OT: Talking Cars (Wednesday??): Unsung heroes

Submitted by JFW on May 23rd, 2018 at 9:33 AM

We've all had those cars in our life that are aspirational, or illogical and high maintenance, but we love them anyway (I'm guessin many used BWM/Land Rover/Jag owners can call into that category. 

Today, however, I've been inspired by an article in Jalopnik that talked about how the Vibe is underappreciated. 

what are the underappreciated cars in your stable over the years? Maybe it was the Corolla you bought used with high miles for the kid, but the damn thing just keeps running. Maybe it's a '75 Duster with a slanted six, canvas seats, and no AC that got you through college. Maybe it's the Honda Accord that you drove way longer than you financially had to because it. would. not. die. 

For me, it was my '98 ZJ. 318/Quadra Trac/Low Range. That damned thing went through anything. It only got stuck when I was stupid and high centered it. It never cost me anything but a radiator and consumables. And the radiator only failed when it was 14 years old. And it still drove me home. While towing a boat. It only got retired because the wife couldn't handle the rust anymore. I have a Commander now and if I found someone with a high mileage ZJ with little rust I'd be tempted to trade them right there. 

What's yours? 



May 23rd, 2018 at 9:37 AM ^

It was my step-mom's car. It was the car I learned how to drive in. It was a turbocharged 5-speed manual. It was surprisingly quick. I used to surprise Mustangs and Camaros at the light. Especially when they didn't realize we were racing.



May 23rd, 2018 at 10:03 AM ^

Chrysler Concorde. I had totaled my Jeep Cherokee and as a freshman in college didnt have the means to buy a new car. I was given my dads beater. That car drove great even in the snow. I liked the heavy feel, the tan leather, the acceleration. It just looked ugly as hell.


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:06 AM ^

I drove a 1998 Chevrolet (because apparently Geo just didn't cut it brandwise) Prizm, which was built with pride at the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, from February 1999 to April 2011 - when my wife finally put her foot down about getting a car that would transport children comfortably. I put close to 200,000 miles on it, went through three sets of brakes, four sets of tires, one A/C compressor, most of the relays and a few other things. I think it was a 48-month loan too, so about eight of those years, I had no car payment, which was nice. 


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:06 AM ^

Volkswagon Beetle I had a cousin who firmly believed that every new driver should have a Beetle be their first car. You'd master driving a stick and they're easy and inexpensive to maintain. Perfect car for any 16 year old.


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:15 AM ^

they're easy and inexpensive to maintain.

My cousin had a newer one about 10 years ago, and that was not the case at all! But her dad said when he was younger (teens thru early 20s) he had about four old Beetles at once because they were so cheap. And from the pieces of those four, he was always able to keep one running.


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:56 AM ^

for a '74 Super Bug when gas spiked to a dollar a gallon in ~'79 or so.

The VW always ran (even without oil, in fact!). It also got great gas mileage but was brutally cold during Michigan winters as the hot air channels that ran forward from the engine compartment invariably rusted -- really poor design. I had to scrape the ice off the INSIDE of the windhshield.

My parents had previously purchsed a 1968 bug which they put studded snow tires on in the winter -- thing was awesome in the snow!


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:08 AM ^

My 2001 Camry shuttled me around until 2014, when the tranny blew up on my way home from work.  It blew up because I neglected to have the recommended 100K mile work done (again) when it crossed the 200K mark.  Somewhere around 240K miles, the tranny oil filter stopped filtering, and the belts clogged up.  That was that.  It was June, and I had planned to retire her the following Spring.  Alas, not to be...

She was still getting ~30mpg, the seats were comfortable, no rust, and fine running order across the board.  Damn shame I didn't take care of her...  Despite no longer having a Camry, I don't hesitate to recommend them if someone asks.


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:13 AM ^

I would say my Oldsmobile 98.   On the outside, it was as bland and "uncool" as can be, especially after my first car.  But on the inside....


