How I discovered the Caprice, why I love it and what I went through to get it.
It all began night one at the southeast corner of Manchester and Sepulveda Boulevard in the rain. Awaiting the Metro Bus line 42 to go home from work, I saw a pretty policewoman in a Los Angeles Police Department sedan stop at the crosswalk. At the time, I was a big fan of Ford vehicles and was happy to learn that LAPD police cars were Ford Crown Victorias. The model of the car before me was unknown as it lacked the typical body markings but I guessed it was a Chevrolet from painted over shapes in the sheet metal. So I shouted out to the officer, "What kind of car is that!" She replied but I couldn't hear her--asking again, she answered, "...aprice! Capri..." as she drove away into traffic. I turned and watched the hansom car drive forward, with it its trademark tail lamps illuminted repeating to myself, "Caprice..."
Until that night, I thought I was going to buy a Ford Taurus, Thunderbird or some convertable; not sure what I would get. From then on, I knew for certain--it was the Chevrolet Caprice that I would buy. For some reason, however, I couldn't find the Caprice among the cars on www.chevrolet.com, nevertheless--my interest snowballed.
I was on my way back from a gentlemen's club in West Hollywood when I hailed a City Cab to stop and drive me home. The topic of conversation became the occupation of a taxicab driver and because a relative was in search of employment outside of an office, I recommended it to them for a variety of reasons. She took the job and I was her sidekick. :-)
After one week of intensive training, she began driving and with me as her partner, I experienced the power of this V8, 5.7 liter ex-Police Car; but, it was a Ford Crown Victoria. However, we made frequent trips to the Gardena lot where LA Taxi Co-Op cares for hundreds upon hundreds of Ford Crown Victoria sedans and Chevrolet Caprice cars. Being around them more, I grew to like them more and had decided that I would have one.
In 1987, my mother rented a Ford Thunderbird so that she could take me on a trip and the one thing I recalled about that car was the digital speedometer. For thirteen years, I was never able to change my decision that my car would have one. When I discovered that this hansome Caprice had that in its dashboard, I was convinced that this car would be mine.
Spending a great deal of time at www.recycler.com, I came across advertisements for Chevrolet Caprice vehicles and got my first glimps of what they had in store: 5.7l V8, power-everything, etc, etc, etc. And, the price that demanded attention: cars ranging from $4,000-$6,000. The only problem was, this dealer was a body shop and did not do financing.
Circumstances forced my hand and was unable to hold out any longer; I had to buy a car that I could afford so we picked up an AutoBuys South and thumbed through brands we trusted from the times my family's rented cars in the past. And even though we both wanted a Taurus, for some God-forsaken reason...we chose the Tempo.
At the time, I had virtually no credit history, 7 months at my then-current job but they carried the paper on the cheap car. And because money was the issue, buying a warranty was not possible. However, even though this car was only $2,500; it ended up costing us thousands of dollars in repairs.
It all begins with noticing there is no air conditioning. We hadn't even bought The ClubŪ yet when we rolled down the rear-right window for ventlation when we noticed the regulator had a malfunction where, if rolled down far enough--the window would not roll back up! The dealer (Auto for Less on Hawthorne Blvd. in Lawndale, California -- just in case you're about to buy a car from these con artists too) agreed to fix it for nothing because in his conversation with me, he said "we'll take care of you." So, their mechanic gets the window back up after it spent a night in a bad neighborhood using a black, plastic bag to patch the hole in the window to prevent theft.
Not too many days later, after we notice the front audio system speakers are dead--we roll down that right, rear window again to counteract the lack of air conditioning when the window sticks again. After we get the window to go back up again, our conversation with the mechanic is as follows:
"I thought you guys fixed it?"
Mike answered, "I did."
"So, how come it got stuck again?"
"Oh, uh, it's in bad shape," he replied, "just don't roll it down so far, next time."
By this point, we made a mental note, "Never sign anything that says As-Is ever again."
