Rust and the delusional seller.

(This is a car shopping post from before I bought the wagon)

I love living in new england for many reasons. The changing seasons, the ability to visit multiple states win a relatively short drive, the incredible amounts of history. But there is definitely a masochistic streak to being a car lover here. Anything you drive does its level best to rot out from under you. And classic cars shopping doesn’t involve the question “does it have rust?” but rather “How much rust does it have?

The honest answer on this car would have been “Way too much.” However as with far too many cars I’ve looked at, the sellers either lie to you in hopes you won’t catch them, or are apparently looking at a completely different car when they answer my questions than the one they show me when I get there. When I talked to the seller of this 1959 Pontiac Star Chief he made a big point to tell me that the car had been repainted two owners back, and his answer to the eternal rust question was that the driver’s floor could use some work and there was a spot behind the rear window.

With that answer I made plans for the three hour each-way trip to see it, visions of double fins dancing in my head. Upon arrival I was greeted with a very faded and cracked paint job that was starting to peel. Not a big deal I thought, I’d want to change the color anyway. So I peeled back the trunk mat to look at the trunk floor, and saw a big line of rot. Other side of the mat, more rot. Peeled up the front of the mat to find the trunk floor and the passenger wheel well were separated by a jagged gulf big enough to lob a ferret through. From there it only got worse. The rear floorboards were rotted out, the front floorboard were so bad the passenger floor brace had rusted off and was laying loose on top of the muffler. It became a sick sort of game.

Cowl? Rotted.

Radiator support? Rotted.

Rockers? Rotted.

Fenders? Rotted, then bondoed.

Doors? Rotted.

Rear decklid? Rotted.

Roof pillars? Rotted.

He wanted $3000 for what was an engine powering a decent set of seats, and some good glass and trim loosely connected by some very bad metal. I didn’t even bother to have him start it. I just snapped the pictures here and headed back home. It makes me sad to see a car in such poor shape, but it makes me intensely frustrated to have someone tell me a car is one thing, and then show up to discover it is something completely different. The same question always pops into my head, the question I have, thus far, been too polite to ask. “Did you honestly think I would be more likely to buy the car because you bullshitted me? Do you think finding out I’ve been lied to was going to make me more likely to give you my money?” One of these days  the lies will be a little too egregious and I will not be able to resist, I promise to report back whatever response I get.

Tattered luxury is still beautiful

This 1950 Chrysler Windsor  was found on Craigslist for only $1850. Sadly the photos here(which are from the ad, not mine) were taken a year ago, and the car had been sitting in a field for that intervening time. We drove up to see it and ended up spending at least an hour helping the seller get the car started again due to a dead 6 volt battery and no good jumper cables.

Once it did start through the flathead straight six ran nicely and the car drove well around the field. I liked the car a lot, but sadly despite a completely rebuilt engine and little serious rust it was much more of a restoration candidate than something I could drive and enjoy relatively soon. If I had a garage and would have been able to work on it over the winter I would have seriously considered it, but as it was I wasn’t ready to get into it.

It did make me rather fond of Windsors though. The car was a fascinating study in the lap of luxury circa the late-40’s, including things like a heating system that wafts heat out the full width of the dash rather than blowing out a few vents. Also it  had some really amazing art-deco touches, like the fold-away window handles. This era of Chrysler has definitely moved up my list of desirable cars.

A quick couple lessons in selling cars

A quick tutorial where you, the reader, can learn from the mistakes of the sellers of this 1950 Desoto. Sorry for the single tiny pic, I didn’t take any at the time and it was the only one of the actual car I could find online.

1) Don’t lie about the cars running/non-running status. Mostly because it is kinda easy to tell once I get there. Saying the car ‘runs well’ when you haven’t actually gotten it to start will just piss buyers off.

2) Parts/repairs done before the car say outside under a tree for three years aren’t “new”. If you advertise the car as having ‘new’ brakes and I show up to see the lines/fittings are rusty and you tell me that is just because the car sat for three years I will know that you are, once again, bullshitting me.

3) I REALLY don’t care what the sexual orientation of the guy you got it from was. No, really. It has no bearing on my interest in the car directly, and listening to two guys make gay-bashing comments will ensure I don’t want to buy this, or any, car from them.

The one that taunts me.

Another craigslist find, this 1951 Plymouth had apparently been stored for sixteen years with the plan of an eventual restoration. The owner finally realized it would never happen and decided to sell. He said that even after its long slumber it only needed a new battery & points to drive from his mother’s garage to his business, the brakes even worked.

