Friday, September 5, 2014

Coffee Brake: Your Worst Car Buy

What's been your worst car, best learning experience?  This is mine -- Coffee Brake by Hunsbloger.

Mine-My first car was an unfortunate '62 Karmann Ghia which I managed to kill by literally flogging it to death, trying to reach speeds beyond 72 mph. I was near the end of my freshman year in college in 1973, when I was hitchhiking home on a rainy evening.  A guy picked me up in a '63 TR4.  We started talking and before I was dropped off, I got his phone number and found out he'd take $350 for the TR4.

Not my TR4, a pic from grassrootsgroundswell on flickr.

I picked the car up a day or two later, but at 18 I didn't have any time for a PPI, I just wanted to give him the money and grab his keys. In very short order my new investment would dissolve before me.  On the drive home, I proudly filled up the gas tank.  A great idea, except the sediment bowl came loose a few miles later (no set screw in the bottom of it) and it started leaking gas everywhere.  Dealt with that problem when I got home.

On the way to college the next day, I noticed that it was getting harder and harder to upshift into 2nd gear, but I didn't pay much attention to it, cause I figured I was just not used to the clutch/shifter.  While going over the speed-bump in the school parking lot, I managed to snag the leading edge of the muffler, pulling it loose from the first run of exhaust pipe after the header. After waiting for it to cool off, I was able to kick it back into place until I could get home and tighten the clamp up.  (Didn't have a the requisite orange juice can, tie wire and pliers with me at the time!)

Also not my TR4, this one is from Pedro Simones on flickr.

On the way home from school,  I noticed that I was now having trouble downshifting from 4th to 3rd, and the 1st-2nd upshifts got progressively worse.  By the time I drove the 10 miles home, I was upshifting from 1st to 3rd and downshifting from 4th-2nd.   I drove it like that for a couple of days later, eventually driving it to a friend's house where we pulled the transmission to have it serviced.   Got it back about a week later after spending $150 I didn't have.

The transmission worked like a charm, but about 5 miles into my 30 mile drive home, I blew a rod right through the side of the engine block.  This was fatal.  Oil everywhere.  There would be no recovery from this one.

At this point, I was broke, the car was toast and my parents were moving from upstate NY to the Midwest. My dad wasn't willing to let me tow it behind one of our cars, so I scrapped it with a friend of mine.  $500 for less than 100 miles worth of driving.  Keep in mind those were 1972 US$.

It was my first sports car and it bit me really hard.  It was kind of like taking a gorgeous girl out to a fancy restaurant on a first date, watching her order everything on the menu, only to have her puke on the table as you're being presented with the check.  You still gotta pay...and suddenly, she's not as hot as she was a minute ago.

Still not my TR4...this is a burnt out hulk from the current Ukraine crisis, from Mattsh on flickr.

Was it sabotaged by the previous owner or just bad Carma? My ego wants me to believe it was sabotaged, but my brain knows better.  Got a better tale of woe from a great car purchase, turned bad?  Post it below.  Hot tip?? email us here:


  1. My '74 GTV, just because I sold it about ten years too soon.

  2. 1976 Ford Bronco. First car and worth probably 10x what I sold it for in 1998. Also, 1999 Volvo V70R wagon whose engine blew out on me 5 months after I bought it.

  3. What happened to the car?

    What do you think happened?

    Looks like it was chewed up and spat out.

    Perhaps it's the result of an anxiety.

    1. Mudguts, put her against the post.

  4. My Turbo/Quattro Midget. Didn't realize until later in life that my Schwinn Sting-Ray was a Turbo/Quattro too
    Gateway drug it was.

  5. Civic CRX that I owned for about 60 hours when I was about 20 years old. Picked it up on a Friday afternoon, spent all day Saturday detailing it, upgrading the stereo, installing fog lights, etc. Rolled it off the side of a bridge embankment, cartwheeled end over end, landed upside down and partially submerged in a small stream. Managed somehow to not kill myself or my passenger. No body panel was undamaged, all but one piece of glass was broken, engine block was cracked from the impact, etc. Good times.