One day, we notice the car changes lanes to the right all by itself when the steering wheel isn't being manually handled and when we were braking to slow down--the pedal depressed all the way to the firewall. We took it to the three stooges, I mean Auto for Less to have Mike, their mechanic, look at it. He started talking some nonsense about a "cam kit" that needed to be replaced (which is supposedly some whole assembly beneith the car that the front wheels were related to), new brakes and tires. So, we dropped $270 on brakes and tires. We drive it again. Soap would've had a better grip on the wheels.
We finally take the Tempo to a mechanic in our neighborhood that has been around since the early 1970s - Stan Haveriland at Firestone at 1471 W. King Blvd. who is excellent. We discovered some very interesting things. First of all, the supposedly new tires were bald and we never actually got new brakes. Second of all, the reason the allignment of the Tempo was bad was because the DRIVE AXLE WAS FRACTURED. The wheels were about ready to break right off so, we dropped $700 fixing everything. (You're going to need a calculator by the time we're through here.)
After almost being killed in a driver-side impact by a 1981 blue Toyota truck in front of the Jack in the Box drive-thru between Brighton Ave. and Halldale on King Blvd., the car sustained some pretty gnarly body damage and needed some engine compartment repairs as well. Fortunately, I was unscathed except for a woogy on the noggin'. 3 weeks later--the car is a shade lighter (new silver paint) with some aftermarket, Mercury Topaz parts and a fixed up engine. That came to about $1,500. But it wasn't over yet. Earl "we can't do anything right" Schib ***ked up the body work and the hood flew up while my mother was driving it, on the freeway, at night. This resulted in $400 worth of damages but we ended up having the hood wired shut because, well --I RAN OUTTA MONEY! The worst part was, Stan said that someday--that hood's gonna just jut right back up again without warning eventually. So, basically we had a timebomb on our hands. Which was the least of our worries when I found out from the NHSTA that this car is notorious for catching on fire.
Other fun-filled events follow such as the fact that it stopped starting one night before work ($380), a hub cap fell off, rear brakes gave out ($210) and always turning itself off if idle too long (we never could figure out WHAT was causing that). It handled like a shopping cart, and vibrated at times. In January, 2000--a relative traded in my car for a 2000 Toyota Camery which sails like a dream. Meanwhile, I went back to being without wheels. Although--suffice it to say, no wheels is better than that Tempo. I think that was probably the worst car ever built.
The primary reason we needed that thing was because I needed a license and experience and my reliative needed to get a job. With that gruesome experience behind me, I was all set and ready to get my car. The Caprice.
Banks weren't helping too much in the loan department--for personal, unsecured loans, they want practialy A+ credit. And, obviously, I didn't have that. However, it finally hit me.
I thought I had the perfect plan. I was going to put a down payment on a car that blue booked for $10,000. Then, sell it to Dale's Auto Mart. Take the $10,000 in Cash and buy the $6,000 1992 Caprice that L.A. Clyde's Auto Body was selling, using the remaining $3,600 for the upgrades I had been planing to make. I asked everybody about it and found nobody who could figure out how the plan could not work. All I needed was my recently acquired 1-year long job history, near 11 year residency and a dealer willing to deal with somebody with virtually no credit history. Not a problem in Los Angeles.
My so-called perfect plan went up in flames when I actually called Dale's Auto Mart and discussed my plan. As it turns out, if I don't own the car, what they do is--pay off whatever I didn't pay on the vehicle I have and, if the value of the car is greater than what it was sold to me for, cut a check for the difference and mail it to me. Obviously, just about every car is sold at several thousands of dollars over what it's worth so I was back to the drawing board. I called some dealers who were not interested in spending anytime answering questions to convince me that I should come look at the car; all anyone ever had to say to anything I might've said was, "Yeah, come down here and we'll talk." Like I've got time to burn. I called LA Clyde back with an idea I had but they repeated what Dale's Auto Mart said so I gave up on that too. I was starting to feel defeated.
In fact, it was driving me nuts... I put up with that P.o.S. Ford Tempo, my job, blew my savings on two trips to Canada which both failed to pan out as planned, and over two years has passed and I was no more closer to buying the car I love then than I was before. Above all, the need to change jobs was growing exponentially. What was I going to do?
