"The Guy Seemed Nice Enough"

Illustration for article titled "The Guy Seemed Nice Enough"

Welcome back to Garage of Horror, where we share your worst wheeled experiences. Today we re-learn autodom's oldest message: Everyone, absolutely everyone, is trying to screw you, even in Canada.


Today's tale of woe comes to us from Rhitick, whose only sin—besides thinking the '03 Grand Prix is a good-looking car—is that he trusts too much. Now, they say you can't con an honest man, but who are "they"? That's right: Con men. And between the used car dealer and something called a "Canadian Tire" shop, poor old honest Rhitick learned a valuable lesson about the human race: namely, that we might be better off nuking the whole lot and starting over again with something that's not based on monkeys.

The filter you see is from an '03 Grand Prix GT I bought in '08. Car was beautiful and fully loaded. A lady had apparently traded it in for an Escape. Apparently, the woman didn't know a damn thing about maintaining cars. I was assured by the salesman, who was at one of those just-leased corner lots in a trailer, that the car had a tune up done (new brakes, filter, etc, etc) which I normally back up by taking it to a mechanic or checking it myself before signing anything.

But I decided to give the benefit of the doubt. The guy seemed nice enough.

Anyway, a week into owning the car I noticed the gas mileage was poor, like Chevy big block poor. So I started poking around starting with the air filter, which resulted in that picture you see. No big deal, I bought a FRAM filter from a local Parts Source and continued on my merry way. Gas mileage was better (damn thing wasn't being choked to death) but not what I had expected, I just chalked it up to the weather as the snow was rather deep that year.

About a month or so later when the snow cleared I was able to stretch the cars legs a bit more, or at least try. The 3.8 V6's are hardly known for being fast but I was vastly disappointed when I gave it the beans-in fact it bogged a fair bit and the idle was weird. Again, things I overlooked when it was -30° out with constant snow.

Popping the hood and checking the oil revealed tar, darker than Guinness and more viscous than coffee left on the maker, with the power on, for four days. Checking the plugs revealed tips that looked like they had been drowned in the BP oil spill. So I ran it over to the Canadian Tire right next to my work for an oil change and plug replacement, things I normally do myself, but with the 3800 series engines you need to lift the engine forward just to change the back plugs, which I was not about to do. Anyway, after picking it up I started it up and left for home.

The car stalled right as I was leaving the parking lot, turning right on a red (with plenty of time, mind). That was fun!

Expeditions are even larger when they are barreling down on you at 60mph.

Under that wretched hood were two of my spark plug wires, broken... Don't ask me how, I don't know either.

Canadian Tire replaced them at no charge. Asshats.

At 100k I went to get my ATF flushed because I noticed a little bit of slippage and that's usually when the maintenance requires it. The garage showed me what it SHOULD have looked like. Mine looked like someone blended a slinky into very small bits and tried to make paté.

I don't hoon my cars, I don't do burnouts or anything stupid like that. At least not on my daily drivers.

On the way to a friends to pick them up for breakfast the car started whining like mad just as we got there. As I pulled in the power steering went and smoke was coming from the engine. The serpentine belt had blown and fried my alternator. Still made it to breakfast! Thank God for friends who drive and places that serve breakfast until 2:30 p.m.

After nine months of those issues and more, such as the door panel coming loose and the power windows not working, I decided to trade it in.

The day of the hand-over was a torrential downpour, so of course the wipers stopped working. The dealership was only a couple of blocks over, so I drove with my head out of the window Ace Ventura style.

I traded it in for a new (09) Hyundai Accent. Hey, at least it's a stick.

Stupid thing is, I miss that car. It was beautiful! I am still very fond of those cars and engines...it's a wonder the thing survived at all.

Once again, the owner of a complete pantload of an automobile tells us how much he loves his car. And he's right, at least about the engine, which is a real sweetheart if taken care of. And after all, if you're here, you believe that there are no truly bad cars. Just bad previous owners, bad salesmen, bad drivers, bad shops, and bad people in general.

All of which, unfortunately, make for good stories, so keep 'em comin'!

Garage of Horror is a recurring feature where we share your automotive nightmares. Some are mild, some are wild, but all are moments - some funny, some painful, some outlandish - that you'd rather not repeat. Have your own Garage of Horror story? Email it here with the subject line "Garage of Horror."


PotbellyJoe and 42 others

I liked those Pontiacs too. Then I saw how every owner of them drives them. I would never buy one used. It's either been neglected or abused, and those are not mutually exclusive.