When the Toyota pickup died I decided that I was ready to buy a new car. Anticipating that we would (hopefully) soon be starting a family my then fiancée suggested that this would probably be my last chance to buy a “fun” car. I looked at several different coupes and then took her to test drive my top three choices, the Honda Civic, the Acura Integra and the Eagle Talon since I wanted to buy a car that either one of us could drive. A tilt/telescoping steering wheel was essential. My heights in my torso, her heights in her legs. Consequently she sits further from the dash.
The Honda Civic & the Acura Integra sold in the states were not badge twins but shared the same driveline and many components. The Eagle Talon was a badge twin of the Mitsubishi Eclipse and substantially less expensive. My brother had bought a Gen 1 Eagle Talon TSi when he sold me the pickup. That did not persuade me to avoid the Talon, but I did opt for the ESi (front wheel drive and no turbo as opposed to AWD with a turbo on the TSi). Mine was well equipped and included the sunroof that my fiancée wanted. It had a very competent 5 speed manual transmission and a 16 valve DOHC 4 cylinder engine
Photo Credit https://www.driveandreview.com/review-1996-eagle-talon-tsi/
This turned out to be a very economical car. Fueleconomy.gov rates the Talon at 19 city, 29 highway in the configuration I owned. I kept a mileage log through 229,619 miles. At that point I was running at a lifetime average of 31.355 miles / gallon. A lot of those miles were highway miles on cruise control at the speed limit. I’m a bit of a hyper miler. I’ve exceeded the EPA sticker with all of my daily drivers. It was also a fun car and I managed to avoid many of the common issues that these cars were prone to. Many of the engines in this generation of Eagle Talon failed at less than 100,000 miles. I’ve always been diligent about routine maintenance (excluding care of the exterior finish as can be seen in the photo above).
The clutch failed just past 50,000 miles. I replaced it (using the lift in a friends gas station) with the upsized improved clutch that the 1997 models came with and replaced the timing belt twice. The first time just past the recommended 90,000 mile interval (at 90,132 miles). The second time at 163,818 miles (a little early but I needed a new water pump and the timing belt had to come off to replace the water pump). The other major repair was a head job in June 2006 just shy of 134,000 miles. The head job was the result of an overheating incident back in July 2000 at around 76,000 miles where I’d warped the head. It wasn’t bad at first but nearly 60,000 miles later the oil leakage was starting to increase and I was hoping to get a couple more years out of the car.
I considered buying a new car and went so far as to test drive both a $15,000 Honda Civic and a Toyota Prius. My back of the envelop math at the time said that if gas averaged $5/gal for 100,000 miles the ownership & operating cost of the Civic would match the ownership cost of the Prius. I figured that if I could get another couple of years out of the Talon I’d come out ahead. In the end the Talon survived until May 2014 and 246,969 miles. The $1900 head job was money well spent.
As can be seen in the pictures below that I found on the web at https://www.driveandreview.com/review-1996-eagle-talon-tsi/. It’s a good looking car. Per his blog post he only kept his car for about 18 months and 16,500 miles.,
I expected the Talon to be my forever car, but did hedge my bet by buying it’s eventual replacement on Mar 32nd, 2013 (not a typo, the date will be explained in chapter 18). I ended up owning my Talon just under 17 years in four cities. I bought it in Houston in 1996, drove it to Baltimore in 2000 when I moved there, moved again to the Wynnewood, PA (just outside Philadelphia) in 2003, brought it back to Houston in 2004 when I started a new job and then moved to Bellaire, TX (still basically Houston) when I went to work for NASA in 2006 and my family moved back to Texas. The overheating incident was on the trip to Baltimore transporting our two cats when the upper radiator hose failed.
In addition to the cross country moves I made several multi day trips of 1000 miles or more, but most of the miles I put on the car were commuting. While living in Baltimore I had a 120 mile round trip commute 3 days a week. In Houston from July 2006 through May 2014 my daily commute (5 days a week) was 70 miles round trip. Approaching a quarter million miles I still found it comfortable, even for longer trips.
In February 2014 I was taking my son to a scout meeting when a pickup truck backed out of a driveway into the right side of my Talon. My son was sitting in the front passenger seat. It was a low speed collision and no one was injured.
Right Side Damage
I took the car to my mechanic / body shop two days later to get it inspected. As bad as it looks the damage was all cosmetic. The door still latched and locked. The axle was untouched. With a fresh safety inspection I kept driving it while the other drivers insurance processed the claim.
I wanted to keep the car and repair it. The insurance company was insistent that I’d need a salvage title. The Texas Vehicle Code explicitly states that a salvage motor vehicle is one that has damage to a major component part (such as a door or fender) to the extent that the cost of repairs, including parts and labor other than the cost of materials and labor for repainting the motor vehicle and excluding sales tax on the total cost of repairs exceeds the actual cash value of the motor vehicle immediately before the damage. The costs in their estimate that meet this definition were just over $700 less than their determination of the actual cash value. My body shops estimate was a couple hundred dollars more but still less than the actual cash value. After a several month argument they finally agreed (verbally) that I could keep possession of the car without obtaining a salvage title. Two days later the timing belt failed 🙁
For those of you unfamiliar with this motor it’s an interference motor. That’s a fancy way of saying that the pistons and valves share the same volume. When the pistons are at the top of their stroke the valves are closed. When the timing belt fails the pistons and valves collide. At best I had bent valves on this tired old motor that had greatly exceeded the average lifetime of it’s kin.
