COAL: 1978 Datsun B210, 1983 Toyota Tercel, 1982 Mercury LN7-Fun with Small Cars

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Okay, so I had to give up my dream car. What could be worse? Can you say “boredom?”


My next few cars were uneventful, although my wife didn’t think so in one case. First up after the Firebird was a 1978 Datsun B210. A very boring, white car with a tan interior. It was reliable but I had a problem with the carburetor. It would intermittently and unpredictably begin to surge and then slow down, in spite of a consistent application of my foot on the pedal on my part. On the plus side, it had air conditioning and an AM/FM cassette player. But it was just plain boring.

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I only owned that car for a few years until I got married, at which time we bought a 1983 Toyota Tercel. At that time, I was working in New York City and commuted via train so technically we only needed one car.

Now, the Tercel was supposed to be my wife’s car. Note the term “supposed to be.” The Tercel was a 3-door (third-door being a hatchback) with a 5-speed manual transmission.

There were three things that went wrong with the Tercel:

  1. The carburetor kept breaking down to the point of no return. In spite of three rebuilds, it never did run right again.
  2. The clutch began to go. We couldn’t afford to replace the clutch, so we kept forging on.
  3. Last but certainly not least, my wife’s sanity almost went at the expense of the Tercel.

You see, my wife had never driven a car with a manual transmission. So I figured, Okay, I can save the money we would spend on a driving instructor and teach her myself. WRONG ANSWER.

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One day after having given her about a dozen or so “lessons,” I received a frantic phone call at work. I was thinking that it had to be something bad. Well, my wife was okay (physically), but if I were standing next to her instead of being on the phone, I wouldn’t be writing this chapter right now.

She told me that the car “bucked” all the way to and from work on her first day of her new job.  That was also the last time she was willing to drive the car.

So I took ownership of the Tercel and I proceeded to shop for another American  car (thinking of course that my wife’s negative experience had to be related to the Tercel being a foreign car).


I drove to a local Ford dealership, looked at what they had in their used car lot and picked out a nice, sporty looking 1982 Mercury LN7. Now the LN7 is a cousin to the Ford EXP.  You know, sporty looking but nothing sporty about it? It had all of 80 horsepower. Count ‘em, 80. However, since it was my wife’s car, and it was an automatic, we were both happy…for awhile until the troubles began.

You see, Ford designed their Mercury LN7 in a very interesting way. They positioned the fuel pump directly over the exhaust manifold. Besides being a fire hazard, what proceeded to happen not once, not twice, but three different times was fuel pump failure due to the seal drying out from the heat of the manifold. That problem, in and of itself, was probably enough to get rid of the car. Instead, I went back to the dealer to complain about this problem. They resolved the issue by mounting an electric fuel pump on the driver’s side firewall. Problem with that? Very noisy. I was beginning to get sick of this car.

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My wife was willing to put up with the whining noise that the electric pump would constantly make upon acceleration. But what ensued was the icing on the cake.

At one point while I was driving the car which was rare since my daily driver was the Tercel. I soon noticed a transmission problem.  The car would slip in and out of gear. Sure enough, I brought the car to a local AAMCO (sound familiar?) and the technician confirmed that the transmission needed to be rebuilt.

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I tried selling the car back to the dealership, but they wouldn’t give me a good deal, in spite of the transmission expense that I just put into it. So I proceeded to write the CEO of Mercury a nice, long “spirited” letter. It was so long and spirited, I actually received a check in the mail for $2,500! That covered the cost of three fuel pumps and the transmission.  It was now time to look for another car…