I had made it through three years of post secondary in Kitchener without a car. But now with the opportunity to grab a great job in Guelph, I needed a car. But with two years of school to go, buying it and affording the ongoing expenses was going to be a challenge.
First, I established my budget: $500. Cash.
Second, find a car that at that price that wouldn’t embarrass me. Although I was prepared to sacrifice that based on my low budget.
Third, find a reliable car. Failing that, one that I could keep on the road as cheaply as possible.
The search began in earnest. Visited used car lots. Looked at cars that dripped fluids. Drove ones that pulled to the left. And to the right. Looked under hoods. Inside trunks and doorframes. Under carpets.
Saw a lot of clunkers.
After an exhaustive search…actually about 3 weeks…finally found it. A 1969 Valiant. Cream. Slant 6. Bench seats. AM Radio. Clean. No visible rust. Nothing dripping. Owner claimed it had been serviced regularly and only driven by his wife to the grocery store. Believed him although the mileage was suspect.
Drove it around the block once and deemed it to be in ‘perfect condition’. Asked $750 certified. Got it for $500 without the safety. Cash. No receipt. Drove it home that night. Oh, yes, I completed this transaction under cover of night!
But I was thrilled. My first car. I had stayed within budget and had found a car that was not too embarrassing to be seen in. Reliability was promised but yet to-be-determined.
The driving experience: once up to highway speed, the ride was actually relatively smooth and it generally went in the direction it was pointed. Rear leaf springs and non-power, non rack-and-pinion steering will do that.
Reliability: after a couple of weeks, found out that a couple of cans of 10W30 once a month kept the engine alive. It didn’t leak; it burned oil.
That car lasted over two years driving back and forth to Toronto, Guelph of course, and all parts of Southern Ontario. Survived a full three sixty at midnight in January on Highway 7 on my way to Guelph.
When its time was finally up, after a seized cylinder killed the engine, I managed to sell it for $125 cash.
Loved that car.