The absurd cost of a tank of gas has put me off random drive-arounds, and except for a quick trip in the G to a reunion of friends in Daytona Beach (one of whom is now driving a new Saleen Mustang), my cars stay in the neighborhood and sit in the garage. I start them up from time to time to keep their batteries charged and I dust them off weekly.
I have too much time on my hands, and when it comes to boredom I drift into ennui. I think deeply about random things, and before I know it, it’s tomorrow. Yesterday I thought about all the cars I’ve had, and then I thought about the really crappy cars that showed up in the mix. Then I thought I’d write about them.
I’ve had maybe 25 different cars, a Jeep and one truck. Of that bunch, most were good cars–some were great–but the Natural Laws conspired to deliver to me a few really BAD cars, things I wished I’d never gotten then found myself stuck with, with no way out.
Some were Japanese cars, some were limousines, one was a desirable British Sports car, but they were horrible cars, things I wouldn’t wish on Bin Laden’s driver.
There was a ’92 300ZX, a terrible example of what was once Nissan’s flagship. There was a ’93 Supra that puts the lie to Toyota’s vaunted reliability–and then there was the Caddy. “The Green Piece of Chit” (sp).
When my family gathers into their little Holiday covens and the subject turns to the cars we have all had, the hilarity meter rises to the red zone as they mock the “Green Piece of Chit” (sp)–and its hapless owner. It has become an annual ritual. The laughter is all about my 1978 Cadillac ElDorado Biarritz, the one with the stainless steel roof and a hood the size of a tennis court.
The worst of the worst of ANY car I have ever had, bar none, was the GPOS (sp). After the smash-and-run that destroyed my restored Datsun 610 I desperately needed a ride, so I took some $2, 000 cash out to a farmer in the Hillsborough County Outback and bought me a five-year-old Caddy. Green-on-green, 50,000 miles, leathered out, looked and sounded good. Even had an 8-track. . .
“Wife’s car. She don’t drive nomore”, he offered. A deal, it seemed for a halo car like the LD. I never saw it coming. . . (Except for a Ford LTD I had never owned a large car before–my biggest ride until the unfortunate day I forked over actual cash for the Cadillac was my ’67 Firebird. Most everyone was really surprised when I deviated from my normal sporty cars to a huge barge of a car, but I never had a front-wheel drive car and I had never had a Caddy. Never will again, either).
The Worst Car You Ever Owned
The troubles began immediately. All puffed-up and prideful of my car, I did what every new owner does–I parked it beneath a big tree– for shade from the hot Florida sun– brought out the paste wax and beer and went about making my new car shine. As I wiped the dry cloth across the haze of wax on the huge green hood, I saw to my horror that my rag was coming up–GREEN!!!–and my hubris began deflating. As I waxed, I was removing the freakin’ paint!!! Then I couldn’t get the remaining streaked wax coating off the paint, no matter what I tried. It stayed like that forevermore, a swirly-green badge of hazy humiliation.
Dismayed, I proceeded to gloom myself out even more when I discovered a few of the LD’s secrets. Like it didn’t have a heater core. . . There was no floor to the glove box. . .the sunroof doesn’t always close. . . Like it gets around 12 miles to the gallon. . . Like the back seat actually has less room than my miniature 610 (which got about 30 MPG). . . and I didn’t own 8-tracks anymore.
I took it out to the farmer the next day, begging him to take it back, but he was having none of that. “Deal’s a deal”, he announced, after noticing the cloudy swirls on the hood. I slunk away, stuck with a piece of crap I already didn’t like. . .
When the Feds mandated safety bumpers in the mid-’70s, GM’s answer to the question nobody ever thought to ask was to extend the front and rears of their cars, bolt in some battering rams behind the bumper and blend the whole thing into the bodywork by filling the extensions with plastic covers. This satisfied the Feds and caused most American cars to grow a few hundred pounds and lengthen 4-6 inches. The ElDorado had these caps on both sides of the fenders, front and rear. It was a long car. The extensions were painted green and they blended right in with the body. They had also been sitting in the endless Florida sun for five years, and were baked as dry as cardboard. But I didn’t know that–yet.
