As hard as it is to believe in the post-Cash For Clunkers era, there are still people out there giving away running and driving vehicles for cheap or free. This beat-up 2000 Ford Ranger is the first “just get it out of here” acquisition I’ve made in a long time, and it should be a good little truck for a few months’ worth of household projects before I flip it for a profit and pick up a more interesting project.
As 2015 draws to a close, I realize it was not a terribly great year for automotive projects. Attempting the “project daily driver” thing with a high-mileage BMW E39 ended up being a massive failure, and my Renault project didn’t stick around long, although I did successfully rescue it and accomplish everything I set out to do with it. Now that I have a reliable-as-gravity Honda Fit as a daily driver, I’ve thought about what my automotive goals for 2016 should be. And I’ve decided that goal should be to get back out to some track days after my two-plus year absence!
…and the car won. Some time ago, actually. It was mid-September when I finally said “enough is enough” with this rare BMW touring. In my case, realizing I’d be lucky to get $3500 out of a car I had nearly $10k dumped into incentivized me to walk away the next time something went wrong. I continues losing the faith when it was discovered that the behemoth was loo long to fit in the garage of our rented urban cottage…and then stuff happened.
It is with a certain degree of regret, but mostly indifference, that I report the GTA has moved on to a Renault collector in Indiana. You win some, you lose some, and then with others you just sort of poke around with the little time you have before throwing your hands up and asking “why did I buy another project car right now anyway?”
A few days after dragging the Renault home, I ordered all of the parts for a timing belt refresh from a Renault guru who rebuilds the tensioners himself, and went nuts on spares from RockAuto. Since RockAuto was having a closeout on Renault parts, I stocked up on everything I could; I snagged a $5 water pump and some $25 struts among other dirt-cheap parts. eBay provided a Haynes service manual for 75 cents, while I also ordered a period factory service manual for $30. When the weekend hit and I had everything in hand, I started tearing into the car.
For those of you who haven’t read my earlier post on the Renault Encore I had many years ago, I’ve always had a soft spot for the products conceived by the unholy alliance (pun not intended) of AMC and Renault. The one I always wanted, though, was the one-year-only GTA; Renault’s brief attempt at a competitor to the VW GTI, exclusive to the U.S. Since they were only sold for one year before Renault washed their hands of the American market, they’re pretty uncommon, and I never thought I’d actually find one…until I did.
Chrysler was kind of a weird company in the mid-late 1980’s. Riding high on the success of their K-car platform, CEO Lee Iacocca was on fire. Chrysler was flush with cash and growing aggressively, buying up struggling rival AMC for the profitable Jeep brand, and even acquiring Lamborghini for a short period in 1987. His winning streak had to end somewhere, though. While at Ford, Iacocca had made friends with a guy by the name of Alejandro de Tomaso, and the two subsequently collaborated to create the exotic De Tomaso Pantera sports car. Iacocca figured it might be worth trying something similar at Chrysler; he leaned on his old buddy, who owned Maserati at the time, and the two companies decided to collaborate on a new flagship sports car for Chrysler. Deadlines were blown, somehow the K-car platform got involved, and the final product – ridiculously called the “Chrysler TC by Maserati” – was little more than a dressed-up Chrysler LeBaron for twice the price. If that seems to scratch your itch, for some reason, you might be interested in this 1989 example for a not-quite-reasonable $5500.
I have always really wanted to like Volkswagens. Flat-brim hatted “stance bruh” culture aside, VW is one of a very few mainstream car manufacturers that consistently cranks out interesting products. The various generations of Golf GTI and Jetta GLI, Corrado, Scirocco, their seemingly wonderful TDI diesel powerplant and many other offerings would seem to establish them as a true enthusiast company…if it weren’t for the fact that every one of their cars I’ve ever attempted to own has been absolute garbage. One of the most heartbreaking was my 1992 Jetta GLI, the ultimate A2-chassis Jetta with the wondrous 2.0 16V powerplant, lovely Recaro interior, factory BBS wheels and lots of other car nerd-loving goodies. A friend of mine offered it to me in late 2013 for the low price of $1000; it had been sitting for a while, but was in remarkably nice shape. At least it seemed that way. Oh, how wrong I was…
Automotive Francophiles like me are an uncommon group in the United States, as is pretty much anything manufactured by Citroen; they gave up on the American market back in the 1970’s, a good 20 years before its relatively plebeian competitors Renault and Peugeot. Citroen earned its place in the history books with the iconic 2CV, beautiful DS and exotic SM models, which were very sophisticated but characteristically lacking in build quality and reliability. After owner Michelin left Citroen on the brink of death in 1974, Peugeot came to the brand’s rescue, offering a much-needed influx of cash along with a parts bin and platforms Citroen could borrow to slash development costs. By the 1990’s, the quirkiness that once made Citroen so special had all but disappeared, but transitional models like this BX and the later XM managed to wonderfully mix Citroen oddity with Peugeot’s improved build quality and parts support. Basically, these models are perfect for French car enthusiasts who like to drive their vehicles more than work on them. So why is this rather nice 1988 BX 16 TS a Bad Idea?
Since purchasing the 528it, it would occasionally have the traction control and check engine lights come on along with a small light that simply said “EML.” When this happened, the car would immediately start running rough, stall out, or otherwise become kind of a pain to drive. Initially stopping the car and restarting seemed to solve the problem, but it began occurring with such frequency (and at completely random times) that I had to dive in and fix it. Turns out “EML” stands for “Elektronische Motorleistungsregelung;” translated as “Electronic Engine Power Control,” I soon found out that “Expensive Maintenance Likely” is also a pretty close translation.