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About Big Chris

Big Chris has motor oil running in his veins. This stems from a grandfather who owned a car shop, a father who ran a motorcycle shop, and a relative with a custom Harley modification business. Big Chris has worked as a motorcycle mechanic, and has been on a few Sprint Car pit crews. He grew up in garages and at race tracks, and knows firsthand the pain of inhaling methanol fumes while filling up a race tank. For Big Chris, mid-70's Chevy Impalas are like free crack to an addict. When he's not dreaming about cars, he works as a pastor of small town church and spends ample time repenting for his car lusts.

Posts by Big Chris

Our First Cars Week - 1979 Toyota Corolla (E71)

image from
"Toyota Corolla E70 4 door sedan" by Charles01 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -

My first two cars were both Toyota Corollas.  I started with a 1979, and after a few years replaced it with a 1978 model.  Both were interesting in their own right.

Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money. So when the opportunity came to buy my great uncle's 1979 Corolla with a family discount, my parents jumped at it.  My parents drove the car for a couple of years leading up to my being old enough to drive.  I grew up in South Dakota, where you can get your permit at the age of 14, so my driving years came earlier than it does for most.

Continue reading "Our First Cars Week - 1979 Toyota Corolla (E71)" »

Birth Year Fantasy Garage Challenge: Big Chris (1974)

Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Introduction 
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Cookie the Dog's Owner (1961) 
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Tigerstrypes (1989) 
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Anthony Cagle (1962) 
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Chris Hafner (1976)

1974 was a great year.  The world population reached 4 billion people.  Elvis was still alive.  Hank Aaron became the home run king passing Babe Ruth with #715 April 8th.  Nixon resigned, and I was born.

1974 wasn't what I'd consider a great year for cars, though there were some great car still being made.  It comes just after all the fun of the muscle car era.  Styling began to change, and the OPEC oil embargo plus smog restrictions had an impact on horsepower and performance.  Despite that, I was still able to find some cars I'd love to own today.

I live in the rust belt (Minnesota).  There's not much from 1974 left for picking through here.  So for my birth year challenge, I'm looking to Dallas. And when I run out of options there, I'm going to Phoenix.  I'm going to limit my search to just these two markets. I'm not going to just pick my favorite cars from 1974, but am choosing to pick from what is available on the market today.

Orange Corvette

Continue reading "Birth Year Fantasy Garage Challenge: Big Chris (1974)" »

Winter - getting ready for the change

Parked Car


I live in Minnesota.  Or as some say, Minnesnowta.  Inclement weather is just par for the course here.  We don't feel compelled to name every storm, and even when it snows more than a foot (not uncommon) we aren't compelled to label it as a Snowami or Snowpocalypes or things like that.  What we are compelled to do though, is be prepared.  Well, at least the smart ones are anyhow.

Continue reading "Winter - getting ready for the change" »

1963 Volkswagen Dunebuggy

Sometimes life gets in the way of having fun.  This is true when it comes to having fun with our cars.  Cars should be more than just tools in our lives.  Many (all?) of us dream of having a great car to have fun in, but for some of us it takes a while to reach the place where that can happen.  For others that "while" is 36 years.

2012-07-15 12.47.54

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April 14 Weekly Open Thread: Selling cars - tips, tricks, and any wisdom you have

Honda Civic Caravan

Ever sold a car?  Had good luck with it?  I need your wisdom.  I find myself in the unique position of needing to sell not one, but two cars.  Neither are remarkable unfortunately.  I have a 1996 Honda Civic (wife's) and a 2001 Dodge Caravan (mine) that we've replaced with a 2001 Subaru Outback (wife's) and a 1995 Ford Ranger (mine).  We thought we'd sell them last Fall, but with an early winter, busy schedule, and my own general laziness, it didn't happen.  I asked about this to a degree this past Fall here on the blog, but was hoping for some new and perhaps final wisdom before I take the plunge and get in the market.

I've never sold a car. Or any vehicle.  I scrapped my last one - The Homer.  We sold the body of Bob the Impala for a demolition derby car, but still have the motor.  All of my other vehicles were work vehicles (I used to drive 45-55K a year for work) or vehicles that went to other family members, with the exception of my 1978 Corolla that was also scrapped.

Both of the vehicles are high mileage with some rust.  Interiors are clean, and I'm willing to be honest about their warts (insert oil every XXXX miles...).  We have a pretty good set of records on both, and both vehicles we were second owners on.  Both run just fine - particularly the Honda.  It might have another 200K in it mechanically if the body doesn't rust off the frame first.

