Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cars Part 12: 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser Limited Edition

2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser Limited Edition—So, it’s time to go used car shopping, and with the advent of the intardnets, one can do quite a bit of research and educate oneself before going to car lots and getting blindsided by sales people.

The first thing I need to do is decide what I’m gonna look for…my parameters, so to speak. (The interested reader should understand that I was looking for a used-econo-shitbox-chick-car.)

Here’s what I came up with:

1—I want something with a 4-cylinder, because fuel prices will most assuredly climb back to stratospheric levels. I want it to get around 30mpg or better.

2—I want it to be smaller, but at the same time capable of hauling five people if need be.

3—I want it to have 70,000 miles on it or less.

4—I want to be able to pay for it in full at time of sale, because I don’t want a car payment, and because I don’t want to put full coverage insurance on it, and because I'm a cheap bastard.

5—Because I am full of hate, and unless I find a deal I can’t refuse on a foreign make, I will look at American vehicles exclusively.

6—I don’t want to spend any more than $6000. Less would be much more better.

7—I will look for my new car only at dealers’ lots. No dicking around with private sellers, because my time to shop is very limited.

8—A manual transmission would be great because they are cool and fun. Also, the dumb ass losers who steal cars can’t drive a stick shift because they are inbred morons, so maybe they’ll leave my ride alone.

9—Appearance won’t make one contemplate suicide.

Now then…how will I pay for this imaginary vehicle?

The tanking stock market was my answer.

See…I have an IRA account, and I have been watching its value drop at alarming rates for several months. This kinda thing pisses me off, because I’m seeing my hard-earned money being flushed down a rat-hole, and I’m getting absolutely nothing in return.

So, I figure, why not get some of that cash while it’s still there, and, before it goes up in flames, use it for something real and valuable?

That’s what I’ll do.

With the financing issue resolved, I narrow my search to a handful of vehicles. I will list them for you now, and give you the reasons why I didn’t choose them:

Ford Focus—Couldn’t find one quickly that fit my requirements. Looks were OK, but I never drove one. Most of them I could afford were high-mileage and ragged out. I got the impression they were a throw-away vehicle which wouldn’t last. Assembled in Mexico, with a tendency for electrical issues and engine fires. I’ll pass.

Chevy Cobalt—I really like this car’s looks, but never got a chance to drive one. This model is fairly new too, so its selling price was kinda out of my range. Was assembled in Ohio up until the 2009 model year, when production will be shuffled off to Mexico. Nice move, GM.

Chevrolet Cavalier/Pontiac Sunfire—A total chick car, whose looks didn’t get me high. Pretty good reviews and history, and probably would have worked out OK, but never drove or looked at one closely. It would never have excited me to own one.

Pontiac Grand Am—Another chick car, but not as much. Looks were run-of-the-mill yawn festival. Bigger than I really wanted. Sucky mileage. Long history of front springs breaking. Pain in the ass for the shade tree mechanic to work on. My niece had one, which I drove and seemed OK, but her dad has horror stories about fixing it. Pontiac excitement my ass. Hell no.

Ford Escort/Contour—Ford’s older economy models. Good reviews, but usually worn-the-fuck-out, high-mileage shit-boxes that were depressing as hell to look at, and would have been even more depressing to own and drive. Reminded me of a door-to-door pots and pans salesman, trying to make a buck during a cold wet dreary winter day in a run-down section of town. Makes me want to drink myself into oblivion, slash my wrists, or swallow the barrel of a gun. No thanks.

Dodge Neon—There’s eleventy billion of them on the road. Uninspiring looks. Chick car. Too generic. Not my bag, baby.

Saturn—Very high on my list. Good reviews and history. Saturn owners are sorta weird, and they love their cars and drive them until they quit running. That’s probably why I couldn’t find one for sale anywhere.

A lot of Saturns are made with plastic body panels…a great thing if you live in the rust belt and the roads get salted in the winter.

Saturns are chick cars, but most of them have their own special look and they won’t make you fall asleep when you gaze at them.

There is one Saturn, though, that is not a chick car. It is called the Sky, and it is badass!

