As I sit here, stopped in traffic with my clutch foot about to fucking explode from depressing the pedal to the floor for the 4,700th time in the last ten minutes, I stare blankly out at the bland giant metal snake in front of me that stretches all the way from the end of my hood to the distant horizon. It’s nothing but a massive line of indistinguishable cookie cutter cars and SUV’s that are all painted either black, white or silver. Every day, I am forced against my will into the most boring conga line I’ve ever been a part of. Tensions and tempers begin to rise just like the summer heat that is radiating upwards from the asphalt. The asshole next to you begins to bump his shitty bass music, even though the only thing anyone within earshot can make out is his fucking license plate rattling. Yes, this man is indeed a true audiophile. In case this introductory paragraph wasn’t obvious enough of a clue, I fucking hate being stuck in traffic, especially since there’s nothing interesting at all to look at, and it requires the left calf strength of a ninja turtle to fight my way through this hot mess. My daily commute home makes me really regret not splurging the extra hundred bucks for a car with an automatic transmission.
Holy shit man, when did we all get so fucking boring? By the looks of it, it would seem that America’s car dealerships are emulating an eastern bloc dystopia and we only have the choice of three different vehicles. My bright blue car stands out from this pack, even though it is a mass-produced car that I have been driving across the country for the better part of the last seven years. But my vanilla choice in my current automobile preference stems from a brutal hangover from my previous car.
I owned a car that was extremely unique, stunningly beautiful, and rarely seen on the roads – even ten years ago. I loved all the attention I got from this car. I loved the raw natural aspirated power of the 3.3 V6 and all the wood paneled everything. But beyond that, I can’t lie: everything else about that car was pretty fucking terrible.
I owned a motherfuckin’ Subaru SVX – You know, that space-age wedge inspired car with those wacky 1/2 window things!
As a quick disclaimer, please note that I’m not trying to dissuade you from finally pulling the trigger on picking up the that classic/twenty year old car of your dreams. But, if you are planning on driving it around daily, I’d just like you to be aware of a few irritating nuances that I’ve picked up from my own personal experiences…
5. Something Will Go Wrong, Every Day
“Classic” cars, especially the ones from the 90’s are finely tuned, specialized machines that were only really designed to last around 6 years, tops. Once those six years are up and the warranty evaporates, your muscular chariot becomes a withering pumpkin with a self-destructing timing belt ready to give out at any possible moment. I loved commuting to work every day in my SVX, but the amount of daily mileage seemed to wake up all the gremlins underneath the hood and really put them in a foul mood. The valve cover gaskets went bad (on both sides), so oil started to spray directly onto the hot exhaust plenum, and I was encompassed in a thick cloud of gross smelling smoke everywhere I went. As long as the car was moving, it wasn’t too terrible, but whenever I was stopped it quickly became very embarrassing. I would do everything I could to keep the car moving, in order to avoid the laughs at my expense. It was nice that I never had to technically get an oil change, since I was adding two quarts of oil a week, but going through all those cases of oil was a hassle for both me and not a very nice thing to do to Mother Earth.
The ignition would just randomly quit working, stranding me at the worst possible times, forcing me to rip the entire steering column apart on the fly. I would eventually get the motor to turn over by jiggling wires until contact was made, but this means I also had to drive home with the ignition column sitting in my lap like some sort of hoodlum. I am just really grateful that I was never pulled over after one of my emergency online hotwire fiascos.
Have you ever gotten a flat tire in a full-time AWD car? Well, if you haven’t, it just means that you have the joy of getting to buy 4 brand new tires so the tire wear (and differential spin) remain equal. I loved the car, but after a while, we started having some serious trust issues. Having to stick to a strict 20 mile travel radius as a precaution really limited the scope of my freedom.
A unique car is not a great choice if you lack patience and understanding, or don’t have towing included on your insurance.
4. There Will Be Plenty Of Derision From Others
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and even if you think your car is beautiful, that may not be the same consensus of the general public. The SVX is a Japanese luxury touring car that was infused with some modernized Italian design touches (most obvious of course were those crazy windows), which made it stand out from the yawning pedestrian pack of Corollas, Accords, and Tahoes. My SVX was a two tone, which reminded me of my beloved Eagle Talon TSI that came to an unfortunate end. I loved taking tons of photos of my car, since I thought it was gorgeous. I had no idea that everybody else considers the SVX to be the Quasimodo of the car world, that is, until a co-worker pulled me aside as we walked through the parking lot…
“Ben, you a good guy” he assured me
“Okay… You’re a cool fella too, I guess”. I replied
“But your car….so ugly! UHH-GLLEEEE! OOOH-GLEEE”
“Umm, thanks?” I said, with a look of confusion. “Your sweet Ford Ranger must definitely get all the chicks, I suppose.”
That was the first time anyone had ever cut me down for my wheels, and it was a really weird to be insulted for my car. I really never understood this point of view, since my car’s unique look wowed me each and every day.
Fast food employees will hate you too, since they have to hand you your extra large Coke at a dangerous 70 degree tilt in order to fit it through that tiny little side window. Everyone in line behind you will also be full of anger and will be mildly hallucinating from breathing in all those delicious burnt oil fumes for the last ten minutes.
Haters gonna hate.
