(Ed. Note: Connor’s new COAL series starts today, please welcome him!) In the mid 2000’s Chevrolet attempted to “dress up” their line of trucks and SUV’s, markedly starting in 2007. Now, what GM or any auto maker didn’t know was a recession was coming for the U.S that would have an impact on gas guzzler sales. Prior to 2007, Americans loved their big, V8 mall shoppers, and my family was not immune to this love. For as far back as I can remember my dad always had a Tahoe or Suburban. I am not really sure why since I was an only child and it was just me and my parents driving around, but hey, I wasn’t paying the bills back then.
When I turned 16 my parents had a 2004 Volvo S40 which my mom drove every day (and refused to give up), a 2009 Mazda CX-7, and a 2007 Chevy Tahoe. Both my mom and dad had long commutes every day so they decided to get something with AWD but decent gas mileage, hence the Mazda purchase, and keep the Tahoe that my dad had driven for a few years. By this time the recession had hit hard across the U.S and gas prices were through the roof. My dad knew that I was going to start driving soon, so he used the Mazda for commuting and the plan was to let me drive the Tahoe the three miles to high school every day. I was naturally over the moon. I thought I would be the coolest kid at school with a Tahoe.
However, let me first explain my high school culture. I grew up in the Northwest corner of Arkansas, in a town called Bentonville. Bentonville was the birthplace of Sam Walton’s Walmart. Walmart requires all of its vendors that sell products in their stores to have an office within 50 miles of the Home Office. So, with that being said there is a tremendous amount of wealth in this small corner of the state, and it only keeps growing.
Kids at my school drove Mercedes, BMW’s, Lexus’s, and Audi’s. My Tahoe fit well into the vast landscape of upscale cars that parents somehow trusted their inexperienced, 16 year olds to drive. My parents were a little different though – my dad found the only occupation in NWA that didn’t involve Walmart and worked really hard for his money. If I did anything that put a scratch on that car, it would be gone, and I would be destined to the Volvo.
The Tahoe was black with a grey interior. It was the top of the line LTZ model, outfitted with the most plastic chrome one could buy at the time. My parents bought the car used from George Nunnally Chevrolet in Bentonville with a mere 20,000 miles on it. George just so happened to be my parents’ neighbor at the time, and I think cut my parents a good deal on this demo. It had just about every option at the time including navigation, back up camera, power trunk, and self leveling suspension. I can remember my dad not being so fond of the car, but couldn’t pass up the deal.
By the time my dad passed the car to me, it had upwards of 50,000 miles on it and was still used as our family car that we took on trips. I remember we took it to Arizona where my grandparents lived, San Antonio, the Grand Canyon, Washington DC, Buffalo, NY, and Canada. The DVD player in the back seat helped the time go by on many of these trips, and I can even remember plugging in my Xbox and playing a few games.
It was a very nice car to have as my first car and I was very fortunate to have it. I remember it being a massive feat for me to have to try and park, but once I got the hang of it I was a pro. It was great practice. It was fun to have all my friends pile into it since it had the third row seat and could fit up to 8, no problem. For me, I was just so happy to have a car I really wasn’t paying attention to the problems that were soon to become more frequent.
My dad still claims this was the worst car that he has ever owned. It gave us so many problems that he has not and will not own another GM product again. First, the little things – like the handle falling off the driver side door. Then once when we were on the way to Dallas to the auto show I felt a drip of water while we were driving in the rain. My dad looked up and the entire headliner was soaked with water, front to back. Somehow the rear hatch started to leak and since it was pouring outside the water just kept coming in with no way to stop it. The problem that really did the car in was when it started to consume oil. Now, I am not sure the direct cause of this issue, but I have read and talked to several 5.3 owners that said theirs did the same thing. It would not burn the oil or show visible signs of leaking. It would just consume fast and disappear. The 5.3 Vortec V8 that was placed in this car had a system that would deactivate 4 cylinders when you were coasting or not under acceleration. The thing that comes to mind with this is the Cadillac’s 4-6-8 system (no replacement for displacement, right?), but it ran fine unlike that motor. Just consumed oil like it was going out of style.
Somewhere around 80,000 miles and several trips to the dealer for them to do a dye test, they called me out to the car. One of the techs called me over to the front of the car where he said that the front struts were starting to leak. He asked me if I had hit anything that might have caused this premature wear. I told him I couldn’t recall anything, knowing full well what had happened. A few weeks prior I was driving through some tall grass out on a friend’s property, when a sudden jolt made me think the entire dash was going to fall down. I stopped and got out, observing that there was a trench in the field that had been dug, but because of the grass I couldn’t see it. I walked back to the car only to find the front bumper popped a few screws around the wheel well and was pushed up around the sides of the car. Having a minor panic attack, I popped everything back into place and it all seemed good as new. Once my dad was made aware of the leaking struts he threw the towel in with the car and told me to start looking for something I wanted to take with me to college. A car that would be all mine, without my parents name on the title. What he didn’t know about the Tahoe incident wouldn’t hurt him. Let the search begin.