It is also know as a roadster, maybe, and should be the pace car for the Indy 500.

Most assuredly.

Roadster means it has a huge engine up front with a correspondingly long hood, one or two seats, and a short tail.


I don’t know if the Sky is a real roadster or not, but it’s cool, and it’s not a girl car.

This is a real roadster, though.

I thought you should know.

Chrysler PT Cruiser—An old folks/chick car to be sure. Unique/retro looks which have been copied by just about everyone now. An original. Long history of typical Mopar quirkiness that will make one curse profusely…something I’m used to by now having owned two Mopar minivans. Lots of custom aftermarket goodies available if one so desires.

I thought the PT Cruiser was manufactured by good old American/Canadian union labor....but it's not.

It's assembled in Mexico.

America doesn't manufacture anything anymore....except stupid shit like websites.


Anyhoo...I bet you can figure out which one I bought.

It's a 2001 PT Cruiser Limited Edition.

Limited Edition means one must pay a higher wheel tax in Indiana.


Back in olden times when they were first introduced, my buddies and I used to call PT Cruisers “shrunken milk trucks!”

That’s not a very nice thing to say.

I call mine The Rollerskate.

Here are some statistics about my new ride:

2.4 liter 4-cylinder fuel injected engine, aftermarket Hurst close-ratio 5-speed, cold air induction kit with high flow reusable K&M filter cone thingy, Gibson exhaust and fart pipe, LED taillights, sunroof, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, dark window tint so I can drive around town naked and smoke pot, chrome wheels with low-profile Michelin tires, Kenwood AM/FM CD/MP3 disc player with a mini-jack for connecting an MP3 player (removed from the Caddy and installed in PT by me). I put the original Mopar radio from the PT in my wife's Grand Caravan because her radio took a shit.

The cool breath even works! A first for me!

I'm excited about my new ride.

My 15-year-old son doesn't like the PT much...says it's a chick car! That's fine with me. I like chicks, and the more he doesn't like it, the more it means he won't be driving it when he gets his license.

My 13-year-old daughter likes it, though. She says it's "cute."

I say it's cool...not cute.

My 13-year-old son didn’t care much one way or the other initially. Now he says he loves going for a ride in it.

My wife likes it. She is a rare breed of woman who likes to row the gears.

I know, it's a chick car, but it's fun as hell to drive. It handles like a sports car.

This thing fits like a glove and is cozy.

I love it! And it's paid for!

I'm told it will get almost 30mpg. We'll see.

I initially looked at that red Pontiac Grand Am you see in the background. It was unbelievably clean, and looked really nice. But, when I pulled the oil dipstick out, there was a wad of white milky goo on the end of it...indicating anti-freeze in the crankcase.

Not good.

Could have been a cracked head or block, or a blown head gasket, neither of which did I have any interest in pursuing.

Knowing a little something about cars can be valuable sometimes.


Anyhoo…I said, "No thanks," and looked at the PT Cruiser.

The rest is history.

Or something.


Thus endeth the trip down my vehicular memory lane.
For now...
It has been a long and strange one.
Has it not?

Keep on truckin.'


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cars Part 11: 1993 Cadillac Deville

1993 Cadillac Deville—With my dad deciding to die and all, my mom was left with all his shit and nowhere to put it.

Among some of Dad’s crap that needed to go were three vehicles.

One of those vehicles was a 1975 Chevrolet Corvette.

The two other vehicles were both Cadillacs.

Dad really liked his Cadillacs.

I really liked his Corvette!

Mom wouldn’t let me have the Corvette because she is mean, and she needed the newer Caddy for herself until she could get something smaller and more sensible for an old lady like her.

What happened to the Corvette?

My mother had one of my dad's car buddies sell it at auction.

Probably got squat for it too.

But I wasn't gonna fuss and fight one iota about what Mom wanted to do with any of Dad's stuff.

Told her to do whatever she thought was best, and she'd hear nothing negative from me...for a long while...until I would bitch about it here!

