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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1972 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS that I would like to sell. I'm hoping that you can help me with its pricing. I am the original owner of the car and it has 167.000 miles on the odometer. It has a rebuilt engine and it is the original one that I had redone.
I.F. Orinda, CA

A. I get lots of letters about the worth of old cars and trucks and it's really hard to respond to them other than to send the writer in several directions. A used vehicle is worth only what someone is willing pay and sometimes finding that "willing" buyer is tough. A really clean rust-free '72 Camaro is worth a lot more in New York than it is in California, since there are far fewer of them remaining in areas where body rust is a problem. To find the worth of a semi- collectible car like your Camaro depends on a lot of factors besides its overall condition. The engine size, transmission choice and other original equipment can make a big difference. If you have the original window sticker, that too can make a difference in its value. A Camaro like yours with a 396 CID engine was recently listed in Hemmings Motor News for $8,000, while one two years older with 60,000 miles went for $10K. An ad in the classified section of your local paper is a good place to start since your car isn't rare and won't arouse international interest. Overall condition is important and one in poor shape may be worth $1800 while one that's a jewel can bring five times that much.

Q. I just purchased an '81 Mercedes 380 SL with 16,000 miles. It is in mint condition and I plan to keep it a long time. The local Mercedes dealer's service manager recommends that I convert from a single timing chain to a double at a cost of $2745. He told me that there have been problems with the chain breaking and causing damage to the head and if this happened to my car, the repair cost would be significantly greater than the cost of the conversion. He further stated that the manufacturer has recommended that owners convert to the double chain. I researched to see if there had ever been a recall for this problem but I found nothing.
F.L. Howes Cave, NY

A. You won't find an official recall on the problem since it isn't safety-related and voluntary recalls are pretty rare unless it involves lots of popular vehicles having lots of failures. Double roller chains are twice as strong as single roller chains and don't stretch and slap around as much. In some cars and trucks, the single-roller chains get so sloppy they destroy the chain guide and wear holes in the chain cover. At 16,000 miles, your Mercedes probably isn't suffering from a sloppy chain but you might as well have it done if it's going to prey on your mind. Since you're obviously an enthusiast, you might want to link up with a Mercedes owner's club. I found a half-dozen on the internet.

Q. I bought a '00 Chevrolet Venture. After 600 miles every time I press on the gas pedal, the van sounds like a jalopy. Regardless of how much pressure I put on the gas, the van still sounds like there is a muffler problem. Chevrolet says the sound is normal but I can't believe they would build such a noisy vehicle.
C.L. Virginia Beach, VA

A. Step one is to ask your selling dealer to take you out for a ride in a demonstrator that's just like your van and see if it's also noisy. Then take your van to a muffler shop to see if something is loose or leaking in your exhaust system. When you refer to "Chevrolet" saying they're all like that, it may just be the opinion of your dealer's shop. In the long run, it's the manufacturer that has to make good on a problem. Ask that your Venture be seen by a factory rep and also call the complaint hot-line you'll find in your owner's handbook.

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