1. Plush seats that were SO comfy

2. Soft suspension, it was a poor man's cadillac

3. Digital Driver info system.  Still one of the cooler features in any car I've owned.  This thing showed me instantaneous fuel mileage, oil pressure, and a host of other real time telemetry that my cars before and after have lacked.  I can't find an exact photo, but it was similar to this one, but with more features:


The car lacked a lot of things, but the gadgets and comfort were amazing.  I got it over 210k miles before I sold it to my cousin and they drove it for several more years before totalling it.


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:50 AM ^

I had the poor man's Oldsmobile 98, an Oldsmobile 88. Black exterior with black interior. It felt like you were riding on the surface of the sun during the summer. One summer day the windshield got so hot the glue melted and the rear view mirror fell off. I felt like I was driving a car on TV.

I grew up in East Lansing where just about everyone I knew drove an Oldsmobile due to the factory in Lansing. Most of those were Cutlasses and 98s.

How they made the decision to kill Oldsmobile but keep Buick is a mystery to me. I never figured out what was wrong with driving "your father's Oldsmobile." That car was a battleship on wheels with room under the hood for a powerful V8 engine. I always feel like Jim Goose from the original Mad Max talking about the last of the great V8s when I think of my Olds.

The other car it reminded me of was the DeathMobile from Animal House.

Image result for animal house delta house car parade


May 23rd, 2018 at 11:03 AM ^

China. Buicks sell well in China.

Plus, this is how GM set itself up:

Chevy (Mass market)

GMC (Mass profits on trucks/Crossovers)

Cadillac (compete with German sport/lux cars)

Buick (compete with Asian soft/lux cars)

It made a lot of sense in 2010, and still kind of does if they can crank  out new CUVs fast enough



May 23rd, 2018 at 11:29 AM ^

I thought they kept Buick because of Tiger Woods, but your explanation makes more sense.

After the Olds, my next car was a Pontiac, also now relegated to the dust bin of history. I think I'm safe with my current car, a Toyota Camry.

Inflammable Flame

May 23rd, 2018 at 11:50 AM ^

Yet Buick is killing off almost every model they have because the have 4-6months of inventory here in the U.S. Buicks are for old people in the US no matter how they market that brand.

The one I was very disappointed to see go, and I think it had to do with mismanagement of the brand, was Pontiac.

Edit: while I was initially correct about Pontiacs mismanagement of itself, it appears it was more political than anything. Pontiac was positioning itself to become only RWD performance cars and that didn't fit the government's agenda at the time of increasing MPG while decreasing emissions. When that government is handing you a $50+ billion check, clearly you accept their agenda to protect your income.


May 23rd, 2018 at 2:04 PM ^

about a new General Manager for Olds (Bud something?) who had revived the coke bottle styling and really delivered a winner with the Aurora. 

My 20 something Fiance (now wife) loved that car. 

4.0 liter V8... nice looks, nice interior... with the 'Dual Quad Four' achieva at the bottom end. 

I really thought Olds had turned the corner. I was wrong. Bums me out. 


May 23rd, 2018 at 1:52 PM ^

The water pump just went out on my Commander. I knew something was leaking, so I kept a hawk eye on the engine temp till I could get it into the shop. I wasn't alarmed, the spots on the garage floor were small. 


I got it in and found out that the temp gauge doesn't work unless there is coolant. I only had a quart of coolant. 


Would have been nice to have something say 'CHECK YOUR COOLANT!' :-)


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:15 AM ^

I got it up to about 230k until the repairs needed on it were quickly nearing the blue book value of the car. Sold it to a guy who flips those cars for a living for a few hundred bucks. I'd like to think it's still out there


May 23rd, 2018 at 12:53 PM ^

I have a '95 Accord nearing 300,000 miles.  I still drive it every day.

Those cars are in high demand because they are the new Chevy - ubiquitous, simple, and relatively easy to maintain.

Anytime I get cheap gas in a somewhat seedy part of town, I inevitably have some crusty guy come up to me and want to buy it. 

