Another of my dad's cars which he originally bought new, in the Summer
of '81, for my mom. I can't say this was a great car, as there were several
problems. This was the first year for this model, so I put those down to
that, but overall a fairly reliable car.
There was an early problem with the front disc brakes going bad around
20,000 miles. The coil springs were too weak and the tires slightly too
wide, which combined caused premature wear of the rear tire inner side
walls (due to rubbing against the spring) which had to be replaced at the
same time. The rear catalytic converter air hose connection rotted off
at about 30,000 miles, making a heck of a racket and causing carbon monoxide
to get into the passenger compartment. Interestingly this particular car
came from the factory with no muffler? Just a front and rear catalytic
converter and a 3x24" resonator pipe at the back end. Which
puzzled the guys at Midas almost as much as it did me. Oh, and the infamous
leaking head gasket, which allows oil to seep from the engine, needless
to say there was no reason to try to keep the engine clean. Along with
the ashtray that never was quite straight in the dash. I replaced the very
dim stock headlamps with halogen units. In twenty years other things needing
replaced was a couple bulbs, batteries, tires (good traction, but soft),
fan belt, metal fuel line (from pump to carb) and a strut on the hatch.
(Well, there was the busted side window, but that's another story.)
This little car could really take curves and corners, and on one occasion
annoyed the f*** out of a guy in a hot rod V8 Ford Mustang, when I beat
him from traffic light to light for three blocks one night though town
(surprised me too). Not a real powerful engine, but with a decent power
to weight ratio and gearing this car did have its moments. In snow the
combination of front wheel drive and soft Goodyear Eagle radials provided
excellent traction, especial during hard stops, but icy surfaces were a
bit iffy, depending on the conditions. Rough roads made the ride a bit
harsh, which considering the tight suspension and short wheelbase could
be expected. Had an interesting fishtail effect on gravel roads
at speeds over 45 mph.
For it's small dimensions it is actually pretty roomy up front, but not
so good in the back seat with minimal leg and headroom. It's fold down
rear bench seat and hatch area made an ample cargo area. The fact that
it was classified as an economy car, by the insurance company, didn't hurt
either. However, the rates have steadily crept up as it has gotten older
(perhaps just normal inflation).
In 1999 the exterior passenger door latch broke, combined with an earlier
malfunctioning driver door lock, entry had to be gained by opening the
hatch, pulling a string attached to the interior passenger door release
lever then unlocking the driver door from the passenger seat. In 2000 it
started leaking anti freeze from under the dash, then in 2001 it refused
to start leaving me stranded, probably just the starter, but my personal
situation had changed and I needed a more reliable vehicle.
It still has reasonably low mileage about 60,000 miles (40,000+ with me
driving). For an old car, it has very little signs of deterioration, due
in part to the extensive use of zinc plated body panels.