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Nut Driver: Dave Nutting’s Life With A 25+ Year Old Car – An Introduction To Actually Taking The Plunge And Making An Old Car Your DD


Nut Driver: Dave Nutting’s Life With A 25+ Year Old Car – An Introduction To Actually Taking The Plunge And Making An Old Car Your DD

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[“Nut Driver” is a new series that will feature updates on Dave Nutting’s attempts to daily drive his 1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo in Massachusetts 365 days a year]

“Forget this nonsense, I should just buy an old car”.

It’s a thought that’s crossed every gearhead’s mind, more often than not while performing a tune-up on or diagnosing the cause of a dreaded Check Engine Light for the rolling appliance that many of us use to get to and from work during the week.

If you’re like me, this initial sentiment then results in the following ritual:

– Twenty to thirty minutes of day-dreaming about how awesome it would be to drive a classic car every day
– An hour of cruising the local Craigslist, which always turns up “The Perfect Car” (I typically find this elusive beast five to six times per week).
– Another thirty minutes of rationalizing why this would be a good idea and why I should do this: “I can fix it with a ⅜” ratchet set, a flathead screwdriver, and a medium-sized hammer!”.
– Face the grim reality that I live in New England and commute forty-plus miles a day, which is why I bought a modern vehicle in the first place; begin drinking to drown my sorrows.
– Finish the maintenance/repair on the now-despised econobox and return to the house, where my wife asks me such difficult to answer questions as, “How does it take three hours for you to change the oil on that car?” and “Why do you reek of booze and defeat?”.

In reality, my wife is actually reasonably understanding of my automotive obsessions, and we’ve always had an agreement in place stemming from her absolute loathing of my Subaru WRX (A story for another time): I could buy any car that I wanted for a daily driver provided the following stipulations were met: A) I’d have to sell my WRX, B) The car could not cost more than the selling price of the Subaru, C) It had to be reliable enough to commute with daily, including in the winter.

There have been a few close calls, but I had never seriously considered taking her up on her offer until the weekend before Labor Day, when I again spotted the Perfect Car. This time around, the Perfect Car surfaced in the form of a stock 1987 Chevy Monte Carlo Luxury Sport with 125,000 miles, located ninety minutes away in New Hampshire.

I mentally went over The Agreement outlined above: Could I sell the Subaru? Yes. Is the asking price for this car less than the proceeds from the sale of the Subaru? Yup. Would it be awesome to drive and I could fix everything on the car with duct tape and WD40? Oh yeah! (I may have taken some liberties with the definition of reliable, but I obviously felt it fell within the spirit of the agreement).

Of course, there were the minor details that I hadn’t yet sold the WRX and that we were going to Maine for the long weekend. Being well aware of the wisdom that it’s better to act and ask for forgiveness later, I emailed the seller and set up a time to come look at the car in the afternoon on Labor Day. Surprisingly, my better half agreed to my crazy plan, I bought the Monte that Monday, and sold my WRX later on that month.

Enough of the feel-good backstory, here’s the deal: This is the only vehicle that I have at my disposal unless I pull my ‘87 Monte Carlo SS out of winter storage. Thanks to some questionable past decisions made by my then-nineteen year old self, the SS lacks a heater box/defroster and has a tendency to leak from the t-tops when it rains, so that’s a non-option. My wife needs her car to get to her job, so if the Monte isn’t running I’m not getting to work, which is twenty miles away and requires me to drive in stop-and-go MetroWest-Boston traffic every day.

My wife has a standing bet that I will be back in a commuter car within a year, possibly sooner depending on how this winter goes as we’re predicted to have a good amount of snow.

Challenge accepted.

 

Wrapping up this introductory article in typical Bangshift fashion, below are photos and additional details on the Monte, all taken the day that I brought the car home:

With 125,000 miles on the odometer, the car is surprisingly rust-free for a vehicle that has spent its entire life in New Hampshire.

With 125,000 miles on the odometer, the car is surprisingly rust-free for a vehicle that has spent its entire life in New Hampshire.

The factory paint is a little rough and shows some dull patches and cracks. The factory chrome trim is in good shape though, which is a godsend as it’s getting difficult to find.

The factory paint is a little rough and shows some dull patches and cracks. The factory chrome trim is in good shape though, which is a godsend as it’s getting difficult to find.

A set of 225/60/14s mounted on rusty chrome smoothies finishes our tour of the exterior. These will be replaced soon with another set of period-correct GM wheels.