3. It’s Exceptionally Difficult to Do the Even the Most Basic of Maintenance
In the 90’s, manufacturers were trying to squeeze as much horsepower out of aluminum based powerplants as they could, all while working around the limitations of ever-increasing emission restrictions. Pop the hood of any 90’s car, and you might as well be staring inside the access panel of the Space Shuttle. Not a single square inch of space in there is wasted, which means that replacing the air filter requires half a day’s worth of free time and and a detailed instruction manual for removing 13 other components in order to get to it.
While most people shrug at this aspect of classic ownership and decide that they would rather just take their vehicle to Grease Monkey every time something feels “off”, this might not be the best answer. This is a bad strategy since:
1) Grease Monkey can’t be trusted to fill your wiper fluid, and
2) These cars run differently for each day of the week, and you are just gonna get bled dry every time for expensive procedures that are nothing more than a guess.
This may come as a shocker, but your car WILL break down a lot more than you’d like it to, and you’re going to be spending plenty of time under that hood with a confused look on your face. The more you can familiarize yourself with the steampunk inspired mess of gears, springs and hoses, the better you will be for attempting to figure out what is happening. Change that oil! Top off those fluids! Make an attempt to replace the spark plugs! That is, unless it’s an SVX, because boxer motors are mounted 1/8″ away from the body frame, meaning you are gonna end up leaving two of the old ones in there because fuck this shit.
Get really good at “listening” to your car. The more you can diagnose on your own, the better because…
2. ODB1 is Trash
Today’s cars have it so good. You can plug an interface directly into the main wiring harness (located up underneath the ignition) and you have clear and direct access to everything that is going on with your vehicle. Every single component in your car has a sensor that is routed directly to the onboard computer, and all faults (even previously repaired ones) are accessible. If your car is feeling depressed, these interfaces will let you know all about it.
,,,,but if you bought an older car that was sold before January 1, 1996, any hope for troubleshooting is not gonna be easy for you. While OBD2 tells you the deficiency in basic English, OBD1 also tells you what’s going on, but it’s in reverse Klingon Morse Code. And it’s not gonna spell anything obvious out, because it’s all blink codes specific to your car’s make and model, and you may or may not have to sink an enemy sub to get the coding machine to decipher this mess. If that’s not annoying enough, the possibility of misinterpreting any of these by an ill-timed blink or two is can end up being an expensive mistake, if you replaced a catalytic converter because you read the blinking “tighten spark plug on cylinder 2” code wrong.
Better get some paint to cover up that “Check Engine” light that’s going to be illuminated at all times.
1.Replacement Parts are a Nightmare
So you have just bought your dream car, and now you are starting to discover all the questionable repairs that have been done by other morons over the last two decades. You are more than guaranteed to find some really stupid shit. The previous owner of my SVX had literally ripped out both of the sunshades in a fit of hatred towards the idea of driving comfortably. Initially, I didn’t consider this idiotic modification to be a dealbreaker, until I realized my daily commute is west to east in the morning, and east to west at night. My car was pretty much undrivable unless I had sunglasses on hand at all times, and even then, my eyeballs were getting those little permanent “sun lines” burned into them. I tried to hunt for replacement sun visors online, and I could only find a passenger side one that retailed for over $300.00. Thanks for your bitchin’ modification work, dickhead.
And that wasn’t even the worst of it! While the most basic of parts were a little pricier than normal cars, and stuff you wouldn’t even think were custom totally were anomalies. This particular car had more than it’s fair share of annoying electrical problems, and eventually it started shredding multiple fuses in the motor bay fusebox. This set of fuses mostly run the outside components like the lights, blinkers, signals, and battery relays and crap like that. Fuses aren’t anything special, unless they are fuses on a SVX, which has fuses that aren’t carried anywhere inside this country. I found a few replacement ones online, but I wasn’t entirely sure if they were the correct voltage, or if they’d even work. At $60 a fuse (with a two month shipping time), prideful ownership of this vehicle finally started to seem insane to me. I ended up ignoring the root of the problem (what was causing the fuses to trip) and instead just fashioned my own fuses I called “wires”. I finally got everything working again for the most part, and everything seemed good.
That is, until I pulled into my street a few weeks later and the rear transaxle shaft broke in half. I couldn’t find a replacement one anywhere, and I my only real option was buying another SVX and graverobbing parts off of it (starting with the fucking sun visors!).
By that point, there were too many negative problems to warrant keeping both it and a second donor car, so I hastily sold it on craigslist with the heading of “SVX- just needs a little TLC”. I think I advertised it as once belonging to a rapper named “2Junk” and his favorite activity was melting his eyeballs into goo as he drove towards the general direction of the sun.
The price gauging and scarcity of parts is by far the worst part of owning a unique classic car.
My SVX was a POS, but here’s a list of Tehben.com’s top 5 favorite unique cars
1.First Gen DSM Talon/Eclipse/Lazer
2. Mitsubishi Starion
3. Mustang II Cobra II
4. Chevrolet Citation
5. Subaru XT Coupe “Da Wedge”
Teh Ben is an entry-level mechanic, and if he agrees to “fix” anything on your vehicle, make sure you get something in writing beforehand. He’s still getting the hang of blinker fluid changes, so please be patient. While you’re waiting, you can visit him on other corners of the internet via his propaganda platform, his tribute to grilled cheese or subscribe to his confrontational YouTube channel!