HOOPTY Gonzo Jan. 2010
A decrepit 94 Impala SS with a 5.7 liter engine was towed in. When this thing was new, it was a real power house. But, this poor thing had a pretty rough life. Terry, (My buddy the tow driver) was standing in the lobby with this grin on his face. I could tell he was about to give me one of his patented tall tales about this car.
"Gonz, you're going to like this one, nice car, a crème puff, oh, and the paint, awesome, just awesome... You'll have to put your gloves on before you start on this cherry ride. Wait till ya see this one," he tells me, while trying to keep a straight face.
"Really, how come I don't believe you," I said.
By now he couldn't stop from laughing, and then he tells me that on the way over the trunk lid pops open. He stopped to close it only to find out that the entire latch area was completely rotted away. The car was completely painted with flat black paint from a spray can. No door panels, broken trim inside and out, cracked glass, and a pillow in the driver seat to keep you from falling thru the seat. The car had a slight lean to one side as if a spring was broken or the shock towers were rusted thru. The outside mirrors are dangling off the doors, the wheels don't match, and there's a steady drip of oil from under the car. It's a real POS. (Your definition is sufficient; I don't need to explain that one I'm sure.)
It started, so I drove it into a service bay. The thing smelled awful and I'm not talking just the exhaust. All I was told was that it would die while driving and you would have to wait quite some time before it would start again. The service light was on, along with almost all the other warning lights. But as it was, I was only concerned with the service light and see if that led to any results.
Several codes were stored; I wrote them all down and then cleared the memory and restarted the car. 2 codes did return right away. One was for the secondary air system, that one was easy, the relay was missing. The other code (code 36) had to do with the distributor (High resolution circuit). I ran the test procedure to see where it led. One of tests required that the connector at the distributor needed to be disconnected to verify connection quality. The connector…. A … what connector? Someone had stabbed the 4 wires into the distributor housing and then used silicone to keep them in place. The entire distributor area was covered in oil. In fact, the oil was dripping out of a crack in the distributor cap. (How the H?LL did this thing even start?)
There's no sense in going any further, I priced out the obvious parts and called the customer. To say they were shocked would be an understatement. This distributor isn't cheap by a long shot on these 5.7's. But, what surprised me even more was what the owner told me.
He said, "The parts were new."
New? You've got to be kidding me. I needed to find out what this bailing wire commandos version of new was. There wasn't one new part on this heap. The crack in the distributor cap was large enough to actually be seen without getting that close to it. And, that's even with the distributor buried behind the waterpump and the harmonic balancer. You could see it plain as day.
"Where did you get them?"
"Salvage yard across town," he said.
"Then there not new, they're just new to the car," I told this POS captain.
"Well, they looked new when I took them off the wrecked car," he tells me.
Off a wrecked car, of course a wrecked car… right….I'll bet it's probably one that got smacked by a train right in the radiator too. It's not so much that this POS pilot used salvage yard parts, that's not what I'm concerned with. It's the amateurish way he installed the distributor wires and the fact that he wasn't concerned about this huge crack. But, as it always seems the case… money, or the lack of, is the real issue here. Now why is it, when you get a job in like this the very first thing that happens is the wallet starts to dictate the repair.
He wanted to know if he could get more parts from the salvage yard and if I would put them in. I don't like doing that, but to help the guy out I said I would work with him, a bit. But the big deal was that connector; he had to find a replacement. As far as he knew there wasn't another one at the salvage yard with a decent connector.
After talking to the dealership about the parts, they told me there was a replacement harness still available, however, it was revised from the original and most likely the connector would not match the older style distributor. So, it's not looking good for this guy.
When I told him what the labor costs would be just to replace the distributor and the rewire the connector, he had a big problem with that, he couldn't afford any of it. Then the wallet started talking again, now he wanted me to change only the distributor connector since the other parts were new. There's that word again… new… Yea, right it's new…. Let's leave the dripping oil filled distributor assembly bleeding all over the place. I'm sure that's exactly how it was designed to work. Must be one of those "total loss" oil systems from years gone by that I read about in the history books.
I think it's time this guy finds a new car. I'm sure if he drove, pushed, or pulled this heap of junk to the salvage yard the car would automatically find its own parking spot somewhere next to the rest of the worn out scrap wagons waiting for their final demise. It's just too far gone for any professional shop to tackle on this guy's income. Not that it couldn't be repaired and brought back to refurbished shape, just not on this guy's salary.
Sorry dude, I'm real sorry, but I can't work these kinds of miracles on a budget. The sad truth of it is, there are a lot of cars out there that are in just as bad of shape. Look around the next time you drive home you might even spot one of these "hoopties" driving down the road.
I feel pretty bad that even though I know how to fix it, I just can't fix it without spending a fortune on it, and maintain some professionalism to the finished product. I took some time to talk him, gave the young lad some fatherly advice on how to pick out a decent car and not get so wrapped up in his emotional attachment to this aging wanna-be hot rod. (He called it a hot rod… not me.)
I hope he takes my advice, and I hope he finds a decent cheap car that won't eat his pocketbook up in repairs. Because this car is done, put a fork in it… call the scrap yard and tell them, "Gotta another one for the crusher!"
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