SVOboy: Ok, just so I am clear. My understanding: You purchase part's and repair the 96, so he can pass smog and have a "working" car. In exchange you get 98.
On the 96, when it's smoking, is it smoking all of the time, or does it smoke more heavily when it's being accelerated. What I'm wondering is this. I had a Mercury Capri which had a 4 cylinder motor in it. It started smoking, really bad, at about 95,000 miles. I got to thinking about it and I decided to replace the valve guide seals, with the car in the engine. When I did, the old seals were all hardened and splitting. So, I was able to get it to stop smoking by replacing the valve guide seal's. Unfortunately, if it's smoking, their is a good liklihood it's the ring's, in which case it could get more costly. On the other hand, if he's willing to pay for additional material's, then I think it's a reasonable opportunity and you should do it.
On the A/C, what are the symptom's which make it appear that their is a leak?
Well, I was actually planning on starting some long term savings. In 8th grade my very investment wise math teacher taught us the importance of saving early in regards to retirement, so you know how that is. If it doesn't go to savings it'll prolly go somewhere into the black hole that is $160k for 4 years of undergrad. That's a lot of burnt pancakes!
Just talked to my bud at my old shop and he said he'd press the bearing for me over lunch, so all works out, mwahaha. Does anyone know of a test I can do when I check out the car to make sure it's a wheel bearing and not the axle?