A set of 225/60/14s mounted on rusty chrome smoothies finishes our tour of the exterior. These will be replaced soon with another set of period-correct GM wheels.

Behold the 5.0L LG4, which was rated new at a whopping 150 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Backed by a 2004r and 2.41 rear axle ratio, it’s surprising that a push car isn’t needed to get moving from a standstill.

Behold the 5.0L LG4, which was rated new at a whopping 150 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Backed by a 2004r and 2.41 rear axle ratio, it’s surprising that a push car isn’t needed to get moving from a standstill.

Mmm, plenty of 80’s emissions goodness, including the factory secondary air injection system. The A/C system is complete, but is in need of a recharge.

Mmm, plenty of 80’s emissions goodness, including the factory secondary air injection system. The A/C system is complete, but is in need of a recharge.

It seems that the majority of Monte Carlos from this era featured a maroon (Oxblood) interior. This is not one of them. A 60/40 split bench and column shifter were ordered back in ‘87, and surprisingly the dash is still in good condition without any cracks.

It seems that the majority of Monte Carlos from this era featured a maroon (Oxblood) interior. This is not one of them. A 60/40 split bench and column shifter were ordered back in ‘87, and surprisingly the dash is still in good condition without any cracks.

While I wouldn’t consider this car a stripper due to the A/C and rear gearing, it does have a lack of many common power options. Crank windows, manual locks, and driver’s side-only remote adjustable mirror were the order of the day. Want to adjust the passenger side mirror? Lean over, roll down the window, and do it by hand, fatty.

While I wouldn’t consider this car a stripper due to the A/C and rear gearing, it does have a lack of many common power options. Crank windows, manual locks, and driver’s side-only remote adjustable mirror were the order of the day. Want to adjust the passenger side mirror? Lean over, roll down the window, and do it by hand, fatty.

Gauges? We don’t need no stinking gauges! No idea if the idiot lights work, but the factory gauges weren’t known for their accuracy, so not a whole lot lost. A tach would have been nice, though.

Gauges? We don’t need no stinking gauges! No idea if the idiot lights work, but the factory gauges weren’t known for their accuracy, so not a whole lot lost. A tach would have been nice, though.

Opening the glove box revealed a surprise in the form of several pounds of vehicle documentation from the original owner of the vehicle.

Opening the glove box revealed a surprise in the form of several pounds of vehicle documentation from the original owner of the vehicle.

No exaggeration, every repair and maintenance receipt from 1987 to the early 2000s seems to have been stored in the glove box. Even the bill of sale was included, which is a cool find.

No exaggeration, every repair and maintenance receipt from 1987 to the early 2000s seems to have been stored in the glove box.

Even the bill of sale was included, which is a cool find.

Even the bill of sale was included, which is a cool find.

I didn’t realize that people actually filled out their maintenance booklet, but it’s great to know that the vehicle was well-taken care of.

I didn’t realize that people actually filled out their maintenance booklet, but it’s great to know that the vehicle was well-taken care of.

I do have a few budget upgrades planned in regards to wheels, tires, and brakes, but otherwise the car will remain stock for the foreseeable future.

So Bangshifters, what are you thoughts? Am I living the dream, or should I be renewing my AAA membership and shopping for favorable car payment terms?


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25 thoughts on “Nut Driver: Dave Nutting’s Life With A 25+ Year Old Car – An Introduction To Actually Taking The Plunge And Making An Old Car Your DD

  1. Beagle

    AAA or towing insurance is not a bad idea on any car… teh LSR gears would get right on my nerves though. Dulcich did a 305 build that was surprisingly good. The only thing I didn’t like about my ’80 turbo MC or the ’88 SS is the steering wheel is in a weird position and the SS drug it’s snout on everything even at stock ride height. I love those cars though. Good luck with it! How tolerant is your boss of showing up late? 🙂

  2. jerry z

    I had my share of Monte SS’s (never own an regular Monte) and did use it as DD driver for about 2 yrs. First thing to get rid of is that 2.41 and put in a Monte SS rear, wheither its a 3.42 or 3.73. I put a set of ZQ8 wheels/tires on and rode/handled a lot better.

  3. squirrel

    That’s a new car to me too. I think I would have picked something older or newer, but since you have a hot rod version of the same car already, I kinda understand.

