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!
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.
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.