Both vehicles have sat over the winter.  One at the end of my driveway, one in front of the garage at church. I've kept both batteries charged, and have run the motors for extended periods as well as cycled the transmissions through gear changes (primarily just in the parking lot) each month to keep the fluids moving.

I'm not asking a ton - probably $1200 for the Honda and a cool $1000 for the Caravan.  If I could squeeze a few hundred more out of each I'd be truly ecstatic.  The difference between $2200 and $2600 is pretty signficiant for our family budget.

Craigslist isn't really a good options, though I'll try it (we're a small, rural town in Southern Minnesota). We don't have a consignment lot in town.  Any "parking" place with traffic will require I move the vehicle(s) regularly so they don't get towed.

So what's the secret?  They'll be as clean as I can get them.  Carpets and seats have been scrubbed. Wording in advertisement?  Locations where they'll sell better?  Prayer?  What's it take?!?

And this is also the place for any other automotive words of wisdom that you may have.

--Big Chris

The Way We Were - Big Chris

While I haven't had a list of tremedous vehicles I've driven, what I lack in quality I make up for in quantity.

My first two cars were Toyota Corollas.  I started with a 1979 in white with 4 doors and a 5-speed manual.  We got this from some relatives and my parents drove it for a year or so before I was old enough to drive.  Unfortunately, I don't own photos of most of my vehicles (or most of my childhood).  We didn't own a camera most of my life (crazy huh?) and it just was never a concern of mine to document these sorts of things.  The '79 was a great learner car.  It was a stick, and it was slow.  So I got good experience but was limited in how quickly I could do stupid things.  Eventually the clutch cable broke, and the car wasn't worth fixing with some of the other issues that began to crop up with it.

The second Corolla was a dirt brown 1978 2-door with the automatic transmission (was previously my grandparent's car).  The only option it had was a rear window defroster.  Both Corollas were glorified beer cans with wheels.  I give thanks I was never in an accident in them.  The only claim to fame for the brown car was that we sold it with nearly 300K on it for something like $500.  The body was shot, everything mechanical worked, but barely.  Suspension was laughable.  But 4 years later the same guy who bought it was driving it around town still.  You just couldn't kill it.  A cockroach of cars.

The next car I got was a 1984 VW Rabbit.  4 doors, tan everywhere, and epically slow.  My first front wheel drive car and my first hatchback.  It was as uninspiring as a car could get, but it served me well until the distributor broke off in the motor.  I regularly ferried about a half ton of offensive linemen home after football practice in this little car.  Rear bumper just barely above rubbing pavement.  Imagine three linemen in the back seat of a VW Rabbit.  Yeah.


Continue reading "The Way We Were - Big Chris" »

Selling Used Cars

20131102_152638I find myself at a unique place in life, a first for me.  I have to sell a car.  Two in fact.  Well, one is a van, but you get the idea.

Thankfully, neither are lust worthy vehicles (in my mind at least).  I have a 1996 Honda Civic with 285K miles and a 2001 Dodge Caravan with 260K miles.  Both run well still, and the Honda in particular has had quite a bit of recent upkeep (new timing belt & water pump, new tires, some other stuff) because we thought we'd keep it another year. But the right car came along to replace it, so I now have to move something.

The question I raise to you today is what is the best way to sell a used vehicle (quickly for a high price!)?  I purchased a used truck once from a dealer.  That's the whole sum of my experience in this realm.  Craigslist is the obvious starter, but my dillema is that I live in a small town in Southern Minnesota where the nearest town (Mankato) with its own Craigslist is 30 miles away.  We don't have a consignment lot, and I'm not sure that either of these well used vehicles would do well there anyhow.  I'd consider donating them, but I don't need any more tax write-off (and it isn't close).

What have you done, or if you haven't sold, what experience do you have on the purchasing side?

Further, what ways do you need to prep the vehicle(s)?  I hand shampooed the carpets in the Honda as they had never been done.  I hit a few spots on the seats as well.  Everything was shined up and I've washed the car.  I'd consider wax, but wax is wasted on this paint.  It's a black car, so should I spray paint some of the rear wheel rust spots that every Honda develops?

Words of advice?  Recommendations?  I'd like to sell them sooner rather than later, so I'm motivated.  Because the snow is coming.

