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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I've read in books about the Muscle Car era and find that my 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado is not included. The Oldsmobile 442, built in 1967, is there but not my car. I have asked at car shows and have been told that the Toronado was considered more of a luxury car than a Muscle Car. Just what is a Muscle Car? I've also been told that my car was a test for the Cadillac Eldorado and that General Motors would try it on the Cadillac if the Toronado was successful.
C.N. Pittsburg, CA

A. The term "Muscle Car" is pretty ambiguous and everybody seems to have their own interpretation. Strictly speaking (and I'm sure I'll get lots of flack on this), a Muscle Car is an intermediate-sized American two-door sedan into which the factory stuffed as large a V8 engine as possible, added suspension and brake parts to match and trimmed it out with unusual and sometimes outlandish paint and glued-on graphics. The original was the 1964 Pontiac GTO (Gran Turismo Olomogato) which was basically a Tempest with a pumped-up 389 cubic inch V8. Almost all the American car makers eventually got into the act and the era ended in the early '70s when safety regulations and emissions controls came on the Detroit scene. Your Toronado was built from scratch (there was never an "intermediate" Toronado) and was, indeed, more of a luxury coupe than a thinly disguised race car. Its basics were used on the Eldorado in '67. True Muscle Cars are popular and valuable to the point where all the major parts (including the carburetor, transmission, etc.) are carefully examined to make sure that they have the correct or "matching" part numbers and codes. There are even special "buff" magazines devoted to the Muscle Car.

Q. We have a 1986 Ford Bronco V8 with 130,000 miles on it. I've had very good service out of it since I bought it five years ago and only use it when my son and I go hunting and fishing. During the past few months, I've noticed that as I drive it on the highway or on city streets, it has developed the habit if knocking and stumbling when I drive at steady speeds. The gas economy has gone down, too. I've taken it to our local service station and had a minor tuneup done to it but it hasn't improved. Is there something we're missed?
L.D. Tacoma, WA

A. There are lots of things that could be wrong with the engine of your Bronco but I've found that its best to look into the basics first. It's easy to get carried away with heavy repairs and then find that it's something simple. As cars get a lot of miles on them, the rubber hoses that route engine or manifold vacuum to various devices like the exhaust gas recirculation system, etc. get brittle on the connection ends, develop a slight crack and then leak. Vacuum hose is cheap if you buy it by the foot so check under your hood and if the vacuum hoses look the least bit suspect, change them. When you do the job, change one hose at a time. It's easy to get them mixed up and that really causes trouble.

Q. I recently bought a 1984 Toyota van with very low mileage and plan to keep up on its maintenance. The only item in the maintenance schedule that bothers me is tire rotation. The manual says that it should be done every 7500 miles and that it should include the spare as well. It's an expensive job and I'm not too sure that it's all that necessary.
D.M. Santa Fe, NM

A. I'm not convinced either. I check my tire pressures every two weeks and run my hand over the treads to make sure they all feel "right." If there's an abnormality (uneven tread wear, cupping on one edge, excessive wear on a particular tire), it's usually on one of the fronts. If I find a problem, I swap both sides front to back and fix whatever is wrong. Tire problems are usually caused by incorrect tire pressure, a misalignment, suspension wear or a tire out of balance.

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