Saturday, December 8, 2018

1988 Pontiac Fiero Mera - You Could Buy One New, But Why Would You?

Imagine that you're driving in a neighborhood you've never been in before. You look to your right and you see a gorgeous house. It just sticks in your brain. You really want a house that looks like that one. So you have one built. The problem is you don't have enough money to really build the house. You only have enough to have the exterior built. Once you walk inside there are no walls, only studs. There is no carpeting or tile, just a particle board floor. The are no sinks, just plumbing. You really don't have a nice house, just one that looks nice on the outside. 

That's kind of like this car...Technically, this is not a kit car. For a short time, the Mera - built by a Michigan company called Corporate Concepts - was available as a new car, sold through Pontiac dealers with a full GM warranty. GM didn't sanction the car, of course, but as one website put it, think of a conversion van.They are not sanctioned or built by the original manufacturer, but are sold through the dealers. Just 247 Meras were built before Ferrari sued and production was halted. All came with the Fiero V6 engines.

Depending on options, the Mera cost between $24,000 and $28,000. For that money you got a car that looked like a Ferrari 308, but ran like a Fiero.  

On the plus side, pretty much anything you need to keep your Mera running could be found at your local Auto Zone. That's something no Ferrari owner can claim.

I've never understood replica cars (of any type). I have never wanted to own one. But, if you do, this car is located in Rocky Mount, NC. click here to see the Facebook Marketplace ad.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

2004 Land Rover Freelander Soft Top - A Very Cool Vehicle. A Reliability Nightmare

Oh, man. I remember when these came out. I wanted one. Badly. I thought it would be the perfect car for me. A small, modestly priced Land Rover with a soft top. It would go through New England snow in the winter. It would offer open air motoring in the summer. What could be better?

I learned some lessons about buying a new car and depreciation when I was younger. I figured that I would wait a couple of years and buy one when they started coming off lease.

A couple of years went by and they started coming off lease. They also started coming off the road. The Freelander was quite possibly the most unreliable car ever sold in North America. I am so glad I didn't buy one.

The Freelander was introduced in 1997. Although BMW had purchased Land Rover in 1994, many of the Freelander parts came from older British Leyland products, most notably the Austin Maestro. It immediately sold well in Europe and for awhile was the best selling 4WD vehicle there.

The list of problems with the Freelander are almost endless. Engine problems? Yep. Lots of them. Transmission issues? Uh-huh. Brakes and suspension? You bet. Electrical problems? Of course. There is an entire forum on Edmunds.com dedicated to problems with the Freelander. It goes on for 5 pages. There was even talk of a class action suit, but I am not sure what became of it.

On the plus side - while you wouldn't want to take this Land Rover on a jungle safari - it did go through snow very well.

With many older cars the owners and the aftermarket come up with solutions to common problems. For the most part, that hasn't happened with the Freelander. Most Freelander owners - brave souls that they are - just seem to accept that certain things will fail on their vehicles. Over and over and over again.

To Land Rover's credit, the later Freelanders were better built. They were probably as reliable as a Sterling or 1980s / early 1990s Jaguars. Still, that’s an improvement over the early ones.

The Freelander was a brilliant idea. We were buying up RAV4s, CRVs, Suzuki Sidekicks, etc., as fast as the companies could build them. A small, semi-luxurious SUV with a soft top and the legendary Land Rover name would likely have been a huge hit, if only they were better built. (A 4 door was also available. It had all the same issues. If you're going to put up with all the Freelander's problems, go for the better looking, more fun 3 door soft top.)

This Freeland was "recently donated to a national charitable organization." Usually that means the owner realized it was worthless in trade and it had too many issues to sell outright.

Except for some rust on the right rocker panel, it looks to be in good condition. The seller claims to have road tested it and everything works fine. For now.

Despite everything I wrote above, seeing this one kind of makes want to own one. I just don't have the time, money and knowledge to maintain one. But, if you do, this would be a very cool, relatively obscure vehicle to cruise around in on a nice, warm summer night. Just make sure your AAA membership is paid up.

Located in Riverside, CA, click here to see the eBay listing.

Friday, November 30, 2018

1978 Alfa Romeo Alfetta / Sports Sedan - An Affordable Alfa

I have a soft spot for the Alfetta sedan. My first Alfa was an Alfetta sedan. I bought it in the early 1980s. It was a purple color, called "Prugna" by Alfa. When I bought it it had four silver doors. I repainted it the original color and it looked quite good.

That Alfetta sedan lead me to an Alfetta GT, then another Alfetta GT, then a new Milano and two Spiders. I haven't owned an Alfa in quite a few years. I guess I am a recovering Alfaholic. But the temptation is always there.

In 1978 Alfa did a makeover on the exterior and interior of the Alfetta sedan. In the U.S. they changed the name to "Sports Sedan."

It was certainly not the fastest sedan you could buy (0-60 MPH took 11 seconds), but it handled incredibly well. The suspension was double wishbones and torsion bars in front. In the rear was the transaxle, inboard brakes, and a de Dion suspension. The Alfetta had nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

The Alfetta / Sports Sedan was, of course, not without faults. Rust was the major problem. They rusted anywhere and everywhere. The fuel injection system on all U.S. spec cars included a mechanical Spica injection pump. They are wonderful when they work, but expensive to repair when they don't. (Here's some advice from personal experience. It's very tempting to take off the injection pump when it goes bad and replace the whole system with a set of Webers. I did this on one of my Alfettas. The car never ran 100% right - even after changing the cams. Don't do it. Find someone who knows how to rebuild the pump and set it up properly. They are out there. It will be well worth it.) Other minor problems include electrical gremlins - nothing serious - and the typical Alfa second gear synchro issue.

