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Friday, 18 May 2012


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Well ain't that nice :-) A far cry from my first car '66 VW beetle with holes so big in the dash that I had to stuff shop rags in there to stay warm. At least the rags matched the color of the car.

Still a VW guy, '10 TDI Cup edition. Look up VW HPFP failure and see why there is a rental Fiat 500 in my driveway. :-(

These come with a GM 3.8 liter six which is simply unbreakable so long as he keeps the oil changed.
The engine is in Parks, and Olds 98's that are the backbone of gypsy cabs all over the place (althought they are finally reaching the end of the trail). My mechanic says 300k on one of these is not unreachable at all.
I inherited a 96 Olds 98 and while it suffers from floaty handling and same day steering response the mill is a monster.

P.S. The car choice was basically dictated by my insurance agent. I was going tp help him buy a new car, but she said to get an old, big, 4-door American car and get in two years of accident-free, citation-free driving (that part's up to him), then buy a new car. So that's what we're doing. Although he's the type that he might just keep the Buick for the long haul....


I love big cars too. I bought a Crown Victoria last year to replace my old Chevy Caprice, which had over 200,000 miles on it. The Caprice had driven me all over the United States, and I've taken the Crown Vic to New Mexico while pulling a trailer.

There's nothing that compares to a big car like that on a long trip. Claustrophobic little tin cans with rough suspensions and tiny uncomfortable seats are just horrid to ride in, and Heaven help you if you get in a wreck! I was in several accidents with my Caprice and it never suffered much damage, always drive it home from the wreck, while the econocrap that hit me was crushed like a pop can.

Zander made a pretty good choice, though to me the Park avenue is still too small :D

Believe it or not, the Crown Vic is his favorite car! His dream is a '79 Crown Vic, and enough money to get it restored. Not my pref at all, but then, he should get what he wants, not what I like.


Congrats to Zander (and to you too Mike! It is always nice to see a kid growing up with an established working ethic!

"....a creampuff '98 Buick Park Avenue Ultra with loads of bling..."

"...our mechanic.... rhapsodized over its condition..."

"...saying it's a responsive ocean liner..."

Dear Mike, no wonder I read your blog everyday; I wish I could write like this! (Absolutely no irony here, I really like it!)


Does it mean that I'm getting old when I think back on all the articles that featured Zander over the years and realize that he's proverbially "all grown up" now? It seems impossible to think that this is the same Zander that showed up in all those great, old Sunday Morning Photographer articles! (The shot of him drinking a glass of milk in "The 50mm Lens and Metaphysical Doubt" springs to mind).

Congrats to Zander on finding a new ride that he likes!

Love the post, Mike. There is a good article this week in The Economist says that there is new evidence that fatherhood increases a man's contentment with life. http://www.economist.com/node/21555543

I'm sure it will be a great car, and serve Zander well.

That said, I notice that the average age of Buick owners just dropped, rather suddenly, from 72 to 65. Maybe Zander influenced that?

He is a great kid. Be proud.


With best regards.


Wow, as a first car you really drive hot wheels over in the states. looks really good and all the best for the driver. now you have to invest in chrome cleanser :-)

in germany we have to pay roundabout 2$ for one litre of gasoline which is very expensive....

Promise, i will let you know when my son mika (you know, the one with the bobby car...)has some new wheels to drive around our street corner here in good ol' freiburg :-), nowadays he still drives vehicles with no-gasoline-motors, but time will come


Well....if I were his age, and I had a pretty girlfriend like that, I think I would also want a car with a big, comfortable backsea....er...I mean an engine that won't break and may go 300,000 miles! ;-)

Time for a vanity plate! "ZANDER1"??

Hi Mike,
I bought my Park Avenue new in 2001. It's at 190,000 miles today and on road trips still get 30 to 33 mpg, not bad for a "gas guzzler," so he's likely to have a good time with this, cruising comfortably and safely while earning his insurance credits. I hope he has many years of great service from the Park.

By the way, thanks for the great project challenge earlier today.

