Curbside Classic: 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity – A Celebration (and Diagnosis) of Rust

Rust? In Oregon? The land of the healing rains? Well, actually we do have a rust belt, but it’s very narrow; more like a Rust Ribbon. It hugs the Pacific Coast, and extends inland from the water line, somewhere from 100 yards to 1000 yards, more or less. That’s actually hard to pin down as local micro-climates—which are rampant on the West Coast—can substantially shrink or expand that.

But here’s a salty dog that’s lived just two or three blocks from the bay in Waldport, Oregon probably all or much of its life. And quite obviously the near perpetual salty fog and breezes have had their way with this Celebrity. Since we’ve celebrated Celebritys numerous times here,and spent so much extolling their many virtues, let’s just mainly focus on the rust, which presents itself quite differently than the cancer found in the true Rust Belt.  Time for a clinical analysis.

This is where I found the patient, and there’s the cause of its disease clearly visible in the back, the bay at Waldport. It lives here, as its elderly and sea-weathered owner came out of the house, which bears the faded sign of the “Copper Crab”. I suspect he was a fisherman or crabber in his working days.

We had just finished a delicious take out seafood dinner from the Salty Dawg, an old-school joint right on the dock. That’s the ocean just past the bridge.

Before we examine the patient, let’s confirm its identity: a 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity. By this time, the A-Body Celebrity was already a bit geriatric, the kind of basic, cheap, transportation one might expect an older or retired fisherman in Waldport would buy, although I would guess it probably started its life as a rental, as so many of its ilk did. Ah, happy memories of A-Body rentals. The problem was remembering which brand you were driving so you could find it again in a convention center parking lot.

This one is packing the 2.8 V6, blessed with fuel injection by then. A roarty and familiar motivator of so many rental cars over the years.

Let’s start our tour at the front; this is the leading edge of the hood. Note the two carcinomas: like so many of their kind, they appear to have been formed by salty condensation that eventually found its way to the end of the hood panel, and decided to go to work there. The exact details of the initial formation of salt air rustanoma is not always perfectly explainable, but the generalized pattern tends to follow the gravity-fed flow of salty condensation.

The “hood emblem” just above the carcinoma is well located, right where some cars might proudly wear a badge. In this case, it’s a lichen. Sorry, but I can’t identify the species. There’s a progression to them appearing too: fir (or other) pollen builds up an organic layer on cars that don’t get washed regularly, and that gives a toehold to lichens. Moss is next, and I’ve shown you some good examples of those in the past. Although out here on the coast, moss might not like the salty “soil”, and take a pass.

The roof shows an interesting pattern. My diagnosis is that salty condensation rolled forward on the gently sloping roof, and was dammed by the once-intact windshield weatherstripping. Once underway, the corrosive pool was blown back across the roof. I suspect that this Celebrity has spent a lot of time puttering around town at 20-30 mph, which would help support my thesis. Or I could be blowing smoke out my exhaust.

Here we see the roof rust from a different vantage point. The gray-black discoloring is from the pollen, as previously noted. It adheres, and then dirt and other organic debris adheres to it, and creates a certain admixture that becomes remarkably well adhered. It takes some powerful detergent and a Brillo pad (or equivalent) the remove it.

The black window frames and B pillar show fairly strong signs of surface oxidation, in a more uniform pattern.

Since we’re here, let’s move the probe closer to the window and examine the patient’s innards. Obviously the steel outer skin is acting as a sacrificial element to protect the vital insides from the carcinoma. Things look about as healthy in here as any 1989 Celebrity ever did, which is not saying much.

The setting sun created glare in my device, so it’s hard to judge just how well these innards have been preserved. But do we really want to know? I would be quite happy to never sit in a Celebrity again.

Let’s step back and to the rear. Yes, this is where the disease is most advanced. Diseases, actually.

There’s an interesting band of oxidized steel just below the rear window, which must have had inferior rust preventive measures than the rest of the body. And the trunk shows very advanced signs of organic “soil” development. Perhaps the patient spent much of its time in a too-short carport, with its tail sticking out?

The most fascinating developments of this disease are to be seen in the trunk lid’s rear vertical component. Here the maker’s plastichrome name plate is the only thing still intact. Fascinating.

The center area is also severely involved, and is actually shedding its skin, as can be seen by the detritus adhered to the bumper.

Which brings us back to the point of the beginning, and a perfect example of advanced sea salt cancer. My only hope is that the patient lives another ten years, so that we can come back and note the advancement if the disease. I’m not terribly optimistic of that, but these can be remarkably persistent patients.


Postscript:  Here’s a couple of shots and a video of our recent van trip to the northern Oregon Coast:

Hart Cove, Cascade Head, Oregon. A spectacular hike to a remote cape overlooking Hart Cove, where the fog lifted just as we arrived, affording stellar views. There’s a waterfall in a cleft in the rocks at the far left of the cove, but hard to see. Hence the name Cascade Head.

Harts’s Cove is around the rocks to the left. It was all totally fogged in until just as we arrived. Constant sound of sea lions on the rocks below, which really got the dog’s attention.

A short video of the fog lifting at Hart’s Cove.

A typical Oregon beach on a weekend in July. Social distancing comes easy out here.