The right amount of power, styling, and safety. In the hands of a young man it could still go wrong.
I began looking for a steady paycheck, something to keep me off the pipe and off the pole. The girlfriend suggested a local auto parts store as I was very knowledgeable in that area. The store manager interviewing me was very impressed with my knowledge in ported vacuum switches; a benefit of working on old Toyotas. I don’t want to get too specific on what auto parts store I got the job for, let’s just call it CarArea.
It was a great experience for me, it helped me deal with people, improve my sales skills, and further enhance my automotive knowledge. I quickly became a favorite for the regular crowd by just being genuine with people; they know BS when they hear it. After a couple of steady checks it was time to get my own vehicle again. I started in a part time position at the store. I would still do some repairs for my uncle at home which meant there was also potential cars available for sale.
This particular car came in due to it snapping a timing chain. The valves luckily did not hit the piston. My uncle and I were able to repair the engine only missing one crucial timing chain oil squirter.
The car was not yet mine but in an effort to impress my girlfriend, I went to pick her up and take her for a ride in it. The oil light was on, but in my head the engine was running fine, why worry?
Sure enough a mile from my house, after picking her up, the engine just stopped. I managed to coast the vehicle to a stop to a nearby park. Being a customer vehicle I needed a solution so that neither they or my uncle knew I took the car out.
Cell phones were barely becoming a thing. My girlfriend mentioned the phone she had, also had the benefit of a tow truck service along with the contract. We used it; it was within the mileage limit so it was free. Me however, I was caught. My uncle had arrived a few minutes earlier with the missing oil jet and wondering where the car was.
The next day the oil jet was installed. It was up in the air whether the engine survived. We tested it and it did. In being a high mileage car and snapping a chain, the owner was looking to sell after repair. I actually like the car, and for $1000, it became mine.
It was the first manual transmission equipped car I owned. My first time driving was in a Datsun 510 with a manual tranny my uncle Gabriel had. He had died years earlier, a big fan of Nissan cars, that brand has sentimental value to it as you shall later see.
It had automatic seat belts which honestly made no sense since you still had to buckle the lap belt, which sometimes I would not. The interior was basic but at least it had a rev counter, something I always look for in any car. I remember having the AC on zapped about 20 or more horsepower, or so it seemed. I tried to not use the AC as much, problem was the window motor relays were faulty so I had to removed the relay from the front passenger side and use it one at a time to raise or lower the rear back windows.
The most memorable issue was the accelerator getting stuck a couple of times. Shocking when it happened the first time, glad it was a stick shift. I managed to get it to the side of the street, I quickly shut it down. Inspection revealed the cable was rubbing on the hood insulation, a quick swivel of the cable and straightening of the kink solved the issue that day. Never did fix that properly as it wasn’t constant. There was a recall on it but I did not bother.
The bland styling seemed to go unnoticed until you really looked. Perfect for me to blend in to the crowd of Camrys and Accords. What I really liked is that it wasn’t a Camry or Accord. Also fog lights, just in case that heavy fog rolled in to Los Angeles. Honestly I prefer fog lights because they are useful and make the car not look so basic.
My car suffered from burned paint and peeling clear coat. I would wax and it would look nice but only for about a day. It almost seemed like the paint was thirsty. I accepted it as fact yet I dreamed that I could repaint it some day.
With the same friends and higher wages just meant that our adventures would cover a longer distance. We would now go as far as Oxnard and Malibu California, just cruising in a more relaxed attitude.
One of the bad habits I had was doing burn outs. Never good for a vehicle you want to be reliable. I never snapped an axle, blew a tranny, or engine; there was something else that would bring this car down.
Nissan Altimas and Maximas of this era seem to suffer from a rust issue where the radiator core support and engine support crossmember meet. I made an effort to try to maintain cars at this point, this issue was out of my realm of experience though.
With me burning out it created a gap that would make a pronounced bumping noise when accelerating or coming to a stop. I was under the impression that this car was done for, with my budget it pretty much was. While I found a buyer the only thing I could do to minimize the noise was to use tow chain and bolts near the top of the motor to minimize the movement of the engine. That gap created a condition where the speedometer was reading at double the speed of actual speed, it was fun for me to watch the speedo hit 60 in school zones.
I found a CarArea co-worker that wanted a parts car as he had a similar model. It sold for $500. Not much but some help towards a newer vehicle. I was thinking something similar for my next car, but my girlfriend at the time was thinking big.