04/19/2005: "man in the bright white sports car"
Way back I mentioned the possibility that I'd be the uncommonly fortunate recipient of a free car. My wife's friend is having twins, and thus her university-era runabout no longer fits in her life. Sad for her, bonus for me. I recently got to finally see the vehicle, and I was simply stunned.
For a 1984 VW Cabrio that was her vehicle for the past near-decade, I was expecting very little. I expected boatloads of rust, mistmatched and worn tires, a brain-dead electrical system, and possibly even severe structural problems that might limit my ability to rehabilitate the vehicle to a driveable standard. Well, late last week I had the very pleasant surprise of discovering that this 20+ year old, multi-owner vehicle is actually in astoundingly good shape.
First, there is a shocking lack of rust visible on this vehicle. Yes, there is some rust forming around the fenders, and the trunk lid has one through-hole in it that might be difficult to patch. Other than that, the body is in very good condition. I didn't look closely, but on my initial walk-around I didn't see any dings, dents, scratches, bullet holes, or even horrendously faded or chipped paint. My only dismay is that the car is white, which pretty much means it will never be clean, but if I'm going to have this vehicle, it will likely take on another colour in the future.
Due to the lack of in-depth discussion with my benefactor, I also thought that the car would be in running order, but only barely. Instead, it seems to be working quite well. It is currently being stored under a tarp outside, and has been there for the past 5 months. Once we cleared the tarp off it, it started right up, and within a minute or so stopped smelling funny and was idling quite smoothly. Of course, I'll change the oil, give it new plugs and a new air filter, and possibly flush the rad, but in the meantime there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it mechanically that a good drive to get everything up to temperature and well-lubricated won't fix.
There are other positive points too. The car suffered a knife attack on its roof back in 2000, which means it's sporting a new (afternarket) roof that is relatively new. It's got what I assume to be aftermarket fender flares, which are kind of neat, and work very well with the wide VW alloy rims that it's got on. The engine is a recent rebuild, the transmission is newer, and the clutch was replaced not too long ago. All in all, I'm quite happy with it.
Of course, it's not without some downsides. The interior (white, to match the paint and the roof) is somewhat dingy and aged, with the driver's seat sporting a nice hole in the middle of it. I might get to try my hand at re-upholstering seats. The spedometer doesn't work, which it will need to before I can get it safetied. As it doesn't work, and hasn't for a while, I don't really know how many miles are on this vehicle - it's currently stuck at 118000, and doesn't budge. (And yes, it's in miles, not kilometres.) Likely I'll simply have to swap in a used one from the wreckers. Hopefully I'll get a metric one.
So, all told, this project looks like it's a go. With insurance coming in at well under $600 annually, I don't see how we can really pass up a second vehicle. It will very positively affect what kind of overtime I can work, and where I can work as well, which more than pays for the car. The only questions left are how much to fix the spedometer, and if there are any other issues that need to be addressed before it can be safetied. At least it doesn't have to pass an emissions test, as it's over 20 years old.
I've been told by a knowledgeable source that I can get a good VW diesel engine for between $300 and $500, and that a swap will take only a weekend. I'm not going to do any such thing this year, but you'd better believe that I'll be planning for it soon.