From Cars To Star Wars

We’re not buying what they’re selling.

The average age of our two cars is seventeen years. I might buy something newer if my finances dramatically improved, but I’m also leery of all of the “features” in the newer cars. When I look at new car prices, I think about what I could do with the (2000) BMW if I put two or three thousand into it, especially given how new stick shifts are an endangered species.

I hope that SCOTUS will force a rollback of all the illegal mandates coming from Washington.

11 thoughts on “From Cars To Star Wars”

  1. Glad to see I’m not the only one!

    I recently faced the “new cars issue”, on my four vehicles (2 cars, 2 SUVs) that range from 10 to 21 years old. I did go car shopping, and, ugh; on cars, not even a place for a full sized spare, and of course all the electronic garbage.

    I simply won’t accept the tracking and spying that goes along with a ‘connected’ car, so I’d have had to tear the dash apart on day one. No thanks.

    So, though I’m a mediocre mechanic, I decided to do some rebuilding (though I did get a pro to do the engine rebuild on one, that’s beyond me). Recently completed the 4th vehicle, and all’s well so far with all 4, worst problem I had was a grinding starter motor (I hadn’t put it back in quite right after rebuilding the solenoid on it).

    Am I happier with my vehicles than the dreck on new car lots? Yep, and that’s without the price difference.

    The price difference, though, wow. My out-of-pocket for the rebuilds would have bought me maybe 1/3 of a new vehicle. So, the price difference is utterly enormous.

    The very best part though? Doing this was massively, massively objectionable to a couple of envioronazis I know. 🙂

  2. I bought a 2021 Toyota 4Runner to replace my 2005 Toyota Tundra pickup truck. At age 16, the Tundra was the longest-lived vehicle I’ve ever owned, and it still brought me a substantial amount of money through Carmax (the Magnificent). At age 70, I know that the 4Runner is the last vehicle I’ll ever buy (except for a Kubota utility vehicle for the farm), and it’s the best vehicle I’ve ever owned, with one exception.

    That exception was the ’71 Datsun 510 I bought from the daughter of one my professors at Purdue for $75. It had a 4 cylinder knockoff of the British Leyland MG and Landrover engine, and a stickshift. I put a few hundred dollars into it over the years I owned it, but it was unkillable. No matter what broke – and some major things did – I could repair them myself and keep it going. I put a good 80,000 miles on that car,. then sold it for $85 (it wasn’t in good condition).

    Over the years. I’ve tried to find one in reasonable shape for sale. There are scads of them now, but you pay from $4,000 for one that doesn’t run to $15,000 for one that does. They’re “classics”. They really do survive, though.

    1. The 4-runner was one I didn’t see when considering new vehicle. I had a quick look online, and it looks great in some ways, such as the “crawl control” for rough terrain (I offroad a lot).

      The dealkiller for me was it’s a connected vehicle, but sometimes that’s easy to fix (cut power to the tranceiver).

      What I really want to ask is whether it’s got a full size spare. That’s an absolute requirement for me.

      Agreed on the Datsun. I’m familier with that engine, sort of, and it’s a good one; I think it’s what I had in a 1972 MG roadster I fixed up a long time ago, and it was a great little car – it was my main ride for several years.

      And, I recall one of my relatives making a similar “last car” prediction when he was about 70. He’s on his 3rd since then, due to being in has late 90’s now. 🙂

      (Sorry for changing ‘nicks, forgot the “Arizona” on my first reply in this thread).

    2. The cars have gotten stratospheric in price and so have repairs.

      I am looking to opening the time belt covers on a 1997 Camry to replace an oil pump seal leaving an oil puddle in my garage. In a timing-belt car, there is a whole lot of stuff under those covers that you inspect/repair/replace once you have the cover off to do a periodic timing belt replacement. Yeah, let an old car leak, but some unrepaired leaks could do more damage than others.

      Someone with a low-mileage 1999 Toyota Sienna minivan was stuck for $5000 to do a timing belt change plus struts. In round numbers, that is $1000 for the belt and $1000 “per corner” for the struts.

      Any suggestions on an electric impact wrench for do-it-yourself on things like the crankshaft bolt removal for a timing belt, struts or other suspension or axle parts? My garage is cluttered and I don’t know where an air compressor would go.

      I am leaning towards a corded electric wrench to not have to deal with the care and feeding of lithium batteries. Harbor Freight sells one with an 1100 ft-lb rating for bolt removal. The positive reviews state that it is indeed that powerful in removing stuck bolts, but the negative reviews suggest that this tool doesn’t last long in service.

      Milwaukee Tools has one with a 5-year warranty, but it only offers 300 ft-lb torque in forward or reverse, which might be enough if you soaked the bolt in PB Blaster a couple days and if the factory or whoever last worked on the car didn’t apply thread locker.

      Or maybe when a person gets past their mid 60s, one should consider just paying for what a repair place wants for a timing belt replacement or a strut as one of the expenses of getting old? My calculation is that $5000 these days only pays for about a half a month in long-term care, but maybe paying that expense could avoid personal injury that would put a person in long-term care sooner?