I've always loved 'Vettes. Pops had a '66 and this one during his life, and I really wanted this one, but I kept my mouth shut at the time...until here and now...where I can whine and cry like a spoiled little girl!

It's just as well I didn't get it, though, because I probably would have wrapped it around a light pole.

I imagine that's what Mom had in mind as well.


All I got was the front license plate!

So, that left me with the 1993 Cadillac Deville.

But, before I go into long and exhaustively boring detail about my new Caddy, I should remind you people that I am still driving Granny’s 1983 Olds Delta 88…and it’s gotta go too!

I put a For Sale sign on it and park in out in front of my house.

Soon, a guy about my age comes-a-calling, and decides to buy the car.

I show him the car and tell him the truth about it, because lying and trying to screw people over is not in my nature.

He tells me the car will be for his malingering and recalcitrant son who has just totaled a fancy car dad bought for him. He tells me his college age son needs wheels, but that he’s gonna get a piece of shit like Granny’s car instead, and he’ll have to work on it himself if it breaks down.

Dad is teaching his punk-ass son a lesson, sounds like to me, and he’s gonna use my car as a learning tool!

What do I care?

As long as he hands me the correct amount of $100 dollar bills, I’m good.

So, the dad buys Granny’s car, and shuffles on down the road.

Good riddance.

A month later, I receive another letter from the city, stating Granny’s Olds was found abandoned, and that I would be responsible for towing and storage fees if I still had any interest in the car.

Funny shit!

Two of my former vehicles were abandoned by their new owners…probably because they didn’t listen to me and do what I told them to do when the cars started acting up.

Either that, or they just didn’t give a fuck.

Well…I didn’t give a fuck either, and I once again tore up and shit-canned the official state-sponsored document…all the while grinning sheepishly to myself.

Anyhoo…on to the Cadillac.

It rode like a dream.

It was so comfortable, I could feel the herniated and slipped and mis-aligned discs in my back slide back into place when I sat down in the car after a long day at work.

The air conditioner didn’t work, as usual, but I was so accustomed to not having the cool breath that I didn’t even care.

It had a fuel injected 4.9 liter V-8 that would really haul ass!

I didn’t really do anything to it other than the normal wear and tear items, and I don’t have any wild or clever stories to tell you about it.

See, at this point in my life, I work, eat, sleep a little bit, shit, shower, and shave every now and then…and that’s about it.

I drove the Caddy to King’s Island with the family once, to New Albany once to meet with an author, and to southern Indiana once just to explore and take pictures.

Pretty boring stuff, actually.

The car never stranded me or failed to start.

It was my daily driver for six years, and served me well, but with 191,000 miles on it, it was getting a little long in the tooth.

It was time to put Dad’s beloved Cadillac out to pasture and get something newer, smaller and more economical.

What that would be, and how I would pay for it, was still up in the air.

I didn’t have any family hand-me-downs conveniently waiting in the wings, so I was on my own this time around.

I sold the Caddy to a needful musician for $20 and a case of Newcastle Brown Ale.

I am confident my father would see the humor in the deal.

Cars Part 10: 1968 Chevrolet Malibu/Chevelle Coupe

This is not my Chevelle.

1968 Chevrolet Malibu/Chevelle Coupe—So…I’m gonna build a hotrod, because hotrods are cool and they attract hawt chicks.



I peruse the local Wheels and Deals newspaper for a suitable project car.

I venture out to the Hoosier hinterlands to inspect several, and most of them are so far gone there is no way an average Joe driveway mechanic like me could ever do anything with them.

Then, one snowy early spring day, my father-in-law and I find a diamond in the rough.

And I mean rough…

This is my Chevelle. There are many like it, but this one is mine!

It is a 1968 Chevy Malibu/Chevelle coupe…a GM A-Body! I have returned to my youth. The cycle (or is it circle?) of life is complete.

But the car sure as hell isn’t.

It is in eleventy billion pieces…in two separate locations. The bulk of the car sits on the owner’s Back 40, while most of the front end sits in a storage facility miles away.

I hand the owner the correct amount of $100 dollar bills, gather up all the pieces, and have them delivered via tow truck to my house.

