I bought my $1 Oldsmobile because I needed a sacrificial vehicle for a diabolical project I have planned. The problem is, after getting this Alero’s “Quad 4" engine running beautifully last weekend, I’m having second thoughts. Should I destroy what might be the best vehicle in my fleet?

I should clarify that by “best” I don’t mean “most interesting.” I just mean that, purely in terms of Percentage Of Parts Still Functioning, the Alero clearly beats the rest of my herd by a giant margin. Especially after I stopped by the junkyard on Sunday to snag a bunch of ignition parts.


It wasn’t easy, because some annoying person went out and grabbed all the ignition modules from seemingly every Quad-4 equipped GM car on the lot. Every Oldsmobile Alero and Pontiac Sunfire I looked at was missing exactly the parts I thought I needed, so I was about ready to head home.

Photo: US Auto Parts/Facebook

But a quick google search revealed that certain years of Pontiac Grand Ams were also powered by the first ever GM-designed dual overhead cam inline-four, so I checked out the blue one above. Luckily, because the faulty hood latch meant the engine was inaccessible to that pesky ignition module-snatcher, there was a chance that I could be brought to Quad-4 Ignition Parts Salvation.

And indeed, after half an hour of wrangling with that crappy hood, I got it open and snagged the entire spark plug cover (complete with plug boots). I even bought a battery at the junykard for $30. After installing all that into the $1 Olds, a beautiful sound rang through the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan:


Even though the car seems to run and drive perfectly, it’s still not perfect. With the engine running the transmission’s pump, a leak from the trans cooler line made itself known. Fortunately, I can snag the replacement part for $40 at the parts store, and after about an hour of work, I think I’ll be able to get the Olds in tip-top mechanical shape (unless Michigan rust makes the job harder than it should be—which wouldn’t be surprising).


When that’s done, this $1 Olds will be a beautifully running car with a decent interior and a mostly-solid body. Which is to say, it will be the most presentable vehicle at David Tracy’s Automobile Shelter For Misfit Machines™. I almost don’t want to kill it; it’s too nice.

But I have to. I promised my coworker I wouldn’t get too attached, so this poor Oldsmobile is headed to death row. Probably.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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