A PERFECT first car. It being hard on gas is actually a good thing, it will teach him how to budget. It will be able to take a hard crash and leave the occupants unscathed, (And I sincerely hope that never happens) and, by the virtue of it being a great American floatmobile, he probably won't be driving it too fast. (Well, on twisty roads anyway...)

My kind of car. Here in NZ our Holden Commodore has an Ozzified version of the GM V6 3.8, the same engine I assume. Very popular as cabs and with the police. I'd have to say I don't find it that much of a gas guzzler, especially on longer runs where it's just ticking over at cruising speed. Our mechanic loves them too - he reckons they never go wrong and last forever. Just change the oil every 6 months. I'm keeping mine for the long haul.

1910 bordello? Mike, you aren't that old are you?

Yeah, Crown Vics, the wheels of choice for a decade of cops, have the uniquely beneficial side effect of making every other driver around you more careful and law-abiding. You might be a cop, too.!

Did the young lady come with the car? I'd say then he got a very good deal:) And where did his hair go?!

Could you not see the iPhone display due to the sunlight or was it due to the high mileage on your twin-lens live view camera? :-)

Cars with a 6 speed manual and 7500 rpm redline usually impress me. But who cares if his car has next day handling response? It's a heckuva chick magnet. Reminds me of this George Jones song.

A Buick? Did you make sure the 109 yo former owners corpse wasn't still in the back seat?

about your son keeping this car for the long haul: I recently read about how GM is having trouble marketing to the new generation of car buyers because cars/gas are just too expensive now and "kids" would rather spend their money on other things. in other words they don't really care - and all the better because there's no worse investment than a car, unless you can afford a really nice one - so here's to him driving that bad boy into the ground.

also, I love land yachts. really sad that they killed them all off...

Great choice. He can get in, head west, activate cruise control and before you know it, he's in California.

If memory serves we were introduced to infant Zander pre-internet (well, public internet anyway) via the printed page. And now here he is his pretty much fully formed and presented via electrons. I wonder how many others have had the arc of their lives follow this particular arc of technology?

Fantastic! At his age, I'd have hated a car like that but now, 26 years later, I'd just love one.

Years ago a friend had a Crown Vic with red cloth seats, sort of a brushed fabric that he called "whore velour", but it sounds best if you draw out the word "whoore" for the assonance. It stuck like crazy glue to my brain that phrase, and I can't look at a big honking land yacht without those words going through my mind.

For the rest of his life, your son will be able to tell people his first car was a Buick. That might have "cool" someday.

Awesome for the kid! My first car was a '72 Olds Cutlass Supreme! I now drive an older, dirtier, stinkier, mileage-ier, creakier, old nag. But I do have kids saving for sportscars . . .

And so he stept (deeper) into the dept trap......when he's lucky he'll be out of it when he's 75 :-).

I would have bought him a Golf/Rabbit with a nice TDI engine (the 90 Hp one has excellent milage, is about as lumbering as your Buick and is just as rock solid). The 140 HP version (before 2006) isn't by the way, my hughly overprised and overspeced Audi A3 2005 (I bought in 2008) started leaking water due to a crack in the engine cover and needed a new engine at 120.000 km. So if your son starts complaining about high fuel prices, well that is the way to go. And my best car ever......well a 60 Hp Audi A2 TDI (about 100 miles to the gallon) and my other car (a 1990 Mercedes 190 2.6 which in my book officially is the best car ever build).



And Ned, I would stick with the Fiat.....the 85 Hp twin air engines are great to drive, I defenitly would want one (if after having driven to the moon and back I would want to buy another car at all, which I don't).

Greetings, Ed

a) nobody his age around here would want to be seen in one of these
b) not that many his age around here could afford the fuel to run one of these ugly things (officially @ 19/20mpg = ~12 l/100km).

Zander looks to be aging rapidly. Thank goodness I am not getting older at the same pace.