    Some guys forget that this is what everyone drove in 1987. You’ll be fine.

  4. dan w

    Awesome! These Monte Carlos and the Cutlasses from this era are affordable and actually fairly plush drivers. I’d drive that Monte, but I’m not sure I could put it out in the winter slop.

  5. Scotty

    As a masshole myself i know how bad these roads can get.. especially as a tow truck operator. Renew the AAA. it’s like insurance, you may never need it, but you’re glad you got it. The car should do fine, but if I remember correctly they did’nt stop very well in the slush and crap. I’ll be keeping up with this… I’m interested.

  6. 75Duster

    My daily driver from 1993 – 1996 was a 340, four speed 1969 Barracuda fastback while stationed in Hawaii, while the Cuda is long gone, its engine lives on in my Duster.

  7. RockJustRock

    If it doesn’t wear anything out or break anything on it’s own he will be required to make it go a little faster every month, right?

  8. carcass

    there’s no reason not to drive a classic car every day, new cars break to and they break you soul worse. My daily is a 1976 Malibu classic 350/350.

  9. grancuda

    What’s the big deal? My daily is a ’72 C10 short stepper, had it got 1 1/2 years ago, so far put 42,000 miles. Before that was a ’72 GMC & I put 78,000 miles in it in 3 years. Before that was a series of ’69 Dart, ’70 AMX & ’70 Barracuda. Put 60,000 between the 3. People all the time rely solely on vintage muscle car era vehicles for daily transportation. Even more still in ’80s, smog era stuff. How is this even a story?

    1. Threedoor

      I agree. The newest thing I own is a 93 dodge w350. It’s been parked for a year now and I’m back in the 70s with my 76 Blazer. I look at the 80s stuff as parts cars or disposable gets rounds not classics.

  10. Jim Ullman

    I drove my 74 Malibu with a 406 sb and real long rear gears in Oregon for many years. It did fine in the rain and snow. And…the crappy stock brakes made everything else manageable. No worries with this creampuff.

  11. Tony in AZ

    My 1983 Monte is white with blue interior. Been in my family since 1993 , I bought from original owner, rust free Arizona car. Currently has 238k miles on chassis with 88k on engine. Have fun with the MC

  12. Pat McGinnis

    Last year, including winter 2012-2013 I drove an ’83 Delta 88 2-door every day on a 52 mile commute in the western suburbs of Chicago. Lost a rear wheel cylinder, put in both. Sold the car this July after putting 15000 miles. Never missed a day of work. Made $1500. Win-win. Winter 2011-2012 drove a ’84 Dodge Dakota 2-wheel drive pickup. Worked like a dream. Winter weather, that’s why people have cars, and these were new once also.

  13. Anthony

    DO yourself a favor and put some kind of oily substance all over the underneath of this car and the bottom of the doors and in the chassis rails. That calcium crap they spray on the road before a storm eats cars alive. If not next year you will be buying another. Smear vasoline into the gaps where the chrome meets the body too,do it a few times it will keep crap from accumulating there.

  14. gary351c

    There’s an ’81 Ford fairmont on e-bay for $2,500, it’s only got 75k on it and It’s calling my name. Every time I turn around I’m dumping more money into my ’03 Crown Vic. I wonder if the guy would trade straight across.

  15. Patrick U

    All of this talk about winter makes me really appreciate Texas. I’m still riding the Harley to work in mid November….

  16. RacerRick

    My daily driver is a 87′ Cutless – 305/Th200R4/2.73 gears.

    With snow tires it will be fine in the snow, and make sure you get the car oil sprayed. We no longer have the calicum crap on our roads, but the road salt will do a number on the cars. A set of rear mud flaps that cover the frame in the wheel wells also works wonders for the rear frame rails survival.

  17. Dan-0

    Shoot. Can be done with ease. Dad bought a brand new 84 Monte SS and then drove the thing daily thru salty Iowa winters for 26 years until the engine poped at 175,000. It was so rusty that it was not savable, but donated the SS parts to another Monte. A good set of snow tires, sandbags in the trunk and a bit of “common sense” driving and you should have no problems. Heck, I use an 86 Cutlass for my daily driver. I would have it no other way. And yes, I can actually fix the damn thing myself which is exactly the reason that the 86 is my newest vehicle. Only one problem…… gas mileage is not so good with an 80’s car. If you keep out of the throttle, that 305 200r4 combo will net you about 17mpg.

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