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Old 01-24-2007, 10:30 AM   #1
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new guy, old cars

Greetings list!

We have a '96 MPV, '94 Lumina (3.1L engine), '90 Festiva (automatic), '83 Celica, and a '67 Cortina (English Ford). We also have a '59 Anglia (Harry Potter 2 uses one) that's been sitting in the garage for years now.

I've been interested in saving gas for years. The most ambitious effort we ever tried was around 1988 on the Cortina. We swapped the original 3.9 ratio rear axle for a 3.22 from a junked early 70s 6 cyl Mercury Capri, and changed to larger diameter rear tires. When the speedometer reads 55, it is actually going 71.6. Originally I wanted to switch from a 4 speed tranny to a 5 speed, but changing the rear axle was easier. I didn't see much change in FE, but the engine is a lot quieter, and it enabled, well... faster traveling, which explains why I didn't see more FE. Best I ever got out of the Cortina was 35 mpg, and worst was 23 mpg when it was carrying about 1000 pounds more weight than usual.

We are in a suburb of Dallas, Texas called "The Colony". Of interest is that neighboring cities, especially Frisco to the NE, have been on bad terms. Frisco has cut roads! (Don't want "scum" from The Colony driving thru their "beautiful" city you know.) On the south edge, s. h. 121 is being turned into a toll road. A few years ago, residents in the NE part of The Colony finally got a road to 121, only to have it cut off from the eastbound direction a month ago. Now to go east, the best option for those people is taking that route south to the westbound service road for 121 and traveling a mile to a U-turn. Talk about wasting gas! And older feature is a southbound road. It manages to take 2.9 miles to travel a distance of 1.9 miles as the crow flies. The route it takes was dictated entirely by property lines and city boundaries.

Our immediate concerns are that the Festiva and Cortina need work. Seeing some blue smoke from the Festiva's tailpipe, and the Cortina has a lot of blow by. The Cortina is so old it is excused emissions testing, but last year it took some effort to get the Festiva to pass, and I expect it will only be worse this year. So, fix 'em? Or get newer cars?
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Old 01-24-2007, 02:54 PM   #2
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Welcome to the site! Make sure you check out the "gas log" and "garage entry" features of this site.

Quite a variety of vehicles you have there! As far as selling or going new, this is a tough one. The current offerings for fuel efficient vehicles are slimming down every year. You are lucky enough to have a festiva, but the fact that it is an automatic is definetly hurting it's gas mileage when compared to it's manual brethren. The oil burning also indicates it's not operating to it's full potential. Not a lot you can do there with out lots of time and money. It comes down to the problem of putting more money into a car than its' worth. I for one, enjoy the challenge. I'm hoping to be hitting 30 MPG highway with my Lincoln by this fall.

It's really a matter of personal taste. You can get great numbers from anything with time and work, or you could buy a newer efficient vehicle, or buy a more efficient vehicle and modify it!
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Old 01-24-2007, 03:13 PM   #3
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My vote is freshen the powertrain in the festiva and swap to a 5 speed. For the cortina I'd install a diesel powertrain(maybe VW) and sometype of 5 speed. How hard could it be?
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Old 01-24-2007, 09:02 PM   #4
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What's the daily driver?

So which is the daily driver? I wouldn't say you have to buy a new car to get good gas mileage, just maybe something different. If you really wanted, the Lumina can probably get some decent mileage -- that 3.1L (from personal experience) is designed with some interesting torque dyanamics for FE. It might take some mods and serious working of the technique, but doable. Are you particular to Domestics and Anglican, or would a small Honda be considered?

BTW, I love the Cortina -- a great little machine.

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Old 01-25-2007, 07:41 PM   #5
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How many miles are on the Festiva?

Don't know about the Festiva, but I can tell you I have 2 Honda's which both have about 215,000 on them, now. I had to pull the heads, for different causes, so while I had the heads off, I gave them both cheapy, cheap rebuilds. They both got new rings, new rod bearings, new mains and rebuilt heads. On the second one, I paid $20 extra to have new valve guides put in, and I put in a new oil pump. Neither car uses any oil to speak of, both passed Ca emissions, no swear and they both run great. I have a total of probably $2500 in one, about $1,000 in the second.

