Used Cars | My Black Brick - Part 2

My Black Brick

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

Laying down in the trunk

Dan Johnston has a funny post about the 240 being a good first car for new drivers. He posts the transcript of a conversation between NPR’s laugh-factory Click and Clack speaking to a teen who hates driving her 240 wagon:

TOM: Wait. I’ve got it. Emily, next time you’re in the car with your dad, look toward the back and say, “Those back seats fold down, right, Dad?” And when your dad says: “Sure they do. Why?” You say, “Well, with the seats folded down, I bet there’s plenty of room for two people to lie down back there!” He’ll have you in a 1992 Volvo sedan by Monday, Emily!


How I spent my summer vacation

Moms and Dads, this is what your kids are doing with your old family truckster, now that they’re all grown up and traded their soccer cleats for car keys. And you wonder why the tires need to be replaced every 10,000 miles.


Most durable? RWD redblocks FTW

Jalopnik’s Question of the Day asks “What’s the Most Durable Car You’ve Owned?” The first two comments are packed with Volvo 240 goodness, anecdotes and the like.


Cash for Clunkers is on

More details are emerging about the “cash for clunkers” incentive program that was approved by the Senate this week. It sounds better than what had been proposed back in January. From the AP:

Here’s how the plan works: Car owners could get a voucher worth $3,500 if they traded in a vehicle getting 18 miles per gallon or less for one getting at least 22 mpg. The voucher would grow to $4,500 if the new car’s mileage was 10 mpg higher than the old vehicle. The mpg figures are listed on the car’s window sticker.

Owners of sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks or minivans getting 18 mpg or less could receive a voucher for $3,500 if their new truck or SUV got at least 2 mpg higher than their old vehicle. The voucher would increase to $4,500 if the mileage of the new truck or SUV was at least 5 mpg higher than the older vehicle.

The program was aimed at replacing older vehicles _ built in model year 1984 or later _ and would not make financial sense for someone owning a vehicle with a trade-in value greater than $3,500 or $4,500.

The MPG stipulation makes sense, and it’s not $10,000 as had been proposed earlier. Steven Levitt on Freakonomics blog is still skeptical, however:

Let’s say you own one of those vehicles which you could sell for $3,000. If you use Cash for Clunkers you get an extra $1,000 for your vehicle. So of those 5 million people driving gas-guzzling old beaters that are worth almost nothing, how many of them are going to be pushed over the margin to buy a fancy new vehicle because of a $1,000 subsidy?

I have no idea where he’d find a car that would qualify for the subsidy that could get $3000 on the open market. Even pre-1990 Volvos barely pull $2000. Good luck getting even that much for a 1983 Ford Escort.

But Steven’s original argument is still strong: people who are driving cars that qualify for the incentive program probably aren’t in the market for a new car. Those who are in the market have a great incentive to search for any old P.O.S. to limp into the dealer for a nice $4500 rebate. The secondary market that will arise would be an indirect consequence of this silly program.


Long Live Pontiac

GM announce the phaseout of Pontiac this week to stave off bankruptcy. I’ve had the pleasure and the discomfort to experience some old Pontiacs over the years.

My family cruised the suburbs of the ’70s in a golden ’68 LeMans. I remember the sun-absorbing black vinyl top and seats getting stiffling hot on our trips to the outer banks of North Carolina. One night in 1976, during the oil crisis, some asshole siphoned the leaded fuel from the tank and left us stranded the next morning. After 12 years of troubled maintenance it rested and rusted in front of our suburban home and my dad didn’t bother getting it fixed. I tried to convince him I could work on it myself, but at 12 years old I didn’t know a manifold from a mango. Amazing how that golden iron ride could rust to the point of evaporation in only 18 short years.

The angelic ’64 Bonneville pictured above belonged to my late friend Billy Greene, who fixed and tuned it for more than half of his short life. Throughout high school and beyond he babied its 6 barrel carburetor, snow-white paint and acres of chrome. The cavernous interior and trunk managed to fit 11 teenagers trying to save money driving into a local park. The exhaust rumbled a gorgeous bass tone at stop lights and the suspension floated smoothly when racing around the capital beltway at 120mph.

RIP Pontiac.


Roughing it in her BMW

220-usedThe NY Times, in another attempt to elicit sympathy for the poor people who drive used cars, profiles Ryan Moore of Los Angeles. She’s hunkering down in this tough economy by holding onto her current vehicle and riding out the recession.

The car she’s stuck with? A 2004 BMX X3 with 25,000 miles on it.

A few months ago, Ms. Moore worried that the cost of maintaining her 2004 BMW X3 would rise because the warranty had expired. She looked at trading it in and buying a new Infiniti EX35. But the money she was offered for the X3 was well below what she had hoped. So she held on to her BMW, which has 25,000 miles on it.

“Basically, my story is just one of excess versus caution,” Ms. Moore said. “I don’t need a new car. I’ve decided to wait out the storm, not get into any debt and hope I still have a job in a month.”

Am I to understand that the build quality of this Bavarian crossover is so poor that you wouldn’t want to own one out of warranty? That a woman who is currently employed and could afford a $30,000 car 4 years ago is now roughing it by keeping her car? I’m mystified that people think driving anything other than a new car is a form of sacrifice.


Volvos for Tough Times

Sundays NY Times had an Op-Ed titled “Volvos from Florida” where the author explains that “My husband, Rob, and I are riding out the recession in a 2000 Volvo wagon we bought last summer from a man named Gary Dunne.”

Riding out the recession in an 8 year old car? Wow, that’s roughing it. I imagine a family of Okies trudging across the dust bowl in their well worn XC70, looking for any newspaper in need of an editorial, or just a caption writer.