Dwight Winenger ©1997-2006

el malibu
Chevy Malibu

boneyard
We Will Be There


SOLD

For Sale Notice

1978 Chevrolet Malibu

This rare, internet celebrity is now on the block.

The only car of its kind within a 200 mile radius
of Desert Hot Springs, California!

$995.00 or best offer




Maintenance update:

Cars similar to This Classic Chevrolet Malibu are customarily priced from $3,000 to $15,000 depending on the quality of restoration and maintenance. A similar vehicle on Classic Car.com, priced at $3,000, had body rust and smoking exhaust. This one has neither. It was repainted the original Chevrolet white not many years ago.

The Malibu presented for sale here had an engine rebuild in 2000 (8-cylinder 350). It is, in many ways, better than new. Its original aluminum head, which has a tendency to crack, was replaced with a cast iron head. The original aluminum heater coil has been replaced with a copper coil. It has a new catalytic concerter. New radiator. Brakes were recently serviced. The fan clutch and thermostat were replaced last summer. It has four new tires and a full-sized spare. Located in Desert Hot Springs, California, it is being eyed by several young men who know its potential but temporarily lack the cash to purchase it priced to move at 1/3 its actual value.

Our first Exchange Link


NEW!! Rambler Classic
Transmission Tragedy

or a year in the clink!
but up and running again!


More Malibu!! Engine number 4½ in five years!
...or "The Guarantee of a Lifetime."

Latest update... (11/18/02) The Malibu is running pretty well, well enough to loan it out to someone whose car broke down and will take several months to fix, like mine. It has a few idiosyncratic functions (things that don't work just right and have to be watched), but it works!

Clickable INDEX... (It's a rather long tale)

[ 1) Prolog...] [ 2) Engine #1--1993...] [ 3) Engine #2--1994...]

[ 4) Engine #3--1995...] [ 5) Engine #4--1996...] [ 6) Epilog (3/5/97)...]

[ 7) Epilog #2 (3/7/97)...] [ 8) Auto Doctor Epilog (5/5/97)]

[ 9) 1964 Rambler problems (6/5/00)] [10) The Malibu for sale!]

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Prolog...

My first car was a Chevrolet, a black, 1947 Fleetline. Great car! Except when the weather turned cold and the hydraulic gear shift assist froze up. It took only five or ten minutes to warm it up to shift gears, but I broke off the plastic tip of the column shift lever before I discovered that I could park it backed up to the curb and leave it in first so I could warm it up on the way to my job at Indiana State. Of course, I was practically there by the time it was warm enough to shift to second. It was a design problem. Or a weather problem. And I was in a hurry in those days.

When I bought my second Chevy, I was living in Southern California's Low Desert. Nothing but warm weather, occasionally HOT in the summer, but this Chevy had air-conditioning. Between the two Chevy's, I had owned a Peugeot, a Ford, and three Ramblers, but I still remembered my cool Fleetline. What could be wrong with a white Chevy, 31 years newer than my cool black one?

I should, perhaps, have suspected something when I saw the word "Malibu" in stainless steel bas-relief on the rear quarter panels. Malibu is not in my Spanish-English pocket dictionary, but I studied Spanish two years in high school and two years in college. I taught Spanish for a couple years after graduation. I knew that Mal means "bad" in Spanish, and when the syllable is found as a prefix to nearly any word, Spanish or English, it means trouble: malandanza, misfortune; malcomido, underfed; malgastar, squander; maldito, cursed. And the English words that start with mal...: malicious, malevolent, malefactor, malice, malignant. Need I list more? I should have suspected (maliciado) something from the moment I recognized the word Malibu. (With apologies to Malibu, California)

My wife needed a work car, something with air conditioning, something easy to drive, automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes. Nothing fancy. Then I spotted this white '78 Chevrolet Malibu sitting outside a trailer park near Desert Hot Springs. The FOR SALE sign looked for all the world like the original owner was finally having to sell his old buddy. I inquired. He offered to take me for a spin. He even let me drive. I asked if I could show it to my mechanic. He agreed. But I noticed he was nervous when I headed for the High Desert, up a long 4% grade. He sighed in relief when we reached the top of the pass and we pulled up at the shop. My mechanic looked it over, listened to it, kicked it here and there, and told me it was basic transportation, nothing more. Just what I wanted, nothing fancy. It had been repainted white. New seat covers and floor mats, a "clean" used car.

I should have maliciado (suspected) something when, signing the papers, the ex-owner suggested I tell my friends about the good deal I was getting...under blue book. He had a couple more cars for sale. I later found out he was a semi-retired mechanic who had bought the Malibu at an auction in Los Angeles. He fixed up cars for spending money. I have seen the same seat cover material and floor mats at cut-rate Tijuana off-street shops.

