Monthly Archives: July 2012

As Seen on Craigslist – 1971 Fiat Spider

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t daydreamed about driving through the sunny countryside in a small (preferably Italian or British) convertible, the wind whipping your hair as you gleefully toss the little thing through the corners.  This is not the car for that.  I’m not an expert on the market for old Fiats, but I can guarantee under that semi-glossy rattle-can orange paint, there is more Bondo than an auto body supply shop, and under that Bondo is enough rust to make a grown man cry.  $1500 is right in that “how much could I lose?” territory – expensive enough to make it not a complete beater, but cheap enough to make you daydream of the scenario described above.  The answer to the question, of course, is that you will lose your wife, your mind, and eventually your life when the last vestige of steel holding the axle in place finally rusts away as you’re busy overcooking that sweeping left-hand turn in the sunny countryside.


For Sale – One Old Man’s Car

I’ve posted before about buying cars, but never really selling one.  I tend to form irrational attachments to my cars, and I also tend to drive them until they die.  I’m now at the point where I’m ready to sell my Cadillac, since I bought a new car.  I spent a bit of time prepping it for sale this weekend, and I learned two things:

  1. If I can help it, I’ll never buy a car with a light interior again.  I spent way too much time scrubbing carpets and cleaning the seats, and it wasn’t that dirty to begin with.  EVERYTHING shows in a tan interior.
  2. It’s funny how we live with certain things that only get fixed once it’s time to sell.  The car has had a clunk from the rear end for several months that I determined wasn’t serious but couldn’t fully diagnose, and I finally got around to fixing it this weekend.  It took all of an hour – now why couldn’t I find the time to do that when it was bothering me, instead of the next owner?  I also touched up some scratches and cleaned all the door jambs, trunk recesses, and generally cleaned the car from top to bottom.  It’s my firm belief that cars run better when clean, so why was I only doing this now?

Of course, it’s not just that I’m lazy (although that’s certainly part of it).  It’s easy to live with minor faults when it’s your car, but as soon as there’s money on the line and you want to make a quick sale and get the most value out of the car, suddenly all these little annoyances become important.  It did make me wonder if I’d taken the time to remedy these things, maybe I would’ve enjoyed the car a little more.  I guess it doesn’t really matter though – with any luck, it will belong to someone else before too long.

Anyway, with the car clean and shiny, I took a few pictures and posted it on Craigslist.  Hopefully there isn’t some jackass out there who posts a weekly blog of random cars he finds on the internet who’s going to critique my photography and ad writing skills.

As Seen on Craigslist – 1963 Oldsmobile F-85

With a name clearly drawn from fighter jets, it’s somewhat surprising that the Olds F-85 is so staid looking, even by early-’60s standards.  Fifty years on, however, it’s a good-looking alternative to the more common Chevelle, and probably half the price too.  In fact, less than $6k for a classic convertible is a heck of a deal if it’s not rusty, and this car looks pretty clean.  It may not win any beauty contests, but it would make a fun cruiser or a mean sleeper if you stuffed a cam in it and left the whitewalls and hubcaps.

As Seen on Craigslist – 1954 Chevy Bel Air Wagon

Once again, the siren call of a classic wagon has lured me into a figurative shipwreck of daydreams about dragging my family on a cross-country voyage in a vintage car.  While that is unlikely to ever come to fruition, I really like the copper-over-white color scheme, the clean interior, and the fact that the original 6-cylinder drivetrain is still present.  1954 and earlier GM cars have the benefit of basic parts availability but aren’t as cliched and overdone as their ’55 and later counterparts, and the fact that this one seems fairly original with a few tasteful modifications (the paint, the mag wheels, the 12V conversion) makes the asking price pretty reasonable.  Oh, the things I’d get in trouble with if it weren’t for the lack of time, space, and money to actually make them happen…

My New Car

It’s been a little quiet around here, what with an addition to the family and an extraordinarily busy summer keeping me out of the garage for the past few months.  One of the things that derailed my transmission installation was a search for a new daily driver.  The Caddy is generally rust-free, but it’s only a matter of time before a decade-plus of Ohio winters takes its toll, and a number of minor but annoying mechanical issues persuaded me to sell it while it still has some value; I felt like if I didn’t get rid of it soon, I might as well continue to drive it until it completely fell apart around me.