I now have my project car.

Because I have read many issues of Car Craft Magazine, I have a plan too.


Here’s what I would do for the engine:

I will scrounge a 1972 350 CID 2-bolt main block from a wrecked Biscayne. I will make sure the block is one of those ultra-rare, high-nickel-content Mexican jobs. I will modify the main bearing journals (by hand) to be 6 bolts per journal. Doing this will gain me an additional 600 horsepower.

I was gonna grind my own camshaft with my dad's wood lathe, but I decide to go ultra freaky custom. I will eliminate the camshaft, push rods, valve lifters, and rocker arms entirely by designing and installing a pneumatic valve train similar to Formula One racing engines…but completely different and much more better and faster…adding 200 more horsepower.

I will custom grind octagonal ports on my otherwise stock iron heads and billet Offenhauser titanium intake manifold. I will modify the intake manifold so that I can stab in my custom-curved High Energy Ignition (HEI) at a 45-degree angle like the Mopars do because it's cool. I will port and polish the entire length of the intake manifold runners and blend the bowls using a hand drill, Duraglit, and saliva. I will top it all off with 2 Weiand pro street superchargers…realizing a 350 horsepower gain.

I will use the standard 5140 forged chrome moly steel crank, Childs & Albert forged billet aluminum rods, mated to some Keith Black Silv-O-Lite hypereutectic slugs (pistons). Add 120 more horsepower…

The above slammin' combination will register 1,300 horsepower at the crankshaft when measured on the dynamometer.

I will estimate 1,270 rear-wheel horsepower.

And you have probably estimated by now that I am full of shit!

And you would be correct.

Pretty much.

Reality turned out to be a lot different.

When my dad first took a look at the car, he said, “You’re gonna need a welder.”

The fact that I had no earthly idea how to weld didn’t enter into the conversation.

Did Dad mean that I would need an actual person…a person who is conversant with welding…in order to patch up and repair the huge gaping rust holes in my new found Chevelle?

Or, did he mean I was gonna need the actual physical device one uses to join two pieces of metal together?

Who’s to say?

Certainly not me.

Anyhoo…I decided to ignore the rusted hulk of a body, and, in the meantime, concentrate on building a real and suitable engine for the car.

Dad and I rebuilt a small-block 350 Chevrolet engine, in the middle of winter, in my garage (which I had by that time equipped with a portable kerosene heater).

Then, a little bit later, some people who weren’t from around here decided it would be a good idea to drive hi-jacked passenger jets into some buildings.

This revolting turn of events kinda made me rethink life’s priorities, and that maybe it was imprudent to pour alarming amounts of cash into something as silly as an old shit-box car.

A few months after September 11, 2001, cancer would take my dad from me, and this loss would hurt me deeply.

Building that engine would be the last time my dear father and I would ever do anything cool together.

By this time in my life, I had added two children to my family…twins.


I got the bonus plan.

If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed that I now have a grand total of three kids who were very needful.

I made a few improvements to the car, but the Chevelle kinda got put on the back burner because I had mouths to feed and bills to pay.

But, I wasn't mad about it or anything. That's the way it goes sometimes...

I still have the car.

To this day it sits covered in my garage.

I figure it isn’t costing me anything, except valuable garage space, to let it sit where it sits. They aren’t making any more 1968 Chevelles, so maybe one day, when the kids are all grown and I’ve thrown them all out, I can return to it and restore it to its intended glory.

However, if I was going to get rid of it, this is how my For Sale ad would read:

I've come to the unavoidable conclusion that I'll never finish this beast. It is way beyond both my financial and technical abilities. It needs a full, professional restoration job, and I need the garage space...and the cash.

It's a '68 Chevelle Malibu hardtop. I believe it originally had a 307 in it. When I bought it, it had no engine, tranny, or doghouse. I got a '72 Chevy 350, and had Schmidt Automotive Machine Shop on the Indianapolis East-side do the engine work:

-polish crank journals .020 X .020
-milled heads
-valve job
-replaced valve guides
-thermal cleaned block
-new cam bearings
-new freeze plugs
-bore & line hone
-rods reconditioned
-new flat-top pistons .030

All together, I have roughly $800 in the engine work alone. Engine has never been fired.

