I did a thing. With no car to tinker with, I had cleaned the garage twice, and was faced with a choice: tear the downstairs bathroom apart, or get a cheap car to tinker with.
Browsing Ebay, the decision made itself. I found a 1994 Ford Probe in Indianapolis listed with a $500 starting bid. It had been sitting for a year, but the interior looked complete. There was visible rust on the tailgate, but all the glass was there. Completely inspired by #ColdLotion, the Chappell Show inspired racing team of Stephen Lee and Cody Willett and their 1996 Probe, I wanted a cheap car that wouldn’t cause me too much trouble and meet some criteria:
- Be cheap enough that I wouldn’t care if I wrecked it
- Not turbocharged
- Be fun to drive
Watching Cold Lotion, I think #3 was covered. They have been having an absolute blast with their car. And #1 would depend on the condition of the car. #2? Well, I’m tired of catching on fire.
On the day the auction was to end, I camped on my PC, and bid with two seconds left. For the princely sum of $520, the car was mine.
I arranged to pick it up the following Friday, with my friend Rich meeting me there to assist. A few minutes with a Harbor Freight come-a-long and it was on the trailer.
The car’s condition was as described. A bit of rust. It cranked but wouldn’t start, and the tires held air. It was filthy from sitting outside for a year, but the interior was complete. I pulled it home.
Some diagnosis quickly uncovered a bad ignition system. A GM HEI module, new coil, and a soldering iron later and I had a running car.
Work since then involved cleaning the interior, new brakes, and a new driver side half-shaft. I also removed a rodent nest and treated a lot of the rust with POR-15. I even managed to replace the failed VIRS solenoids ($98 each!) with functionally identical solenoids I found on various Toyotas at the scrap yard ($4 each!).
What are the plans? Right now, there’s an autocross on October 20 that I plan to run it in. Depending on how much fun I have with it there, I’ll either turn it into a track rat, or just finish cleaning it up and flip it. What happens with the Buick in Riyadh will also play a role.
Though it would be fun to take a $500 car to an Optima event. Very fun, especially since the total investment in the car in Optima trim would be about half of what most of the competitors spend on a single wheel. And I wouldn’t be last. Not even close.
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