The next time I tried driving above 3,000 feet, I discovered that the Malibu vapor locked at high altitudes. The electric fuel pump was an add-on, and, although the pump was located where everyone said it should be, it vapor locked when I drove at high altitudes--or at high temperatures--something you simply have to do if you drive much in Southern California. One summer I bought some methanol fuel out in the middle of the Arizona desert. Only thing available. I had rigged up a fuel line bleed tap to cope with the frequent cases of vapor lock. We probably bled off as much fuel as we burned that trip, until I was able to find some non-methanol fuel. I eventually found just the right location for the fuel pump. It hardly ever vapor locks any more.

I gradually learned to live with the Malibu's idiosyncrasies until I discovered that when I tried to get the thing smogged in California every two years, I was spending $350 to get it to pass. After the third $350 smog test, I was told that the problem was a badly worn cam shaft. About a month after that, the Malibu's cam shaft became worn to the extent that it refused to run. Oh, all the cylinders were firing, but some were working against the other cylinders. The engine couldn't seem to decide whether it was moving forward, backward, or up and down.

Engine #1--1993...

I decided rather than merely replacing the cam shaft, I might as well replace the engine. A friend of mine, a mechanic, was setting up a little shop, and he gave me a good deal. He told me that the transmission was also in trouble, and sure enough, by the time he had replaced the engine, the transmission gave out, and he replaced that as well. I had a one-year warranty on the replacement engine. It gave out in 10 months; however, my friend's business had given out a couple months before the Malibu. He had moved to Montana to avoid creditors. I wrote him, trying to find out where he had purchased the engine, thinking that, perhaps, the supplier might stand behind the engine warranty. My friend did not answer my letters, and he had no phone. I had apparently been classed as a "creditor" rather than a friend.

Engine #2--1994 (10/93)...

I broke down and paid for another replacement engine. This time a genuine Chevrolet Mr. Goodwrench Replacement Engine. My new mechanic told me this was a factory "new" engine. I now recall that he did not specify which or what sort of "factory." I paid for a 3-year/50,000 mile warranty. I later discovered that since the mechanic was a non-dealer, an independent installer, different rules apply in the warranty. Of course, the rules allow the buyer to be told the rules after the engine is installed. Then I was handed a neat glossy cardboard "Limited Warranty." Point 3 says that in addition to keeping all sales receipts, maintenance receipts, and repair orders in the glove compartment, all repairs made by the independent repair center must first be approved by the authorized GM Dealer from whom the Engine was originally purchased. "Any reimbursement charges will be handled through the authorized GM Dealer." I was not told who the authorized GM Dealer was until over two years and 45,500 miles later, when I started having major problems.

The "independent repair center" sent me to Mac Magruder Chevrolet in Palm Springs. The Malibu was still running, but it was using a lot of oil. I wasn't sure whether it was burning it or leaking it, but my independent repairman had given up on trying to fix it. I made an appointment with Magruder and dropped it off with Pete, who collected all the papers and receipts I had brought as directed. Pete said he would have to consult with the Service Manager before the mechanic could look at it. A couple of days later I was told that 90% of the problem was the intake manifold gasket, not covered by the warranty, about $300 to fix.

My "independent" mechanic told me to ask him if there were any vacuum problems because intake manifold gasket problems result in vacuum problems. Also that an intake manifold gasket would not explain the oil consumption. Pete told me there were no vacuum problems. I asked them to check the valve seals and guides and to do no non-warranty work. I smelled a $300 rat.

When I picked up the Malibu a few days later, the fellow that Pete sent to get me my car had trouble starting it. When it did start, there was a huge, puff of blue smoke. It was running very rough, and it stalled at the first stop light I came to. And every stop light thereafter until I discovered that I could keep it running only by taking it out of gear well before the light and gunning it to keep the RPMs high. With the new driving technique under my belt, the Malibu stalled only five times in the ten miles I drove to reach the independent installer. Each time it stalled, it took several minutes to get it started again. Seemed to be flooding, and when I would finally got it started, heavy, black smoke poured from the tail pipe.

When I had time, I looked over the Magruder mechanic's comments on the repair receipt: "customer informed that attaching parts are brittle and any breakage will be his or Bob Rice Auto responsibility...Blue smoke at start... no valve seals installed at factory...Installed all valve seals."

