Thursday, May 22, 2014

The End of the Aluminum Falcon

An era has ended. The Aluminum Falcon has left the premises.

If you're not familiar with the Aluminum Falcon, that was my beloved 1994 Volvo 850 Turbo. I bought it for cash so that I would no longer have to drive my wife's former dream car, a wheezy '94 Camaro that was bright red and pointy and . . . well, that was about the end of its good qualities. It had a 3.4L V6 (it was made too early in the model year to get the excellent 3800 3.8L V6 that was introduced to Camaros in 1994) along with a terrible automatic transmission, crappy brakes, doors approximately the length and weight of rowboats, and a huge exterior combined with a cramped interior. Wait, I forgot, it had Z28 wheels, t-tops and a spoiler. Now how much would you pay? I hated it. The only thing worse than that car was trying to transport three kids in that car. We bought a minivan and my wife claimed it, so I was stuck with the Camaro until we'd paid off all our debt except the mortgage and saved up some cash.

The Aluminum Falcon was good in all the ways the Camaro was bad:
  • I loved the engine, a turbocharged inline 5-cylinder. I'm sure it wasn't perfect, but it had power ready for me when and where I wanted it.
  • The suspension was a lovely balance of comfort and feedback.
  • Steering was quick if a little heavy and the turning radius was tight.
  • Great brakes. I loved the brakes.
  • Four doors, comfortable seating for five, and a useful trunk.
  • No unnecessary boy-racer doodads on the outside except a set of alloy five-spoke wheels the previous owner had installed. Even those were low-key.
But all good things come to an end. It was an older car, no matter how recent 1994 feels to me.  It had a lot of miles; I put a lot of them on. Volvos have a reputation for being 300-400k cars, but this one was creeping up toward 230,000 if my math was right. And it had its little quirks:
  • The odometer was frozen at 180,000 miles or so. This is a Volvo known issue, and there's a fix, but it involves taking apart the dash. I don't do that lightly, because as near as I can tell, dashboards are not designed to come apart and go back together again.
  • There was a fuel leak because of a cracked line on top of the fuel tank. Again, a known issue--replacing the electric fuel pump in these things is a snap thanks to an access hatch in the trunk, but it often results in cracking a fitting that causes a very minor fuel leak. Again, there's a fix, but you just about have to drop the tank, and on a daily driver . . . . I never got around to it.
  • One of those fancy rims was bent. I couldn't find one of the same style, so I always thought I'd eventually find a full set of Volvo wheels, but I never pulled the trigger because, well, the thing was still running, right? Daily driver.
  • The outside hood release was a zip tie sticking out through the grill, because I broke the factory piece Volvo uses.
  • The right front headlight was badly cracked (but still working.) I actually went so far as to purchase new glass for that part . . . but never installed it. Packing tape was getting the job done, so . . . 
  • The glove box doesn't open. This is because it lost the ability to latch closed and would pop open at random times, even with the car sitting parked. I tried to fix it a few times, gave up, and did some kind of permanent fix. I honestly don't remember exactly what I did, but now it doesn't open no matter what you do. Problem solved. Problem staying solved.


Tam said...

We really do love and anthropomorphize the ones that are good to us, don't we? :)

Don said...

Yup. But to be fair, I hated that Camaro with a passion that didn't really make a lot of sense for an inanimate object, either.