  3. 14.5 years for my two, a 2001 Ranger and a 2018 CrossTrek. I sold the 2017 Impreza last year for 76% of what I paid new in 2017. Subraru’s a good value in that regard, but the maintenance costs are too high once the warranty runs out. The old Ranger allows shade-tree repair, so I may be buried in it.

    1. I’m currently rebuilding my 15-year-old lawn mower, and it turns out you can buy every part of a Briggs & Stratton engine separately. Now I’m fantasizing about putting four of them in the CrossTrek. One on each axle and I’d have to put a manual control center on the console. each engine has everything it needs to spin an axle, and manually synching them would not be difficult.

      1. Is that the automotive version of Lutz Kayser’s clustered launch vehicle?

        If you are going to go that route, how about powering the car with as many Cox 049 model airplane engines (do they still make those things?) as a Tesla has battery cells.

        I remember in the late 1970s working in a COBOL “shop” of a Fortune 500 company in Chicago, and as part of our professional development we would attend meetings of the Downtown Chicago ACM chapter. I took the commuter train to get to work, but since this was well after rush hour, I drove the family Plymouth downtown and got stuck behind an elephant on State Street–the Shriners were conducting a parade.

        Part of the speculative discussion at the talk was that on a per operation basis, a 6502 or 8008 chip was orders of magnitude cheaper that what was under the hood of our corporate IBM 360 mainframe and that if people could figure out how to write the software, massively clustering of underpowered chips was the future mainframe.

        Well the industry has pretty much given up on Seymour Cray-style custom CPUs. A supercomputer these days is a massive clustering, but of the top end CPU and GPU chips, each of which is multiple orders of magnitude more powerful than the IBM 360 that we tended to in the manner of priests in a religious cult to a pagan idol.

        As to the clustering of lawnmower engines, how to you propose to start them?

        1. My riding mower has an electric starter, so when I built the control console, it’d be trivial to wire the ignitions to it. I think I’d start them separately (so a selector switch). Four engines to spin the axles, and then a generator of some kind t power the AC systems. I think the hardest task would be building the exhaust manifold. I used to do some automotive welding (frames and exhaust systems) but we’re looking back 40 years, so I might want to take a refresher course at the local CC. Not that I’d tackle something like this without a garage and a lift. Not at my age, anyway!

          My 21″ push mower has a 190cc engine, so I’d need ten of them to replace the 2L Boxer. Since they’d have to be chain-geared to the existing transaxle and transfer case, so they’d all be in the engine bay. I could just open the hood and pull ten ropes… ow! Of course, then I’d need to build and program a custom ECM. We’re getting mighty Rube Goldbergy here!

          I know how to do that stuff, and have the necessary tools, but gadzooks! Car #1 might make a good gizmo for some kind of post-apocalypse story. Thinking about it, my push mower wold certainly start post-EMP, and maybe the riding mower (it has a post-dead-battery recoil starter because the electric starter spins the magneto, I think).

  4. Hello ArizonaCJ
    Sienna gen 1 timing belt should be $1000 or less. OEM front struts are $150 on line, rear KyB shocks are $30 each. I can steer you to a great independent shop in PHX. LMK

    Our daily drivers are a 1994, 2000, 2001 and 2005 model year cars. I do some wrenching and some I pay for. No car payments and lower insurance rates. I don’t need a navigation or entertainment center, I have a cell phone.

    1. That’s the thing. Operating an older car can save an enormous amount of money if you a) do your own repairs and preventative maintenance and b) have a cost-effective repair shop for the work beyond your tools and skills that you can trust.

      The 5K bill was from a dealer by the way. Yes, dealers are the priciest option available, but they may not be that much more expensive than other places that charge according to flat labor rates assigned to particular tasks such as tire-and-muffler shops.

      The thing with an old car is that people who go that route often have more than one car. Milton Thompson writing about the X-15 relates how Neil Armstrong had a collection of old cars, he lived on top of a hill, and he took his cars to a repair place at the bottom of this hill. If one of his cars failed to start in the morning on this way to work, he would coast down the hill and leave it with that shop.

      If you have a spare car, your mobility is forgiving of the situation where you disable one of your cars learning how to work on it. And the more work you can do, the better the value proposition of an old car.

      Certain jobs, however, are on the cusp of what a home mechanic can attempt. One limitation is the inconvenience as well as safety limitations of working with jack stands instead of a proper lift. Another limitation is special tools. The timing belt replacement as well as struts are in this category.

      In principle, an affordable high-power electric impact wrench could make those tasks do-it-yourself, removing the crankshaft bolt to access the timing belt being one example and unbolting major suspension components for the strut change another.

      There are all manner of horror stories of car-repair forums on the Web, however, of do-it-yourselfers being stymied by stuck bolts.

  5. I have jack stands that I’m less and less willing to use as I get older. I was a serious (and well paid) mechanic yesteryear, but not so much now. I do have a compressor and impact wrenches, as well as electrical gizmos.

    Btw, I almost forgot my dad had a lawnmower where the recoil starter was rotated by a spring, which you wound up with a crank. “Hang on while I go wind up the car…”

Comments are closed.