Affordable Classic: 1961 Pontiac Laurentian – First Drive!

After finally getting the brakes sorted it was time for the Pontiac to hit the road for the first time since 1981. Follow along to see how the Pontiac fared. This is the first make or break test for the upcoming Beater Challenge in a few days.

The brake bleed had a bit of an ordeal but there were a few minor bits to take care of before venturing outside the garage. The tie rod ends needed an adjustment as the disc brake conversion had given the front wheels too much camber and toe out. I figured eye balling it was good enough for a spin around the block.

There were a few sketchy looking wires including one to the coil and starter.

It made sense to quickly repair or replace these.

Some of the spark plug wires looked a little thread bare so they were replaced. The spark plugs themselves will be replaced soon as well.

In my part of the world insurance and registration are required before driving on the road but the process this time involved a little bit more grief than I hoped for. I initially targeted classic car insurance as it promised to be both easy to obtain and cheap. I like that combination. This type of insurance had a good track record as I had used it for last summer’s classic beater, the 1975 MG B. I called my broker and arranged for the insurance. They require photos which I dutifully took and brought in. Upon seeing the photos the broker wrinkled her nose a bit and said something along the lines of “it looks rather crappy … are you planning on painting it or fixing it?” I tried to explain that I had mechanically fixed up the car but it would be a shame to lose the original paint and patina. I do not think I succeeded in this regard however. Maybe I am a lousy salesman as I have not yet sold this approach to my wife after several months either. Ironically the MG had way more rust than the Pontiac. I then targeted obtaining vehicle registration and a license plate which required a visit to a registry office (think DMV but run as a private business). There I came across an employee who was not confident in the process and suggested that I just do an “out of province” inspection to make it easy (on her). The inspection is both expensive and extremely strict. I do not like that combination. I suspect it would several thousands of dollars to pass that inspection in an old vehicle so I declined her help. I came back a couple times more in order to find a more experienced employee who was able to get a plate for me the proper way. Out of the woods right? Not so fast. A couple days later my insurance broker called back to say the company had declined my classic car insurance due to the fact that “I was still working on it”. Pretty sure I was clear on that point but perhaps that is a polite way to say “we think your car is too ugly”. As a backup plan I swapped to regular car insurance which involves a few compromises but all reasonable still. On the plus side now my teenage sons can take a go at driving it.

 

My friend Rod came over the for actual first drive as he has helped me enormously through the process. Above is a short video of us driving. There is no muffler at all so the sound is not ideal but less loud that I would have thought. I suspect driving an old and cosmetically challenged car around the neighborhood multiple times at dust with no muffler is not a great way to gain favor with your new neighbors but I did not want to venture too far yet. Stay within pushing distance. There were no angry knocks at the door after so I will take that as a good sign.

These two are Rod’s photos with yours truly at the wheel. All things considered it went fantastically well with the brakes working flawlessly and the engine sounding strong. The only minor hiccup was one headlight not working. We only got up to about 50km/h (30mph) and the total running time was maybe 15 minutes so it is not a conclusive reliability test yet but a strong positive sign.

Given a successful first test under the Pontiac’s belt I felt confident to move forward with booking an appointment to get the exhaust and final alignment done. Additionally some tune-up parts like spark plug, cap, rotor, etc will be replaced as well. I know some folks have strong feelings on the ugliness of the current wheels but I have not yet got around to ordering some spacers to make the stock rims work again so they will on for the Beater Challenge. They fit the beater vibe at least.

 

The whole Affordable Classic series thus far:

  1. The Search Is On
  2. Landed One – 1961 Pontiac Laurentian
  3. Dragging It Home
  4. Assessment and Planning
  5. Little Fixes
  6. Shocks and Brake Removal
  7. Disc Brake Mounting
  8. Cooling and Fueling
  9. Back into the Brakes and Other Odds and Ends
  10. First Drive!