I must have been out of the States a lot longer than I realized as that was a new car when I left. Doesn't fit my image of a gas guzzler though, as dad had a Chevy Blazer with a 350 V8 and a 4 barrel carb Remember those? Thank goodness I don't or I'd be getting near the far side of my 40s. Anyway, it got about 9 MPG and maybe up to 13 highway if you were a very conservative driver. I was not when the old man was not around.

Once again, reading TOP--a photography blog--has got me wanting to buy a car. Especially a Buick Park Avenue. Without the spoiler.

Best of luck to Zander with the new ride.

I'm a just a bit older than you, Mike, but I don't have kids. As such, I'm completely out of touch with the preferences of someone of Zander's age. Still, I threw up a little bit in the back of my mouth when I read this:

"His dream is a '79 Crown Vic. . .".

In twenty or so years, fine. But now??? Migawd.

Clearly the car obsession that characterized my generation is no longer mainstream. But I have to ask, are Zander's tastes at all typical among his friends? Inquiring (older) minds want to know.

Besides the suspension and the nicest interior, IF I remember correctly, the 3800 engine on the Ultra is supercharged. Not OMG fast, but just deep-breathes and gets on with it better than the regular version.

Buicks are virtually bulletproof: I'm on my fifth one in the last 20-odd years, and the only real money spent on any of them was a tranny rebuild on a Regal at 210,000 miles, at which point the motor was still not using a drop of oil between changes !

Yesterday I saw someone, bold as you like, and apparently not even under duress, insert himself into a Renault Twizy and drive off. The gulf between the was-I-dreaming memory of that sight, and your presentation of Zander's boudoir barge, was so delicious I am still chuckling about it. The Twizy (a dignified name would just have made things worse) is here: http://www.renault.co.uk/Cars/model/twizy/explore.aspx

Excellent choice to take a used car in good condition as a first vehicle, especially since it's his own hard-earned money. With a new car, he would have lost several thousand the moment he drives it from the dealer's parking lot. And when he takes good care of his burgundy float, it might keep its value quite well.

PS: All the bling on this type of car almost gives it an air of hipster irony...

SWEET!! Where did you ever find such a minty example of a near 15 year old ride with only 40K on it? Truly the little old Wisconsin Lutheran (think Garrison Keillor) spinster that went to church on Sunday and Garden Club/Uker or Sheepshead Game on Wednesday. Based on the picture, he picked a WINNER...and the car is nice, too! Stay safe, Zander....

How do you get a '98 car with that much bling and only 40k miles???? I've just picked up a '98 Toyota Camry with 200k klicks to replace my second Camry which went to the great Camry graveyard in the sky -both with well over 400k klicks on. My Camry cost me $Aust D 3,500, and I reckon I did OK-- we have expensive cars here in Oz. and petrol at $1.50 US/Aust / litre.

"A Buick? Did you make sure the 109 yo former owners corpse wasn't still in the back seat?"

I think it would have been in the trunk--the salesperson actually said, "Look at that trunk--you could fit two dead bodies in there."


Congratulations to the lad; may he drive it with good judgment and good health.

"I recently read about how GM is having trouble marketing to the new generation of car buyers because cars/gas are just too expensive now and 'kids' would rather spend their money on other things. in other words they don't really care"

My son's friends are still interested in getting around on their own, but you're right, the level of expense has taken a lot of the fun out of it. It's not only that the cars are so expensive--it's the insurance. My son's insurance bill will be almost as high as his car payment.

"and all the better because there's no worse investment than a car, unless you can afford a really nice one"

Not sure about that last...the nice ones tend to be a) VERY expensive (priced any Porsches lately?) and b) depreciate quickly. My 5-year-old Mercedes Benz (although it might not qualify as "a nice one" in your estimation, I don't know) has lost a whopping $20,000 off its value since new--people don't like older used ones, because the upkeep continues to be expensive even after the car isn't. (Fortunately it's lost only $8k since I've owned it, but even that's a lot. It's about to be traded for a Toyota.)