I'd sell it, but then what could I replace it with?  Another 300,000K Honda Accord?



May 23rd, 2018 at 10:16 AM ^

I've gotta go with the 91 YJ Wrangler. I abused the heck out of it as a 16-18 year old, putting about 30,000 miles on it, ending up sucking water into the engine off road. I got it running again (by sticking a rag down the throttle body! and changing the oil 3x) and sold it to someone who didn't mind rebuilding the engine, which was leaking about 1qt of oil every 100 miles.

It never complained and I'm sure it's still running somewhere. Perfect first car. Too slow to get into trouble, felt fast though.


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:23 AM ^

But I'm an unreliable car owner. Busted a piston in my first car (94 subaru impreza) learing a valueable lesson in paying attention to oil levels. My second car was given to me for the price of four new tires (I had to buy my sister four new tires for her new car), and that 95 impala got me from a-b for a few years, until the brake lines went bad. I've put about 80K on my newest car (2000 Crown Vic), but shes had an engine light on for 3 months and sounds like a front end thing is coming back around again after I blew out a tie rod and pitman arm three years ago. 

At some point I'm going to buy a car younger than a teenager, then I'll get back to you. 


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:28 AM ^

My first car was a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am SE Coupe with the V6.

I *loved* that car, right up until the rear rocker panels started to rust away.

It had a screaming 170 HP.

There was an asshole at my high school who dickwaved about his Grand Am GT 4-door, same-ish years, loved to talk shit about my lowly SE.

Do you know what the difference between the GT and the SE was, besides some exterior trim?

+5 HP. I kid you not.

Alternately, the ladyfriend's 2007 Toyota Camry is a trooper. Nothing seems to go wrong with it, and if something DOES, it doesn't seem to ever be that concerning or difficult to fix.

Compare that to the 1996 Audi we just sent to the biergarten up in the sky -- something was drastically wrong with the thermostat; and to replace the thermostat you have to assume ze service position: remove the front bumper, drain and remove the radiator and fans...


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:32 AM ^

My FIL gave a used Audi Fox to my wife when she graduated from U-M in '82. That piece of crap was in the shop more than it was in our driveway, and we dumped it just a year or so later.

By far the worst car we've ever had. 


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:28 AM ^

Owned one that looked just like this when my wife-to-be and I eloped and got married in Canada. With the engine stashed in the rear underneath the cargo area, you could fit in an amazing amount of luggage underneath the front hood and in the rear cargo area. Gas mileage was great. Didn't have much zip in terms of acceleration or power, but the speed limit was 55 at the time so it wasn't as much of a liability as it would be today.

Charlie Chunk

May 23rd, 2018 at 12:09 PM ^

Had that vehicle in orange as well. He affectionately called it his, “shit box.” That car was fantastic in almost every way. It was reliable and got good gas mileage. There was so much room, he could fit a ton of crap in it!

I borrowed it all the time!


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:33 AM ^

I have a 2007 Buick Lucerne with 165,000 miles.  I've gone through three windshields (thanks, M-14 trucks) and the tire pressure system doesn't work, but other than that, it still drives like a champ.  And by champ, I mean a large boat with heated seats that glides down the road.  My wife and I carpool into Detroit daily and the ride couldn't be any better.  The trunk is huge and capable of stacking at least five dead bodies (but we won't talk about that).

We plan on donating it at the end of the summer, but it will be with fond memories that we bid it adieu.


May 23rd, 2018 at 10:37 AM ^

Definitely not the flashiest car. Bought it as a demo with 10k miles on it in June 2005. Have driven it in the city nearly every day for the last 13 years. Mileage isn’t too high, but LOTS of stop and go. Aside from oil changes/brakes/tires we’ve had to put less than $2k in repairs into it. I’ve considered getting rid of it for the last 3 years, but I just can’t bring myself to let it go. It’s too reliable, pretty comfortable and surprisingly utilitarian.