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March 10, 2009

Happy with American cars

I want to say a couple of things to the car companies. First, GM, sorry. If you can’t make it, then it’s time to stop taking taxpayer money to continue on life support. I feel the same way about AIG. I want my money back.

We’ve had everything from Ford 150s to Dodge Colts to Ford Escapes and Rangers. My husband and I are driving the last two now. The Ranger has been as reliable a truck as we could’ve asked for. With very little maintenance, this 1997 American-made vehicle has taken my husband more than 250,000 miles and hauled countless sacks of brush, furniture, bricks, camping and fishing gear.

My Escape took me back and forth to Jefferson City for two years and has taken me to Denver, Dallas, Iowa and Nebraska — to the tune of nearly 200,000 miles.

These cars were good for us, good for the company that sold them and good for the workers who made them — all right here in Kansas City.

I’m not saying “buy only American.” I’m saying “buy a good car.” Many of those good cars are made right here.

Vicki Walker
Kansas City



I like the Caprice but my desire is for the wood on the side. There was a guy in JoCo a couple of years ago that dropped a Caprice wagon and put a chevy racing engine it. His personalized tags read something like"hlooficr" or something similar.

Pub 17

The early 90's Roadmaster wagons are insane, especially with a very, very careful selection of wheels. My preference is the Caprice wagon; I've seen some in town maroon or cobalt, lowered, serious wheels, that look like something you'd drive on the moon. Both have had some questionable engine/trans combinations in their last years. Unexpected side benefit is that the big wagons will support mad stereo, both quiet and with plenty of volume to build up the bass.

Time to quit, time to quit. This way lies madness.

Pub 17


B-body, not A-body. Wotta ride. The pillow-back seats were groovy-looking, but I found they got seriously annoying on a trip, like sitting in a beanbag chair.

And now they're talking about 86'ing the Pontiac brand. What're those of us born with a Dairy Queen swirly spoon in their mouths going to do for a flash ride?



Another direction I'm considering is a wagon with trim(faux) sides. I've looked at Roadmasters and some 70's Colony Parks the past few years. Something about a wagon with "bling" sets me off. My dad always bought the plain Ford wagons, but the guys at church with 6 kids and a GM or Mercury wagon got the play from the women.


No, the velour was buckskin color with the over stuffed pillow backs, and it had the 400 with the 4 barrel.

Pub 17

And solomon, if you're talking about the gold-and-white striped velour interior, that was SO F'ING RARE I can't stand it.

Pub 17

The basic problem was a little diaphragm in the accelerator pump. It'd get a pinhole leak and the car would give every indication of having a blown head gasket. I stole two Novas on that basis; a $20 fix. Ghod what a solid little piece.

Here's the best-kept secret in Detroit. Follow me closely: the 1977-1978 Pontiac wagons had the 400-inch engine as an option. The same-year Trans-Ams, non-downsized, had the same engine standard (I THINK heated up a bit). The mechanics and I talked endlessly about using the wagon engine mounts to drop a T/A engine into the Catalina coupe; a complete cakewalk, they claimed, all factory parts, no fabrication. The Catalina coupe (remember, the big Pontiacs were the first to downsize) weighted 400 lbs LESS than the T/A. Figure it out, Jerome. I argue that this would have been like dating a girl whose father owned a liquor store AND who silver-medalled in Olympic gymnastics. Sigh. Now I'm too old.


I owned a 1978 Bonneville coupe with skirts and the Cadillac D'Elagance style interior back in the 80's. Gold with the white landau roof. My son broke the front anchors on the drivers seat once. He says to this day he didn't know how it happened.

I do. :-)


Pub - I have to agree with you about the Nova's Keihin carburetor. When the engine was cold the car would actually slow down when you hit the gas.

Pub 17

IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY AVOID THOSE LOVELY LINCOLNS. They have one flaw that will break your heart as badly as a Jaguar or MGB: the electrical systems suck on toast. The harnesses were incredibly complex, but the production volumes on pre-1980 Lincolns were so low they couldn't work out all the bugs. You then have a gorgeous, insanely beautiful love barge with perenially yellow headlights that runs maybe four days out of seven (Jaguar, anyone?). Hearbreaking and incurable.

I have a weakness for 1978+ Bonnevilles and Parisiennes. The '78 Broughams were quieter than the Sedan de Villes; Pontiac wanted to run ads to that effect but Cadillac said, Like hell you will. They cornered on rails with slightly quicker steering than the rest of the GM A-bodies. No convertibles, of course. If you want sheer automotive outrage cop a mid-60's to early 70's Bonneville convertible--I saw a dark metallic green '67 in Oklahoma a couple weeks ago that would make a good man knock his grandma down to get to. Managgia.


hey Pub, I sold my Caddy last week.

