My Car is Dead

Some of you may be interested in an update of my car situation.

Last Tuesday evening I was driving inbound on the Northwest Tollway, and the engine seemed to be doing okay. (That said, over the prior few days I had noticed a slight loss of power and it been idling rougher than usual. It was still burning about a quart of oil per 100 miles.) I pull into the O’Hare toll plaza, just before the merge with the Kennedy Expressway, pay my toll, and speed up to merge back into traffic. The car goes into overdrive, and when it comes back down out of overdrive, I hear this rapid BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM from the engine. I get off at my exit, which wasn’t far away, and manage to limp my way home. Huge amounts of smoke were coming from the tailpipe, and the engine was convulsing violently, even stalling out a couple times. A couple days later I got the car to a trusted mechanic and he confirmed that the piston rings had a meltdown. Two of the car’s four cylinders have no compression whatsoever.

It’s going to be at least 2-3 months before I can afford to replace the engine, so I had to scramble to find a set of wheels so that I could hold onto my job, which requires a car. My friend Eric has a 1972 Buick Skylark which he graciously let me borrow for a few days in return for an oil change. Meanwhile, I began to search the listings for a $500 beater to drive around until the Saturn gets fixed.

I found my beater in the form of a silver 1986 Pontiac Trans Am out in Elgin, complete with T-tops and 5-speed stick. The body has some minor accident damage up front, the brakes need some work, and the engine is running a bit rich. But at least it runs well, which is more than I can say about the Saturn, and it’s actually a very comfortable car as long as you’re not attempting to sit in the back seats. As an added bonus, there’s very little body rust. Also, it’s a fun car to drive… Not bad for $455. I figured if I had to drive a beater for a couple months, I may as well drive something that’s got some character. I’m thinking that, assuming this car doesn’t have any major mechanical issues, I may even hold onto it after the Saturn is fixed, and make a project out of fixing it up. The Saturn is ideal for day-to-day commuting and running errands, but the Trans Am is perfect for a good drive out on the highway, like out to IRM or up to Wisconsin on warm summer weekends.

So… Anybody know anything about maintaining or fixing up old GM F-body cars? Now I just need to grow a mullet, dig out my old Journey CD’s, and move to New Jersey.

As far as the Saturn goes, I’m hoping I can get a decent used engine installed for under $2000. Hopefully I’ll be able to recover that from the dealer via small-claims court. I’m tempted to just ditch the car, but since I still owe a ton of money on it, I’m pretty much stuck with it. Right now it’s parked on the street, but I have a friend who may be able to rent me some space in his garage to store it for a while.

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