Saturday, August 1, 2015

And The Beat Goes On

Did you miss your chance to buy the Eagle the first time around? Well it's for sale again...

image 1

I've looked closely at the post and the pictures, and it's 100% definitely the same car. I've had many moments where I regretted selling this thing. If only I had a few grand to spare...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Closing Up Shop

This exchange happened yesterday between me and my 6-year-old son:

Me: Can you believe the Eagle is all gone?
Him: (in an incredulous tone) Yeah... somebody wanted it!

Yes, it's true. It finally happened. All that's left of the Eagle is this:

A license plate and a sold notice are my souvenirs from a year of wrenching, pushing, pounding, and otherwise forcing the Eagle back onto the road as a viable daily driver. It got to the point where I had done all I could for and with the Eagle, and it began to feel an insistent pull toward new horizons. So, it's busted outta this joint. Skipped town. Peaced out. Now it belongs to a kid about an hour south of here, for whom the Eagle will be one heck of a first car. 

The garage will be a little emptier now, since the car I've replaced the Eagle with is only 2/3 its size at most. Some of the tools might gather a little more dust, and the garage floor might gather a little less transmission fluid.

In an odd twist of fate, our 4-wheel drive friend had one last hurrah yesterday before moseying on down an empty desert highway. We in the Valley of the Sun got most of a year's worth of rain in the wee hours of Monday morning. Never in this town's history has more rain fallen in Phoenix in a single day. You can read about it and see some pictures here. Those flooded streets look pretty intimidating, but then again, AMC Eagles rush in where subcompacts fear to tread. A major intersection covered in a foot of standing water? Easy. Residential streets with water all the way up to people's garage doors? Bring it on. It's hard to beat splashing through a temporary curb-to-curb lake while all the other cars sit paralyzed at the water's edge. 

It was a great last day for us, and with that, the saga ends. The Eagle has landed, and now, the Eagle has flown.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The End of An Era

Well kids, the time has come. Nobody wanted the Eagle, but I needed some money, so I put the Altima up for sale yesterday. Already, I have three potential buyers, so this is going way better than last time.

I've been mentally preparing myself for this event for a while. The Altima, you see, was my first car. And at the time, I was a Californian. Put the two together, and you have a sacred rite of passage, more significant than anything else that happens in youth. Even if you live in a place that isn't saturated with car culture, even if the stoichiometric ratio is not in your DNA, your first car is something special. It's fun. It's freedom. It's enough responsibility to make you feel serious, mature, important, maybe for the very first time.

That's what I got on December 17, 1999, and again almost exactly 4 years ago, in this form...

Here we have the good side:

The not-so-good side:

and the final score, within a few miles or so:

The Altima has been the catalyst for a long list of "good old days". All my friends from high school, and many friends from college rode in it, all over 4 western states. From the beach, to the mountains, to the desert, it's carried musical equipment, groceries, things it was never meant to carry, and at one time, all my earthly possessions. It's lived in every state I've lived in. The albums of all my favorite bands have been played to death on those speakers. Every girl I've ever loved has sat in that passenger seat, sometimes late at night. 

Many of the ups and downs of my youth and young adulthood played out with this car in the background, or even the foreground.

So it's no wonder that our friend is tired. It's time for it to drive off into the sunset. More than that, even, it has become the casualty of pragmatism. It's worth more to me as cash than as transportation. Obviously you can't put a price on memories, but the memories will be there just the same either way. 

Ah yes, the memories. The time when me, Leslie, and her friend Becky who was visiting from North Carolina, stole a wooden pallet and ran it down to the beach in the back seat for a bonfire. The time when Joey ran full speed into the corner of the open passenger door and burst a blood vessel in his arm (still sorry about that one, man). The seminary carpools. The drag racing (the folly of youth). The late-night toilet-papering missions. The back-and-forth trips to Orange County, to the Salt Lake airport, to rock shows, to Guitar Center. The breakdowns, the repairs. The minor collisions, the repairs. So many, many repairs. 

It seems likely that I'll sell it tomorrow. If I don't, it shouldn't be long after that. So, Altima, the point is... me and all of those people I mentioned, whether they know it or not, bid you a fond farewell.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"My Car Broke Down in Arizona / Had to Ride the Bus Again"*

I guess I didn't get around to writing the next day, but in the time since I last posted, the cooling system has been performing admirably, given its age and design. Gone are the days of the rumbling, boiling coolant, it seems. The needle on the temperature gauge is significantly farther down than before, in a wide range of (hot) driving conditions. Using cruise control on the freeway seems to help matters as well.

But the adventures continue, of course. A couple weeks ago, I was driving down the U.S. 60 toward the interchange with the 101, when the Eagle's engine abruptly lost power and stopped responding to throttle inputs. The power steering and brakes still worked, though, so it was clear the engine was still running. I brought the car into the shade on a shoulder under an overpass, and contemplated being stranded even briefly in the heat, and the cost of a tow. As I did so, the engine stalled completely. I sat there for a few seconds, then turned the key, and the engine started up right away and was fine-ish after that, and I got home without incident.

That experience, coupled with some other previously-observed symptoms, led me to believe that not enough gas was getting to the carburetor, in a way consistent with a clogged fuel filter. I had never changed it, so that made plenty of sense.

After putting on a new filter, though, the problems worsened, in the other direction. So much gas was being poured down the intake's gullet that the engine bogged and bucked, and acrid smoke poured out of the exhaust pipe - though, notably, it didn't stall. But even by 1985 standards, this was unacceptable. After fiddling and futzing with the carburetor, and seeing less improvement than I wanted, I decided to pull the carb and put it through the complete adjustment regimen as prescribed by the factory service manual.