A few weeks after I put the car on the road, I was driving down I-275 in Tampa, in the rain, when I noticed that a lot of thick green leaves were spattering on the car. Leaves, out here on the concrete slab, no trees nearby??? That’s when I had a thought that only a few people on the Planet ever had, or will have in The Future–“Hey–the green stuff isn’t LEAVES–it’s my damn CAR”!!! Yep, the plastic extensions were peeling away and the Caddy was disintegrating before my eyes. This left a 6-inch gap on the car’s front end, a neat counterpoint to the crummy hood.
Later, I drove over a railroad crossing and the expansive windshield suddenly grew a 10-inch lateral crack. Then, one of the hoodlums in my apartment complex thought an ElDorado emblem would make some cool bling, so he stole it and is probably STILL wearing it around his neck. Another time, the serpentine fan belt broke, hanging me up in heavy traffic with no steering or brakes, so to speak. When the belt broke, all mechanical assists–power steering, power brakes, A/C , etc–vanished, making me have to muscle a 6,000-pound barge that won’t stop down a suddenly-scary road. Then the radiator blew.
People stopped riding around with me, and I couldn’t fault them. I was driving an actual piece of chit (sp), a junker that was destroying my wallet AND my credibility.
After I got all the stuff above fixed, the electrics began to play their evil tricks. The windows would suddenly quit, or not work at all. The sunroof stuck open for awhile, forcing me to buy huge quantities of duct tape and garbage bags. (I live in Florida, where it rains everyday. . . especially if you own an ElDorado). The A/C worked when it felt like it, and when it rained the car was undriveable. The cracked windshield would fog up, and since it didn’t have a heater, well, there was no defroster to keep the glass clean. Duct tape would peel away and the garbage bags would flap in the wind, like loose jib sheets on a floundering sailboat as rainwater pounded in through the hole in the roof. I began buying bath towels and paper towels in quantity.
The “brain” had an embolism while I was 150 miles from home, on a distant country road in the rain, at night. The Caddy just quit, like that, and I was suddenly facing an epic struggle. After it got it’s transplant grafted back in–$400, plus four days of away-from-home expense–I began hearing a quiet ticking coming from the transaxle, and before I could put together what was happening, the front end gave out, costing me $600!!!
Now I was pissed.
I gave the car one last chance–screw it up and we are over. A few days later, as I pulled into a parking place at work, the brakes (which up until now had never been a problem), suddenly began to shudder violently–and began NOT stopping, like they should be doing–and emitting huge clouds of smelly smoke.
That was it.
I shoved the Caddy into PARK and I put my foot to the floor. “DIE, YOU BASTARD–DIE DIE DIE”, I shouted as all 200 horses came alive, then galloped over the cliff. As they gathered momentum–the sound actually drowned out the music in the 8-track–the motor stressed, began screaming like a room full of tortured tigers, blew vitals and reached the edge. I looked up, hoarse from MY screams and vile curses, and saw the windows of my company filled with curious co-workers, certain that they were watching an actual madman at work. I did not care. I had to kill the beast. The radiator blew. I kept my foot to the floor.
Finally, with a distant “PING”, the block gave out and the roar ceased. The Eldo lay smoking, silently barfing fluids of many colors as the engine block slowly ticked and contracted.
It was dead.
I killed the car.
Amazingly, there was enough left in the Caddy to get it a few miles to a dealer and trade it off, which is what I did the next day. I got a ’79 280ZX 2+2, a car I grew to love. On that day it became my all-time favorite car (until I got my 350Z). I drove it to 160,000 with nary a problem. I was back where I belonged. The Dealer didn’t care that the LD was dying, and he gave me $1200 for it towards the Z-car.
I had owned the ElDorado for seven months, my shortest car ownership ever. It had never stopped costing me money–big money, mostly–and it had left me stranded one too many times. Two weeks after I got it I couldn’t WAIT for it to be gone. Finally, it passed from my life, leaving me with undying, bitter memories of the “Green Piece of Chit”. (sp).
That was my worst. What was (is) yours???
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