I'll throw in the new Edelbrock Performer intake, 4bbl carb, and fuel pump too.

The tranny is a TH350, which had been rebuilt, according to the previous owner, prior to my purchase. I saw the rebuild bill, and drove it while it was in another car. It shifted good and ran smooth, and when I dropped the pan, everything looked squeaky clean.

The chassis is fucked.

I did some horseshit sheet metal pop-rivet shit, which sucks, on the floorpans, and decided to stop butchering this pig before it bled to death.

To do it right, it needs floor pans, trunk floor, rear wheel wells, rear quarters, and new doors.

The hood and trunk lid are good.

Front fenders are new GM, and cost me $800 for the pair.

Radiator core support is new reproduction from The Paddock, which cost $125.

Interior is pretty good, but not perfect. Seats were recovered by previous owner. Carpet is good, is obviously not the original, and needs a good cleaning. Door panels are reproduction and in good shape. Headliner had a rip, and is a reproduction.

Glass is good.

The rusted rear and front window channels need professional attention. I dicked around with these areas, but they need to be done right.

The front suspension has all new parts except for the upper and lower control arms, which have all new bushings. The front brake drums, which have been resurfaced, and are within spec.

I'm pretty sure I have all the parts, and maybe a few extra.

Clean and clear title in my name.

Car is pretty much gutted and in pieces, so I saved you lots of work and time! Feel the love!

The correct amount of $100 dollar bills takes car and engine/tranny and all extra haggling or dicking around. I don't have time for bullshit or dumb asses coming to my home and wasting time and fucking around.

I am not parting this crap out, so don't even ask. All or nuthin'...

So....bring cash, a flatbed wrecker and a box truck for all the parts.

You arrange shipping. Once I have the cash, I don't care if a C-130 lands on my street to load this beast up. I'll help you load all the parts, though. Maybe.

If you don't want this car, fine. It can sit in my garage for another ten years and it won't bother me none.

I would be an awesome salesman or advertising executive.


And David Freiburger still needs a good sound ass-kicking.

My Chevelle will look like this someday. Maybe.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cars Part 9: 1983 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Brougham Sedan

1983 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Brougham Sedan—My grandmother lived in southern Indiana.

She was quite the character, and we loved her dearly.

She liked a nip every now and then too.

In order to fool her visiting nurses and other nosy local and un-approving family members, she would mix up a clear glass pitcher of Old Crow bourbon and water, and store it in the refrigerator.

She would call it her iced tea, and, as far as we know, none of the do-gooders ever discovered her secret.

We visited Granny often, and would re-supply her with iced tea mix.

We figured there was no reason to deprive her of one of her last earthly pleasures.

Granny was getting on in years, and was getting a little forgetful and feeble.

In order to protect her from herself, Dad took a pair of bolt cutters and snipped the battery cables on her car so she couldn’t venture out and hurt herself or others.

As her condition worsened and she got more senile, Dad figured she no longer had any use for her car, so he offered it to me.

Dad and I went down to Granny’s place, with a wrecker following, so we could haul Granny’s car back to Indianapolis.

When we threw open Granny’s garage door and hooked the tow truck up to it, streams of mice flowed from the car.

The car was towed back to Indy, and once it was safely in my driveway, I discovered several mouse nests in the engine compartment.

The car had been sitting for a long time.

It was gonna take some work on my part to get it drivable again.

The car was a 1983 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Brougham sedan.

Brougham means the car had some cheesy and fancy options on it that made the car more comfortable and cooler.


It had a 305 CID Oldsmobile small-block engine, which was a real lump of shit.

It wouldn’t get out of its own way.

This generation of car and its engine was GM’s initial attempt at reducing polluting emissions.

It was a dismal failure.

There were miles of rubber vacuum lines, electrical switches, bogus sensors, and an early on-board computer that one would need an engineering degree to figure out.

It couldn’t be figured out, because it never worked…even new from the showroom.