I finally decided to give up and go find some Caprice, any caprice on sale in AutoBuys South; hope the dealer would deal with my credit history and let me put down $1,500 (everything in my savings at the time). The creepy dudes at Prestiege Auto Imports in North Hollywood were trying to sell me a 1991 Chevrolet Caprice Classic for over $7,000 plus financing and fees and said that my credit was so worthless that I would need to put down $3,000. I took a look at the merchandise and I wasn't impressed--it had the wrong dashboard, a lot more miles on it than the dealer said and, frankly; I had it up to "here" with the story being almost completely different from what I get over the phone. I went through great lengths to come all the way out there and I wasn't about to let them speed-talk me into anything. I learned my lesson with the Tempo.
I came back feeling pretty lousy and started contemplating just buying any car. Because, sitting there and waiting for my dream car was costing me my love life, my freedom to move about regardless of the bus schedule and I was forever relying on someone or something else to take me where I needed to go. On the other hand--if I bought something then and abandoned my dream, it might be three or more years before I could ever have it. I'm making monthly payments on a car I don't like, leaving me unable to save up for the car I do want when all I had to do was save up just a little bit longer to have the car I really want. But the question is--could I put up with where I was working long enough to do that?
Knowing the answer was "no," I set out to make money FAST. I returned to the notion of getting a personal loan, just smaller than $10,000, closer to $6,000 to just buy the car and use my own money to fix up the vehicle. However, the advise of a banker at my neighborhood branch was to try for an auto loan and hope Wells Fargo will approve a 1992. Yes, get another inquiry on my credit history for nothing? No, thanks.
Alternative means of legally making money started becoming my only hope. I spent whole weekends on the internet trying to learn everything there was to know about thoroughbred horse racing and handicapping and let me tell you--there is VERY LITTLE information out there (for free, anyway). Not even some basic information on what words like trifecta and exacta box mean or what they're supposed to do. You have to spent an excruciating amount of money before you might make any. I was making money, though--just not fast enough. Then, I turned to the idea of running an adult entertainment website. Content and time were too major problems but I felt really bad about the idea that I'm not willing to put forth the time and effort to do something and thus, wont be getting my car.
Time was bleeding into the past as my job managed to make up even more reasons why I should work elsewhere. But, what could I do? Maybe it was time to change jobs without a car and start all over again. Save up working some place else and then buy my Caprice down the road.
In a futile attempt to locate a Caprice that maybe had really, really high mileage in exchange for a super-low price, I posted an add at www.9c1.com.
I decided to submit an application for a personal loan anyway and co-sign the loan documents. Thanks to a relative's credit rating turning into an A+ overnight due to the 7-year expiration of all bad marks becoming erased, her extensive and clean credit record plus my long standing job history and middle-class income allowed my $3,000 loan to result in an approval. Just for extra measures, instead of submitting it at the branch on Stocker St. and Crenshaw, I submitted it at the 333 S. Grand Ave. building where they know what they're doing.
With $2,500 in savings and $3,000 in cash; I was almost set to go buy that $6,000 Caprice from LA Clydes. However, somehow, Robert from Quick Auto Help near La Brea and Adams Blvd. e-mailed me that he had two for $3,500 (before Bob Lane ever posted the ad, I might add). I hit the ceiling. Naturally, I wrote hime back; we spent a week e-mailing each other before I came down one Saturday afternoon to perform a 100-point inspection on the vehicle. Except for the left horn button, right-front window not rolling down, the engine running hot and a couple of interior rips--it was perfect. I dropped off my $500 deposit and just in time. Someone else came close to buying that car!
Robert fixed everything for nothing and the car only had roughly 89,000 miles on it! For a Santa Ana police car, that's incredible but it was out of their K-9 fleet so the car received very little abuse. After week of anticipation and $3,936.75 dropped off in cash, the black and white paint was replaced with the paint I requested and on Saturday, March 18th at 11:30 A.M. -- I took posession of my 1992 Chevrolet Caprice SEO 9C1 - Kate. And she is beautiful. :-)
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