Thursday, January 3, 2008

Thinning the Herd . . . .

I'm down to three vehicles, two of them currently running. Am I good or what?

My poor old '94 Buick Park Avenue, which served me faithfully as it served my father before me, finally gave up and refused roll one more mile. Even then, the engine ran very well (the 3.8 liter V6 appears to be functionally immortal) but the transmission failed and left me stranded. This, combined with mysteriously non-working windshield wipers, was enough to make me park it. Seriously, people, you don't think about windshield wipers much until they refuse to budge no matter what you do--and then you realize that you're stranded every time it rains. I replaced motors, transmissions, fuses, linkages, nothing worked. I suspect there's a fusible link or something buried somewhere out of sight, but I don't know.

In any case, at that point, I had myself a '94 Buick with some rust and some peeling paint. The odometer showed 242,178 miles, and there was very obvious evidence that the car had been rear-ended pretty badly. The windshield wipers didn't work, and every gear except Park functioned as Neutral. There was also a pretty nifty clanking noise from a two-piece heat shield under the body whenever the engine idled. It was time to let it go, but I couldn't in good conscience try to sell it as a driver. I parked it in front of the house more to keep it out of the way of the driveway than for any other reason and contemplated giving it to the local towing/junkyard guys for $50. The engine, wheels, etc. were worth hundreds, but only to someone willing to store the picked-over carcass of a once-proud Buick somewhere on the property. I considered the back yard (Look, kids! New play set!) but I decided we've lowered property values around her enough . . . for now.

Luckily enough, about the time I decided it was time to go hunt up the title and call Wiseman's Towing to take her off my hands, some kid showed up on the front porch. He's got a '94 BPA of his own, and he thought he could use some body parts and maybe the engine. We assumed the traditional Redneck Bargaining Stance (Feet about shoulder width apart, hands thrust into hip pockets to show peaceful intentions but reserving the right to draw a weapon if appropriate, staring at the same spot on the porch floor) and settled on $150. I think $200 was available if I'd been willing to play a game or two, but frankly I wasn't. I just wanted the thing to be in someone else's driveway.

Poor kid showed up with a winch and a flatbed to pick up the Buick today; the wind chill was hovering right at zero, but we got it done. If you've seen or heard any of the following, you might be a redneck:

  • "I can hook the winch cable to the back edge of the hood, right? I don't need a hood and there's no ____ing way I'm crawling underneath."
  • "Hey, you need the air dam? I'm pretty sure you just crushed it."
  • "I've never heard a winch make that noise before."
  • "Probably should have put air in that tire before we tried to winch it up. Lemme grab the compressor!"
  • "Hey, if y'all know anybody wants a Camaro project, you give 'em my number. It's pretty good except the weak-sister V6 and the busted cat and the deer damage."

I am now in the market for something with four doors. A station wagon would be cool, a Subaru Outback or Forester would be ideal, but probably too expensive. I'd like to pay cash for something cheap. Suggestions welcome. The dealer one town over has . . . brace yourself . . . you ready?

A 1994 Buick Park Avenue. Arctic White, yet, or whatever Buick called that color. I was afraid to look for the red interior, but the wheels and the trim level were the same. Were I to purchase it, I think I'd have to name it "Snowball II."


Sevesteen said...

The local scrap yard gave me $140 for my Pontiac Sunbird when I finally scrapped it. They pay based on weight.

That car was the best deal I ever did--Paid $450, collected $1975 in insurance when it was hit. Drove it a few more months before it finally wasn't up to my commute. Took it to the range to use as a prop in IPSC twice before junking it.

Don Gwinn said...

Masterful! I bow to your ingenuity, sir.

MadRocketScientist said...

If you want a subaru, go for the outback wagon, not the forester (if you want reasons why, ask)

Peter said...

Try and find yourself a mid 90's volvo wagon. Bought mine 2 yeasr ago for 3 grand, has 143000 and runs like it was brand new. Decent mileage and it doesn't feel like your driving a toy.

Don Gwinn said...

I've looked at the Volvo wagons briefly, but I fear what I cannot repair, so I wasn't too sure.

So, why do I want the Outback and not the Forester? I've noticed a big difference in expense, and since this won't go off-road, I figured the Outback would do everything I want. What are your thoughts?

MadRocketScientist said...

The forester is basically an outback with a taller roof and chassis. depending on the year, sometimes you get more cargo space in the outback versus the forester

I guess in the end, I've found the outback wagon to be a tough critter (my 2001 outback kept me and mine alive when a drunk driver crossed the center line and hit me headon at highway speeds, his volvo failed to protect him)while the forester seems to be a jeep cherokee light

PS, I work for Boeing, not Subaru, so I'm just a fan, not a paid shill

Asphyxiated Emancipation said...

You might give Craigslist a try. I'm toying with the idea of a different vehicle, myself, and I've found some fairly spectacular deals on there so far.

Anonymous said...