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Hafner's $2,500 Used Car Challenge, Part 3--Final Decision

Saab1

Hafner's $2,500 Used Car Challenge

Part 1--The Search
Part 2--The Evaluation
Part 3--Final Decision
Part 4--1986 Audi Coupe GT
Part 5--Life With My Car Lust

In the previous installment, I discussed how my search for my own $2,500 Car Lust had narrowed to three finalists, a 1978 Fiat X1/9, a 1990 Saab 9000 Turbo, and a 1986 Audi Coupe GT. The Fiat and the Audi were my top two choices. The Fiat's promise of carefree fun had captured my imagination, and the Audi Coupe GT had long been one of my favorite cars. But when the Fiat failed to start and the owner pulled it from consideration, the Audi became my winner by default.

Default is perhaps an unfortunate word, as it implies that I was settling for something substandard. That was certainly not the case; in fact, as I set up plans to finalize the purchase over the weekend, I was having trouble not succumbing to complete ecstasy. I felt like I had won the lottery--a freaking Audi Coupe GT!--and couldn't wait to finally lay hands on it. I couldn't imagine a better result to my search for a fun $2,500 beater, and I assumed that what had been a highly entertaining search was slowly winding down. I was wrong.

Saab2 I'll quote from my last post to describe what happened next.

"That very evening I was buying dinner for my daughter when I received an e-mail from a woman who read my breathlessly enthusiastic Car Lust post lauding the 1986 Saab 900 SPG. In that post, I decalred my undying allegiance to the '86 SPG as my favorite car of all time, a car that, despite its extreme rarity, I had always dreamed of owning.

"Well, as luck would have it, her retired father was selling his immaculate and beloved 1986 Saab 900 SPG and wondered if I might be interested. The attached photos revealed an SPG that looked absolutely perfect, with good paint, a straight body, even, amazingly, an uncracked dash. I have never, ever seen a 1986 SPG in this condition and assumed it would sell for something like $10-$12.

"I wistfully looked at the photos of this wonderful SPG, chuckled wryly, and wrote back that I doubted I could afford it. Within minutes, she replied that the car was being offered for $3,500--only $1,000 above the top of my  price range. And, what's more, the car was only five hours away from me, in Walla Walla, Wash.

With that, everything changed."

Saab3 And so it did. The relevation that I might actually be able to buy the car of my dreams completely short-circuited my process and, frankly, scrambled my mental faculties. My first response was disbelief, followed rapidly by a mild physical manifestation of shock. I began shivering slightly and I was distracted, with my thoughts unfocused. I'm guessing that people react similarly when they find out they have just won the lottery.

Part of my distraction came from the fact that a part of me had already taken emotional ownership of the Audi Coupe GT and created the beginnings of a sentimental attachment. After all, with the Audi Coupe GT, I had the chance to buy one of my top five favorite cars of all-time. When I finally get around to starting the Chris Hafner Museum of Underappreciated Lustable Cars--essentially, this blog in physical form--the Coupe GT and its Ur-Quattro cousin will have a place of honor. But this didn't slow me down much. After all, with the '86 Saab SPG, I had a chance to buy, not one of my favorite cars, but my favorite car. It's like giving a biblical scholar the choice of having dinner with either the Apostle Paul or with Jesus Christ. Both options are unbelievably, mind-blowingly fantastic; but the decision itself isn't particularly hard.

Stage I--Getting There
I spent that evening in a state of reflection and increasing but impotent excitement, but the following day, a Friday, I threw myself into action. My primary issues were logistical in nature--namely time, distance, and financial.

Saab4 My biggest challenge was covering a great deal of distance in a short time, as the car was located five hours away and my perceived window of acquisition was closing fast. The Saab was not yet publicly up for sale, but within a day or two the seller would be posting it on Craigslist and Saabnet.com. Given the scarcity of '86 SPGs and the low price of this example, I feared Saab lovers would immediately come out of the woodwork and descend on the car. I figured I had, at most, a 24-hour head start. When I saw the listing appear on Craigslist Friday afternoon, I knew the clock was ticking.

