Needing to scratch an unyielding automotive itch, in my experience, can be fun, or a nightmare. Having tired of my ’93 Caravan, I was on the hunt for another car. The Caravan had been reliable and nicely equipped, so at the top of my list was another Chrysler product. Stopping to look at this Spirit for sale on the side of the road ended up offering an interesting option.
I looked at the car, and it looked to be in good shape. No rust visible on the body, and the interior was in fine shape. The owner came to the door and explained that the car had an oil burning problem, and was priced accordingly. I negotiated him down to $600, and the car was mine.
The car started and ran well, and pulled along OK. The engine, a 2.5, had the normal amount of wrist pin noise for one of these. It had an automatic transmission, and the full gauge package. No air conditioning or other frills, though. The first trip to Halifax showed how bad the oil consumption issue was – about 300 KM into the 400 KM trip the oil lamp started flickering on a cloverleaf exit. The oil was topped up with 3 litres of oil, and continued on. At the time, early 2003, there was a company in Western Canada that offered cheap engine rebuild kits. I bought one, and on my next scheduled week off, I tore into the engine. I found that the oil control rings were varnished into their gaps. A hone and a bore, and one balance shaft delete later, and it was all set to go. It worked the same, honestly, but would now use a litre of oil between every 5K oil change.
In my own humble opinion, these were some of the best cars Chrysler made in that time. They drove solidly and quietly, were nicely laid out, and comfortable to boot. All the instruments you’d ever need in a logical layout, even in a basic car. They seemed to go for a long time before they’d wear out. They weren’t as modern-looking and swoopy like a Corsica or Tempo, but they were built like a tank. It was a whole lot nicer than my Beretta. The 2.5 would deliver about 30 MPG, and never failed to start, either.
The car served me well commuting back and forth from Halifax to home on breaks in my work schedule. On one break, I met my parents and their friends from Newfoundland in Moncton for the Atlantic National Car Show. The car didn’t fit in with the other cars there, but it did run with its usual aplomb.
All in all, it gave me about a year and a half of trouble-free motoring. A co-worker offered me a great deal on a car that I couldn’t turn up, so I sold it to a young guy looking for cheap reliable wheels – and it was certainly that. It wasn’t flashy, fast, or fun…but it was perfect as an honest car. I suppose in spirit it wasn’t anything less than a modern Valiant.