My stepfather still has my grandfather's top-of-the-line Mercedes from 1971, and although it runs, the air suspension has a slow leak--and the cost to get it replaced is ungodly. I mean you could buy a decent NEW car for what it would cost to fix. Greatly more than if it just needed a new set of shocks. So on the rare occasions he takes it out, he has to let it sit idling in the driveway for twenty minutes first, so the air suspension can charge itself. Then he's good to go, as long as he doesn't let it sit for too long with the motor off.



Cars are like cameras, if you get 2 people together to discuss, you will have 3 opinions.
I'm now reliving my teenage years with the car I couldn't have back then
A Jeep Wrangler

"I would have bought him a Golf/Rabbit with a nice TDI engine (the 90 Hp one has excellent milage, is about as lumbering as your Buick and is just as rock solid)."

I actually suggested just that, but he doesn't like 'em. And you remember how important it was at that age to LIKE your car and this it's cool (something I've never quite grown out of, I must admit).


P.S. New VW Golfs in the States come with a $4,000 price premium just for the diesel engine. Why? Because diesels can save you money. That's VW's justification for charging so much more.

The way I look at it, what they're really saying is, a diesel engine will save the consumer money, and VW wants that money for itself.


It is your father's car ... hence it is your son's.

It was said a lot of things skip one generation.

My father cook my family dinner (10+) usually and for so many years eating Michelin this or that but his is the best. "Hence," I cannot cook at all. My younger son found out that unless he learn how to cook, he would be eating only instant noodles. Hence he can.

Test this - wonder whether you son like to do photograph. If he is not, rest assured his son will.

Mike said:
(Fortunately it's lost only $8k since I've owned it, but even that's a lot. It's about to be traded for a Toyota.)

I drive a Rav4. It's ok transportation but clearly designed and engineered by committees. It has no soul. My first and last Toyota.


Cool is for idiots, my first ride was a Dutch build Volvo 343 automatic (bought it in 1991 and it was 10 years old then). Now Volvo's have a reputation about roof load (at least in those days). It cost my the equivalent of a monthly salary and bot factors weree quit handy when I drove it into a ditch (on it's roof) only 4 month later (skidded on oil on ice got the car out of the skid but ran out of road while doing so.....I lived in the Flevo polder back then and ditches, dykes and polders go together.....well.....like cheese and unions). Result one perfectly okay driver and one not so okay and verry wet car (tt-ed). Also a result: 4 police cars, 4 ambulances and no towtruck :-). Someone called via the mobile (in 1990) that a "burning" car had overturned. I was nearly mauled by ambulance brothers that insisted I should make use of their vehicle. 7 years later I bought my first Mercedes 190 and when and if I buy another car it will be a 190 again (or a Fiat twin air). The Merc is about as cool as a German taxicab (some of them are actually stil 190's), but I love the model to bits. And the 500 is sub zero anyway.

And having driven Opel Corsa's, Astra's and Vectra's, Fiat Punto's, Audi A2 and A3's and R8's (on a circuit for fun) and even a bright yellow Lambo Murcialago (on loan from a girlfriend, and definitly no car for Dutch trafic, so she nicked my A2 which had more or less the same switches anyway), a VW Bora and VW Rabbit and a Passat, a Toyota Prius (no thanks) and a Corrola (no thanks either) and even a Volvo 340, 440, S60 and a Chevrolet Lacetti, and yes also a Porsche 911 and a Rolls Roys Corniche (belonging to a professor of mine) and I currently drive a Mitsubishi Carisma (which is a nice car but lacks well charisma), so I have some experience. My heart tels me 190 2.0 E will do the trick but my mind says Fiat 500 twin air.

>P.S. New VW Golfs in the States come with a $4,000 price premium just for the diesel engine. Why? Because diesels can save you money. That's VW's justification for charging so much more.<

And in Holland that is even worse (diesels pay more taxes and cost more money to buy and insure), but VW's should be diesels :-). And if you drive 60.000 miles a year......well.

Greetings, Ed.

Good for you and good for Zander--a perfect first car. You are a nice papa, Mike.

In the UK that car would cost around £3,000 per annum in insurance and of course gas is £1.40 a litre.