My timing was also delicate; as I viewed the situation on Friday, the earliest I could leave Seattle was 9:30 p.m. that night. The absolute latest I could return was 4:30 p.m. Saturday, at which point I needed to be present, dressed nicely, at a wedding. That was a 19-hour window, of which at least 10 hours would be spent driving. Add in traffic delays and the need to sleep, eat, bathe, groom, change clothes a few times, and evaluate and possibly purchase the Saab, and I had a whirlwind trip on my hands whether I bought the car or not.

That very uncertainty added further complications; getting to Walla Walla while preserving the flexibility to drive the Saab back to Seattle was proving to be a challenge. My wife and daughter already had plans--plans I was abandoning in my mad rush--and weren't available to come along. And with only a few hours of notice, I wasn't going to have much luck convincing a friend to drive 10 hours with me on the off chance that I might buy a used car. I couldn't exactly drive our family car out to Walla Walla myself; if I bought the Saab, I'd have to temporarily leave one car or the other in a strange city. On the other hand, buying a one-way plane ticket would be both expensive and awkward if I didn't buy the Saab. A rental car seemed like the ideal situation; if I bought the Saab, I could drop the rental off in Walla Walla. If I didn't buy the Saab, I'd simply drive the rental car back. Offsetting this impeccable logic was the realization that a one-way rental-car fare was eye-wateringly expensive--a round-trip rental was $32, but one-way was $260.

Saab5 Happily, my wife's family stepped up and generously offered to help overcome the transportation problem. My wife's aunt and cousin live in Yakima, which lies halfway on the route to Walla Walla and roughly halfway there. That took care of my lodging, and my wife's cousin's boyfriend graciously volunteered to come with me to Walla Walla so that if I bought the Saab we could at least get it back to a friendly house in in Yakima.

Once the transportation question was solved, I turned to the money. My wife wasn't enthusiastic about spending an extra $1,000 that we hadn't budgeted, but she understood my SPG mania and was supportive. Unfortunately, I had to do some tap-dancing to actually get the money--we bank with an obscure credit union with no branch nearby or, for that matter, in Walla Walla. I was instead limited to working with a cooperative branch that wasn't about to give me $3,500 in cash. Eventually I pulled out the maximum $500 and took the remaining $3,000 in a bank check made out to the seller. This limited my negotiating possibilities, but at least I had the money available.

All of this came together in roughly three frantic hours, though not without an interesting additional stimulus. Right at the crest of my rushing-around, I received an e-mail from the Fiat seller explaining that the X1/9's starting problem had simply been a result of flooding, and would I like to take it for a test drive? I shelved the e-mail, but that small bit of drama further taxed my already flagging intellectual and emotional reserves.

After all the planning and worrying, setting off on my dark, rainy, 150-minute drive to Yakima came as a relief. I arrived at around midnight, tried to explain to my incredulous in-laws why I would jump through all of these hoops to pay $3,500 for a 23-year-old, pregnant-looking Swedish car, and then subsequently fell into a short and fitful sleep.

Saab6The previous eight paragraphs have painted a picture of tedious drudgery; I have included them here for the sake of illustrating the chaos that the Saab relevation introduced to my car-buying process. But when I rose on Saturday at 5 a.m., collected my wife's cousin's boyfriend, and set off on the road to Walla Walla, I was having the time of my life. I have always enjoyed rising early in the morning for a road trip--I find the innate promise of adventure and discovery exciting--and this time I was on a quest to fulfill a dream I had been nurturing since boyhood. It was a quest that took me to Walla Walla by way of Yakima--such evocative names! Everything about the journey felt epic, from the fortuitous e-mail that sparked the adventure, to the satisfaction of putting together the trip on such short notice, to watching the sun rise in colorful splendor over the plains of Eastern Washington. Everything was coming together perfectly, and as we cruised through the ubiquitous vineyards into the outskirts of Walla Walla on Saturday morning, it seemed inevitable that when we next left that town I would finally have achieved my dream of owning a 1986 Saab 900 SPG.

Given all that, imagine my surprise when I left Walla Walla several hours later, shaken and confused after rejecting the car I had lusted after for the last 23 years.

