1. Under the hood
“The best damn motor that GM ever made,” said Marion (my Hamtramck mechanic who’d been fixing cars since the ‘30s) when I first bought this ride from a friend seven years ago. Then there weren’t any liver spots of rust on the side panels and the power windows were still working great. But with a new fuel pump ($82), water pump ($112) and battery ($72), just call her Old Faithful on a cold winter morning.
2. Raggedy sun visors
Raggedy sun visors, especially on the driver’s side, make the view from the cockpit a little fuzzy (need to get some replacements at the junkyard). But like the radio that’s slowly fading (the cassette player stopped working a couple of years ago and only the rear speakers of the old system still kick out), the original visors are a time-capsule souvenir I can’t bring myself to part with. Besides, it’s cool when they gross out parking attendants.
3. Front seats
Front seats worn through to the sponge lining — I swear I’ll get some smooth new covers to go with those sun visors (yeah, right). Right up front is a box of multipurpose Kleenex on the floor: For wiping the fog off the inside of the side windows, the grime off the dash, the run-off from somebody’s nose, or any other fluids that happen to come along.
4. The back seat
The back seat on the passenger side has a protruding wire that I’ve clipped over and over again — each time after someone has torn pantyhose or slacks on it (followed by embarrassment and my profuse apologies). Lately, I seem to have it licked. The seats in this mastodon, front and back, are like living room sofas — roomy, comfy, perfect for a nap while waiting for the kids to get out of school, basketball practice or splat ball emporiums.
5. Red plastic gas can
A must for freeway emergencies (along with jumper cables mostly used to help newer cars get started). Here it’s propping the trunk open, since the lid won’t stay up anymore. Loading in bags at the market, I sometimes get a whack on the noggin when the can slips. Better not try this trick when unloading a spare, unless you’ve got a cell phone, flashlight and something to read until the cops get there.
6. And speaking of exhaust
These old wagons make up 20 percent of the road fleet, yet produce 80 percent of the passenger car pollution — so much for money-saving self-righteousness about no monthly payments. Well, at least it’s recycling, and if the engineering had been as ecology-conscious as it was durable (250,000 miles and counting), we’d really have something.
7. New rear bumper
The original rusted off a year ago, luckily not at 65 mph. Ted at the body shop tells me that the early-’80s Olds series was notorious for this problem. Other things that’ve fallen off: the Olds insignias covering the locks on the hub caps; numerous tailpipes and mufflers over the years, easily exhausting their “lifetime” warranties. But, hey, this is the Midwest — we like our roads with plenty of salt, don’t we?