Grandpa Grimes and the Buick Park Avenue

When my grandfather retired from the Erie-Lackawanna railroad, he purchased a new 1986 Buick Park Avenue. It was a nice vehicle with a clam shell hood hinged at the front much like the Classic SAAB 900. I always thought it was a neat vehicle just because of that. Apparently the hood was designed to push back and cover the windshield in the event of a head on collision. Grandpa wasn’t the typical Buick owner though. He kept the car for almost twenty years and knew it inside and out. He bought the shop manuals so he could tell the mechanics what to do instead of asking what the problems were. At one point he diagnosed a faulty fuel injector and told the mechanics which one to replace. I imagine the mechanics had a healthy respect for grandpa. I know that I did.

buick_electra_ttype_1990

Grandpa’s Park Avenue was the 6th generation of the Buick Electra Park Avenue which was built from 1985 to 1990. As you might expect, grandpa opted for the fuel-injected 3.8L V6. According to one reference, it came with 140 hp and 200 lb ft of torque. At optimal performance, it could get 27 mpg on the highway. That’s where the sequential fuel-injection made a big difference as a carbureted Fiero 4-cylinder was rated at only 29 mpg. That’s pretty good for a V6 of that era.

Better than the car are my memories of grandpa. He was always trying to teach us how things worked or was showing us something in his basement workshop. Now that was one of my childhood wonders of the world! Grandpa had sectioned off the basement into four rooms. The first was a storage area with a refrigerator. The second was a place for bonsai plants, exercise machine, and the Magnavox Odyssey game system for us kids. The third was the laundry room. And the forth was his workshop. The workshop was always in perfect order, as I recall. He had a little of everything including a switch on the door that turned on the light when you walked in.

It has been a while since my last visit to Grandpa’s house in Meadville PA. He has since passed on to Jesus. But I will always have good memories of visiting with him and his ability to fix anything.

QOTD #58: How good is your gas mileage?

Whenever I buy a new car, I like to see what kind of gas mileage I get. If the car has a trip computer that makes the test easier. But I still like to write down the miles on the odometer and fill up the tank to get an accurate reading. I have yet to do that with my latest acquisitions. The 1984 Pontiac Fiero is not running at the moment but is supposed to get anywhere from 29-32 mpg hwy with the automatic transmission. The manual transmission is supposed to get as much as 40 mpg. Wouldn’t that be nice?

MPG 84 Fiero 2

The one that may be an issue is the 2002 Mercedes-Benz ML320. Fuelly.com says that four owners tracked their mileage and averaged 17.1 mpg. Apparently, the combination of AWD and a 215 hp V6 will have me visiting the gas station more often than not. Thankfully, most of my drive to work has a 45 mph speed limit. So, maybe it won’t be too bad.

MPG 02 ML320

All this makes me curious about your experience. How good is your gas mileage? Are you one of these people who coast as far as you can to save money? My uncle does that. Or are you the type that doesn’t care? As long as the car performs as it should, you don’t care what it costs. Let me know in the comment section below.

What’s the Scoop? — 7/27/2015

whatsthescoop

coaster

Last week was a bit of a roller coaster for me. As of Wednesday night, I had not sold any cars and it wasn’t looking good. I asked our pastor to pray for me and the small group who met for prayer meeting Wednesday night prayed as well. Thursday was slow as well with no sales until 7 pm. I sold a car then and two more on Friday! As a Christian, I am glad to recognize God’s help in answer to our prayers.

1984 Pontiac Fiero

Not every lesson learned is a happy one. I sold the Jaguar and purchased this 1984 Pontiac Fiero 2M4. I enjoyed the car for a few days until the head gasket blew Saturday. Thankfully our mechanic was on duty and diagnosed the problem for me. I am still unsure whether fixing the head gasket would really fix the problem. It would probably be better to replace the whole engine. Thankfully, a friend from church is willing to haul the car back to our driveway. We shall see what transpires after that.

ML320

The replacement for the Jaguar is a 2002 Mercedes-Benz ML320. It is a nice little vehicle with leather seats, Bluetooth, and working A/C. The latter two are something I’ve not had in my personal vehicle in a long time. Yesterday, we drove the ML to church in Windsor and enjoyed the ride through the country. The vehicle comes with a 215 hp 3.2L V6 and AWD. Both will help during the wintry months in northeast Ohio. As in all things, I’m thankful to God and several people who helped to make this possible.

I tried to be a loyal American…

Fiero at Car Show

After owning Europeans cars for the last 14 years, I sold the Jaguar and bought an American car. And, as you would expect, it was unusual. I bought an American made two-seater called the Pontiac Fiero. A mechanic friend said, “I haven’t seen a Fiero since I was in high school.” Yes, it was an interesting car for the first 48 hours. I purchased it in Brunswick and drove it back to Painesville with no problems. I drove it to work Friday with no problems and even took it to the Friday night car show at the town square. Am I a loyal American now, or what?

This morning, however, everything turned upside down. As I was driving in to work, I was happily thinking about how much I would save on fuel. The 1984 Fiero 2M4 with the 2.5L engine is rated at 32 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission. While the Jaguar wasn’t bad on gas, it never attained numbers like that. So, this was going to be a new day for Andy: (1) he’s a loyal American again, and (2) he’s frugal with fuel. All that changed when I parked the car at Easy Auto in Madison and soon noticed a green puddle forming under the radiator. Yikes!

1984 Pontiac Fiero

Thankfully, our mechanic was there to diagnose the problem. He started by replacing the thermostat. But soon after adding antifreeze, the car wouldn’t start. The problem turned out to be the head gasket. With a digital scope, the mechanic showed me that one of the cylinders was filled fluid. The Fiero needed either a head gasket and some mill work (the head threads for one spark plug were stripped) or maybe a whole engine if the antifreeze had gotten to the internals. That certainly wasn’t what I was looking forward to today. Needless to say, I was distracted during my time at work.

Besides the obvious questions in my mind about fixing the car, I now was faced with another. Are American cars really worth buying or are they all junk? I realize that my sample size is fairly small and involves a 31 year-old General Motors experiment, but I certainly wasn’t impressed with my experience. And the other unfair part of my opinion is that the Fiero wasn’t in tip top condition. The owner had jerry rigged some wires trying to get things to work and several wires were left disconnected. So, this shouldn’t be a case in point. And yet, the impression still exists in my mind.

2002 Mercedes Benz ML320

As things turned out, I decided not to fix the Fiero and purchased another European vehicle. The new car is a 2002 Mercedes-Benz ML320. It’s a mid-size SUV with enough room for the family and the creature comforts I’m used to. Sure, it won’t be a good car to take to the car shows, but I think it should prove to be a better car than most of my other options in my price range. Will parts cost more? Yes. Will any mechanic be able to work on it? Probably not. But will it be more reliable than most American cars? I tend to think so. And will I be content with it? Yes, I think so.

Now before you get too concerned about my ill-formed logic in this short article, remember how my day turned out. I’m probably not making a whole lot of sense. Even so, I’ve become much more comfortable owning European luxury cars. It’s not a snobbery thing or an anti-American agenda. It’s just something I’ve grown into in the last 14 years. If you come to Easy Auto and ask to drive an American car, I won’t stop you. I’ll even point out the features that make it a good buy. But if you ask my opinion about a Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, SAAB, or BMW, you will probably find out what I really think are the best cars on the road.