Stage II--The Car
Saab7
As we pulled up to the seller's house, I couldn't take my eyes off the SPG. Stock 1986 SPGs came only in Edwardian Gray, but the owner had repainted this one in glossy black. I prefer the gray, but black is a good color for these cars as well--in fact the handful of 1985 SPGs produced were black when they left the factory. I have always thought the '86 a beautiful car, and even without the usual cloak of Edwardian Gray paint this one was as seductive as any I've seen. This SPG looked as if it was about to pounce; it sat low in a feral stance and looked smaller, leaner, and vastly more purposeful than plebeian 900s. It was gorgeous--but of course you can see that for yourself in the photos that accompany this post.

We then met the owner, a gracious and intelligent retired fellow who obviously loved his car. He had made it his own and performed some intelligent upgrades. For example, he had replaced the original engine and transmission with the superior, more reliable units from a 1989 SPG, and put in a mildly tweaked engine computer. He had also embraced the 900's cavernous cargo-carrying potential by completely removing the rear seats and putting in a custom floor and moving the battery to a location amidships. These are all modifications that I would have at least considered, and the owner obviously was a good man who cared for his car. In short, if you're dumb enough to buy a 23-year-old Saab, he's the guy you want on the other end of the transaction. After I had seen the car and met the owner, I was just about ready to hand over the check and drive away in my new SPG.

Unfortunately, that was when the beautiful tapestry began to unravel.

The pendulum began to swing as I began to check out the cargo floor. As much as I love the SPG's load-carrying capacity, I'm not quite so much of a load-hauling purist that I wouldn't prefer having rear seats to house my daughter's car seat and the occasional passenger. Before I arrived I figured I could find a rear seat and mount it fairly easily, but checking out the setup revealed that it might be a little more complicated than that--especially as the battery had been mounted in the custom floor. No big deal, I rationalized--I can figure that out.

The owner had also mentioned that the SPG's cold idle was a little uneven. No big deal there either, as frankly I'd be shocked if any car of this age was perfectly stable and tractable when cold. Unfortunately, it went beyond that. The engine cranked and started, but it just didn't want to stay running--the owner had to sit behind the wheel for a full five minutes playing Fred Astaire with the gas pedal to keep the reluctant engine alive. Actually, reluctant is an understatement. The idle was lumpy, shuddering, and borderline vicious. Watching the owner fight to keep the SPG alive damped my ardor significantly. It was probably a small issue, the owner said as his deft throttle foot kept the engine teetering barely on the right side of stalling. It certainly could be something small, I reasoned, though troubleshooting a drivability issue of that scale on a computerized, fuel-injected car without onboard diagnostics didn't sound particularly simple.

Saab8Things would improve once we got underway, I figured, but I was startled when the owner insisted on driving. He just wanted to drive until the car warmed up, he explained. I probably should have protested--getting a first-hand feel for the car's cold-start and cold-running behavior is an important part of buying a car--but I agreed and jumped in the passenger's side. And, to be honest, I wasn't impressed. The idle was still lumpy, and the engine felt unhappy and unresponsive. Being a passenger wasn't a waste; I took advantage of the freedom to look over the interior, which didn't look quite as good as in the photos. The body felt loose, there were a few interior panels missing, the glovebox and some of the other interior parts were bubbling or loose, and everything seemed kinda dirty. I had been shocked that the dash hadn't cracked as it has in every other 900 I had ever seen, but when I was up close I could see that the cracks had started. They were small, but they were there.

After a 10-minute drive around town, we pulled over and swapped seats. The engine had only just warmed up and smoothed out, and despite my mounting sense of discomfort with the car, I figured getting behind the wheel might re-ignite my passion. Unfortunately, I didn't feel the magic.

It's hard to describe, but the car just didn't feel good. The power was adequate but not overwhelming, and there was a queer hesitation that gave me pause. It wasn't turbo lag--the power kicked in, then it paused, then the power came back. The engine sounded thrashy and unhappy. The steering wheel was off-center, the steering action had a lot of slop in it, and it wandered badly. The gearbox was vague, and something was wrong with the shifter--the shift knob twisted violently to the left with each shift and I had to wrestle it back straight to get it into the next gear. Every bit of mechanical sympathy that I command--much of it flighty and nervous since my Saturn experience--was sending alarms up through my nerves and into my brain. The car wasn't right. Before the test drive I had written off the SPG's high mileage (200K miles on the car, 115K miles on the powertrain) as immaterial given the Saab 900's famous durability, but the car felt fundamentally old.