  6. I bought a completely rusted out '68 Plymouth Sport Satellite convertible during my 2nd year of college in '88. I was severely stricken with 'Mopar-itis", since my '67 Barracuda (notchback) got stolen up in Boston the winter before. This is what a stupid 18 yo kid does when he doesn't take his time to find a good car, with $$ burning in his pocket. I thought I could restore it. Rust holes the sizes of golf balls in the frame.I replaced fenders (apologies to the old couple that sold me a perfectly rust free '68 4-door Belvidere (olive green btw), thinking the car was going to be a reliable daily driver).... The brake proportioning valve was shot, so unless you spent the 3 months of learning a feathery touch to the brakes, you were going to lock 'em all up. $1200 spent on the car, and another $3800 spent in cop rims, new convertable top, 4 bbl carb/intake, etc (again these are '88 through '91 dollars). But what did I do with this rolling restoration? I used it for not 1, but 2 driving jobs. Delivering Dominos pizza in northern NJ at night, and a side gig of transporting an actor across Bergen County in the mornings/early afternoons for her shows at elementary schools..... I more than made my $$ back in income, for what I wasted on the car. Good times at both jobs. Between the rotted frame and bad DRUM brakes, I should have died 5x over in a fiery crash... But it was the 8.75" rear end that gave out, and made me sell if for parts.... That was how I learned how to buy old cars moving forward. Got some good memories for the wasted 5K though....

    - Average Bear

  7. My first car, at 16, was a 1982 Ford EXP. It was a crapcan on wheels. I actually drove that thing cross country, from Washington DC, to Sacramento, and then up to Portland. Only got towed twice. It blew a spark plug clean out of the motor around Pittsburgh, and did it a few more times when it started up. The clutch died pulling into Sac. Lucky for me a friend's dad had taught me how to shift without the clutch, but that didn't help at stoplights, where I'd turn the car off and then start it in first. Actually kept the car for three more years, at which point I donated it to some charity. I actually felt sorry for them for taking it.

  8. Karmann Ghia also. Swerved on the highway and rolled it over into a ravine. Swore off rear engined cars forever.

  9. My first car was a 1950 Packard Ultramatic. In absolutely tip top shape for 1971...!Doctors car left in a garage. My other 17yr old friends were driving MG's, Pintos ,Vegas etc and I was driving this monster from another era. And I thought it was old then! But sooo cool.

    Anyway one day the tranny wouldnt shift into would only go in reverse. So I drove it home in reverse! About 4 miles. And didnt get arrested!

    Anyway.being a 17 yr old kid I thought it perfectly logical to take it to a transmission shop....Aamco. Big Mistake. I agreed to an inspection and when I returned for the results, they had "fixed" the tranny and I had a bill for $750.00!

    Well I had never seen $750.00! The car only cost me $250.00. Long story short they liened it. When I finally got it back after going to court it was missing it's Cormorant and hubcaps after sitting in the Aamco yard for six months.

    Moral of the story: stay away from franchise shops and don't have a kid like me!

  10. As a poor naive youth just out of college, I needed a car for my job. I bought a 1975 mustang II in November 1983 for $350. Over the next two weeks the rear end started howling, the front end started shimmying, the engine started a faint knocking sound. Then during one day in December, the heater fan stopped working on my way to work. That night, coming home with 5 degrees temps outside (no heater fan), I pulled up to the toll booth, grabbed the window knob, heard a snap, and the window dropped suddenly down into the door with a thunk. No heat, no window, engine knocking, rear end howling. I junked the mustang, borrowed enough money for a downpayment, and ordered a new 84 Prelude that week. I put 275,000 miles on that Prelude and have owned at least one Honda/Acura since.


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