Monday, June 30, 2008

My Amatuer Write-Up on the Pontiac Solstice

I had a comment asking about changing engines in Subarus. Funny how so much experience can lead to so little insight. I'm sorry I don't have more specific answers, but I do have one tip, but this only applies to Subaru-swapped Saabs that are capable of sub-13 second 1/4 mile runs.. Don't put it completely together. Every time you work on the engine, and you get it swapped for this week's new one, leave a few of the non-essential bolts loose. That way when you need to replace the engine again later, you have a headstart. Trust me, when I went to the video store after changing my engine one Saturday, I kicked myself upon my return. I tightened all those extra bolts for nothing.

That reminds me of a second hint. Keep beer. That way, your friends will say, "I can help," and you say "Cool, the beer is on me," and they never do the non-beer calculation of work. I sold mine a while ago, and it was running good for a while when I sold it, but when I did need this trick, it worked like a charm.

Now to the actual review. This isn't a Car-mag style review. It's what an average person would do when given the chance to drive a car around the corner and back, but with the bonus of the salesperson not tagging along.

I sold my car for an old Corvette that I mentioned in another post. Good car, but it sucks as a moving truck.

So my old Corvette is great to me...but I was actually thinking about cheating. I said the following to a good friend.

I’m actually talking to a dealer down here later today. Pontiac dealer. I’m considering trading in my vette for the Solstice. Depends on what they’ll give me for it. I REALLY, REALLY miss shifting…after a five speed like I had before, this 3 spd automatic feels awfully…pedestrian. Like I’m not driving, I’m just directing traffic. “Here, car. Go here. Now turn there. Take me to my home.” But considering it only has 46,000 miles on it, I might decide to keep it, and just mod it to what I like. Back then, they were 4-spds, but there are direct bolt in kits for 5- and 6-spds available for the car. Match that to a GM crate motor, WITH warranty, bought from a dealership, and I bet I’d love it. So I gotta see…this is like, a lot of money for me. I’m financially okay for the first time in a while, and living like I’m broke for so long helped. My plan in march when I bought the car was, “It’s in decent shape now. Buy it mostly cash, and drive it on the cheap until you find something for a job. Then do what you want.” So it did that. I haven’t put any money into the car, just two tires…but no repairs. It even helped me get my crap here. Back and forth to MI the past couple weekends, pass foot well, pass seat, and rear cargo area with hundreds off lbs of crap. I like this car. However, I can tell you from experience, 70’s corvettes weren’t made to be moving trucks. the ergonomics are all wrong.

So I decided to go test drive the cars, and to see what I thought. This is the message I sent him after the test drive.

I actually went to test drive them this weekend. I think it’s off…but not for the reasons you think. 1, you’re right, the gxp is a must. 2, the dealership only had automatics…which is fine for a test drive, as I still got a decent idea of the power of each. But I swear, that gxp is a turbo…only Americans are stupid enough to buy a turbo automatic…why would anyone buy a car that can NEVER stay in it’s power band?

The thing about the vette is that even without a warranty, everything is still simple. Even the mods are 40 year old technology, and it’s all tried and true. There is nobody at the mild level like I would be, who is trying something for the first time. Someone, somewhere, has done that before…the car’s been on the road since the 60s. Also, since the vette has such a huge following, you can buy parts from aftermarket, or from GM still…they have a 3-year 36,000 mile warranty on their crate motors, and you can get them installed at the chevy dealership, so it’s a little different ballgame still.

Now, the worst thing about the solstice was comfort. I fit in the car at least as well as I do in my vette…but unlike my vette, nothing inside the car is where it should be in relation to the seat. Think child reaching to a counter too tall for him to get cookies, and that’s what the steering wheel felt like. The cluster seemed to be where the windshield belonged. And don’t get me started on the center console. I think that would hurt after a while. Not to mention it was all cheap plastic, and not even the soft-rubbery kind. I don’t care for the most part, but at least were my elbow rests could be soft. And that high center console? It was bad enough in an automatic, but imagine a manual where you HAVE TO keep your arm up there while driving. It wouldn’t seem like something that small could be a deal breaker, but believe me…it was…that center console was unbearable.

The handling though…wow…they took my car for evaluation on a trade in, and just gave me the keys to each in turn. The base one held the road well, but it was torqueless…at all rpms…but then I got in the gxp, and took it back to my makeshift test track, and was amazed. Aside from the auto issue…I’d imagine it would be fine in a manual, and it was pretty peppy for a car that small after it got in the powerband. When I tried cornering, I was in awe…

My test track was a mall parking lot, the overflow part behind the mall, over in one area where a jcpenney’s or something had closed down. And for the cornering, I started from a deadstop, and held a tight circle as I sped up, and that little car was hugging the road. After the last circle, I did a little non-uniform cornering, but it held true, and stayed predictable.

I just don’t think I would get enough out of it to make it worth the extra money over my vette, which is paid off. And the torque is noticeable. My vette, with only 190 hp, still puts out a very-american near-300 lb ft of torque. So that, plus the cool-factor of a classic chevy, plus it’s price effectiveness, plus how it’s comfortable for me, I don’t think I’ll do any more than that right now. I think I’ll keep the vette, keep working, and later this year get a practical car, and keep the vette still. So it’s like what I said before…six in one hand, half a dozen in the other, but 20,000 extra dollars for it.

As for my old car…
I loved the car when I had it of course, but even more now as, yes, with the passing of time, the negatives seem to diminish, and I only remember the great times…sentimentality taking over I guess…I will have another one soon, but I’ll probably build it on the late 90’s chassis, only a few grand for the car, and way-sub 3000 lb curb weight makes it a much better starting point.

So there it is. My write up. I test drive cars often, and if they make an impression on me, I might comment on them again soon. Thanks for reading.

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