Very pleased with the costs and the consequences.
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Old 01-26-2007, 10:21 AM   #6
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Festiva has about 170K miles. It was rolling out some blue smoke all the time and a compression check showed 140 on cylinders 1-3 and 100 on cylinder 4, but after treating it with an oil additive (Slick 50 for high mile engines), it only smokes for about a minute when started, and the compression check now shows 140-150 on all 4 cylinders. Therefore we think that means both rings and valve stems. Believe the radiator is mostly plugged, because it overheats too easily these days. Also think we may have to get a catalytic converter-- don't those plain wear out after 15 or more years? Should probably have the A/C compressor replaced-- it still works and the seal is still holding, but believe 17 years is well beyond its expected life. (Will have to convert from R12.) The last time we went on a bit longer trip in 100 degree weather, the A/C stopped putting out cold air after about 50 miles. Once the car had sat for a few hours, the A/C was working again. Then there's the clicking CV joints. O'Reilly's has new (well, remanufactured) CV joints for $60 each, so that's not too bad. And lastly, the automatic tranny still works fine but leaks somewhere, so must add fluid periodically.

No, switching to manual is not an option. One of our drivers was never much good with a stick shift (she uses the clutch as if it's an on-off switch) and doesn't like them anyway. She glommed onto the Festiva and really likes it. If it were possible to add a lock to the torque converter....

Body is in good shape. Has the usual collection of door dings but no big dents, cracked windows, rust spots. (I wonder if my fellow citizens are so biased against little "crap" cars that they take less care about denting it than they would if they were parked next to a Lexus. One of my friends referred to the Festiva as a "Bicmobile", as in when it runs out of gas, throw it away and get another. I found it amusing and flattering.) The original paint job was not the best quality, but it's still holding up. I think the car is worth saving, mostly because it's hard to replace, or I would. I'm angry to see that all these great economy cars available in Latin America and Europe are not available or allowed in the US. The Smart car, Ford Ka, Ford Fiesta.... Low 30s is lousy mpg anywhere but in the US.
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Old 01-26-2007, 11:18 AM   #7
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RH: The old man was particular to Fords, but we've convinced him that Asians make good cars. I like Hondas but the biggest problem is everyone else realizes they're valuable. Hondas are hard to get cheap. So we've considered Kias (the Festiva was made by Kia), and Hyundais. He once owned a 1970 Austin America (British Leyland) mostly out of curiousity because it had some radical ideas for that era: water bag suspension, not shocks and springs, very good on washboards and railroad crossings, front wheel drive and transverse engine and a 4(!) speed automatic all of which is common now but in 1970... The big problem with the Austin was it wouldn't hold up. If you think Ford means Fix Or Repair Daily, you should've tried that Austin.

We also once owned an '88 1/2 Ford Escort. Not bad on mileage (best we got was 37 mpg on a trip when we had just put in new O2 sensors), but what a cheapo maintenance nightmare. Like the time the headlight switch failed while we were still hunting for a motel room so we had to sleep in the car, or the leak from the exterior to the passenger compartment which we never found so just left the carpet pried up or out so it wouldn't rot, or those abominable mirror flaps in the visors that were held with glued on velcro and which would unstick when hot. Came open on two noteworthy occasions. One time the flap flopped down right in my face while I was in rush hour traffic, and another time while I was out and had it parked for several hours, it flopped open, which turned on the light for the vanity mirror and drained the battery. Found On Road Dead (well, found in parking lot dead.) We took out the vanity light after that one. Burned through quite a few ignition modules too. If nothing else I think that Escort finally convinced him that maybe Fords aren't always good cars, although the '79 Granada we had helped on that one too.

