Used Cars | My Black Brick

My Black Brick

Keeping a '92 Volvo 240 Wagon on the Road & Other Automotive & DIY Musings

Good Luck Driving Your Brick into the Ground

The NY Times is finally understanding the concept of high mileage in a consumer car. When the recession hit in 2009 the Times ran a few articles documenting how consumers were coping with their economic struggles by keeping their cars longer. Pity the poor family who needed to keep their 8 year old V70 instead of trading it in for a new car. Have mercy on the woman who is roughing it in her BMW with over 25k miles and going out of warranty.

Today the Times documents the trend of drivers keeping their cars past the 100k mile mark. The article feature photos of a clean and mean 1990 Volvo 745 with over 300k. Citing technological changes in piston rings, catalytic converters and rust proofing, engineers explain how recent cars can be expected to last much longer than vehicles from previous generations. And if you take proper care of it your car may even outlast you.


Why Repair When You Can Replace?

Todays NY Times has an article about the “trend” of people holding on to their cars and appliances longer than usual. They report average length of car ownership is at a record 52 months, or just over 4 years.

It’s funny how people in the US have developed a mindset where it’s considered normal to dispose of things out of boredom, rather than lack of function. The Times interviews a Jaguar driver who had the habit of buying a new car every 2 years. Economic adjustments now have him driving a 1999 Jag into the ground. He says “it’s a question of shifting values” and that he reassesed the need to constantly have new things.

I think it’s sad that the norm is to toss things out that are still functional. Keeping and repairing is seen as an aberration. According to the Times, consumers are “yearning to favor brands, fashion and novelty over practicality.” For many companies, obsolescence and disposability is part of the business model, at the expense of continuity and longevity.

Pic via There, I Fixed It


Now That’s a Serious Boot

“Some Rides” just defy common sense. Although I’d wager this stretched Outback (AWD?) would be doing pretty well this winter.

On second thought, are those white walls?

Via You Drive What?


Beater Review: The 240 Series

This column from Beater Review in 2007 contains my favorite description of the Volvo 240:

Ask any child to draw “a car,” and chances are you’ll get an uncanny representation of the Volvo 240.

The review is pretty good, as it covers the known issues of failing electrical parts (apparently made from eco-friendly bio-degradable materials) and the heater blower. Good comment below the article also.

On doing a Google search for “beater brick” to find the above image, I saw I have the dubious distinction of being in slots #1 and #2 for that term. Here’s hoping I can nail a three-peat with this post.

Image via Andrew on Flickr


Disillusioned with the Vega


I remember thinking that the Chevy Vega was kind of a cool car in the’70’s . Looked like a Camaro that had met Dr. Shrinker on the Kroft Supershow. Then I met someone who had actually owned one.

I got a job doing deliveries for a copy company and for the first delivery he had me shadow him. It was delivering flyers to a strip club. (Note: I never made that delivery again. The boss always had to make it his personal delivery.) There was a Vega in the lot and I commented on it. I then heard a 10 minute tirade against the scourge that was the Chevy Vega and how horrible it made his life when he owned it. Many of his complaints about rust I’d heard before about GM cars, but he had a depth of negative experience with actually driving and maintaining the car that I hadn’t heard before.

Carlust blog has been pondering the Chevy Vega and posts the question: “What Went Wrong?”


Kentucky Fried Magnum

Technically this wagon was found in Alabama, but it sure looks fried extra crispy.

Via Seen on the Street


State of the Art

pg21bWhile cruising Hudson County in my brick one of my buddies had a hard time figuring out how to open the window. I pointed out the power windows and he exclaimed, sarcastically, “Wow, this car is state of the art for the 80’s!”

“But this is a ’92.”



Kludge Wagon


I saw a Subaru Baja with a cap on the back yesterday and thought THAT was crazy. But this thing is sheer genius.

Via: There, I Fixed It


More people fixing their cars?

I’m looking to reallocate some money in my 401k and came across an interesting bit of info on Auto parts makers and garages have been doing well despite, and probably because of, the economic downturn. I’ll assume this is because drivers have an economic incentive to just get their cars fixed when parts wear out, rather than disposing of them and bringing a new vehicle into the family.


From The Street:

Car-parts shares tend to rise in line with stock-market indices on up days, but also gain on down days because of perceived safety…

Advance Auto Parts has opened 57 stores during the past 12 months, capitalizing on elevated demand for aftermarket auto parts, a recessionary trend that has lasted longer than analysts expected.

This trend of good news inside of bad reminds me of the attitude of an old friend who worked in auto body repair. Rain and snow and ice always made him happy because he knew he could make some good money fixing all the dings, dents and carnage that resulted from dangerous driving conditions.


Get Yourself a Tool Kit

Great quote from Steve Lange about buying a new car, vs. fixing a used ride:

My heartfelt advice is to stop drinking the media supplied Kool-Aid, buy a tool kit and a Hayne’s manual, and start to get to know the absolute basics of your car. The big money is rarely made on the smartest customers. It is always the most ignorant and fearful that are the juicy prey of the marketplace. At this point you’re being a squeaky mouse in a den full of recession hungry boas.

Educate yourself. If you can look at a glass and see it’s half-full, you can easily read the coolant, oil, washer fluid, and brake fluid levels in your car. If you can turn a screw, you can also replace an oil filter, a battery, and nearly anything else on your car that isn’t a computer or wire. Buy a couple of jack stands, a $50 tool kit, a Mityvac, and that Hayne’s manual I mentioned earlier. The Rabbit’s are average in reliability and there’s nothing there that isn’t in 90+% of the cars that have been out there for the past decade.