Driving a Project Car Everyday

I keep forgetting to take Before pictures, which is a shame because I’ve had to replace quite a bit. Throughout my time of driving Blue the radio and CD player have quit working, the windows stopped working, the air conditioning, the heater core, the speedometer, etc. Plenty of things have worn out, because it’s 21 years old and has 250,000-300,000 miles on it. I don’t know the exact mileage because the thing that tells me didn’t work for a few years.

This is technically my wife’s first car. After selling my Honda this became my third car, which has been my daily vehicle for the past 7 or 8 years. She remembers when this was a shiny new mustang, but I remember it as a 1998 rust bucket. If I complained about the performance she would blame my expectations. After four years of frustration I planned to buy a new vehicle and asked her, do you want me to drive Blue into the ocean or off a cliff? She responded with, “I will always have that car! If you get rid of it I will divorce you!” I then rephrased the question to, mountains or ocean?

She convinced me to keep the car by saying she wanted it to be our child’s first car (this was before we knew about our son). So the plan became – rather than save $4,000 for a down payment on a new car, spend the $4,000 fixing everything that bothers me. The first major expense was a paint job.

A few years into the project the heater core stopped working. This meant having no heat to warm myself or defrosting the windshield during winter. There were times that the windshield would frost over while driving. Due to the lack of visibility I would have to pull over, unwrap myself from a compacted blanket, scrap the windows and then bundle up again. Coworkers volunteered to buy me an electric blanket, but my power outlets didn’t work. After two bitter winters I decided to learn how to replace the heater core. However, in order to replace the heater core, I would have to take out the dash. Since the dash would be out anyway, this would be the perfect time to repaint my interior. With those pieces removed I might as well replace the speakers and carpet, and let’s not forget about new seats …

The more I work on Blue, the more I understand my complaints. For example, the acceleration was poor so I changed the spark plugs and discovered how corroded and wide the gaps had become. Replacing the water pump explained the overheating engine and rust in the coolant reservoir. The odometer gear was missing teeth, that’s why I don’t know the mileage. The brake fluid was black, it’s supposed to be clear, that’s why I have horrible braking distance. The power steering fluid was black, it’s supposed to be a bright red.

So keep in mind my concern for things under the hood, because my big purchase after the paint job was a touch screen receiver. That transformation still puts a smile on my face. This car went from having a cassette player to having Bluetooth connectivity. The touch screen also displays DVDs, not that I watch movies while driving … but I could.

I’m not sure which is more rewarding, improving the aesthetics or improving the performance. However, there are cases such as replacing headlights and bulbs that improve both.

Out of all the things that have stopped working, the speedometer has been the most entertaining.

I remember driving behind Christian. Something seemed off. So I called her to ask how fast she was driving. The answer was 50 mph and she asked why. Well, my speedometer says I’m going 70. Oh, now it says 80 — and now I’m doing 20.

During the next few years the needle would usually work, but I need to clarify that it might appear to be possibly accurate. Perhaps a year ago, the needle stopped trying.

I would accelerate to 40 and things would be fine. However, as I aimed for 50 the needle would keep going to 80. I would eventually slow down and the needle would be directed by gravity to an estimated 150. As I began to accelerate, the needle would try to reach 180 but the needle rest would prevent it.

At this point, I knew my speedometer was useless. So naturally, as you would expect, I was followed by a car with blue lights.

I’m driving home from work on a lonely highway. In my rearview I see a cop or a state trooper. I’m not sure which one, just as I wasn’t sure of my speed. This began an awkward game of tag. If there’s a lot of distance between us, I’m speeding. If there’s no distance, it may be safe to speed up?

This went on for a mile or two.

You’re probably thinking, “Just turn at the next intersection.” Oh, but you’re assuming my turn signals worked. They did not.

Everything works now! *Except the horn.

A week ago my Boomer friend (OK BOOMER) was complaining about people lowering their cars. “It looks stupid and probably ruins it.” Well, guess what I did over the weekend?

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