Which brings us to this car. There's no need to worry about the second gear synchro. It's an automatic.

If you're still reading this after that last sentence, here's the list of good stuff... The seller says "everything mechanical has been replaced or rebuilt." The motor was completely rebuilt, including a new head from Alfa. The injection pump has been rebuilt by Ingram Enterprises. He goes on to say "(the) distributor has been updated to electronic (Marelli plex201) & the rest of the ignition system is new. All brakes including master cylinder, all 4 calipers, all 4 rotors, all brake hoses are new. Wheel bearings were all replaced & rear axles are new. All ball joints & tie rods are new. Complete exhaust system is new." Basically, everything you need to do on an old Alfa has been done.

The body has a few flaws, but nothing too bad by Alfa standards. The seller writes, "only rust is at rear wheel arches, one small spot on outer rocker & bottoms of doors." He is including another set of doors with the car.

I have never owned an Alfa with an automatic. I imagine that it takes some of the fun out of driving it. But, authomatic or not, it is still an great handling, beautiful sedan. It's aslo an Alfa. Best of all, its not expensive. The asking price is just $3900.00.

Located in Coatesville, PA, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

Friday, November 23, 2018

1973 Triumph Spitfire

I have always liked the Spitfire. I had one many years ago. It was not fast and it rattled. The top was a pain in the ass to raise and lower. But there was something about it... I felt connected to the road. It was old school fun. Plus, I love the design. I could look at it all day. Michelotti did a great job. Even at the end of its 18 year run - with its big federally mandated bumpers - it still looked great.

This is a gorgeous Spitfire. The owner has made all the right improvements to it. He put on a set of Minilites, which look tons better than the standard wheels. He added a downdraft Weber carb. (This is an improvement that should be made to all older British sports cars. Yes, the SU carbs are original, are very British and look cool, but a Weber carb improved the drivability of every British sports car I put it on.) He put in an electronic ignition kit. (Again, something that should be done to all older British sports cars.) He also installed a Monza exhaust which makes the car sound as sporty as it looks. Perfect.

The seller also installed a roll bar, installed a new wiring harness and fuse-box, put in new brakes, carpeting and seat foam (among other things).

Parts are easy to find for the Spitfire (and most British sports car). They are usually reasonably priced. Many of the aftermarket parts are better than the originals.

If you're looking for a turnkey classic British roadster, this Spitfire may be worth checking out.

Located in Manitowoc, WI, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

2009 Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe - A Future Collectible

In the 1980s Pontiac used the advertising slogan "We Build Excitement!"

OK, by the 1980s Pontiac's real excitement days were in the rear-view mirror. (But that applied to most car manufacturers in the 1980s. It was not a good decade for performance cars.) Pontiac still had the Firebird and the last Fiero was a pretty good car, but that was about it for anything close to excitement. Still, it was a good slogan.

By 1990 Pontiac has stopped using the slogan. They also stopped making exciting cars. (Yes, if you knew what to do, you could order a fairly exciting Firebird, but the showrooms were loaded with bland V6 Firebirds.)

But then the 2000s rolled around and suddenly, slowly, Pontiac started selling some exciting cars. The GTO came back. The G8 GXP was as good as - or better than - any sports sedan offered by any manufacturer. (Both the GTO and the G8 were built by Holden in Australia, which until recently was GM's most exciting brand.) And they produced this, the Solstice. Things were looking exciting again. Then, in its infinite lack of wisdom, GM killed Pontiac.

Introduced in convertible form only in 2005 as a 2006 car, the Solstice shared its platform with the Saturn Sky and the Opel GT. It was powered by a 177 hp, 2.4 liter 4 cylinder engine. While no rocket, it managed to get to 60 MPH in around 7 seconds.

In 2007 Pontiac added some excitement when they introduced the Solstice GXP. This had a 2.0 Liter, 4 cylinder, turbocharged Ecotec engine. It made 260 hp and moved the Solstice to 60 in 5.5 seconds. GM even offered a Turbo Upgrade Kit for the car which brought the horsepower up to 290 hp. Excitement, indeed.

In 2009 Pontiac created the Solstice Coupe. It came with a removable targa top, which was too big to be stored in the car. If you left home and it started to rain, Pontiac included a soft top - which did fit in the car - to keep the rain out.

Only 1238 coupes were built before GM pulled the plug on Pontiac. Of those, 648 were GXP models.

This car looks to be in great shape. IT has the turbo upgrade kit. The seller claims it has just 9000 miles on it. .

I don't claim to have any knowledge about collectible cars and their future value. I don't believe in buying cars as investments. However, if I was to make an educated guess, I would say the the Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe will be worth some real money in the future. If this is a car that you always wanted to own, I would suggest you look at this one - or one similar - before they become stupidly expensive.

Located in Kokomo, Indiana, click here to see the Craigslist ad.