Another vehicle we onced owned was a shorty '69 Ford Econoline window van, with the 302 V8 engine. That's the first model year after the step vans. Driver sat at the very front of the vehicle, but at least behind the front wheels so that it steered like a car, not like busses or those step vans. Engine was between the driver and passenger seats. in later models Ford moved the engine forward, giving the van a more typical engine compartment. That windshield was the one RainX worked best on. Could've removed the wipers. Also, the battery was away from the engine, and therefore would actually last through the warranty period unlike in any other car we have owned. Heat kills batteries, something to think about if you block off the grill. Move the battery to the trunk, perhaps.

Other cars we have had are a '67 Chrysler New Yorker (big gas sucking 440 cubes engine with 4 barrel carb-- if you floored it and opened up the back 2 barrels, you could see the gas gauge move), '74 Maverick with a 302 V8 instead of the standard 6 cyl, '82 Grand Marquis, '88 Grand Marquis, an '89 MPV, and, briefly, a '72 GMC pickup.

We didn't choose the Lumina, we inherited it. Sounds like the Lumina has more possibilities than I imagined.

The Cortina has been a good car. Outlasted all those other cars.
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Old 01-26-2007, 12:15 PM   #8
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Well the people on here who have Festiva's seem to be pretty happy with them and they seem to get pretty good mileage. If you already have that and it's working for the driver, then why break it. I wonder if you could fit a Ford 4 speed automatic, with torgue lockup. That would give you something pretty close to a stick, for someone who thinks the clutch is for on/off.

I'm surprized at the improvement that Slick 50 apparently made, but I'd agree with your assesement on the engine probably just needs to be completely gone through.

On Fords, their are people who seem to be favorable towards them, but from my experience they are worthy of the initials, they are either found on road dead, or fis or repair daily. They have been the most consistent piles of junk I've had and they've been the most exasperating to constantly have to work on.

Honda's, I have two that I have acquired as non-working vehicles. The first had a spark plug which twisted off at the base of the plug, leaving the threads in the hole. It also had an easy out snapped off inside the plug. I had to pull the head, to get the spark plug removed, so I did everything else, at the same time. Second one, the timing belt went out and they guy decided to throw in the towel, so I bought if for $300 and towed it home. I'm working on it currently, if it runs, I'll have about $450 into it. If it doesn't, I can get a used Japanese engine for $300 or so and just swap the engine out, entirely. In either case I'll be out less than $1,000 and have a dependable car in the process.

On the radiator, it's probably just giving up due to plugging or dry rot. When I put the engines back together, I use 50% distilled water and 50% antifreeze. Doing that keeps the engine from developing any issues with blocked passages from deposits and so forth.
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Old 02-07-2007, 07:16 PM   #9
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I have added some gas logs for our Cortina. I knew it had been doing poorly of late, but didn't realize it had gotten as bad as I found when I crunched the numbers. It struggled to get 20 mpg when in years past it had managed near 30 mpg. Some of that wretched mileage was thanks to being mostly city driving, with a leadfoot behind the wheel (not me!), but still....
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Old 02-08-2007, 03:24 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bzipitidoo View Post
RH: The old man was particular to Fords, but we've convinced him that Asians make good cars. I like Hondas but the biggest problem is everyone else realizes they're valuable. Hondas are hard to get cheap. So we've considered Kias (the Festiva was made by Kia), and Hyundais.
I understand that, having grown up with a GM-specific family. The first few cars of mine (Chevy and Oldsmobile) suffered some problems that turned me to other brands. After Being introduced to Honda myself (and the reliability), I think my folks might be warming up to the same idea. My Dad currently has a '99 Olds Aurora that has its fair share of mechanical issues from time to time (at <100K miles). He asked recently if a used Honda would be a good replacement

I agree that Kia and Hyundai make vehicles with good value. With the used Honda market as high as it is, their offerings are definitely worth it. I was pleasantly surprised by the first Kia I drove, and they continue to improve.

That's quite a collection of vehicles over the years. Cool though that the Cortina has beat them all. My brother had an early 70's New Yorker as well -- what a boat!

RH77
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