While my independent repair center was getting the Malibu running again, I phoned General Motors Corporation, Consumer Relations Department, 3044 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit MI 48202, the address on the Limited Warranty. It took me a while to find the phone number: 1-800-222-1020, extension 5510. Kristin answered. I told her my story. She talked with someone who said that the Malibu would not have run 45,000 miles without oil seals. She also said they always go by what the Service Manager says. She called Magruder's Service Manager. He denied the notation by his mechanic, "technician #9." I reminded Kristin that I had this in writing and that it was a carbon of that which the Service Manager had in his files. Perhaps technician #9 meant that NEW valve seals had not been installed in the rebuild. GMC still goes by what the Service Manager says. Kristin suggested, however, that I send any documentation that I might have to support my allegations.

I immediately set about collecting and setting in order some 25 receipts, records of service, and such, with a covering letter explaining it all in chronological order. This was around December 15, 1995. I asked that my complaint be registered as of the date of my phone call so that the warranty might not be voided by possible delays in their processing.

February 23, 1996, about two months later, I wrote a follow-up letter, adding that since the Magruder "repair" I had had the Malibu checked by another independent mechanic, who verified that the oil seals were new. But he also informed me that the valves had been tightened too tight and that now the "cams are flat." The Auto Doctor also determined the location of several oil leaks in the engine and repaired them. I mentioned that my original complaint was made when there were 4,500 warranty miles on the engine and that there were now 2,000 warranty miles remaining. Time was running out.

Shortly, I received a phone call suggesting that I take the Malibu to Marshall Motor Cars in Yucca Valley. They suggested I contact the Service Manager first. Jeff Marshall, the Service Manager, complained that requests like this fouled up his warranty program. He seemed concerned that my documentation included letters to and from the Better Business Bureau and the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs. I mentioned that my warranty program was pretty well fouled up too. He examined all the papers and noticed that my speedometer had been out of order for a week or so. He also noticed that the Malibu had been in the shop most of that time. I explained that I didn't want to spend money on the speedometer of a car that was barely running. When he considered the documentation and the fact that the problem had been called to the attention of GM over two months earlier, he agreed to replace the replacement engine. They sent for another engine.

Engine #3--1995 (3/96)...

Several days later, the replacement for the replacement for the replacement engine arrived. Jeff required that I spend about $150 for new vacuum lines and odds and ends of small parts...and to have the radiator pressure tested because one of the receipts I showed him mentioned that it had heated up on one occasion while my wife was driving it. I explained that she had stopped and phoned me as soon as it heated up and that I had cooled it off and taken it in for inspection. The thermostat was replaced before any damage could have been done. He claimed that the radiator was "plugged" because it would not drain properly. Circulation through the radiator was not affected by the drain cock being plugged, but I agreed to the pressure test so they could proceed with the engine replacement.

Marshall Motor Cars mechanics discovered that the replacement engine they were replacing had zero compression on two cylinders. All other cylinders were low in compression. One was not firing at all because of oil fouling. All plugs had gray ash, which means that coolant was leaking into the cylinders. That explained why I was having to clean the plugs every few months to keep it running. The report also included: "cam lobes going flat, cylinders scorched," things not noticed by Magruder Chevrolet. Jeff Marshall had told me that the cams were not "flat," that they were "only an eighth-inch off." A Lexus mechanic in Palm Springs told me that an eighth-inch off a cam shaft would put it beyond the hardened steel surface material. Perhaps "soon-to-be-entirely-flat" would have been more accurate. Or, perhaps, just "flattened."

Jeff Marshall clearly stated that there were no warranty papers with this replacement engine because it was a warranty replacement, and it was not warranteed in any way.

A couple weeks after I began driving the replacement/replacement/replacement engine, the radiator sprang a voluminous leak. The man who repaired it said it looked like someone had overzealously pressure tested the radiator. It had to be completely resoldered.

The Auto Doctor mentioned to me that he could hear a vacuum leak in the intake manifold gasket of the triple rebuild. I took it back to Marshall Motor Cars in spite of the fact that Jeff had told me it was not warranteed. He said it was a loose spark plug wire, but when his mechanics checked it, they discovered there was also a vacuum leak. They retorqued the intake manifold bolts.

A couple months later, the Malibu was due for its first smog check since receiving its third rebuild. It wouldn't pass because of a vacuum leak in the intake manifold gasket. Auto Doctor could not get a new intake manifold gasket to seal. He had the intake manifold machined down to the bolt holes. There was still a blackened gap which could not be sealed by orthodox means. The problem, he told me, is common among aluminum intake manifolds. I personally went looking in the wrecking yards and found a cast iron intake manifold for the triple rebuild. The gasket sealed, and the Malibu passed the smog test. I could now drive it or sell it as I pleased. I couldn't sell it for close to what it had cost me for repairs, and if I replaced it with another used car, I would simply be starting over, replacing worn parts with possibly not top quality rebuilt parts. Late model cars are simply not designed to last, so I didn't want to buy a new car either. I decided to stick with the Malibu and hope for the best.

