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For the love of... a Cutlass Ciera?

So here’s my downfall, drama and all.

I’ve fallen for a 1993 Cutlass Ciera.

Yes, I know. Boring. Shitty, built by committee, badge engineered, responsible for the end of Oldsmobile, $400 worth of crappy, knackered, 307,000 miles of automobile.

Let me explain.

I reunited with my wife after 7 years of separation, starting with her picking me up in NJ from SC in this car, at the time, she had it about a week, with 265,000 miles and no suspension left to speak of.

I started fixing it.

First was a starter. Then a gas line. then hoses. then brakes. then suspension. then various sensors, then suspension again. Then exhaust. Then we drove it back to NJ, and towed a trailer back to SC loaded with my shit. Then valve cover gaskets. numerous tune ups.

It’s gone on from there.

The body is wrecked. Not rusty, but dented to shit. A week after I got to SC it was hit in the parking lot of a chinese buffet in Cheraw, SC, wrecking the side marker light and denting the fender. For the next 2 years it was held together with packing tape.

I replaced the ceiling liner with thrift store fabric and some glue.

There is not a single angle from which this car looks pretty. The roof is caved in from numerous objects gathered off the side of the road, purchased, or otherwise acquired being strapped to the roof. The car must have been in a front end collision at some point because it’s all a different shade of gold, and this was done long before we got it.

It should, on paper, be awful.

And it is. Sort of. I’ve rewired the fan to run off a switch on the dash. I added a set of fog lamps, and there’s wiring everywhere. The seats are a mismatched set I pulled out of a boneyard, the stereo quit ages ago and I have a 5 dollar bluetooth speaker handling tunage. But...


It’s mine. It’s paid for, it runs, it’s faithful and it’s sporty when I treat it like so and comfy when I need it to be. It’s slow but feels fast, It’s... special.


Late nights on the roof watching the stars. Strapping a tow chain to the rear and chugging an isuzu rodeo 20 miles home. White knuckle runs down a canyon road. Exploring the world around us when we moved to PA. Visiting Three Mile Island. Just... starting, every morning.

Still running after throwing a rod through the engine block.

And plugging along after a replacement engine with half the sensors either broken or disconnected entirely.

I’ve said to a lot of people, it’s not what you drive, it’s how you drive it, and the perfect car? Well, it’s your car. The car you chose. Granted, I didn’t choose this Cutlass, but I’ve had GM A-bodies in the past and loved the crap out of them. 38 mpg highway if you’re good. Out of a 23 year old jalopy without a straight body panel left on it. The weird perverse pleasure you get from driving your $400 crapcan past a broken BMW on the side of the road. The fact it always gets me home.

She’s getting close to me giving up on her, if I’m honest. Daily there’s a new issue here and there and I’m getting older and tired of it... but I still keep fixing it. I’m not sure exactly why, other than it’s better the devil you know.

I’m not a Luddite when it comes to cars. I can debate the finer points of a Lamborghini Espada S3 and wax nostalgic on an Isuzu Impulse with the Lotus handling package. I love to drive stick, I love weird foreign cars.... but I love my shitty ass, broken down Ciera. And given the choice, I think I’ll always end up grabbing the keys to see just how much further she’ll go....

Illustration for article titled For the love of... a Cutlass Ciera?

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