I have a hate/hate relationship with my 1997 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
It’s a former rental car, purchased for my wife in early 1998 from Hertz Car Sales with only 14,000 miles.
It became my “hand me down” in 2004 when we got my wife a 2002 Nissan Maxima after I wrecked my 1974 Chevrolet Nova.
This Monte Carlo has no character. I gives me no pride. It does little more than semi-reliably go to and from work.
Since 1998, this car has had all these problems:
- Gasket failure on high side A/C service port
- A/C compressor electrical feed failure
- Oil leaks everywhere (oil regularly changed)
- Noisy timing chain rattle when engine is cold
- Major intake manifold gasket coolant leak (yes, the coolant was changed before the regular service interval due to the next problem…)
- Water pump leak
- Master cylinder leak ($550 dealer only job)
- EGR failure (twice)
- Two alternator failures
- Heater core failure
- Radiator failure
- Heater bypass line failure (both lines)
- Gas regulator leak
- Flaky 4th gear torque converter clutch (trans fluid changed per manufacturer’s schedule)
- Driver’s side power window that doesn’t go up correctly without assistance
- Poorly fitting dash parts
- Cheap interior parts that break when a heavy guy leans on them (car was not even 2 years old at the time)
- Rearview mirror fell off
- Disentigrated controls on passenger’s A/C vent
- Handling worse than a Toyota Corolla
- 3.1L that only has 160 HP (!) and doesn’t do better than 24 MPG at 70 MPH
Despite all this, in an objective comparison with my Nova, it would win hands down except in the horsepower department. But my Nova had character and history. It was part of my self-identity, and it was my automotive passion.
This Monte Carlo is mediocrity. It was mediocre in 1997. Today it’s less than mediocre. It’s a token child of GM’s multi-decade malaise.
With my Nova, I wanted to fix everything. I’m embarrassed at how much I spent on it.
With the Monte Carlo, I don’t care. As long as it’s comfortable and safe, I don’t care. I don’t care that the SERVICE ENGINE SOON light has been on for months (it’s the EGR). I don’t care that the suspension is getting bouncy. I probably need to rotate the tires, but I don’t care. I haven’t washed it in 2 years.
I just don’t care.
Here’s where I am conflicted. This car almost always completely satisfies my transportation needs. It gets me where I want to go. It’s holding up better than some of my coworkers’ similarly-aged SUVs with fewer miles. It’s saving me a ton of money, especially compared to new car depreciation.
Why do I dislike something that does exactly what I need?
I’ve thought about this, and I may still be struggling with how I relate to cars. I used to have a car that was like an extension of me, of my personality, something I could take pride in. It was involuntarily taken away from me, and now this mediocre substitute is all I have.
I’m lusting after the 2006 Pontiac GTO (has to be manual transmission) and 2007 Honda Civic Si 4 door. But I know I cannot buy a passion. All they would represent is a poor financial choice: appreciating assets (investments) turned into depreciating assets (cars).
Oh, well. At least I can have “pride” in one thing: I practice the fiscal conservatism I preach.