I wrote GMC again and asked that they pay the $350 it cost me to bring the triple rebuild up to smog requirements.

A couple weeks later, Eva, my wife, heard a "pop" as she was pulling onto the freeway, heading for work. By the time she got a couple miles down the freeway, the new engine was knocking. By the time she pulled off the freeway and called me, it was heating up. She shut it off. By the time I got there to check it, started it up, noticed the low oil pressure, put in a couple quarts of oil, and headed for the Auto Doctor, it seized up on the frontage road. My granddaughter, Britni, and I started walking to a phone. A kind man gave us a lift home, and I phoned from there. The tow truck hauled the Malibu to the Auto Doctor. The oil sending unit had blown and dumped the oil. If I had called the tow truck when Eva phoned me, we might have saved it, but...No.... I told the Auto Doctor that I had once had an oil sending unit go out on my '64 Rambler Classic. It had given me a little warning. I had taken it to the dealer to have an oil leak of undetermined origin fixed. He told me that since it had 300,000 miles on it, it was probably the main seal. The engine needed rebuilding, $1,000. While removing the engine, they discovered that a ball was "missing" from the trasmission bearing. I told them to fix that too. After the rebuild, the oil leak was worse than before. It turned out to be the $5 oil sending unit. The Rambler has an idiot-light type sending unit. The Malibu, on the other hand, has the "good" one that tells you how many pounds of oil pressure you have. That type doesn't just "leak." It dumps the oil when it goes out. Design feature. By the way, the ball bearing they added to the Rambler transmission popped into the transmission a month after the "repair." By the time I got it to Ben's Transmission, there weren't many undamaged teeth left in the transmission.

A couple days after the freeway oil spill, GMC phoned me to tell me that they had phoned the Service Manager at Marshall Motors. He told them that the speedometer had been disconnected when he installed the replacement engine. He claimed that was why he would not warranty the warranty replacement engine. GMC would not reimburse me for repairs made by the independent repair center even though Marshall Motor Cars had admitted knowing of the intake manifold problem and having made a stab at repairing it by retorquing the intake manifold bolts.

I told the young man on the phone that it was a moot question anyway because the engine had ejected its oil on the freeway and seized up before we could get it to a mechanic. He asked me for the exact date that the engine had seized up. What did I have to lose? I told him. I think that particular data officially closed my file, #950815107, with GMC. I am making plans to take all identification off my car that links it with GMC and Chevrolet. I am looking for a bas-relief stainless steel emblem "Maldito" to replace "Malibu." I'll probably have to make it myself out of lead...or JB Weld.

Engine #4--1996 (12/96)...

I learn slowly. I now have the fourth rebuilt engine in the Maldito. This time not Mr. Goodwrench, not rebuilt by Target Master Motors in Mexico. The Auto Doctor claims to have installed 50 of these engines with no problems. I decided to go for the 4-year warranty. You have to buy the warranty before they send you the engine because they rebuild engines to last a specific number of months. You buy a one-year engine, a two-year engine, a three-year engine. I have a four-year engine this time! It cost an extra $300. Your guess is as good as mine whether it will last four years?

A clue: There was a card with the 4-year engine. If I had not received the warranty papers in 30 days, I was instructed to phone API International in Tempe, Arizona. Thirty days went by. No warranty. I phoned API. My warranty had not been "activated" because the money I gave to the Auto Doctor was passed along to Nick's Engine and Supply Co. In Monterey Park, CA, but Nick had not sent it to API, the originator of the rebuilt replacement engine. I asked Auto Doctor to phone Nick. They did. Another 30 days have passed, and Auto Doctor has received my activation card. I have not yet received my Protection + Plus Engine Guarantee!

Update: I phoned API yesterday. They had received the money and mailed me my guarantee, but it was returned by the Post Office. They had sent it to my street address instead of to my Post Office Box. Our mail box is lying in a crumpled heap where it used to stand because a local gang, the West Drive Locos + 3, destroyed our mail box a couple years ago because we had the temerity to paint over the logo they had sprayed on it to celebrate the murder of a member of a rival gang on our block. I gave API our P.O. Box number. The guarantee should be arriving soon.

So officially, El Maldito is warranteed. Now, let's see what happens next.

