"Crashworthy" may have been a more appropriate word than "safe".
That 36 mpg Bonneville is incredible. You're not even getting that from your Sl2 (half the displacement, probably slower, way lighter, aerodynamically better) and that's what I get moderately hypermiling my 2008 Rabbit.
The Bonneville WAS amazing... after 4 or 5 years of neglect (parents basically said "we're waiting for it to die...) the engine finally siezed after loosing oil pressure. It bit the dust about a year ago with 272k miles I believe. My father, in all his hard headed ways, bought my mother a Cavalier to replace the family sedan the Bonneville was. Without the "family" any longer since my brother and I have long moved out, there was no need for the big vehicle. He also was disappointed when he looked up stats on newer 3.8L GM vehicles to learn what the EPA ratings were and he just kept comparing everything to his 36-37mph highway '92 model and saying "WTF?!"
As for it compared to my Saturn, it was a nicer car no doubt but the Saturn gets better highway mileage than 36-37. When I go 100% highway (since the HAI and 50psi in tires) I get really good mileage, it is all detailed in my gas log (look for the spikes on the graph). Though I'll admit, stock for stock, the SL2 only got 32ish while 100% highway driving... so yeah, it did beat it out of the box.
The Laser is the 1.8L model which was only offered in FWD non turbo. Any AWD model would be a turbo, then they also had FWD turbo cars and FWD non turbo 2.0L cars, so 4 powertrain options total.
I drove it home about 9 miles from the place of purchase today... WITH NO BRAKES. Literally, the fluid resevoir was empty as the passenger front caliper had leaked all the fluid out during my test drive yesterday. I downshifted and used the e-brake to stop. Lots of fun.
Your father should compare EPA ratings to other EPA ratings, not to real-world results. The 1992 Bonneville is rated 16/19/26.
I too drove home a vehicle with a failed braking system recently...38 miles of completely abandoned empty back roads. I mostly kept it under 20mph and in 2nd or 3rd gear, so it took a couple hours. I only had to use the e-brake once, and that was to comply with a stop sign, not to avoid a crash. It is now sans trans in my back yard, having given up its transmission to a project.
What kind of mileage did you get from the salvage-titled Laser you drove before?
Yeah, their Bonneville was pretty amazing. It averaged 24-25 city driving with my mother behind the wheel. I had no idea its EPA numbers were that low!
Driving w/o brakes is good fun, right? Wrong! Like I said, I went 9 miles but I drove it normally, at regular speeds. Took back roads of course, the trip probably took 30 minutes.
I used to routinely get 27mpg mixed in the old lemon of a Laser... and that was when I was still young(er) and dumb(er), beating every ounce of life out of that car.
I'm hoping with grill block, underbelly, 50psi in tires, nice trans fluid and synthetic oil (or even 0W-20 Mobil oil) I'll pull 30's all day, 40ish on the highway with my current driving technique. Biggest problem (if you will) that I see right now is the 2nd generation DSM 16" wheels which are a lot heavier than the OEM 14's that should be on it and the car has 3 different tires on it.
Fixing the brakes this evening, then PS probably tomorrow.
I've got a friend who does detailing for a living. We discussed the paint job. The plan is to spray it with Rustoleum gloss black at $30/gal from a harbor freight gavity feed sprayer. Get a few coats down, not worry too much about sags or orange peel, then call him and have him come help wetsand and polish the car to a mirror shine. I took autobody in vocational school about 6 years ago so I've still got some know-how.
Second time in my life I had to bash a rotor off a hub with an 8 lb. sledge after a 3 lb. woulnd't do it, and ended up breaking the hat off the rotor and breaking it in 2 or 3 pieces. Time before this was....... you guessed it, on my previous '91 Laser. IDK what it is about these damn things but WOW, what a PITA. I put all kinds of antiseize on the hub face when putting on the new rotors.
Going to Cleveland tomorrow morning, really wish I could take this car but it's just not ready yet.
On the power steering leak - I found it. It's on a hard line under the rack. It's leaking where the line goes through a rubber bushing that is under a u-mount supporting the rack. WTF were the engineers thinking on that? Looks like a ridiculous job to replace.
I'm wondering though, if I cut the line and flare it, if I could get lucky enough to jump around that bushing w/ the repair. Too bad the plumbing company Shark-Bite doesn't make stuff in 1/8". I'm thinking about brass fittings and ferrules? This is gonna take some creativity.
Update: Brakes all done. All new fluid in the system.
Went and put 5 gallons of fresh gas in it since IDK how long the car might sit I didn't want to fill up the 16 gallon tank. I drove about 4 miles and the brakes were pretty good and even w/o PS it wasn't hard to drive.
Next: cut/splice in a "jumper" section around said PS leak with a brake line repair section and some steel compression fittings. Shouldn't be too bad.
Then: Order all parts for complete tune up from RockAuto (as well as parts for 3 of my other cars and 100k miles service parts for the g/f's Grand Prix) and get it running like a top... then begin plans for paint.
In the mean time I need to source this rebuild kit for my 60 gallon compressor so I will finally have AIIIIIIIIIRRRR!!!! I've had air tools for 4 years still NIB because I never had a use/space for the compressor.