I’m not sure what model it is, but it is clearly the most stripped-down basic model sold. It has dog dish hubcaps, no radio, & rubber floor mats. What amazed me was, in addition to its lazarus like revival, the car was amazingly original, and was in very good shape(hiding from 16 years of new england weather probably helped). I found some rust in the floor & trunk but none in the outer body, and while the rubber mat had dried out such that it had shattered, the rest of the interior was in great shape. The only big issues are the need to go through everything due to sitting so long, and that the driver’s side of the windshield is badly cracked and would need replacing(a $300+ job in parts alone, minimum).

However at the time, and even now the car taunts me because I can’t decide if it is exactly what I’m looking for or exactly what I’m not. I have a great respect for simple vehicles that are what they are without trying to be more..And dog-dish hubcaps have always been my favorite style. But the car is also so simple as to be a bit boring, and it isn’t clearly the art-deco of the post-war era nor the glorious excess of the late-fifties. Every time I look at the pictures of the car I get a bit of a thrill, but don’t know if that would last long enough to be worth pursuing.

This wouldn’t be a big deal if I just couldn’t decide and then moved on and had a twinge or regret; But every few weeks the seller re-lists the car on craigslist and it gets me waffling all over again.

I think I figured out why your truck has been for sale for over a month

I found a craigslist ad for a ’51 Chevy truck that had been posted a bit over a month ago. On the off chance it was still around I sent them an email on Friday asking if they still had it and saying I really wanted to come look at it but that since it was 3 hours away I’d like to ask some questions[1] about it and could they give me a call. Saturday afternoon I received an email saying only “I’ll ask my husband to give you a call over the weekend.” It is now Tuesday and I have received no call.

As I said in the subject line, I think I understand why their truck is still available…

[1] I’d just looked at some truly terrible trucks that day(which will be posted about later), and was a bit gun shy.

Any more atomic age and it would have a reactor under the hood.


This 1961 Cadillac was the first car I looked at after I decided to sell my Comet and get something else. It was advertised as being straight but needing TLC for $2700 firm(and man was he adamant on that point). I was very interested as from a purely looks standpoint the ’61 Cadillac is my absolute favorite. It embodies the jet-age aesthetic better than any other car, and from the back especially looks like it should be roaming the superhighways of a tomorrow that never quite happened.

This particular one though had obviously been siting for a while then had been “fixed” by a guy who was clearly interested only in turning a quick buck on it. The ‘very straight’ body had globs of bond in the bottom of both front fenders, the front edge of the hood, and one door was half sculpted out of the stuff.

But so badly did I want this car that I was willing to look past that as well as the fairly thrashed interior. However after we’d driven 45 minutes to look at it, the guy wasn’t there and wouldn’t be for a while. So I went and took one last look at the car before we headed out, and happened to glance under the passenger wheelwell. What I found there caused me to get into Box(my xB) and drive away without a second glance.


Though it is hard to see from the pics, most of the corner of the car is rotted away. The body mount bracket is no longer actually connected to the body in any way and just about everything else is either rotted, missing or bodged together out of what might be road tar? (oh and as a bonus, I didn’t notice until just now the zip-tie holding up what looks to be a rubber fuel line where there should be a metal one) I expect whatever I buy will have some degree of rust and rot, I live in New England after all, but I’m not interested in trying to repair major structural rot.

As I recall this car stayed on craigslist for a while, eventually dropping from $2700 to $2000 before disappearing, so I guess he found a buyer either willing to deal with the rot or who didn’t bother to crawl under the car. I still get wistful about this car, mostly as a representative of ’61 Cadillacs in general, but all it takes is looking at the pics of the underside to remind me why I don’t regret not buying this one in particular.




Some fins, a big chrome grille, teal green. Looks right to me…

I was once again obsessively searching perusing craigslist for classic cars and came across an ad for a 1956 Chrysler Windsor that had no pictures. Not knowing what one looked like I did some googling and came across this example at Country Classic Cars.

Maybe it is just that I play far to many video games but this car looks, for all the world, like a game designers idea of a generic “1950s” car. Mind you, it isn’t unattractive but the styling just confused & bland enough to look more like a pastiche of mid-fifties design than like a real car. This car looks distinctly like what it is, the gawky ackward evolutionary stage between the much curvier earlier models and the finarrirfic “forward look” 1957 models.

The car was only $1500 and supposedly in good shape, but looking at the pictures of ’56 chryslers I just wouldn’t know what to do with the car. It is lost between two design worlds, and while I love orphans I think this is one someone else will have to adopt.