I replaced all the dry-rotted vacuum lines the best I could, and installed a new carburetor.

The carb was a special, year-specific job, that had some kinda bullshit automatic, electrically operated choke system.

It sucked major ass also, never worked right, and was prohibitively expensive.

With all this clusterfuck of first generation pollution control devices, the engine ran extremely rich all the time. So rich, in fact, that I went through several catalytic converters in the time I drove it.

Early one morning, I stopped at one of the convenient stores of Speedway to fill up before going to work.

As I drive away from the gas station and motor down the road, I notice a reflection of light on the pavement beside my moving vehicle.

“What the fuck?” I’m wondering…

Then, it hits me.

The son of a bitch is on fire under the hood, and I have a full tank of fuel on board!

Holy dog shit!

I immediately pull over and grab my little halon fire extinguisher, which I always carry in my vehicles because I drive highly flammable junk.

(Now…I ain’t no boy scout, but I believe in being prepared. I have seen too many people standing helplessly on the roadside watching their cars burn to the ground because they have no way of putting out what began as a small fire. Being helpless blows, and I vowed to never get in that situation.)

Anyhoo…I get my little inferno put out, and discover that some of the rubber vacuum lines are what had caught fire.

I was late for work that day.

Later, I would replace some of the burnt rubber vacuum lines, and get the car running in an almost acceptable manner.

I could never figure out a way to get the engine running as it should, so I drove it as it was for quite a while.

About this time, I started religiously reading Car Craft Magazine and the humorous rantings of David Freiburger.

Freiburger made the building and restoring of vintage muscle cars sound interesting, fun, and cool.

I wanted me some of that, so I began searching for a suitable project car.

I’d like to kick Freiburger’s ass.

Cars Part 8: 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 Sedan

1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 Sedan—Why I ever agreed to take possession of this sled, I’ll never quite understand.

Maybe it was because it was free.


That must have been it!

Anyhoo…I was still in possession of The Taco Mobile, and seeing as I was fed up with it, and I now had a massive land yacht to drive, I had Dad dispose of the Taurus at the auto auction.

The Delmont was a family hand-me-down from my wife’s side, and it was worn-the-fuck out!

Back in olden times, Delmont was Oldsmobile's poor man version of the venerable and much more desirable Delta 88, in case you didn't know.

It had a massive 425 CID big-block in it. It was equipped with power assisted drum brakes on all four corners, an air conditioner that had long since expired, a 2-barrel carburetor with a manual choke, and a finicky, original points-type distributor/ignition system.

Starting fluid spray was standard equipment.

When it ran, it would pass everything but a gas station, and due to its high-compression engine, it required premium 92 octane fuel to run at its best.

Needless to say, because I am a cheap bastard, I fed it a constant diet of 87 octane instead, and it showed with its constant pinging and knocking.

The drum brakes never failed to grab and excite when applied, and one had to plan way ahead when one wanted to come to a stop safely.

I got very familiar with rebuilding drum braking systems, and finding parts was a real and expensive chore.

The hood was up on this beast more than it was closed.

When it started running rough, or not at all, I figured the timing chain had broken or slipped a tooth, so I went about replacing the timing gears and chain.

After all that work, it still didn’t start or run…farting and backfiring up through the carburetor.

Figuring I had somehow fucked up the installation of the timing gear, I dis-assembled and re-assembled the front part of that engine half a dozen times or more, in the middle of winter, in an unheated garage.

Once I was satisfied the timing was good to go, I was kinda at a loss to figure out why this turd wouldn’t start.

I consulted a buddy at work, who was conversant with old cars, and he suggested I check the distributor.

I purchased an extremely expensive but complete original rebuilt distributor system, stabbed that bad boy in the big block, and she started with the first turn of the key!


Turns out the timing system was OK from the get-go.

Oh well, at least I learned a lot about the front part of a big-block Oldsmobile.

Also replaced on this shit-box was:

1—brake master cylinder and booster
5—power steering pump
6—exhaust (went the glass pack route again)
7—rebuilt carburetor
8—water pump

The previous owner repainted the Delmont with a tannish colored semi-gloss paint…and a brush! It looked like the camouflaged HUMMER I rode in during Desert Storm.