--Big Chris

October 7th Open Thread: What would you want to be stuck in?

Part of living in the upper midwest is preparing for and coping with unexpected weather events as were experienced this past week in Western South Dakota.  Winter storm Atlas hit and dumped as much as 48 inches of snow in places like Deadwood, SD in just a couple of days time.  In early October.

Car in snow drift
I have family in the Spearfish area who got a "mere 36+ inches", which forced them to trudged down the road to a neighbor's house when the power (therefore heat) went out.  Their neighbor thankfully has a wood burning system that heats their home much of the year, and they were willing to take my relatives in for a few days until the plows could make it out to them and the power could get restored.  The photo above is their driveway yesterday afternoon.

Many motorists were stranded in this storm, which got me to thinking - if I was going to be stuck in a snow drift for a day or two, what vehicle would I want to be stuck in?  I'm taking the big rigs off the table, as a semi with full tanks of gas, a sleeper and satellite TV just doesn't seem to be much of a challenge.  Motorhomes too.  In fact campers and trailers and all things of that sort are out.  Just normal cars/trucks/vans etc.

Would I go with something spacious where I could stretch out and be comfortable?  The trade off would be large spaces are hard to keep warm.  Would I want a smaller hybrid?  The ability to keep the car running for a bit of heat and radio from time to time for a longer than average period is very attractive.  Cloth or leather interior?  How about having a moon/sun roof in case I get fully drifted in while sleeping?

What else is worth considering?  What would you want to be stuck in?  What do you carry in your car for emergency times like this?  Any real life experiences?

1978 Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla coupe
Photo from Wikipedia
My first two cars were both Toyota Corollas.  My parents had been driving a white third generation 1978 Corolla for a year or so after having purchased it from my great aunt.  She wanted something newer, and we were broke, so it was a win-win situation I guess.  That is if you can call getting one of these Corollas a win.

The 1978 Corolla was an incredibly unremarkable vehicle.  It was basic transportation and nothing more.  The interior was as spartan as they come. Mostly plastic and metal, with some flimsy pressboard panels on the doors.  The seats were uncomfortable and unsupportive, and as they aged, prone to moving a notch or two on their own at times.

Continue reading "1978 Toyota Corolla" »

A cheap new car?

7-scion-iq-2dr-hatchBack in February, Kiplinger did a story on the 10 cheapest cars to own in 2013 that I recently stumbled upon and found interesting.

They seem to arrive at a fairly accurate conclusion on the expenses of owning a car.

"The price you negotiate for a car and the interest on your car loan are only part of the cost of owning a new vehicle. Depreciation, taxes and fees, and what you pay over the years for insurance, fuel, maintenance and repairs are all important ingredients in the long-term cost of ownership. Even the opportunity cost of out-of-pocket expenses (what you'd make by investing the money elsewhere) is part of the overall tally."



"The market price is the average transaction cost and reflects consumer rebates. Fuel costs are based on $3.23 a gallon for regular gasoline and 15,000 miles a year of mixed city and highway driving. The ownership cost assumes you are paying 2.76% interest on a five-year loan but that you can recoup the cost of the car, minus depreciation, when you sell the vehicle after five years."


They selected vehicles with manual transmissions (unless noted otherwise) due to fuel economy for operations costs. The cars were largely without options, though most had CD players (they're still putting them in cars?!?) and AUX input for audio options. All cars have stability control, at least 6 airbags, traction control and anti-lock brakes.

(Click through here for the full article with more details on each car)

The cars they came up with were (with total 5-year ownership costs):

Continue reading "A cheap new car?" »

Ranking priorities in buying a car

I'm going to inturrupt our onging $100,000 challenge for a moment with a somewhat related thought.

When you are looking for a new vehicle (new or used, new to you), how do you prioritize what is important to you in selecting the vehicle? 

What is most important in making your decision - gas mileage, safety, cargo capacity, reliability, weather considerations, style, cost, size etc?

Feel free to pile on other considerations as well.


And since we didn't have an open thread on Monday, toss that here in the comments if you have something else worth discussing.

$100,000 Fantasy Garage Challenge: Big Chris

I added an extra level of requirement to my fantasy garage - I had to be able to find my vehicles within 100 miles, or at least have them delivered here if new.  I did this because we as a family are indeed in the market for two new(er) vehicles.  Without exaggeration I added 2.5 quarts of oil to my wife's '96 Civic last night (yes, it sounded like a tractor prior to this) and have added 6 quarts in the last 6000 miles.  That's on top of what was put in at the oil change.  And my 2001 Dodge Caravan needs all new suspension (yes, all of it), brakes, tires, and has an AC condensor that is going to grenade at any moment leaving me stranded somewhere.