Friday night I took it off and partially apart, and did the adjustments (some had been way off... my bad) and then put it back on. There was immediate improvement but now I have to fine-tune the Fast Idle and Curb Idle screws, but that's not too hard. The best part was that there was yet another fantastic Arizona sunset waiting for me after I finished the job. Phone photos don't nearly do it justice. In a huge, flat valley, the sky goes on forever, and the summer monsoon, even when it's not throwing lightning around, gives you evening scenes like this:

*for the uninitiated: the post title is a Five Iron Frenzy lyric. Yeah, you've probably never heard of them, so...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What's Cooler... Than Bein' Cool?

Ice cold. Which is the exact opposite of the weather in June in the Phoenix area. Sure, you've heard the urban legends about melted asphalt, and frying an egg on the sidewalk (neither of which is true, by the way), but even more horrifying is the actual proven fact that an AMC Eagle can overheat in such conditions. Yes, I still have the Eagle. It clings to me like a scared child, and I can't help but feel sorry for it and give it food and shelter.

Several times in the past few weeks, the following scenario has played out...

After driving from downtown Gilbert to the north end of Tempe, I pull into a parking spot at work, nervously eyeing the coolant temperature gauge on the dashboard. After I shut down the engine, I wait about 15 seconds, and I start to hear a low, gentle rumbling sound from under the hood. The coolant is boiling. Bubbles of water vapor are surging into the coolant reservoir, from the connecting hose at the top of the radiator. No steam comes out from underneath the hood, but the message is clear: you're really pushing it, dude. 

In a perfect world, I would be able to drive a moderate distance on the freeway during the hottest part of the day, during the hottest part of the year, in the hottest metropolitan area in the country, with the air conditioning on full blast, in a 30-year-old car, without the engine overheating. Is that too much to ask? I for one have refused to take "yes" for an answer.

I tried modifying the fuel mixture. It helped a little, but not enough. I put in a brand new thermostat. It helped a little, but not enough. I know that radiator was made to handle some pretty serious heat, so something's not quite right. Then there are all the other classic cars (of which there are a lot in this town) that you see driving around, apparently shrugging off the heat like it ain't no thang.

So on Monday it was, as always, time to consult The Internet. Inspired by some posts on enthusiast forums, I realized that there are probably all kinds of rust and mineral deposits in the radiator from when the car sat idle for months and months. That, and just the fact of having so many gosh-danged miles on it, and being so old... you get the idea. And all of that inibits the flow of coolant and probably heat transfer as well. I read about a heavy-duty liquid rust remover you can get at Home Depot, and I ventured forth to procure some.

Last night I made a solution of said rust remover and ran it through the radiator a couple times, letting it sit for a while in both instances. I also washed the outside with it, including the millions of thin copper fins running between the coolant passages. This was with the radiator out of the car, of course. 

After a very thorough rinsing with water this afternoon, the radiator is back in the car, with all the coolant, and all the hoses hooked up. Based on preliminary observations from a small road test, it looks like the radiator is dissipating heat a little better than before. Tomorrow will be the real test, though.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

The Eagle has been reluctant to leave the nest, it seems.

I've put in on Craigslist,, and the AMC Eagle enthusiast forum, and I've received a grand total of 5 replies. 3 from obvious scam artists, 1 from a possible scam artist who wanted $200 to sell it for me, and 1 from a guy who wanted to trade for a lowered Buick Roadmaster in poor condition. No offers, no test drives. This is my first time selling a car, but I thought I'd see a little more action by now. So... I think if this continues, I might have to sell the Altima instead. It's a bit more of a known quantity in the used car world, you could say, and people might respond better to it.

And the Eagle's been improving a little, too. The cruise control now works, all of a sudden. Its primitive cooling system was mildly overheating on the really hot days last week, and a couple of tweaks, including leaning out the fuel mixture, seem to have worked to solve that problem as well. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fly Away, Eagle! Fly Away And Be Free!

FOR SALE: 1985 AMC Eagle 4-door 4WD Station Wagon, base model. 156,xxx mi.

- 2WD/4WD Select Drive system
- Automatic transmission
- 256 c.i. (4.2L) straight-6 engine
- Roof rack
- AM/FM, power brakes, power steering
- Passes Arizona emissions, has new current AZ registration
- Clear title

Recent work:
- newly rebuilt transmission (less than 1K miles), including new torque converter, front pump, and cooling lines
- newly rebuilt carburetor
- new tires and stock-size wheels
- new front driver's side CV axle
- new lift supports on rear hatch
- new front brake pads and rotors
- new driver's seat belt
- new U-joints on drive shafts, rear shaft professionally serviced and balanced
- new spark plugs and ignition wires
- new catalytic converter and tailpipe
- new shock absorbers
- new battery

Also of note:
- heater works
- factory A/C blows cold. Has been professionally retrofitted to run newer, widely available R134a refrigerant.
- recent professional wheel alignment
- virtually rust-free, with zero frame rust
- INCLUDED: copy of original factory service manual AND engine and transmission overhaul manual

I have spent the last 9 months restoring this vehicle to full functionality from non-running condition. It's a great car to work on yourself, since it was built before the days of complex engine computers. Mechanical parts are cheap and easy to get, and require no special tools. Great as a daily driver, weekend 4-wheeler for the desert or mountains, or all of the above! If a Jeep and a station wagon got together and had a baby, this Eagle would be it. Has and will continue to turn heads and make friends in unexpected places.

Minor flaws: There's a slow ATF leak (just check and top off every so often), and some small tears in the driver's seat upholstery. Paint job is aging but serviceable. Otherwise, it's in good shape and ready to fly!

$4500, or make me an offer on this American classic.

text or call: 480-318-0142