Got a horror story of your own? We are partial to Mr. Goodwrench, < <El Seņor Buenllave>>, stories. Open a page with us for your horror story. We may have stumbled on the burgeoning Internet business of the future. I recently saw a WebSite called "KMart Sucks" on the evening news. By the time the story aired, the site had been renamed with a less obvious trademark, "XMart Sucks." I have avoided using any easily identifiable logos on this page, but I have named names. I am informing GMC of the Great White Lemon page, and I will let them know that I am listing it with as many search engines and directories as will accept it. The search engines may prefer GMC's business to mine, but I'll email you the results. Just leave your name and address below on our parent site. They may pressure me to jerk this file. Or cease and desist. They may offer to buy back the Great White Lemon. Or not. My wife still needs a dependable work vehicle.

Yes, I have documentation for all the above, plus many more details. GMC has copies of it too. I assume they considered all that when they made their various decisions, but remember, they go by what the Service Manager says, and we know he is looking out for his warranty program's bottom line.

Just send me an ASCII text file of your horror story on a 3.5-inch floppy and $10.00 to pay for your first month's housing. I'll happily add your tale to my Mr. BadWrench site.

Oh, one last news flash! We've had the new quadruple rebuild engine about 4,000 miles (FOUR engines in FOUR years--count them). It has been "missing" ever since it was installed, and the starter has been making grinding noises. Probably nothing to do with the new engine. The double rebuilt starter was warranteed, so for the third time, Auto Doctor fixed it, no charge. He also discovered why it has been missing. New spark plugs. New wires. New distributor cap. OLD distributor. The bearings were worn and the wobble was tearing up the contacts and causing erratic firing, the "miss" syndrome I was hearing and feeling. When I mentioned that my '64 Rambler has nearly 400,000 miles on it, with the original distributor and the original cam shaft, Joe, the Auto Doctor, observed, "They used to make brass bearings. They don't any more." A profound statement with far-reaching implications:

Perhaps you also heard the rumor that the BIG THREE drove Rambler out of business...or at least out of the United States to cut competition for their rotating monopoly. They may have overlooked the fact that the American consumer will pay a tariff to get better-designed and -built vehicles from other countries even though they would rather "Buy American." Could it be that the BIG THREE is responsible for creating the Japanese auto industry? Too bad Americans can't give Americans what they need and want and should logically have. Maybe it's something in the air at Detroit.

Epilog (3/5/97)...

The GREAT WHITE LEMON is still white, but as I promised, I have removed the "Malibu" emblems from the rear quarter panels and the "Chevrolet" emblem from the trunk lid. All in the process of repainting it. This is how it happened: While Eva was working at the Vintage Country Club a couple weeks ago, a flatbed truck belonging to Francisco's Designs backed into the driver's side front door of the "Maldito." Eva was considerably perturbed. Not me. Francisco had left his phone number on the windshield. I had been waiting for the inevitable. When Eva asked me to survey the damage, I declined. I was having another vision.

A little background: In 1995 and again in 1996, we had been rear-ended. The first time was at a stoplight in San Bernardino by an illegal alien, the Mexican sort, not the outer space sort. He had borrowed the car, and the brakes went out as he pulled up behind me with his family at a stop light. His kids were crying, and his wife was visibly disgruntled, maybe a little frightened at the prospect of being returned across the border. He wanted to pay me $100 not to call the police. I said $100 would not repair the damage. How about $500? While I was negotiating with him, my wife, quite upset by the accident, phoned the police...who, when they arrived, were actually more friendly with the illegals than with us. One of the officers advised me that, if I were not more careful I was in danger of being shot (by accident, of course). I had made the mistake of opening an officer's door, while he was on the radio, to give him the proof of insurance he had requested a couple minutes earlier. There was a revolver and a riot gun in plain sight with which the deed could have easily been accomplished. And there were two cars of officers to witness the shooting accident.

We reported the auto accident to Amex insurance, but because the illegal was driving someone else's car, no insurance, no driver's license, and a lot of confusion, we received nothing in the way of compensation. We even had to pay some $30 for a copy of the accident report for the insurance company. When Amex asked us at the end of the year if we had been in any accidents during the year, I told them, "No," in spite of the fact that the right rear tail light was demolished and the Malibu's rear bumper was bent down around its knees.

A few months later, a Porsche hit the left rear corner, driving the bumper down a couple more inches. It had been parked on the street in the Santa Rosa Cove Country Club. Eva heard the crash and got the driver's phone number. We got two estimates for replacing the damaged bumper and shock absorbers. The driver's insurance paid us the amount of the lower estimate, $500. One of our neighbors, an out-of-work welder, offered to straighten it for $75. It was too good a deal to refuse, even though the rear bumper still has a slight tilt.

