CC Roadtrip: Finding a Suitable Car – What To Buy? – The Final Decision Was All-Too Obvious

Variety of cars in nice spring setting

It’s often been said that you should never buy a car at night.  You should also take Craigslist and Kijiji with more than a grain of salt.  It’s really a lesson of what goes unsaid, rather than what is mentioned.

As of the last posting, I had arrived in Vancouver Monday night and got settled in.  Next morning, I grabbed the hotel shuttle to the airport, and met my father and father-in-law.  They were a bit tired and sore – they only had two flights, but no layover to rest between planes.  They found there was very little room in both the CRJ and Boeing 777 – a point that was going to be made light of during our trip – no matter how bad things got, they wouldn’t be as bad as the plane!  We caught the shuttle to the car rental shop, and got this:

Suprisingly good!

Pleasantly Suprised!

The options for a rental were limited – a Nissan sedan, and this Kia.  I picked it and was instantly impressed.  Quiet, roomy, and easy to maneuver in Vancouver’s traffic.  We went back to the hotel, dropped off our stuff, and started our search with a quick list.  The three we shortlisted for Monday were a 1978 Pontiac Parisienne, a 1984 Volvo 240, and a 1983 Malibu.


Image via Craigslist

The ’79 Parisienne seemed to be the most promising – it looked to be good according to the pictures.  We arrived, and were shown the car.  The gent backed it out of the garage for us, and the day went downhill from there.  The car had started easily enough, but was very noisy, with a lot of valvetrain noise.  A lot of the side trim was missing as well and the interior was worn.  Given that it was a 305 made during the years they were known for weak camshafts, I decided to give it a pass.


Image Via Craigslist

Next up was the Malibu – We had an address, so we took a drive to see it.  The one picture that was not posted online was of the rear of the car – the bumper was hanging off of the back.  We all agreed this wouldn’t suffice to get us home in one piece.

volvoImage via Craigslist

Finally, we went to look at the Volvo.  This car was easily the best of the day, and yet…it had been sitting for over a year at the lot.  Someone had had it out on a test drive before me, and we waited for it to return.  It wasn’t very impressive.  The power steering line had sprung a leak, and the fluid was all gone.   This didn’t stop them from driving it, though.  It was also backfiring through the intake when you’d give it the gas.  We all sat in it and agreed it was way too small.  We took a pass on this one, and all Volvos as well.

The next day, we picked two more possibilities and a backup…a 1991 Honda Accord wagon, 1979 Buick LeSabre, and a 1998 Ford Crown Victoria.

accordImage via Craigslist (Not the car I looked at, but similar)

We went to see the Honda first, and things looked up immediately.  No rust, a nice dark blue colour, sunroof – and comfortable enough for the trip.  We went to go for a drive, and the owner let me know the brake booster had failed on the car.  There was enough reason there to turn down this car.  I wasn’t going to drive it over the Rockies with a failed booster, and I wasn’t interested in getting it repaired.

Buick LeSabreImage via Craigslist

It turned out that the LeSabre was very close to the Honda, so we went and looked at it.  The body was in mint condition, the engine had been recently rebuilt, and the interior was good.  We took it for a drive…and it wouldn’t come out of second gear.  Remembering the same thing had happened to me years earlier on another GM car, I looked under the car, and the hose going from the steel line to the vacuum modulator had dry rotted off.  The owner had some new line, I replaced it, and it worked really well.  We discussed price, and he’d only come off his $3500 price by $200.  He was selling it for his parents, so I understood his reasoning.  We did like the car – but I wanted to have a look at the Crown Vic in order to have an option.Crown Victoria

I wasn’t really considering one – but as time was running short, I’d remembered that they were comfortable, reliable cars well regarded here at Curbside Classic.  This one was intriguing – it looked good in pictures, and its $1995 price was well within my budget.  We arrived at the dealer selling it, and were surprised at the condition of the car.  4 good tires, good paint with only a little rust ahead of the rear wheels, 178,000 KM and a basic engine/transmission warranty.  I couldn’t turn it down.  He told me he had to replace the windshield first, and then I’d be able to take it.  We made a deal, I paid for the car, and we left to kill some time while the windshield was replaced.

Windshield freshly replaced

We got the call that the car was ready, and we returned to the dealership.  He’d even had it washed, waxed, vacuumed, and blown bulbs replaced for us.  We couldn’t get over the service we received for a $2000 car!

We managed to return the rental and get back to the hotel in rush hour traffic.  We relaxed the rest of the evening in preparation for the long drive ahead…