It was a gawd-awful vehicle, and I couldn’t get rid of it fast enough.

I put a For Sale sign on it, parked it out front of my house, and soon sold it to a guy for an agreed on price of $400.

When he showed up to pick up the car, he had a sob story for me…and only $380!

It was a nice tactic on his part, as I wanted nothing further to do with this piece of shit, and I let it go.

A couple of weeks later, I received a letter in the mail from the city stating that they had found the Delmont abandoned, and that they would charge me for towing fees and storage if I still had any interest in the car.

Laughingly, I tore the letter up and shit-canned it.

I had my $380. What the fuck did I care?

I also had another family heirloom waiting in the wings, and it was eagerly anticipating my magic mechanical touch.

Cars Part 7: 1987 Ford Taurus MT5 Sedan

1987 Ford Taurus MT5 Sedan—Tony was a fellow prior-service Marine. He worked with me during the night shift at The Warehouse.

Tony was of Italian extraction. I knew this to be fact because his last name ended in many vowels, and he enjoyed hinting that he was a hit man, or that his dad was a hit man, or that he was somehow connected with the Mafia…as if there really was such a thing.

Tony could often be seen wearing government issue jungle boots, and a field jacket liner for added warmth during the colder months.

Regardless, I liked Tony. He seemed to be a good dude, and we got along famously. He had the attitude most Marines have, so we were like long lost brothers.

Or something...

When he heard I was looking to buy a used, family-type automobile, Tony offered his up for my inspection.

It was a 1987 Ford Taurus MT-5. It had a four-banger and a 5-speed manual transmission, and an air conditioner that didn’t work.

It was also my first front-wheel drive vehicle.

The MT-5 designation was supposedly super special and not available in the Mercury Sable, the Taurus’s other and more fancy brother.

The intardnets said this about it:

“Taurus offered a 2.5-liter four-cylinder model from 1986 to 1988 dubbed the "MT5". It was exclusive to the sedan body and was not available on any Mercury Sable version. The Taurus MT5 can be identified by badging on the trim near the front doors.”

So there!

That means it was uber cool and rare and a special edition and way more better than a regular, run-of-the-mill, everyday, shitty Taurus!

Now…I hadn’t rowed gears since the early days of my youth…when I would, without permission, borrow Dad’s beat up Ford F150 with a Rock-Crusher 4-speed, and go tear-assing around the block a few times.

Anyhoo…I inspected the Taurus at night (always a bad idea), after our shift. I test-drove it by racing through the industrial complex, running through all the gears, and jumping some railroad tracks.

The 4-cylinder was anemic, as I was accustomed to V-8s, but the car had four doors, and seemed OK.

It would be a good backup to the minivan if it was down for service, and we needed to haul babies around.

I handed Tony the correct amount of $100 dollar bills, and the sale was complete.

I drove it home that night.

A closer look at it in the daylight would lead to its nickname…The Taco Car.

I always give a newly acquired vehicle another detailed inspection once I get it home.

Upon further review, it appeared as if my buddy Tony had little to no interest in cleaning up his former ride before he sold it to me.

I found what appeared to be several different varieties of partially eaten foodstuffs collected deep down inside the center console.

I couldn’t identify exactly what kind of half-rotted material I found there, so I assumed it was taco-related…hence the car's nickname.

I spent all day cleaning the Taurus interior.

It was extremely funky.

After scrubbing the carpets, my bucket water took on the appearance of canned chicken gravy.

The headliner was partially caved in, so I just ripped it all the way out.

Mechanically, I didn’t have to do a whole lot to the car. Tires all around, and shocks on the ass-end, was just about it.

I had to replace the muffler, but, unbelievably, I did not replace it with a glass pack.

Glass packs on four bangers sound like ricers or farting bees and are improper and imprudent.

I have no drunken stories to relate to you regarding this sled either.


I was becoming more civilized with every passing day.

How ordinary…and boring.