Chris' Subaru2010 Subaru Forester - $15,000 - These are readily available at this price, and I'm kinda in the market for one as we write this. I want something that will get through the Minnesota winters.  Something I can throw junk in the back of.  Something that will house my growing son for some time to come.  Something I'll be able to drive for a long time, and something I won't be completley bored with.  I think this will do all that and then some.  And it gets better gas mileage than my current van.

Continue reading "$100,000 Fantasy Garage Challenge: Big Chris" »

Car Lust - 1969 Corvette Stingray

Long have I lusted for a Corvette.  Not just any Vette mind you, but the earlier version of the Stingray.  A 1969 Corvette with the 427 cubic inch big block nestled comfortably under the hood. One kind of like this:

1969 Corvette
Steve J. Lindsay's project '69 Corvette
So why that Corvette, exactly? 

Thanks for asking. It goes back to my impressionable childhood....

Continue reading "Car Lust - 1969 Corvette Stingray" »

2013 Honda Goldwing

For those who haven't been around the blog for long, I am the blog contributor who grew up in/on/under/around countless things with two wheels.  My father was a motorcycle mechanic and shop manager most of my childhood and part of my adult life as well, and still does it as a hobby (yes, he truly enjoys fixing motorcycles).

A few weeks ago, he mentioned to me in passing that he was interested in the new Honda Goldwing.  He currently rides a Honda ST1300 - a very lust worthy cycle.  An acquaintence is apparently interested in the ST1300, and that triggered the idea in my dad to look at new bikes.  He's a long term Goldwing lover, having owned one briefly in the late 70's that was stolen and never recovered, and then having owned a second one that he gave to me a few years back.  Yes, you read that right, he gave it to me.

Because he still techincally owns the one stolen in the 70's, he's been allowed for quite a number of years to be a member of his area's Honda Goldwing Club.  So I guess it seems fitting that he'd consider a new one.  And considering the miles that he and my mother like to put on the bike, a Goldwing for the road would be much more comfortable.

So in speaking to him on the phone the other night, he mentioned he pulled the trigger.  Candy Red - to match his Candy Red 1978 Honda CBX.  He got all the options other than the air bag (yes, some cycles now have air bags!) because he wanted the ABS brakes and heated hand grips, and the only way to get them was to bundle on the other items that he was less enthused about (Navi system, we're looking at you...).


2013 Goldwing
Image from


If you aren't familiar with the Goldwing line, espeically the current version, they are the luxery cruiser of motorcycles.  1832cc (111.7ci) of displacement in a liquid-cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder.  Roughly the same size engine as my wife's 1996 Honda Civic, though gobs more horsepower and torque.  This motorcycle has a reverse gear.  And there is enough storage in various compartments on the bike to easily and comfortable be away from home for a few days.

This is the type of motorcycle you can ride all day and not be hurting afterwards - it is incredibly comforable for touring.  It gets good gas mileage inspite of the fact that with your gear for the weekend and gas in the tank you can be North of 1000lbs before you and your passenger sit on it. While it won't win any handling competitions, nor will you run it at your local drag strip, it will do everything my father wants - go on endlessly day after day, comfortably, reliably, and safely.  Pretty close to a dream come true for my dad.  He's worked hard for many years, and without question deserves and will fully enjoy this machine.

With the wind in his face the the pavement beneath his feet, I expect he'll get more than his money's worth out of this beautiful bike.

As an aside, the bike is being delivered to the shop he ordered it from (in South Dakota) next week.  He'll uncrate & assemble it himself, and is hoping to get some riding in yet this year.  I'll be cheering against the snow coming early, that's for sure!  And while it doesn't exactly induce motorcycle lust in me, I am certainly envious of this opportunity.  And hopefully, if I behave myself and ask nicely, I might even get to ride it!  :-)

October 22 Open Thread - Fine Line Between Awesome and Insane

It's the internet.  Full of entertaining things that run the razor's edge between nuts and "Why didn't I think of that?"  As the father of a 3 year old, I'm tempted to replicate the following video but we'll do it as a father-son trike.  Neighborhood walks will never be the same again!