Saab190The owner showed me to a straightaway where I could take the SPG up through the gears, and to some twisties where, he said, I could sample "the real Saab experience." I badly wanted that experience, but no matter what I tried I had to fight with the car to drive it. I knew there was something fun bottled up in there, but I just couldn't get to it.

At this point, I think the seller began to realize that there was something amiss--I wasn't as animated as I had been, and our conversation dried up. The shifter problem was something small, he explained, as was the non-functional cruise control. He was sure the car's various problems were small issues that he hadn't yet had a chance to address. It's quite possible that that's true, but those issues suffocated everything that should have made the SPG fun to drive.

In retrospect, the tipping point in the test drive came when I began to compare the Saab to the Audi Coupe GT. The SPG looked better and had more power, but the Audi was still a pretty car and drove infinitely more sweetly. Where the Saab wandered, I had been impressed with the Audi's steering. I had to wrestle the SPG's shifter with each gearchange, but the Coupe GT's shifter snicked from gear in satisfying fashion. Most to the point, I had enjoyed driving the Audi, and I wasn't enjoying the Saab.

At the conclusion of the test drive, we both stood silently next to the SPG. The moment of truth had arrived, and I was deeply conflicted. As you might expect, my heart and my head were battling, but those age-old competitors were on different sides of the debate than you might expect. My head kept telling me that this was finally my chance to buy my SPG, but my heart kept screaming that this wasn't the right car.

And so there I stood, with a 1986 Saab 900 SPG in front of me and a check in my pocket. A nod on my part would seal the deal. But instead, I told the seller that his car was lovely, that it would sell quickly, but that it just wasn't the right car for me. Then I walked away.

Stage III--The Aftermath
 
Saab9I'm afraid I wasn't particularly good company for my wife's cousin's boyfriend on the drive home; I was in a brown study, preoccupied with my own thoughts and trying to figure out what had just happened. Had I just made a huge mistake? Had I thrown away a great opportunity because I was simply tired, hungry, and spooked by a few small issues? Was I a Saab dilettante? Did I not actually truly like the car I grew up loving? And was I going to turn Car Lust into yet another dull, self-absorbed blog?

The answer to the last question is apparently yes, but I think otherwise the answers are no.

My wife and I like to say, with tongue at least partially in cheek, that low expectations are the key to happeness and that high expectations are the key to misery. This goes for movies, music, food, relationships, and cars. Frankly, I had such low expectations when I checked out the Fiat that I wasn't particularly bothered when the thing didn't even start. I evaluated the Audi right after dismissing the heavily modified Saab 9000 Turbo, and it benefited from the comparison. But with the introduction of the SPG, what had been a fun beater search turned into something more serious; the stakes had been raised.

I realize that in the course of this I have made the SPG sound like an awful bucket of bolts, and that's not fair to the car or to the seller, who genuinely loved his car. It was a beautiful car--gorgeous, really--and it sold quickly. The Fiat and the Audi had their own issues as well, and ultimately the Saab would have worked out just as well as the other two. The issue is that the Saab just didn't feel like my car. I have always promised myself that when I get my Saab that it would be the right one and that I wouldn't settle for an inferior experience. Because of this, I judged the SPG on a different set of criteria than the other cars in the challenge.

Even without fixes, the Saab would have made an absolutely glorious beater, with style, power, a yawning hatchback, and acres of load-hauling space, like a cross between an El Camino and a rally car. Ultimately, though, while that sounds like fun, that's not what I'm looking for out of my SPG experience. It would be like having a meaningless one-night stand with the love of your life. Someday I'll either find a pristine SPG or have the money to make one pristine, and I'll settle down with it. Until then there are plenty of fish in the sea ... or, rather, cars in the classifieds.

It was a long trip, and I showed up to the wedding in a cold sweat two minutes late, but I'm still glad I went. For one thing, had I not tried this SPG, I would have always wondered about it. And for another, I'm not usually very good about reacting instinctively and impetuously to reach for what I want. I did so in this case, and it was a salutory experience.