In spite of everything, Tony and I remained friends until I quit The Warehouse after a year of employment.

After parting ways there, I never saw him again.

I would keep the Taurus until its engine started smoking...a nasty and disgusting habit, and I would have none of it.

I wasn’t going to put any more money into this shitbox, and I was looking for something else to replace it.

My next vehicle would be a huge blast from the past.

And I mean HUGE!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cars Part 6: 1991 Chevrolet Silverado Pick Up Truck

1991 Chevrolet Silverado

I will not go into long and boring detail about my experiences during Operation Desert Shield/Storm, as it would not be relevant to the discussion we are currently having about automobiles.

It is sufficient to say, however, that after several months of sitting in damp, sandy, Middle Eastern holes, I made some promises to myself.

I will enumerate those promises to you now:

1—I would purchase a brand new pickup truck, straight off the dealer’s lot.
2—My new wife and I would purchase our own home.
3—My new wife and I would start our family and have children.

Upon my return to the United States, I began finishing my list in earnest.

I started working on task #3 within hours of my arrival back in Indianapolis.

#2 took a little longer, and was completed just before the birth of our first child.

#1 was accomplished within 2 days of my glorious and heroic homecoming.

I had my priorities.

My new truck was the most beautifullest vehicle I had ever seen.

It was a 1991 Chevrolet Silverado shortbed with a small-block fuel injected 350. It had all the bells and whistles, and would really haul the mail.

I loved that truck! I would wash it and wax it and pet it and talk to it.


At the time, I was still in possession of The Blue Bruise. It had been sitting for a while…undriven and looking forlorn with its caved-in quarter panel.

I sold it to Mike, a co-worker at Moogans, for the paltry sum of $500.

The transmission went out shortly thereafter.

I bet Mike thought I did it on purpose, or something, but I didn’t.

Better him than me, though.

My bride and I road-tripped to Chicago to see a Cubs game in my new truck. She loved the Cubs, and especially Ryne Sandburg.

Ryne Sandburg was my wife's other heart-throb.

I bet she wanted to date him at one point, but she couldn’t now because she was married to me and I would have none of it, so she had to settle for watching him play ball.

I didn’t really care about the Cubs a whole lot, because they lost all the time and baseball kinda sucks to watch on TV and it’s not violent enough, but it’s fun to go see in person because it’s a mellow way to spend a spring or summer day, and you can have cold frosty draft beers while doing it too!

I was more a Milwaukee Brewers fan, simply because of their name, and because anything from Wisconsin is cool…especially my beloved Green Bay Packers!

Anyhoo…we were like the only fancy pickup truck in Chicago at the time. We were cool Hoosiers defiling the Windy City with our badass truck!

Soon, we find out we are gonna be parents. A son will be arriving shortly, and we decide we better get off our asses and get us a home of our own, because living at my uncle’s estate was undesirable for the raising of children.

We get a house, and the baby comes right on time as scheduled. But now, we have a problem. The wife’s car, a 1985 Camaro, is kind of a turd, and the truck won’t do for hauling babies around.

We decide to trade in the truck for……………….gasp………………….a fucking 1994 Dodge Caravan!

Holy shit.

Anybody seen my testicles?

The sacrifices a man makes for his wife and kids are amazing, bordering on spectacular.

I didn't own the truck long enough to do anything to it bedsides change the oil a few times and install a new battery!

My dream truck was gone...replaced with a minivan.

I’m working nights now at a different place, The Warehouse, because I got fired at Moogans, which is another story entirely. Remind me to tell you about it sometime!

So...I’m driving the Camaro now.

God, I hated that car. It was in good shape actually…better than most of the cars I had ever owned. I just didn’t like it.

Maybe it was some pent-up rage or aggression or regret or I was begrudging something...

Who’s to say?

Certainly not me.

But, this blog is not about my wife’s automotive history, it is about mine, so I will not discuss the Camaro in depth.

I started looking for something to replace the Camaro that would be more of a family-type car.

That’s when I met a co-worker at The Warehouse. I’ll call him Tony. Tony just happened to have a car for sale, and it fit the bill.