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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 11

by Bob Hagin

Q. I recently inherited a 1996 Mercury two-door with leather seats. It is in very good condition and has 43,000 miles (original mileage). Is it possible that it may be classified as a classic? Where can I obtain information on this model?
M.W. Pinole, CA

A. When we talk about classic, collectible, veteran, antique, special interest and hobby cars, what we're really talking about are used cars that may be worth a lot of money, at least more than when they were new. The few '96 vehicles that I can think of that may be worth more than they were when first sold are the various exotics (Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc.) or a car that was owned by a famous or notorious celebrity. In strict terms, a classic is a car that is a carriage-trade brand like a Pierce Arrow, Duesenberg, Minerva, etc., that carries a custom-built body but now the label has been broadened to mean any ultra-expensive car of any period or even those that are just rare. A better name to use than "classic" would be "investment-quality" and then an evaluation gets easier. The Vintage Auto Almanac 1999 Edition lists eight pages of investment-quality automotive appraisers. There are no doubt several listed in your local phone book and they work a lot like appraisers of other types of antiques. Your bank's auto loan officer has used car auto value guides like the Kelley Guide For Early Model Cars, but they usually don't go back any further than the '50s. If you have access to a major book store that has a comprehensive magazine selection, check out the auto section for periodicals on old car values.

Q. I have a 1989 four-wheel drive Toyota pickup with a 22R engine. It has not been driven since 1994. The parts from this truck have been used on other trucks and I completed the engine with a missing radiator and water pump. While working on it I replaced the timing chain, drained the oil and gas and did a complete tune-up. Now the motor is rough and runs irregular. Pros have given me different advice like obstructed cooling system or plug carburetor from sitting so long. Several shops have given me estimates of from $400 to $1600 and that makes me feel uncomfortable.
S.V. Norfolk, VA

A. Having to reassemble a "basket case" that has missing parts can be a nightmare. Try to find out from the previous owner why the truck was originally grounded. That might give you a starting point. Adjust the valves and then check the cylinder compressions. Pressurize the cooling system to check for a leaking head gasket and also check for the intake manifold gasket and/or vacuum hoses that may be leaking. Don't mess with the carburetor until you're sure everything else is right and even then it may be best to try another one that you know is working right. If you're going to have the job done by professionals, be sure they are experts on Toyotas and get a guarantee in writing if possible. You don't want to have to pay for their education.

Q. I have a 1987 Nissan V6 pickup with and automatic transmission and 174,000 miles. A couple of months ago after a lot of stop-and-go driving, my valve lash adjusters started making noise. I checked the oil, put in a quart and the noise went away except for one lifter. I dismantled it (it was on a holiday) and found very black oil and tar-like chunks inside the lifter body. I cleaned it and reassembled it with fresh oil and did the same to all the lifters on that bank of cylinders. Now it runs better than ever. Should I disassemble and clean the other bank of lifters or leave them alone until they make noise?
M.S. Eugene, OR

A. A pro would probably have done both sides to avoid having a customer come back complaining of the same problem. Since you obviously have the time and necessary skills, I think that it would be wise to do the other bank as a preventive maintenance project.

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