With all the problems getting an engine that would run for more than a few months, I was reluctant to put money into cosmetic repairs, but when the car was now horribly deformed by the flatbed, leaving a triangular hole in the driver's side door, and we finally had an engine that seemed to work tolerably well for more than a couple months, I decided to take the plunge and fix up the old lemon. I also saw it as an opportunity to have the logos removed.

Francisco paid the lowest of three bids, $645 for a door skin and painting. Two other body shops told me that a door skin for the car was not available. I took the money and bought a used door off a 1979 Malibu sedan. It was not quite a fit, but it would do. I heard of a custom body man who was staying at a friend's house looking for work. He offered to replace the door for $40.

Leo did a fair job, so I agreed to have him do other necessary body work. There was a dip in the left front fender where I had pounded it out, filled, and refinished it after Eva had backed into a 4 by 4 car port post several years earlier. The illegal alien crash had broken a piece out of the right rear quarter panel extension and caused dents on both rear quarter panels. I had found a used right rear tail light assembly hanging on a fence at a junk yard in Coachella. $20, and I had been quoted $80 at another yard which had only the left tail light. Leo repaired the dents with Bondo, sanded, and spot patched chipped paint and primed it for $300 cash. Leo complained, "That car is a mess!" I laughed and told him about the GREAT WHITE LEMON WebPage you are now reading. Leo's attitude changed. Suddenly our Chevy Malibu was a prospective collector's item...with a professional-looking paint job. "Maybe," I agreed.

When I took the car to Maaco to be painted, they politely snickered a little at the "professional" body work, which I had thought was so great. Maaco's $250 paint job had to be refigured. They charged me $80 to redo the chipped paint spots. They had estimated it would cost $90 in the first place, and Leo and his friend, John, had spent hours on it. The right rear quarter panel extension, if they could find it, would cost, not $18 with $5 labor, but $60 with $30 labor. The $250 estimate was now $428. Was I surprised? Hardly. The appropriate word is "experienced." I seem to be getting accustomed to such eventualities. I complained a little however. Enough to satisfy them that they were putting something over on me. That way we both feel better.

Maaco's auto body expert confirmed what Leo had told me, the Maldito was worth the money. He added that this particular Chevy Malibu had been a sheriff's car at one time. Don't ask me how he knew that, but it had been recycled in Los Angeles. I could visualize it racing the freeways in hot pursuit. Why would the Sheriff buy an Indian red car and paint it black and white? Maybe Maaco had convinced him it was worth it.

But now...what a sparkling, trim beauty, our Maldito. I have only to adjust the choke a little, and it will be perfect...for a while anyway.

Epilog 2 (3/7/97)...

When I went to pick up the newly repainted Maldito, I discovered that, in spite of the fact that I had been told on the phone that the right rear quarter panel had been replaced before painting, it had not. The black void between the tail light and the fender was still there. I complained but to no avail. They had gone on "local access" through Ajax Auto Wrecking in Coachella to the Internet, they told me, looking for the part. Not available. They had found an extension in San Francisco, but when they checked it out, the car had been disassembled. I reluctantly paid for the job and headed for home. On the way, I passed within a few miles of End of the Road Auto Salvage where I had found the driver's side door and the intake manifold for the Maldito. I gave it a shot. They had the extension for $15! I picked it up and phoned Maaco. If I would sand it, they would paint it to match my new original white for another $15. While waiting for it to dry, I went back to End of the Road and replaced the grill, which was broken in two places. It is, after all, only plastic, as is the extension. True, the new grill has the Chevrolet emblem at the top center and the name CHEVROLET displayed at the right top corner, but what the.... I also ordered a dash board mat at Pep Boys to cover the holes and cracks caused by ultraviolet overexposure, and I replaced the steering wheel cover and put a rubber pad on the emergency brake pedal.

I picked up the repainted extension just before closing time. I was definitely caught up in a restoration (as possible) frenzy. The extension was still sticky. It has to dry overnight. Tomorrow I will replace it...and VOILA! A nearly like-new car. Incidentally, I had left the Maldito at Maaco with a little under half a tank of fuel. I didn't realize that painting a car would expend fuel. I didn't check the fuel level when I picked it up after repainting. On the way home after procuring the replacement extension, I ran out of gas in the desert. Jeannie, a horse trainer at the Ivey Ranch, picked me and my granddaughter, Britni, up and dropped us off at my daughter Robin's apartment so I could get my gas can and rescue the Maldito again. I only mention it because the choke has been adjusted. Apparently someone needed to drive it somewhere and fixed it for me. Fair enough. Looks good and runs well. I don't know about you, but I'm holding my breath.

