Presidential limo: it’s huge!

Look at the new presidential limo:

Look at the Secret Service agents next to it. The window bottoms are almost to his shoulder!


The tire is taller than that Secre Service guy’s belt line!


The limo roof is taller than the agents! When’s the last time you’ve seen a car that’s taller than a full grown man?

The car is so huge, it’s almost grotesquely proportioned.

We have a WHAT?

In August, my ’97 Chevrolet Monte Carlo waned my fiscal conservatism. I must have looked at it wrong, as it came down with more problems. I already hate that car, a pathetic product of a union-starved, incompetently led corporation. It may have needed another intake manifold gasket replacement, more A/C work, and possible oil and crankshaft seal replacements.

Plus, kid #2 on the way is a convenient excuse…

You’ll be amazed: I don’t like SUVs. But now we have one. Here’s the logic:

Luggage taken on a 2 week trip with a 1 year old boy.
Luggage taken on a 2 week trip with a 1 year old boy.
  1. Wife wanted a larger vehicle but hates minivans. I’m OK with the “larger vehicle” part. The stuff pictured at right is everything we brought on a 2 week trip when our son was 1 year old. Yes, it fit in our ’02 Nissan Maxima, but barely. I can’t fathom how we could pack for 2 kids. We went back and forth on the minivan vs. SUV argument, but the SUV won both because of spousal preference and…
  2. Used SUVs are cheap! The price savings alone pays for several years worth of additional of gas.

After research and a few test drives, we focused on the 2006-2007 Honda Pilot. We didn’t go earlier than 2006 because only 4×4 models were available.

The dealers are idiots. None seemed to know how little their SUVs are worth. The “no pressure” dealers had exorbitant, barely-negotiable pricing. All of them lie, lie, lie.

2 weeks into the search, we checked the Acura MDX. While it’s the Pilot’s corporate cousin, it’s not the same sense as GM’s chicanery, where they took an Oldsmobile 98, tweaked the outside, slapped on leather seats and other doo-dads, and called it a Cadillac Fleetwood.

To our shock, Autotrader’s MDXes listed for less than the Pilot! HUH?

After a test drive and a couple more days of looking, Jennifer found a MDX for sale by a private owner. Pictures looked great, a VIN search checked out, etc.

Long story short, we met the guy on Monday, had it inspected, and by Thursday we were at his credit union buying it from him.

So here’s the new Cambre garage mate:

I still cannot believe that these are cheaper than Pilots, and I cannot believe the deal we got.

A while back, I told my wife I would never want a “luxury car.” It just didn’t feel right. Well, we have one now. It still doesn’t feel right, but the price was right!

Storm hits Plano. Both trees fall.

While our floors were being redone, I stayed with inlaws. (Hence the commuting piece.)

3:00 AM Thursday morning, an unusually severe storm hit Plano. The next morning, we found that my inlaws’ street had a lot of vegetation damage. Leaves and branches were everywhere.

The most stark damage was right next door where this medium-sized tree fell over:

My bedroom was on the corner of the house closest to this tree. I never heard it tip over, probably because of the pounding horizontal rain and the multiple lightning strikes each second.

Here’s what astounded me. Well after I drove away from their house, I saw this:

Yes, the wind turned my folding mirror against the car and pulled the mirror out! I have no idea how this happened; that mirror takes some force to move!

Fortunately, the inlaws found the mirror. It was on the pavement below the car. I am lucky I didn’t run it over!

The car is overdue for inspection, and this will unfortunately delay it further.

I hate my car

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.


Radiator replacement post-event fun

Even after replacing my Monte Carlo’s radiator two Saturdays ago, my cooling system still gave me trouble!

On the following Tuesday, a small coolant bypass line, which provides hot water to the intake manifold, split open, creating a smoking engine compartment and a nauseating smell of scorched coolant. I managed an emergency bypass line replacement that evening despite rain and a Boy Scout Commissioner Staff meeting.

If that wasn’t enough, my upper radiator hose cracked open 9 days later. This hose was all of 3½ years old (replaced during intake manifold replacement gasket event)! Does that say something about parts store hoses?

Fortunately, replacement was simple, especially thanks to a coworker letting me borrow a socket wrench set. (Why did I not have one in the car with me?) After an emergency hose replacement in the SMU parking garage, I hope the car is finally sealed up!