the way of well… the minivan.  But if you asked me which minivan I loved above all others back in the day, it would be this 2000 Chrysler Town & Country. Here’s why…

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By on February 4, 2011

You have arrived. Through the sweat and brow of your efforts, you have achieved the rewards of upper middle class living. A nice job. A nice spouse. Two very quaint child like creatures, and of course… the car. A beautiful burgundy luxury car with opulent leather, elite walnut trim, a premium ‘Surround sound’ system with a quite advanced CD player, and a trademark waterfall grille on the front. In the late 1990’s your car stacks out at about $34,000 new. Fast forward 12 years, two recessions and 180k miles later, and you may be able to get a discount. How does $900 sound to you? With that in mind do you…

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By on January 30, 2011

Back in 2003, nearly a third of the vehicles I bought were either Volvos or Subarus. An auctioneer friend of mine described these cars as ‘wanna-be’s’. Since most of the buyers of these vehicles at his uncle’s car lot seemed to all fit the bill of an aspiring Yuppie. A lot of education. A lot of debt. Very little knowledge about cars beyond the Consumer Reports and monthly car mags. These buyers were a near nuisance in the Atlanta outskirts due to their pickiness and excessive question asking. For me though it was a different story.

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By on January 20, 2011

What killed Saturn? Blandness. An unending sea of uninspiring designs and sibling ripoff’s destroyed what could have been GM’s most successful project of the last 30 years. Of course they’re not alone in the branding malaise. Ford had Mercury. Chrysler had Plymouth. A lot of folks here would argue that Toyota’s Scion is becoming a living testament to compromises that yield a death defining brand. Throw in Acura’s (lack of) reputation, Infiniti and Kia during their low points, and even the winners can sometimes be losers. Which means that with no cache, a Theft Recovery title, and 93k on the odometer, I bought it cheap. $1600. Therefore I can…

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By on January 13, 2011

Why did someone from Atlanta keep this? An all-wheel-drive SUV is not exactly the best choice for Atlanta’s hot climates and long commutes. You get abysmal fuel economy. A mediocre safety record. Higher repair costs due to the all-wheel-drive system. Did I mention the solarium effect out here that takes dashboards and discolors and deforms them? When I bought this for $1000, I was seemingly going against the conventional wisdom. But I wasn’t… here’s why…

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By on January 2, 2011

20 years. Most marriages and capital offenses don’t have that level of commitment. To think of how long that is for any daily driver, consider what was not in most cars back then. Airbags, anti-lock brakes, cd players… heck ‘premium sound’ usually landed you nothing more than a cassette deck and four speakers. Now consider that this one owner 1990 Buick Century has a design dating all the way back to 1982. We’re talking about a period of design where the world’s most popular entertainment consisted of Pac-man & Atari 2600’s. Ancient times. Good times. But bad times for Detroit. Very, very bad times.

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By on December 23, 2010

It was the best of cars. It was the worst of cars. A silver 2001 Saab 9-5 was slowly making it’s way through the auction lane. It was a base model… and yet loaded. This silver 9-5 base came with a leather interior, sunroof, a 9 speaker Harman-Kradon stereo system, and heated seats for the front and rear. It was also a museum piece. No interior wear. No paint chips. The only thing worn on it was the Saab emblem in front… which is typical. 60+ dealers were in the lane that day. But most were looking at the usual finance fodder. I bought the Saab for $2250 (plus $115 fee) and weighed my options.

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By on December 7, 2010

It’s one of my favorite cars. Don’t ask me why. Engine straight from a Vette. Rear wheel drive as God rightfully intended. Big leather seats that are as thick as a saddle, and a ride that Norman Rockwell would approve of. This late great Roadmaster has 158,000 miles and nary a check engine light or mechanical issue in sight. It rides great. The cosmetics? Not bad. A little glue on the door strips here and there thanks to Georgia summers and GM bean counters. I’ll tell ya, if gas were $1 a gallon this would have already been in my garage. It rides like heaven but with gas treading $3 in the low demand winter season, it’s hitting the road; especially since I paid $1385 for the beast.

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