So, on that bittersweet note, I brought to an end what had turned out to be an absolutely incredible and rewarding used-car search, in which the entertainment and final product were in dramatic contrast with the meager budget. I brought it to an end my purchasing the winner of my personal $2,500 used-car challenge, which will get its own post very soon.

The Winner: 1986 Audi Coupe GT

Coupe Skyline Edited 

--Chris H.
 

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Congrats on the bavarian bahnstormer, Chris! I have anxiously awaited this post all week, and been checking carlust every morning and evening to see how this wrapped up. Honestly, I thought you'd found the SPG of your dreams, but it seems it isn't so. The shifter probably moved around due to a bad transmission mount, but the cold idle would be a lot harder to figure out. It could be a vacuum leak, which could mean anything from a cracked hose to a bad gasket, or it could even mean a warped intake manifold, or a bad MAF, or tons of other things. Most importantly, that I think you sort of forgot about, is that when you purchase ANY car, even your dream car, if it is used it is going to need a little work to get it up to snuff. Even if the SPG had been exactly what you wanted, it's still a 23 yr old car, and would probably need something. The fact that it was already $1000 over budget would have been really stressful for your family, as you'd need to spend a few hundred on the transmission/engine mounts, a few hundred on interior bits and pieces to get a rear seat, etc.

All in all, good luck with the Audi. Since I've also recently joined the Audi Club, I welcome you with open arms to both www.audiworld.com and www.quattroworld.com. In my experience, older Audis are great cars, with pretty amazing build quality. I hope you enjoy your new car even half as much as I am loving mine.

:)

A great series, Chris. I really enjoyed reading it, and I can relate to the highs and lows of your search. Yet again we see how e-mails, photos and telephone calls can not replace a good old fashioned face-to-face meeting.

We men often relate cars to women, and your story is no exception. Reality often fails to live up to fantasy. When it doesn't FEEL right, it isn't likely to work out. The Saab didn't give you that great feeling, but the Audi did. Best of luck with her . . . er . . . it.

Congratulations! You've ended up with a really great car! As a saab owner, I can console your judgement...you would want one that's perfect or you'd be doing way more maintenance than driving.

I sold Saabs in 1989. Actually, that is a lie. I never really sold one. I sold cars one summer in college for a Chrysler, Dodge, Honda, Oldsmobile, Saab, and Subaru dealer. The drivability, shifting, dysfuntional systems, and general looseness of assembly were pretty much standard equipment. We learned not to take them out on lunch runs, as something generally broke that we'd have to explain to short tempered, over worked Saab mechanics back at the shop. The location that sold Saabs sold less than ten a month while they sold about 50 to 75 each of Oldsmobiles and Hondas, but every day there were as many Saabs in for service as there were Hondas and Oldsmobiles combined. The service bays were split in half; Saabs on one side, other brands on the other. There was no employee purchase plan for the Saabs, not because a good Honda salesman couldn't afford two of them, but because nobody who worked at the dealer even wanted to see one. When people say GM ruined Saab, I know to stop wasting my time listening to anything else that comes out of their mouth.

Thanks, everybody - this last post was a bit of a downer, but I'm ecstatic with my new Coupe GT.

Rob: "Most importantly, that I think you sort of forgot about, is that when you purchase ANY car, even your dream car, if it is used it is going to need a little work to get it up to snuff. Even if the SPG had been exactly what you wanted, it's still a 23 yr old car, and would probably need something."

Yeah, that's absolutely right, and it's not like the Audi (also a 1986) is without its own issues; they were just milder than the Saab's, and all the hard stuff - body, trim, glass, interior pieces, etc. - was squared away. And the Audi was ultimately more fun to drive, which probably ruined me for the SPG. Had I just driven the SPG without having the Audi to compare against, I probably would have bought it and would be chafing at not being able to afford some needed repairs.

I have already spent some time and money fixing up the Audi, but happily I ultimately bought it for only $2,000, $500 under budget and $1,500 less than the Saab's asking price. That gives me a nice little cushion for repairs.

A great story, told well. It seems you made the right call, and I fully understand that if you hadn't gone to Walla Walla you'd never have known it was the right call. I shudder to think what would happen if I ever caught word of an R3 Avanti for sale within a reasonable sortie distance....