I'm going shopping for a new toy, any suggestions? I'm going to Arkansas Friday to look at a Lincoln convertible with kissing doors.

Pub 17

The difference was that the Vega engine would overheat quickly and devastatingly when it got low on coolant, and should have been required by Federal law to have the overflow bottle. The Jap traps ALL came over with overflow bottles, cupholders, side defroster vents, and rear defoggers except on the base models, all of which contributed to them all being back-ordered throughout the mid-seventies.

Pub 17

Note the number of the first series NUMMI Novas that are still around: those are now up to 25 years old, and how many mid-80's subcompacts do you see on the road? Only problem was the ridiculous Keihin carburetor on the first couple of years.

NUMMI produces/has produced Novas, Prizms, Corollas, Vibes, and the Tacoma pickups; they even produce the right-hand drive version of the Matrix/Vibe, AND SHIP IT BACK TO JAPAN.

Toyota and GM hit one right out of the park with that place.


Pub - My Dad was a huge fan of his '86 Nova. He swears its the best car he's ever owned. What other vehicles have been (or are being) assembled at the NUMMI plant?

BTW - I'm now very proud to own an Escape and Focus (both Fords) since they rejected the bailout money.


Coolant recovery was standard on the Vega after the first year of production.

The only "cost savings" in the Vega aluminum motor was in it's sleeveless design. As often happens when the bean counters drive engineering decisions, the savings disappeared with the first warrantee repairs.

As I recall, coolant recovery bottles were the exception rather than the rule in 1971. Cupholders, air bags, intermittent wipers and OnStar were also shamelessly left out of the Vega.


Oops. Mazda began to re-badge the Ford built Ranger under their brand in 1994, not '98.

"The Ranger she's so proud of is a straight-up" ... Ford. The Mazda pickup is also a straight-up Ford, since 1994.

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The Fremont plant was specifically picked because it was GM's problem child. Pre-1972 there were some decent Chevelles; 1973-1977, you've got to be kidding.

The Chevelle, after the
"Crap design" refers to things like Chevy leaving the overflow tank off Vegas to save a buck, resulting in fried engines (NOT a problem with the aluminum engine, per se), Chrysler's inability to come up with an original engine design more than two or three times a century (I believe, and am too lazy to look it up, that the V-10 in the Viper is a 318 gone to heaven), and Ford's belief that somebody, anybody would buy an abortion like the downsized Mustang or the original Fairmont with a trunk maybe 3½ inches deep.

Wiki "Ford Ranger" for design history.


Actually, the '72-'82 Ford Courier was a re-badged Mazda. The '83 and up Rangers are a Ford design. Since maybe '98 the Mazda became nothing more than a re-badged Ford Ranger when the old Mazda B-series pickup died.

The little Ford/Mazda pickups have mixed up their components/engineering all along. Ford's had a stake in Mazda for 40 years and they've often shared engineering/engines/transmissions/styling. Ford owned a big part of Mazda (1/3?) until a couple of years ago.

The "crap" Chevelle comment is kind of interesting. Chevelles compared more than favorably to anything else of "the day" and more favorably yet to any Asian junk of the day. A nice Chevelle of the period might set you back $30000-40000 today which is obviously some multiple of what an average Toyota of the period will set you back. The collector's market for Toyota muscle cars has yet to take off, but maybe someday it will.

NUMMI/Fremont is UAW, by the way.

Pub 17

As long as we recognize that of the vehicles Ms. Walker mentions, the Ranger she's so proud of is a straight-up Mazda, although I THINK all the U.S.-market Rangers are assembled in the U.S.; the Dodge Colt was, of course, a Mitsubishi, all of which were built in Japan; the F-150 may have been made at Claycomo, in Canada, or in Mexico; and the Escape is a Mazda-Ford joint design, all of which sold in the U.S. are built at Claycomo (again, I'll accept correction on this).

All six of my last vehicles have been built at the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California. The build quality is fantastic; purportedly the initial product built there, the Toyota Sprinter sold here as the the Chevy Nova, exceeded the quality scores of the Sprinters built in Japan. The problem has never been the workforce: note that the NUMMI plant was deliberately sited at GM's worst-quality operation, a former Chevelle assembly plant. The problem has been crap design and a legacy of crap quality standards set by management.


Now here's a letter that easier to get behind. No "give them a pass", or "think about your Claycomo neighbors", just an assertion that it IS okay to buy based upon quality and without some sort of "buy American" guilt, which in Mrs. Walker's example includes American vehicles.

We're in to GM and AIG for the long haul. Once each company got their first multi-billion dollar check from us, there was to be no "turning off" of the spigot.

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