In this series, we’re celebrating the cars that made us happy. The ones that surprised us and made us smile (even if they made us walk once in a while). They may not be the best on paper, but they proved themselves on the road with more smiles-per-gallon than anything else we’ve driven.
Today we’re on the road with Jimmy S, a Saab tech who runs his own workshop – Smart Motors – in New Mexico.
The best car I ever had was a 1971 Chevy Caprice 4 door hardtop. Bought it in 1981 for $100, sold the 454 big block and turbo 400 trans for $700 and threw in a beater 350 auto from a junker. Bought all my parts from a chevy junkyard for really cheap — nobody wanted a big tank like that. But my only real expense was fuel, and I drove that barge across the US 3 times, using a quart of oil every 200 miles.
I worked as a mechanic and if a car came in for an oil change with not very dirty oil I would save it for my beater. The best part about that beater was that after thrashing it for 2 years and 20k miles I was able to sell it to a Chinese college student for $450. He was in heaven — huge car, power everything and really cheap.
It’s 1982 and somewhere in South Dakota the starter finally packed it in. Found a shady spot at the side of a supermarket to replace the starter. One of the few new parts on this car, it cost $29 at checker auto parts. The dog wishes I had not thrown away the a/c components with the engine swap. The perfect car for a poor young mechanic.
I could fit 5 extra tires and about 10 gallons of oil in the trunk. My bicycle fit in the back seat with both tires on it. And we could sit on the roof to watch softball games.