Chris, you SO did the RIGHT thing by walking away. It was NOT the car for you, and you listened to your brain, not your heart. And the Fiat? Well, here's my X1/9 story:

30 years ago, I bought one, used. Made it less than 6 blocks to a bud's house. Went to take him for a ride, it was dead. We tried to jump it off, the dash started smoking and smelling of burned wires.

Obviously, the dealer had charged the old battery for the sale, so I had it immediately towed back to the lot, then went to the bank and cancelled the check. As much as I loved that car, I'll never own one again after that experience.

I hope you enjoy your Audi!

I have to agree with the consensus here, Chris - you did the right thing. Considering how much you had to stretch your budget to fit the Saab in there, it would've been very frustrating to have to fight through an ill-mannered Saab while you saved up enough to actually put the thing back into serviceable condition. Plus, there's at least a fighting chance you can do SOMETHING under the hood of that Audi - Saabs, uh... not so much.

Aaaagggghhhh!!!!

Plot twists! Dead ends! Romance and deception! I feel limp and drained after reading that. . . . .

Good stuff. The lack of a back seat would have done me in on it. You showed good Car Lust sense. Congratulations.

@CJinSD - Anybody who would buy a used Saab should have to get a vanity plate that says "HELLO" like in the movie Crazy People.

Chris, this has been a really fun series to follow...it is posts like this that make Car Lust so much fun to read. I am glad you found the car for you, and I look forward to reading the post about it.

(Oh, and kudos on the final pic, btw...I think it's called "the money shot" in a certain industry...)

Again, thanks everybody.

You know, despite everything, I can't help being gobsmacked by how gorgeous that SPG is.

Congratulations on the Audi, Chris. I agree that you did the right thing walking away from the Saab. If you are a car guy, and you've driven lots of cars, you have to trust your gut. I always bring along a friend to be my Skeptic-in-Chief, constantly nudging me and overriding lust with reason (which is probably why I have never bought an old Jaguar XJ6, the most beautiful 4 door ever).

And if the ending to the story is that you end up with a nice Audi Coupe, well, I consider that a very happy ending indeed.

Here is an idea for a post: Cars that you lust after, but would never own. Jag XJ6, any 1980-1995 Maserati, Aston Martin Lagonda all head my own list.

I agree, SAAB is dead, unfortunately. It will cease to exist within 10 years. Well done on the AUDI!

From start to finish this was a terrific series, Chris. Drama, suspense, twists and turns, humor, and some really interesting and quirky cars- if Shakespeare had been a Car Lust reader, he might have written something like this. The fact that this last act took place practically in my own back yard -Walla Walla about 45 minutes away to the east, Yakima an hour away to the west- just makes it that much cooler.

Having recently test driven a Saab 900 turbo myself, I can empathize with your dilemma a little. There must be something about used Saab 900s, makes them look infinitely better in pictures than they actually are when you test drive them. Mine was a little different though in that the rough idle wasn't *that* rough, but it was an automatic and there were some truly hellacious crashing noises in the cargo space while turning (didn't see any unsecure cargo, either). I'm not an Audi fan, but all in all I can't fault you at all for picking the GT. May your road together be a happy one!

Enjoy the Audi, it is in my top 5 as well.
I think that you definitely did the right thing.
On a primal note, you have to love your horse, so this particular SPG just was not for you.
and on an intellectual note, the SPG was %40 more expensive, and thusly should have been held to a %40 higher standard in all aspects.

Rob

Congrats on your Audi purchase and this last post. I have been in this predicament many times. I find the car "of my dreams," go and look at it and see what a pile it really is. Usually, this is when the used car fever sets in. For that hour, rust holes and paint cracks magically heal up, funny noises shrink into the background and the car starts to look not so bad. I can feel that money getting hot as it tries to burn a hole in my pocket. I even forgave an apparently slipping transmission, because I was just dying for that 80 Seville bustleback. It's always easier said than done to walk away and look for a better one.

After pouring money into that bustleback and selling it at a loss, I now own the one I should have waited for. Sounds like a sickness to lust after such a car, but we're talking about SAAB 900's here.