Not to my taste but everyone's different. I'm 27 and I love my 2010 Mazda 3 sedan a 6-speed stick (it's a shame that the simple ability to drive a manual is rare among people my age, and those of us who enjoy driving them for fun seem rarer still).

Of course my first car was a dark gray 1985 Toyota Cressida station wagon with no working air conditioning (in Alabama). It was free to me but I was so glad when I could afford my own car with working a/c. Of course that's why these days I love to drive with the windows down and the sunroof open in my Mazda.

It's costing him the equivalent of about 700 British pounds to insure, and would cost me about half that. And gas is currently about 2.5 pounds per gallon, so roughly a quarter of that per liter.

It's not even that much of a gas guzzler. People I talked to on car forums report getting 18-20 in city driving and anywhere from 25 to 33 on the highway. The supercharger doesn't kick in unless you poke the accelerator, and the shape is relatively slippery, so if you drive easy (I'm told), it's not hard to break 30 mpg on the highway. That happens to be better than BOTH my "baby Benz" *and* my old Miata, if you can believe that. (Offcial government figures for the 4-cylinder, 1.8 liter 2001 Miata are 20 city, 26 highway, and 23 combined.)


You're a younger version of me--my first car was an ancient, rattletrap, near-terminal Toyota that barely lasted a summer, and my first NEW car was a Mazda 323 with a stick shift, the ancestor of your Mazda 3. I drove it for more than 10 years and loved it.


The Buick will be a good first car, and the supercharger will make it fun.

Don't let on about how quick they can get with basic bolt on modifications.

From everything I hear, these 3.8 GM cars get around 30 mpg. Gotta love a gas guzzler like that. My fuel stingy VW gets closer to 22. I do have 226k miles on it. And it goes just fine. But I have purchased a bit over ten thousand gallons of gasoline for it. And if I add up the costs? Pretty near $100k. Cheap I guess. At least it didn't hurt much.

There are few things as memorable as a first car and it looks like you found one that should serve him well...and I doubt you mind having him surrounded by all that steel to protect him.


From learning to drive Dad's Benz to owning and driving a Detroit Land Barge.
What a come down!
And Dad is disposing of the Benz for a Toyota?
Next thing we know Mike will be getting married and raising a family!

As a follow-up to buying a used car: Ken Rockwell quite eloquently describes that he can only afford a used Mercedes and not a new Ford ;-)

Perfect first car! Huge, American, and ironic. (Sadly, my first car was an '84 Honda Accord with more rust than paint... but it never gave up!)

Your son can fit at least 5 of his friends in there (depending on the # of seatbelts) with two big coolers in the trunk, collect some gas money and make the run to Mazamonie or Mt. Horeb for some lazy summer days at a non-polluted swimming hole...

If you want bling in a Buick, then either a 1957 or 1958 Buick Roadmaster 2dr hardtop is the way to go. Real chrome bumpers, has great gas mileage when the motor is not running and the back seat allows for making whoopie without having to go to the chiropractor afterwards.

They are the simply loaded with style and what the '50s GM and Detroit could produce


Hey, they shot the pictures of the Twizzy in Eindhoven (home town of Philips)......

Greetings, Ed

Here in the UK these big yankee saloons used to be known as "aircraft carriers",....I have never seen one of these before but it has Jaguar'esque looks so 'the boy' has good taste in cars only matched by his taste in women.......You should be proud of him!

"P.S. New VW Golfs in the States come with a $4,000 price premium just for the diesel engine. Why? Because diesels can save you money. That's VW's justification for charging so much more.

The way I look at it, what they're really saying is, a diesel engine will save the consumer money, and VW wants that money for itself."

From what I've read (and I am too tired today to find proof), the US diesel regulations are stricter than in Europe. So US cars require added filters and urea injectors to cut NOx emissions and particulates. That is a large part of the cost increase over gasoline engine versions. It is also the reason why so few companies are even bothering with diesels in the US because they don't think the price increase will attract buyers. The Japanese companies sell diesels in Europe but I can't think of one Japanese diesel currently sold now in the US. But then again, VW could just be trying to screw us, I don't know!

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