I'd make room in my garage!  Anybody any have any fun projects you are working on?  Projects sitting gathering dust in the corner of the garage?  Waiting for parts, time, or more likely money to move to the next stage?


As always, this is the place for all the other things that might not fit under our other threads.  Pull up a seat, crack your favorite relaxing beverage, and share with us for a spell.

--Big Chris

8/6/12 Open Thread - 2001 Dodge Caravan - 250k is a lot of miles!

2012-07-16 10.27.48


I don't know that it qualifies as a historic day in automotive history, but certainly historic in my automotive history.  Considering the rough life this van had before I got it, it truly is amazing that it has made it this far!



What is your mileage story?  400k in your old Merc diesel?  65k with the top down in your convertable?  You squeezed 125K out of a Chevy Vega?  (we won't believe you...)


Other posts related to this van:

2001 Dodge Caravan Headlight Lens Restoration -Worked better on the van than my wife's '96 Civic.

Working on our own junk - The most comments of any post I've made (thus far).


--Big Chris

Your wife is hot! - 7/23/12 Open Thread

This is your Monday thread - the collecting bin for all your thoughts that might not fit elsewhere.

This photo comes from a friend of mine who has a car audio business:

Your wife is hot


Appropriate for this summer I think.  Stay cool, pull up a chair, and join us for some conversation.

--Big Chris

April 16th Open Thread - Mail your taxes today!

Just a friendly reminder, Uncle Sam wants his cut, and he doesn't like to wait.  Unless you file for an extention.  And then only for a little while.  I'm proud to say we finished our taxes early this year.  As in Friday.  Last Friday.

Death and taxes.  Unfortunately I got word of a pending car world death.  The closure of a regional car museum comes later this week - Ellingson Car Museum -  I'm hoping to take a field trip up there later this week before they close.

1954 Buick Roadmaster - Credits to Ellingson Car Museum Convertable(credit to Ellingson Car Musem, Rogers, MN)

If you are in the market for a "new" car check out their offerings on the left side bar under "Cars for sale".  You say you want a show quality 1954 Buick Roadmaster Convertable? We can do that.  The '69 Corvette keeps calling me asking me to bring it home.  My wife said no.  Seriously though, that is my dream car.

And a 1952 Kaiser Traveler?  Where's my drool towel?  How can you say no to the hybridization of a Sherman tank and grandma's station wagon?

If you could chose any car on their sale list, what would it be and why?


As always this is your place for all the random thoughts that might not fit under our other various thread.

--Big Chris


A sunny day and a strange love affair

It seems that spring may actually be here in southern Minnesota.  A few weeks early, but I’m certainly not complaining.  With spring comes annual rituals – spring cleaning, fertilizing the grass (not quite yet though), putting out the lawn furniture, and getting engines you’ve stored all winter back into running condition.

I have a love/hate relationship with working on vehicles.  I grew up as a shop rat, learning much from my motorcycle mechanic father.  For him, working on cycles has always been a passion that earned him money.  For me it has always been a necessity to save me money.  I’m competent at it, but I just don’t enjoy it (be it cars or cycles).

I’ve never been in the position to have a project vehicle.  Everything I have owned in life I’ve needed as my basic mode of transportation, or I didn’t have the cash to work on the secondary vehicle while trying to keep the primary one running.  Somehow I find myself at that intersection of life again.
With the weather being so nice today, I went to the garage where I store my ’82 Honda Goldwing and my ’88 Chevy S-10 (4x4 4.3L Tahoe package with topper).  Neither would start.  The cycle has had the trickle charger on the battery for the winter, and yet it just barely creaked when I tried to turn it over, and then stopped.  Battery.  Sigh.  Since the cycle saves me quite a bit on gas during the summer I’m sure I’ll break even through replacing it, but not really what I was hoping for.

Continue reading "A sunny day and a strange love affair" »

Weekly Open Thread - oils lotions and potions oh my!

Every car person worth their weight in carnuba wax has some products you swear by. Part of car lust is dealing with various issues - be it dirty fuel systems, blue puff at start up, sketchy paint, dry leather and so on. What do you use? What do you swear by? I'll list a few of my favorites after the break below.

As always, this Monday thread is the collection bin for all things auto related that might not fit elsewhere. Pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable, there's beverages in the fridge.

Continue reading "Weekly Open Thread - oils lotions and potions oh my!" »

Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

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