Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My new money pit

I was warned. "Don't bother buying a pace car under $5000," an owner of more than a dozen low-mileage pace car replicas told me. "You'll end up spending at least $5000 to get it back to the condition you want."

"Nah, not me," I said to myself. "I'm more careful than that. I do my research. And the car doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be driveable."

Well, I paid $3000 for an '84 Fiero pace car. And I've already put $1000 into it (on top of the $80 to tow it to the shop and another $80 to tow it back home tonight). And it still isn't driveable.

Bah! I did my homework! I looked at the pictures -- the car is gorgeous inside and out (that much is true, even in person). I talked to the owner, who told me all about his love of Fieros, his car collection, the work he had done, etc. I even paid an independent inspection company to check out the car. The inspector sent back pictures detailing every little scratch and cosmetic blemish, but as for the test drive and running condition, the report just said "Runs rough. Probably bad gas."

Boy was he wrong.

So I get the car, and I can barely keep it from stalling, but I finally get it pulled into my garage. The next day I got home early from training and decided to take it out for a spin. I start her up and after a few minutes of idling, the engine gets EXTREMELY loud. A few revs and it drops back to a tolerable level. I take it out and try driving it around the neighborhood, and any time I try to give it even a little gas, it coughs and sputters, and then backfires when I get off the gas. So I limp back home and park it. I also find a heavy metal piece on the garage floor that looks like a cap to something, except it's not threaded. Hmm. So the next day I have the car towed to the shop.

So the mechanics start going over the car. First there's a bad front ball joint, which is needed for inspection. And apparently something chewed up the spark plug wires, which means the plugs are now shot. "So we'll replace the plugs and wires and see how it runs," the mechanic tells me. Oh, and that metal cap I found in the garage? It's a piece from the catalytic converter. He tells me it "holds the pellets in", and since it fell out, there are now no pellets. (They weren't on the garage floor either, so who knows where they went.) They can weld it back in place, but there's no telling whether it will pass emmissions.

So they fix the cat and replace the plugs and wires and... the car still doesn't run right. The computer is saying it's a bad MAP sensor, but a new one doesn't fix the problem. And this is Saturday before I leave for a week in Cancun. The mechanic asks me to give him "up to 2 more hours" to diagnose the problem, so I agree. "It could take me 15 minutes," he says, "but I won't spend more than 2 hours because I know this is getting expensive." By now we're up over $600 including the state inspection.

So I get back from Cancun and call to find out how the car's doing. "We found a bad O2 sensor," he tells me, so they replaced it, which allowed them to finally find the true cause of the problem -- a bad fuel injector. (Incidentally, the 2.5L Fiero only has one fuel injector, because it uses trottle body injection.) That and a new fuel filter will run almost another $500. "I can't put any more money into it right now," I say. "Is the car driveable?" "Barely," he tells me, "but I wouldn't recommend it."

So this afternoon I went over to check out the car and pay the bill, and then I went back tonight (when the traffic was lighter) to try to limp home, Jen following along behind "just in case". I get about half a mile down the road when the car stalls. So I go to restart it and -- nothing. Even though it fired up just fine four or five times in the parking lot, apparently the battery is now dead. So I have no choice but to call a tow truck and haul the car back to where it started, outside my house. (I could've jumped it but I know it would have stalled again at the next stop sign.)

There is one glimmer of good news, however. I talked to a friend at work, whose brother is a mechanic and loves to tinker with cool projects on the side. He used to own an MR2 so I figured he might enjoy working on another mid-engine car. So we chatted for a while today and he offered to replace the injector and the fuel filter for $40 -- a job the shop wanted to charge at least $150 labor for. Then I go online and find a reconditioned OEM fuel injector for $50 at DirectAuto.com (the shop wanted $320 for a new AC Delco injector), and picked up a fuel filter at Advance tonight for $9 (which would've cost around $25 through the shop). So it looks like I MAY be out of the woods for just another $100 or so.

Of course that's just to get it running. There's no telling if it will pass emmissions or not. And the shop also said it needs a new radiator. And then there's the oil leak. And of course it needs almost all new electronics -- power window and lock motors, a new power mirror switch, new windshied washer fluid pump. And both the steering and shifting are extremely tight -- no telling what could be wrong there.

But hey, at least the car LOOKS nice. Maybe I should just park it on a trailer and tow it to shows?

Maybe you'd consider stopping by Indypacecars.com and buying a diecast car for someone on your Christmas list? As you can see, I need the money!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My new car

If you've been on my blog before, you may have noticed a link to Indypacecars.com, a website about the Indy 500 pace car program. I've run this site since 1999, yet I have never owned a pace car replica myself -- until now.

No, it's not the 2007 Corvette pace car or one of the great Camaro or Olds pace cars from the 60's and 70's -- maybe some day. For now I'll settle for the 1984 Fiero pace car that was delivered last night.

Yes, believe it or not, the Fiero was indeed an Indy 500 pace car. The replica is one of 2000 made, of which probably only a few hundred still survive. And even at 115k miles, it is one of the cleanest Fieros I have seen for the price, certainly far above average for the miles.

It may not be my dream car (my personal favorite is the '95 Corvette), but I figure the Fiero is a good place to start. It was in my price range, it's cheap to insure, and it's still a head-turner and will give me the opportunity to go out and show it off from time to time.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A pretty good week so far

First, a welcome to anyone who might be reading this through Facebook's Blog Friends application. Be warned, I tend to babble about all sorts of random topics -- hence the name of the blog.

I must admit that this has been a pretty good week so far.
  1. I won $56 in this week's football picks pool
  2. Democrats won a majority in the Virginia state senate and picked up 3 additional seats in the house -- even though my district's Democratic candidate, Jay Donahue, lost. :(
  3. My friend's husband (also a Democrat) won the race for Dulles District Supervisor, which is pretty damn cool, even if it's not my district.
  4. We found out that we will be having a BOY in April! (I guess I never publicly posted that we are expecting, so here's the announcement.)
  5. Little Miss went potty FIVE times yesterday. Now we can really work on having her tell us before she needs to go. Hopefully she'll be completely out of diapers before her 3rd birthday in January.
  6. We went out for a great meal at Don Pablo's last night (my favorite) with my brother, and Lauren was actually quite well-behaved (once she fully woke up).
  7. We leave for Cancun in 11 days!
Hope all is well with you! And if you're on Facebook, add me as a friend!