Back in high school, or just after (I can’t remember anymore) a good friend of mine, Nick had this Pontiac Sunbird GT convertible. It was a nice white car, with a white top, and came with a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder. Peppy car; had a lot of fun with it. Here and there it would have little issues, but for the most part, it was reliable.
Nick drove the car until sometime around 2002, when he parked it because it had blown the turbo, and bought a Chevy S10 from his Mom. The car sat for about a year, and that’s when Nick and I came up with a trade. I had this laptop that I liked, but it was getting old. So, I traded Nick a laptopfor this Sunbird. I towed the car home on my trailer, and throughout the next few weeks, got it licensed, and ordered a turbo for the car. At this point, the car ran. There was just one small issue with it, the check engine light. I went up to Autozone, and $12 dollars later, had a new O2 sensor for it. After that was replaced, the engine worked as designed. There were other creature comforts missing from the car, but I had a good time with it for the most part. Here’s a small but complete list of things wrong with the car…
- No driver’s side door lock – completely missing
- The top was all ripped up
- The heater fan didn’t work
- There was no radio
- The car was rusty
- The e-brake didn’t work
- The exhaust was shot
- You have to be the Fonz to get that baby to shift
So yeah, not a huge list of things wrong with the car, but the most substantial was that it was generally a car you could commute with, but it wasn’t *nice*. It was fun to drive everywhere with the top down, but it was a pain to get into gear sometimes (I imagine the clutch was dragging just a little, or that the syncros just needed to be replaced after when the clutch WAS dragging – Nick replaced the clutch master and slave cylinder at one point in time, and also had the clutch replaced in it, so it should have been fine), and in general was a little too cold for Michigan weather. In any case, I drove the car to work more than a dozen times over the summer that I got it. The car actually had only like 97,000 miles on it.
Anyway, I enjoyed the car. I drove it out and didn’t care that I left the top down in the parking lot at Best Buy. I didn’t care about it being stolen, or broken into (they could, after all, just open the door) and I didn’t care about the car. It was certainly more enjoyable, but at the time it didn’t matter to me that the car was considered by many people to be kind of a beater. It was fun 🙂
So, fall came, and I stopped driving the car very much. I started to think about selling it. So, I called up my friend Bryan, and asked him to sell the car for me. I told him to take whatever he wanted for commission, and get whatever he could for the car. I brought the car over to Bryan’s house, and left it there.
Throughout the next 20 weeks, the car was moved around at Bryan’s house, and parked in his back yard. Then, winter set in. Bryan wasn’t really trying to sell the car, and so I decided that since it was a complete beater, I would just donate it to the VOA. The Volunteers of America is a company that accepts donated autos, then resells them to the public, while giving you a tax write-off, and making some money to help needy people. The whole purpose for me, though, was really the tax write-off part.
But, why did I want to get rid of the car anyway? Basically, the car became more of a liability and a cost for me than I was getting use out of it. Sure, I could have kept it, but I didn’t really have the space. I also didn’t feel like paying for insurance, registration, or anything else on it. The car’s total worth was about a grand, on a good day, downhill, with a tailwind. Really, the car just had to go.
So, I went over to find the car behind his house, in 8 inches of snow. I opened the car up, and there was the immediate smell of wet in the car. It also wouldn’t start. That pretty much sealed the deal for me, the car would have to go.
So, I tried to get it out of the 8 inches of snow, to no avail. I couldn’t – it was stuck.
So, I tried again two weeks later, and still wasn’t able to get it out.
And then I tried again. This time, I drove the truck into the back yard, driving precariously on a hill covered in snow, hoping that I’d be able to get into a position to just tow it out. And I couldn’t get it.
So, after weeks of bitching, and a the end of winter, I finally said to Bryan that he needed to get it unstuck. Amazingly enough, he did. This was in the beginning of March, 2004. Yes, there was still snow on the ground in Michigan at that time.
I called up the VOA, to setup a time for me to drop the car off. They told me I’d be able to come in at any time. In fact, I’d be able to drop the car out in front of the gates if I wanted to, and then just tell them where the keys were, and they’d bring it inside for me. This was perfect for me, since the trip to get the car, then go to the VOA and drop it off was more than a three hour ordeal. So, the plan was to drop the car off Sunday night, and then call them Monday morning and tell them about it, so they could put it in their auction and get all the other paperwork squared away – title, tax information and whatnot.
So, one Sunday night before March 15th, I head up to Bryan’s house about 9pm. The car starts right up, and so I’m happy about that. I pull the ramps out of the trailer, and start to ascend them in the sunbird. Mind you, the car has no exhaust, no heater, and now has tires that have little air in them. Even with the newfound grip from the low air pressure, I’m unable to load the car on the trailer, because the front wheels just start spinning as the car gets to the top of the beavertail on my trailer. Great, the damn car is fighting me to get on the trailer.
Now, you’ve got to remember, everything aside from the trailer ramps is absolutely covered in frosty white snow or ice.
So, I try again, only faster.
The car makes it to the top of the beavertail again but then starts spinning the front tires again. Suck. This time, though, I heard a loud *thunk* which abruptly made the car stop moving. So, I get out of the car while it’s still on the ramps, and crawl underneath it. The exhaust is hanging down to the point where the catalytic converter is now what’s keeping the car from gracefully driving up onto the trailer. The convertor was still on the end of the exhaust (although there was no exhaust system to speak of after the converter) and it was hanging just low enough to catch the lip of the trailer as the car was driving up onto the trailer. Because of the snow, the tires just started to spin, making ice patches at the top of the beavertail. Great.
So, I pull the car back on the ground, and find some speaker wire to tie the exhaust up. Mind you, I have no Jack, and the car is low to the ground. It’s an absolute pain in the ass to get this accomplished. Not only am I dressed in a winter coat and JEANS, but it’s also now about 10:00 pm on a Sunday night, and my damn car isn’t at the damn VOA, because I can’t get it on the trailer! Anyway, I have to sidekick the converter, because somehow at one point in time it managed to get bent one way off it’s alignment point with the body, so it now wants to snugly rest against the lowest point on the floorpan, instead of up in it converter hole that GM so kindly manufactured into the floorpan of the car. This took some magic, but I finally got the exhaust back up where it belonged, and then had another go at the trailer.
Even wiring the exhaust up where it was supposed to be didn’t allow me enough room to get the car on the trailer. Bryan came out at this point with “do you need some help?” written all over his face. “Do you have an air compressor?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, I think Jake left one here” he replied.
So, 10 minutes later, Bryan comes out of his house toting my little air compressor. The one that I had lost about 6 months prior. Jake apparently took it, and then gave it to Bryan. I didn’t give the compressor back to Bryan – it was mine, and I was keeping it at this point. I filled the front two tires up on the Sunbird, which then drove up onto the trailer with ease. Damn Sunbird.