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Stage I

Stage I - Getting Started

I acquired the car the last week in September of 2011 (September 28th to be exact). Before I even got to sit in the car, it cost 85.00 to transfer the title and register the car at the county clerk’s office. That puts the total investment (and I use the term "investment" very loosely) at 785.00. The good news here was that the car is registered until July 2012. I also found out from my insurance company that the car would add 240/year to my auto insurance bill for liability and other state mandated coverage only. Just so there is no misunderstanding about coverage, I still have full liability (not state minimum) and uninsured/underinsured motorists protection - I just didn't add collision or comprehensive since the car is barely worth the deductible. Should I somehow get it a wreck, I will strip what I can off the car and haul the rest to the scrap yard.
 
J
ust standing in the parking lot of the courthouse, it was clear there were three obvious problems that would need to be corrected before the car could be driven anywhere out of my subdivision. I should note that I am actually fortunate to live in a subdivision in a semi-rural area that has a one mile loop with a couple cul-de-sacs. No one in my neighborhood is going to call the cops if I drive around with a taillight missing or other minor issue and the cops don’t come here unless they are called. Back to the issues; the tail light assembly on the left side of the car was badly damaged and would need to be replaced. The muffler had fallen off and needed a replacement. The car just doesn’t sound right without a muffler. Finally, the passenger side window was broken and would need replacement.

Upon getting the car home, I put it up on jack stands and performed a complete inspection. The car runs reasonably well; at least as well as you can expect for a vehicle with 195K miles on it. The engine appeared to be in an unaltered stock condition. The air conditioning system had at some point been retrofitted for R134a. I don’t know anything about this so I will need to get educated at some point as to the workings of the conversion. I do know that the system runs but did not blow particularly cold air and will address that in the course of working on the car. Being that the project is being started in early October the A/C is not a pressing issue. My hope was that all I needed to do was add R134a. Much to my surprise, the battery was a very new Duralast Gold (a brand I use in my Subaru as well as my engine test stand and have had very good experiences with) and shouldn’t be a problem. The battery cables looked good. The plug wires looked good and I saw no particular reason to immediately change them. The radiator looked ok and sonewhat surprisingly the car does not leak. One very important thing is that the tires all looked good enough to at least safely drive the vehicle during the repair and refurbishment stages of the project.  I wasn't surprised that there were two different sizes (the fronts were P215/60R16's and the rears P225/55R16s).  I should note that neither were original equipment size but at the same time I am not sure the wheels are original 1992 Camaro RS either.  While I do plan on eventually replacing the tires, you don't want to be doing that immediately as tires are a big outlay.

The interior is no where nearly as bad as I thought it may be. The driver’s seat has a slight tear as does the passenger seat. It never ceases to amaze me when I see this type of wear. I currently have a Suburu with over 200,000 miles (Project 300K) and the interior looks practically new. I guess some people just don't take care of their cars like I do. I guess I should consider the wear normal for a car that is over 20 years old. Somewhere along the way someone added an additional layer of carpet but had done a horrible job of doing the installation. It looked terrible and I almost immediately cut it out and tossed it. I was genuinely both surprised and thrilled that the headliner was in perfect condition. There are some issues with the gauges. The gas gauge is not accurate. This is a fairly common issue. I can keep track of how far I drive and know what kind of mileage I get. I’d like to fix it eventually, but this is a very low priority.  All the gauges appear to work and the car even came with a nice aftermarket radio with a compact disc player. The dash has been fitted with an aftermarket dash liner that looks pretty good. I suspected that the original dash was some combination of cracked and faded. Considering how good the new pad looked, there was really no reason to remove it to check. The steering wheel had a couple cracks but nothing too serious.

In the course of my inspection I did find one additional critical concern; one of the wheel studs on the right front wheel had sheared off at some point. You couldn't see that under normal circumstances because the lugs aren't visible unless you remove a wheel cover. Like I said in the intro, the car was purchased somewhat sight unseen. Of course, this wasn't a show stopper anyway. I found the lug nut in the rear well of the car. I had to wonder what happened since the lug nut easily came off the broken stud. I didn't think this was that great of an issue as I needed to get new rotors anyway. The suspension is in good condition with no obvious bent parts or other critical issues. I did decide that all bushings will need to be replaced as will both the rear shocks and front struts as they appear to be very old (if not original equipment) and the ride is somewhat “soft” (perhaps “dead” was a better description). I thoroughly checked the steering while greasing all the links and found it to be in ok condition. The tires are fair but the wheels are in very good shape; nothing wrong that a little elbow grease and Mother’s Polish can’t fix! 

Other than the missing muffler and a few small holes in the exhaust pipe near the muffler, the exhaust system appeared to be in sound condition. I should be able to get a patch kit at my local Auto Zone.

Of course, the body has damage in several locations. The worst is the passenger side door. There is also damage on the driver’s side at both corners. None of it is other than cosmetic however and will be fixed only after the car itself is running well. This is my way of saying I don't really know a lot about body work (other than banging out a fender on a stock car).

Under "normal" circumstances you would want to complete as much of Stage I as possible prior to actually purchasing the car. If you see something that looks bad, it shouldn't necessary end the project. If anything damage or problems provide negotiating leverage. Of course, I can't say this enough - if you are paying in the 500 to 1000 dollar range and the car is running and the tires look ok, you really don't have much room to bring the price down.

 

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