After a lifetime of admiring people with with mechanical ability, the so-called “car guys”, I finally decided that maybe, just maybe, I could join their oil-stained ranks. I’m vaguely handy. I’m an adult. I have a house and a driveway and some tools. I could do this! All that was left was to buy a car. But which one?
Choosing a Project Car
Every car-guy (or gal) I’ve ever met has had a “thing” when it came to what sort of cars they liked to work on. Some liked muscle. Others preferred performance. Some just liked the look of certain types of cars. I didn’t have a huge predilection in any of those directions. My initial thoughts went back to my own first car – a 1981 Chrysler LeBaron sedan – that I had bought when I was merely 17. It was a bloated, inefficient pile of carbureted garbage on wheels, but I loved it and thought it would be neat to have one like it again. However I seemed to be one of the only people who felt that way towards these cars it because I couldn’t find one anywhere, at least not one that hadn’t already been souped up and/or customized. Ditto for my other long-time car love, the Ford Galaxie 500.
Next I looked at some of the more interesting compact cars of the 60s and 70s. Think the Ford Falcon and Dodge Dart. They looked cool in a mid-century kind of way, all swept lines and chrome. I figured that since the technology was relative old and computer-less it might be easier to work with. Mind you, I had (and still have) no idea if this is actually true but it seemed a reasonable assumption at the time. In the end it didn’t really matter as those sorts of cars turned out to be relatively rare yet popular enough to make them both hard to find and expensive.
What To Do?
I was starting to realize that I needed to find a car that wasn’t too old, rare, or popular, or at least a good balance of those things. Then it hit me… a Volvo 240! It punched all my important buttons. It was aesthetically distinct, well engineered, relatively easy to find, and had a big community of enthusiasts to join. Much has been written about the legend of the Volvo 200 series of cars, so I won’t bother to repeat it here. I was very aware of how well known the 200s (especially the 240s) were for dependability and functionality, and for a dork like me those two attributes are sheer poetry. I knew immediately that a Volvo 240 wagon had been the answer I was looking for all along. So on to Craigslist I went. Luck was on my finally on my side for at that exact moment there was a 1992 240 wagon for sale just a few miles away. I contacted the seller and, long story short, after some negotiation over the course of a week I managed to reach a deal for under $1000! I now had a busted old car in need of some love and was officially on my way to being an amateur mechanic.
The car was in what I’d call “rough but drivable condition”. Many of the interior pieces, such as the e-brake cover, the door pockets, and so on had been damaged or just outright smashed at some time during the car’s 26 year lifespan. Mechanically, save for a several of the door latches not working, the windshield wipers being a bit touchy, the AC broken, the alignment pulling sharply to the right, and a few other things everything seemed to be in relatively OK shape. There was certainly much work to be done, but that was why I bought the car, right?
So, it all starts here. I’ll do my best to record the process and share the ups and downs of fixing and maybe some day even improving this car with the world. Wish me luck.