Oh, I should mention that I have an appointment with the Auto Doctor to have the rack lubricated. Since the latest starter replacement, we have had an occasional problem with the starter hanging up. It will start but keep grinding. I found that if I shift it into gear, it usually quits grinding. Yesterday I discovered that when the starter hangs up, the ignition key does not click back after starting. When I click it back manually, the grinding stops. Lubricating the rack may be all that is necessary to keep from tearing up another starter. Probably another design feature. Magruder Chevrolet lubricated the rack a few years ago because I was having problems unlocking the ignition so I could turn the steering wheel. I'll keep you posted how it turns out.

The Auto Doctor Epilog (5/5/97)...

The Auto Doctor fixed the ignition rack, but discovered that the third new starter had gone bad. They also discovered that the second new starter had chewed up the flywheel (flexplate to those who know the difference). The chewed up flexplate had damaged succeeding starters. Guess what happened next!!

The Auto Doctor replaced not only the starter at no cost, but they also replaced the flexplate at no cost, billing the parts house responsible for the starters for the labor and parts involved. They also changed parts houses for the fourth replacement starter. It has been a month or so...and we're still holding our breath.

Oh, I should also tell you that the first 100-degree day, Eva discovered that the newly converted and replaced air-conditioning unit didn't work. The Auto Doctor took care of that also...no charge! Seems to work fine now, except the power steering pump, which is also newly rejuvenated, now groans a lot when we idle the engine with the air-conditioning running. Nothing to worry about, we are told.

Another late-breaking item. A couple weeks ago we noticed that our mileage was now running 7.8 miles per gallon. Last December, after we replaced the engine, we had been getting 17 miles per gallon. Checking out Eva's log, we pin-pointed the time the drop in mileage occurred: when we changed the carburator a couple months ago. The Auto Doctor had not been happy with the fact that the engine did not idle smoothly. He said it was the old Rochester two-barrel carburator, which was not able to be rebuilt because it was cracked. The Auto Doctor could get me a rebuilt carburator for a little under $300. Pep Boys had a Holley rebuilt Rochester (same thing) for $135. Guess which one I took. Pep Boys, of course! We did two of those before I found out that Holley rebuilds are rebuilt where everything else is now rebuilt...in Mexico. The new ones didn't run as well as the old one, plus the engine idle could not be slowed down to a normal speed. I noticed that the linkage on the new carburator was bent, so I did some work on that and mentioned it to Joe (The Auto Doctor). He said that any repair would invalidate the warranty on the carburator. He also said that I should take it back to Pep Boys until we got one that works, but Pep Boys warranty does not cover Joe's labor. I asked Joe how many carburators it would take before we got a good one. He said it usually takes four or five.

Since I had already invalidated Pep Boys warranty, I took the existing carburator to another mechanic, who took the carburator off the engine, straightened some more bent linkage, and checked the adjustments, charged me $75, and said it was now in good shape...except that it still would not idle down.

When we discerned that the mileage was now half what it had been, I felt sufficiently desperate to take it back to Joe (The Auto Doctor) and humbly ask him to check it out. Against his better judgement, Joe did as I asked. The power valve, which I think is comparable to the accelerator pump on my Rambler's Holley, was stuck wide open. That explained the mileage problem! And how! Joe fixed it and charged me only $15 for a used power valve he took off one of the spare carburators he keeps in the store room. The Auto Doctor also took the base plate off the Holley rebuilt Rochester Pep Boys carburator and realigned the butterfly linkage. It now idles beautifully as well. And our mileage is back up to 17 MPG. (At first I thought it was 13 MPG until I remembered that we have to divide the mileage by 82 % ever since we replaced the speedometer cable and the chewed up plastic gears in the transmission last year...after engine number three...the speedometer now runs 18 % slow.) Just another of those crazy things. Haven't figured that one out yet. Give me time. Maybe I'll be able to fix it when we overhaul the transmission next time.

Special Notice to prospective buyers:

February 15, 2004, I was leaving the Von's parking lot in Desert Hot Springs. I stopped for the traffic on Palm Drive, and a big navy blue SUV rear-ended me. By the time I got my seat belt off and opened the door, the SUV backed away and was speeding toward the North exit of the parking lot. I jumped back in the Malibu and chased after her, continuing right on Palm Drive then right at the light on Two Bunch Palms just in time to see the hit-and-run culprit leaving the parking lot. She saw me coming and took off in a black cloud of rubber. Because her over-size tires were laying rubber instead of gripping the street, I kept up with her for a couple blocks. She turned right, and I did the same right behind her. The Malibu, however, stalled on the turn. By the time I got going again, she was just turning left at the end of the block. By the time I got to the end of the block, turned left, and stopped at the next intersection, she was out of sight, probably pulled in a driveway or somewhere I couldn't see her. I checked out the neighborhood. No trace of her.