So for the past several months, I’d been scouring Craigslist, Autotrader, and other outlets for cars that fit my criteria.  Of course, the addition of a third child into my household altered those criteria a bit, as I would now need something capable of holding three child seats for the next few years.  I’d basically narrowed it down to the Pontiac G8 and the Dodge Magnum, with the G8 by far the primary choice.  Last week, after months of searching, calling dealers, advice from friends, and suffering through negotiations, I brought home this Sport Red Metallic ’09 G8 GT.

I’ll summarize the purchase process like this: there’s a reason people hate buying cars.  I was unfairly lowballed on my trade-in, so I’m going to sell the Caddy myself.  The G8 had a distinct pull to the right that the dealer fought hard to avoid fixing.  They gave me the car with less than 1/4 tank of gas – something I didn’t notice because I left the dealership as they were closing and they literally locked the doors behind me.  But enough about that experience.

I’ll summarize the first week of ownership like this: I freaking love this car.  It’s more powerful than anything I’ve ever owned but comfortable and pleasant to drive, it’s good-looking and aggressively styled without being ostentatious, and it sounds so good I find myself turning down the radio so I can hear the engine better.  The trunk is huge, big enough for my golf clubs, a load of groceries, and a small stroller all at once, and the backseat is plenty wide enough for the kids.  Speaking of which: my oldest daughter keeps exhorting me to drive faster, so if I get a ticket I’m blaming her.

I wasn’t sure about the color at first, but it’s really grown on me.  The car has the optional Sport package, the main difference being the 19″ machine-faced wheels and stickier tires (which will likely necessitate snowshoes in the winter – don’t tell my wife).  I’ve yet to really open it up, but it’s alarmingly quick, stops on a dime, corners unbelievably flatly for a car its size, and has so far been responsible for more grins and giggles in a week than the Caddy was for 5 years.

One of the fun things about having a new car (at least for a geek like me) is figuring out all the little quirks and design details that are incorporated.  For example, there’s a nifty window on the rear shelf that allows the trunk light to pass through so you know if the trunk lid is ajar.  The headlight switch pulls out to activate the fog lamps, which to my hydrocarbon-addled brain feels like an homage to the pull-out switches on classic cars.

There are a few flaws, of course.  The stereo and HVAC are controlled by a large LCD screen, which will cost a fortune when it breaks and is sometimes hard to read in direct sunlight.  Being a used car, it has some scratches and curb marks, but maybe that will make me less annoyed when I inevitably scratch it.  It remains to be seen how it will handle the winter, but I’ve spent most of my life in rear-wheel-drive cars and I’ve survived this long.

As my jealous father-in-law pointed out, this is like buying a 1968 GTO in 1970 – if you listen to the automotive press, we are living through the second (or third) coming of the muscle car, and I actually own one when (relatively) new.  I still love the Tempest, and like I keep saying, there’s a certain something that classic cars have and modern ones don’t, but suddenly the old car has some competition for seat time.

As Seen on Craiglist – 1971 Olds 98

As anyone who has been reading this blog (or hell, spoken to me for more than a few minutes) can figure out, I have a soft spot for big Detroit land yachts.  For a time, the Oldsmobile 98 reigned near the top of the list, and this big, bad, brown one tickles my fancy.  It’s in fantastic condition, has a great (as far as vintage colors go) paint scheme, and features one of the great lost body styles – the pillarless four-door – for less than the price of a well-worn Taurus.  Sure, it probably sucks down premium at a single-digit MPG pace, but just try not to smile as you roll all four windows down, hang your arm on the door, and float on down the highway with just a finger on the wheel.

As Seen on Craigslist – 1965 Imperial

I never saw the Green Hornet movie that came out a while back, but I was aware of the modified Imperial that was used in the film.  You too could get your superhero (or your old man) groove on with this Wedge-powered luxury ride.  There’s something off-putting about the juxtaposition of the angled, curved windshield and the formal rear roof line, but it’s definitely unique and way different than the typical classic Cadillac that you see.  $5500 seems pretty cheap, and even if replacement parts would be difficult to find it, it sure looks comfy.