What Have We Lost?


Eric Peters had a piece opining about Buick. Apparently they’ll only do electric crossovers in the future. What happened? What have we lost?

Buicks used to have character. Take a gander at these:

From EP Autos

Hell, they even had one of the coolest, fastest cars around – the Grand National, with a Turbo V6 no less. Now? Who really cares about them? They build shitboxes like any other company. Only people I see driving them are blue hairs.

This got me thinking about the cool cars back in the day. Look at this:

These dudes found a Bonneville wagon, and did little to it other than some new rims and tires. Look at the lines on that beast. I’d love one of these or an Olds Vista Cruiser. Room like a pickup, ride like a cruise ship.

I love these old cars and wish I had the dough to restore one. I’d probably pick this:

I had one of these, only it was dark blue with a black top. Bought it from my friend Tim’s dad for like $200. Replaced the water pump, did a big tuneup, replacing hoses, wires, and belts. Took off the rusted muffler and replaced it with a hush-thrush. It was a wonderful car. I pulled up to Tim’s house and his old man was in the driveway. Saw the polished up car he sold me purring like a lion and looked like he would cry.

Back when it was more in it’s prime, Tim and I were out on the town with it and he took on a 5.0 Mustang. Sure, he beat us off the line, but we thundered past him with such an air-bow wave the Mustang wobbled in it’s lane. There was nothing more impressive than seeing smoke rolling out from under the fender skirts when doing a burnout.

I gave my neighbor Fred a ride to pick up his car at the dealer. As we rolled down the DC beltway at a reasonable and prudent 75 mph, as was my custom, with the windows open as you see in the image above. We were chatting about this and that and he suddenly says “GODDAM THIS THING IS SMOOTH!”. You literally could be going 100 and be in total silence floating like you’re sitting in your living room.

I’m nostalgic about these cars. Not only were they cool, they were very well built as you can witness on the many junkyard rescue channels on youtube.

Not long after that, Eric Peters posted another great piece about cars that were once ubiquitous that you don’t see. The Ford Taurus was highlighted.

I’ve had two as company cars, and a Mercury Sable wagon in the years he’s talking about – 90’s more or less. I had a ’94 Deville as well that I was trying to fix up.

So I can say, with authority, that they aren’t around because they were unremarkable and poorly built. As they age the plastic fades and gets brittle. The paint denudes down to the primer. Under the hood, the plastic connectors (of which there are tons) get brittle. You look at them wrong and they break. Where the hell does one get a connector for a ’93 Taurus these days?

I can tell you that fooling with these things is tough. All that emissions stuff, like hoses and sensors makes it nearly impossible to fix. An old big three V8 needs not much other than power to run.

If you ran into any of the cars from this era, there wouldn’t be much left. Time and sun are horrible to the interiors and as I said, the motors were unremarkable and not great. But you know what you see from that era all over? Toyota Camrys and Corollas. Hell, there’s a dude down the street here that has a ’95 Camry.

You also see pickups – Ford, Chevy, Dodge – from the 60s on up.

They were built to last. That’s why you see them.

I surf the cars for kids site weekly to see if there’s something worth buying. I’m looking for a truck, and I find a handful every week. Sure they’re beat, but a new motor and seat cover and you’d be on your way. The sedans are mostly sad and beaten to death. No way in hell I bite on them. There’s even some BMWs and Mercs. I was told but a German car tech to stay the hell away from those. If they are in auction, they are beat to death and didn’t have maintenance and sure as the sun comes up in the morning, they’ll need thousands of dollars of parts.

I’ll get there eventually, and get some truck to fiddle with.

But my heart is tugging for an Olds 98.