The donor vehicle that I was going to obtain the replacement door and fender skin from had a serviceable engine (its damage was on the left rear and almost mirrored mine). I didn’t have the time or space to perform the engine swap so I ended up stripping the easily resalable parts and scrapping the rest. The salvage yard paid me just a few dollars less than the insurance company retained for allowing me to retain possession. It took a couple of years but I eventually cleared about $1000 on the removed parts. The insurance proceeds were used to buy a tow vehicle (chapter 19) and 16′ tandem axle trailer.
I had forgotten all about this generation of Talon. I remember these under their Mitsubishi guise, but forgot that Eagle was around long enough to get past the original generation of the Talon.
You certainly got your money’s worth out of it. I think there is a mental/emotional transition phase of driving a car out of the “I bought it new and look how beautiful it still is” phase and into the “I bought it new but it has become a total beater” phase. That is a transition I am navigating right now with my Honda Fit. Still, there is some satisfaction when a car that doesn’t look great does everything you need it to do.
My son bought an almost identical Talon (same color but no sunroof) when he got out of the Navy in 1998. The few times I drove it, it was a blast…it felt very quick with the 5-speed. He kept it until he married and had my first grandson…it was traded for a more family-friendly Mazda Tribute.
Great story and account. Sad end to your Talon, after having kept and maintained it for an incredible number of miles! It just goes to show what regular and proper maintenance can do to prolong the life of the car. I also like the advanced math you used when determining whether to hold, fold, or move on to a Prius. I also think that many of us, when we find a car we really like, want to think there would be some way for us to keep it as a “forever car”.
A buddy of mine owned a Talon of this generation (also in Texas) and it was a really good car from everything I remember him telling me about it. We took a road trip in it which left me thinking I might have wanted one myself. It definitely seemed like a cut above my ’94 Ford Probe.
Like Joseph, I like the way you use maths to make a weighed decision about what car to use and for how long. I have been doing that for years, partly to convince myself I was not getting mad at driving old cars for a long period instead of new(er) cars with depreciation costs.
I recall riding with you once at NASA (Boeing) in your Talon. The only thing that I recall is how quickly you shifted gears! I guess that you did not want to waste a single revolution of the engine, that could be transferred to power to the drive wheels – as in hyper-mileage! HEEEE!
Well done. And I guess in the end it just didn’t want to get fixed? Funny how things like that happen sometimes; fate seems to just have its way.
I knew that I was living on borrowed time given the history of the 2nd gen Talon/Eclipse. That’s why I bought it’s replacement in the spring of 2013 🙂
229,619 miles in any car is commendable and a tribute to the driver/caretaker.
I’m sure there are good reasons to have interference engine designs, but to couple that with timing belts that have mileage limits that vary by manufacturer and that do not take into consideration the age of the belt itself, seems a bit inconsiderate to owners who may not know what the whole belt/mileage/age/interference dance is about.
And even if the drivers do know about this, they may forget as the years and miles pile up.
An interference engine is lighter and usually more responsive. It can also fit in a smaller engine compartment. It is certainly not less expensive to design or manufacture. I knew that I was getting close on the timing belt. I just didn’t want to make that investment without knowing that I could keep the car. In theory my belt should have last it a couple thousand miles longer.
Any modern car should easily last that long with proper maintenance. My Cherokee is showing just over 250,000 miles and is still going strong. It suffered a cracked head in June 2017 at just over 235,000 miles (design issue with the head on the 2000 & 2001 most of which didn’t make it 100,000 miles before cracking) and the transmission had to be rebuilt a few months later after the Jeep was flooded in Hurricane Harvey.
A 1995 Eagle Talon the same color as yours was the first and only new car I ever bought.
It was an ESi manual with a sunroof too. It was definitely a fun car to drive. I got 20 years out of it before I cooked the engine and had to say goodbye. I should have fixed the oil leaks.
The Talon is a nice-looking car. Good for you for getting so many miles out of it.
The insurance company need to “total” older cars with lots of miles on them is maddening, but a common issue. I’m going to guess that another thing not in your favor when your Talon was in that accident was the damage to the rear quarter panel. On a coupe like yours, that’s an expensive repair.
Most folks would have just accepted their offer and walked away. I was a tad bit emotionally attached. All 3 of my kids had expressed the expectation that they would learn to drive in that car.
The tables they use for valuation don’t account for mechanical condition. I guess most people care more about how the car looks.
The Civic and Integra are badge twins anywhere the Civic is an econobox, while the Integra has sporty intentions,
We dont have salvage titles what a weird concept when my Subaru was hit by a rolling truck and received minor damage to the bonnet and LF guard I claimed on the truck company’s insurance and took a cheque rather than the repair and just beat the dents out myself, I paid $450 for that car the repair quote was $560, Ive no idea of the cars market value it was old and worthless I sold it for $500 a few months later as a registered legally on the road car.