I went to file a police report. The officer on duty asked, "Who told you to file this report?"

"Most of my friends and relatives. Why?"

"It's a lot of work, and what do you think you will get out of it?"

"Hit and run is a crime isn't it?"

"Yes."

"You want to discourage crime, don't you?"

"OK, but it will go on a pile of reports this high." She said, indicating a stack of papers 9-10 inches high. "The investigator may not get to it in six months to a year. Is that all right with you?"

"If that's the way you do things here, what choice do I have?"

While I was waiting for the officer to check out the damage on the Malibu, I overheard her complaining to a superior about all the reports that had to be done. "I can't get any work done."

Apparently crime reports are common and taking them is not considered a part of the job description of the officer taking them. Am I the only person to whom that seems odd?

I did not get a good description of the hit-and-run driver and her vehicle other than that it was a navy SUV with over-size wheels and a driver who looked a lot like Julia Roberts. The police officer said, "What would Julia Roberts be doing in Desert Hot Springs?"

I replied, "Hit and run. We are only 100 miles from Hollywood." It wasn't a positive I.D.

I hung around the crime scene for two weeks and finally saw the same SUV. She had not spotted me so I was able to get a good description of the vehicle and the license plate number which I reported to the police. I followed the SUV, this time with two young women aboard. I think they spotted me following because they did not go home. They went to the apartment of a male friend who looked suspiciously like an off-duty police officer. He came out to the car and talked with them parked in the alley that goes by his front door. I waited a while. When it appeared they were attempting to get rid of me, I drove around the block and came past the SUV from the front so we could get a good look at each other. The two women slunk down in their seats, trying to be hard to see.

I wouldn't worry, however, the police will not bother you if you buy the Malibu any more than they are likely to bother the hit-and-run driver who crinkled the trunk lid. They expected me to have my insurance company fix it; even though the police would not supply my insurance company with a copy of the crime report. The investigating officer told me, "We don't work for the insurance company." Since my deductible was $500, I opted to straighten out the trunk lid the best I could and replace the left rear quarter panel extension and the back-up lens with parts from the local wrecking yard. The quarter panel extension was only $20, and I have my eye on one of several compatible trunk lids for $50. I am also in the process of getting the accelerator pump fixed, which is what caused the stall during chase.


We have received sufficient comment to set up a GuestBook on the subject. (Click to visit the GuestBook.)

Read about other experiences with mechanics, insurance companies, warantees, and the like...and get it off your chest! You'll feel better about the whole, sordid mess.

e-mail me at dwight@dwightwinenger.net
or overland...

		My snail mail address is:

                          Dwight Winenger
                          c/o Great White Lemon
                          P.O. Box 173
                          Desert Hot Springs CA 92240.

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Don't miss the second installment of the Great White Lemon... Engine #4½,
or "The Guarantee of a Lifetime."


*
The expletive "HELL," not deleted above, is a vernacular usage and not to be construed to mean that the writer believes in a burning "hellfire" as described in pagan references. He understands that the English word "hell," equivalent to the Greek Hades, derives from the archaic form for "hill" or "hole" as in potato planting circles. In other words, the literal "hell" is the grave where many of us eventually get planted among our forefathers, that "long-lasting house" of folk tales and bawdy songs. Humans can be resurrected from the grave, as there are a few historical instances.

Gehenna, however, "the lake of fire," is another matter. "Reserved for the Devil and his angels," this location, more accurately, this "state," is not a pleasant ending. It is, however, an ending, total destruction with unpleasant remembrances that ascend forever and ever as choking smoke from an inextinguishable fire. Thus the Great White Lemon cannot literally be "From HELL!" It might well end up there however, in a "hole" or, more likely, in the "melting furnace," the Gehenna of off-scoured vehicles, to be recycled. Hardly to be remembered with fondness, as if anyone would actually accept responsibility for its design or manufacture any more than GMC and its constituents have.




Background music is "Intersections" by Mickie D. Willis © 1998
all rights reserved

MIDI download is FREE, but please inform the composer.
intersex.MID was orchestrated by Dwight Winenger (BMI) on Trax for Yamaha CBX-T3 synthesizer.



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