I am not so proud of some of my past car decisions, but I am proud of you for looking that SAAB squarely in the face and rejecting it. You should seriously try out for the Super Friends for that piece of heroism. It was everything you ever wanted and from an outside reader's perspective, it was clearly an abomination. You will someday have one without the plywood, wrong color and other Mechanix Illustrated-inspired modifications.

Good thing for me, I'm 3000 miles away from that 71 Cadillac, because I can feel that fever just looking at the pics...

Chris, I'm an hour outside Walla Walla and that SPG caught my attention on Craigslist as well, although I never communicated with the seller. It seemed at some point the seller coughed up the minor detail in his ad that it had a salvage title, which I don't remember from his first listing. Perhaps that explains some of the general lack of soundness you discovered. You made both the brave and wise choice. It is a bit of a shame that only the following generation Audi Coupe (unfortunately much heavier) was a real hatchback rather than just looking the part like the early 80's version.

Stories and series like this are why this is a "must read" blog.....Nice Job!!

Oh, that's interesting, Gary--that Saab had a salvage title? That never came up in my conversations with him, but it would explain an awful lot.

Chris, his http://www.saabcentral.com and Seattle CL listings didn't mention a salvage title, but then he posted it on Portland CL after the Seattle listing expired and the salvage title mention was thrown in near the bottom of his description.

I love this post. Salvage title or no there's something incredibly human about this experience, and it's not just about expectations. Though I believe in expectation as a real factor in this equation. To me there's something incredibly human about this whole idea of choice, decision, and interruption with the temptation of "the great love". And again the humanity of the ordeal to make the encounter with "the great one" only to realize that it's just not right.

But the entire adventure is also just kind of heroic. When you step out into that great beyond to meet up with the fate that has been calling to you for all those years, you are moving into an existential confrontation with destiny. Sometimes it's an old flame, the one who got away, the one you couldn't have, the love of your life, that perfect car. Or sometimes it's the girl you sat next to in english class. In any case, I've found that cars call to us like the siren's song temping sailors to their final fate. Sometimes that fate is a great find, a perfect match, sometimes it's just a pile of rock on which we crash.

Good work Chris - glad you didn't take the bait. Lot of good lessons in here.

No 92-93 Corrado SLC? I have seen ones for $2000 in nice shape.

Amazingly, I actually bought an X1/9 new in 1976. I was a young hotshot salesguy, and I needed a set of wheels that complimented my soon to be lifestyle. God, how i loved that car. It was not remotely like anything else on the road, it handled so beautifully and the engine note was so operatic, i didnt even have or need a radio. It never seemed to matter what gear you were in, or how fast you were going, It just wanted to GO. It had two trunks, albeit small, and i loved the way the top fit in the front. On the downside, it kinda fell apart pretty quickly, the drivers seat fell apart in a few weeke, the window lift broke, it was constantly overheating because the engine was in the middle and the radiator was in the front. Also, it was kinda slow compared to the Olds 442 i traded for it. I didnt care, it was a pleasure to drive.

I also owned an Audi Coupe GT. It was sold to ms sight unseen from my then partners sister. I went to hartford to pick it up, drove it back to south jersey. It was like 10 years old and pretty beat up, but it ran. WOW - the steering was telepathic! The shifter was buttery and quick. Amazing that it handled like a ballet dancer. I was totally in love. The engine was beautiful. The Taconic PArkeay will never be the same! I was also really suprised that it's not a hatchback - the trunk is small, but its not like i was carrying around a family with kids and luggage. But what a driver! Good luck with it.

I am plesantly suprised that anyone other tahn me would have chosen these two cars to be among their finalists. Now I am also looking for a car, having happily beaten the daylights out of a 95 Golf. I wonder what I will choose?

My VW 16v s 2 liter GTi has the steering, seats, and note from the engine...and the well tuned Techtonics exhaust.

Now that I had a friend drive with me for an extended period with a screw driver in hand tackling anything the rattled in the trunk area...it is one solid car. ; )

Late A2 16V GTI's are sweet machines. Add Koni's or coliovers (like I chose) and they handled like they are on rails.

Wish I had the original factory 2 piece BBS wheels. Those things dented if you looked at them wrong though.

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