The $1500 Firebird

I never intended to buy a Firebird. Nope, just sort of fell into one that was a good deal and I could drive the thing without contortion acts.

I had to find a commuter car after my work ended the perk of company vehicles for managers. Obvious criteria was whatever I got had to get better mileage that the only car I had - the Global Warming Accelerator Edition Ford Expedition that tops out at an amazing though expensive 14 MPG (my long gone V8 of my youth - a 1977 Ford Ranchero 351C got 11) Made deal with my son that really needed a car - whatever I buy for a commuter I will hand over to you when the lease is up on the Expi. That's another reason - driving the leased SUV 700 miles a week will cost me in the end.

We searched - I thought 4 banger Camry - he thought Firebird. I offered Jetta, he countered with Firebird. Saturn SC? Firebird!. Can we work this out somehow?

Craigslist ad for the $1500 Firebird
Craigslist ad for a car


So I surrendered when I found the $1500 Firebird. I drove to SF after work in San Jose one night to see it. Carried $1800 in cash - just in case...

Met the owner, name was Bill. He was also waiting to meet with a potential renter, so we went around the block to where the Firebird had been parked since the last rain a week ago. He starts it (fires up on the 2nd try). No ticking noise from the motor. No smoke. He pulls it out of the tight parking spot - I see no fluid leakage - then he gets out and tells me to take a ride and meet him back where I first met him. The man just gave me the keys to his car and told me to go for a solo test drive. In San Francisco.

San Francisco is not the best place to brush up on clutch skills..

I ended up buying it that night. Drove it all the way home to Monterey. Son came out of the house and spread his arms out and laid on the hood, he was in love. No time for that crap son, we have to go get the Expedition that I left parked in a tow-away at 5 am zone.

We drove back to SF, got lost since it was dark and my usual built in solar compass was not functioning at the time. Eventually found the Expi. Son & I play highway tag all the way home, him driving the Firebird & me in the SUV. Got home at 3am. Hit the sack. Get up at 7, look out the window in realize it was not all a dream.

$1500 Firebird after it's first wash
Shortly after bringing it home


Did you know that in California there are two kinds of smog tests? One for dense cities that costs $100 and one for small towns that costs $50. Since the car was previously registered in a dense city I could save $50 by going to DMV and changing the registration, going back to Smogs-r-Us and then returning to DMV to complete the process. I seriously thought about blowing it off, but $50 is $50.

Plug for Pacific Smog, 1993 Del Monte Blvd in Seaside for giving me the advice, it was worth it. They are quick too.

Don't ask about Firebird vs. cell phone.

Remember that thing about starting on 2nd try? Fuel pump. Took to dealership. Glad I did. Much rusty hard-to-bust bolts on that job. Left $1200 poorer but car starts before the key reaches the stop point.

$1500 Firebird at Sunset on Sunset
At Sunset on Sunset

Shop is Cardinale GMC in Seaside. One of the last two remaining GM dealerships in town. Chevy closed up early this year, Oldsmobiles used to be sold at Cardinale and I don't know if Buick is represented anymore. Only other dealer is Butts Cadillac (used to sell Pontiacs) and I don't like them.

Also enrolled in AAA. Commute is 160 mile round trip. Don't have a company fleet manager to call anymore...

Next big fix was the exhaust. Cat & exhaust pipe have problem staying attached to each other. Ricers like that sound. I didn't. Could have been just a $25 clamp & weld fix, but when the shop owner has posters of himself racing F-bodies at Laguna Seca on the walls - well this guy is COOL. Set me up Mr. Graham. What sounds neat and helps out this car? One Flowmaster, two exit pipes. And shiny tips. Oh yeah.

As long as I am plugging shops, the Flowmaster was put in by Matt's Muffler in Seaside. Don't know who Matt is, the F-Body racer that runs it is Bill Graham, brother of the late Ricky Graham.

$1500 Firebird T-Tops
Objects under T-Tops can be older than they appear