Here it is, ladies and gentlemen. This is The BEST Car I've Ever Owned. No, I'm not joking. Any car has the potential to be the best car you've ever owned, even if it's a POS. It doesn't necessarily have to have staggering performance, fantastic styling, or even RWD. It just depends on what your relationship with the car has been, what you've gone through together.
I'm not here to give a complete model history on these cars that I've owned, but rather I just want to talk about my specific examples of them and what they meant to me. Here's a brief bit of info, though, for those who are unfamiliar with them or live in a country where they were never sold. The Chevrolet Celebrity was one of GM's A-Body vehicles that came on the US market in 1982. There were four of them: the Chevy, the Pontiac 6000, the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, and the Buick Century. All were available as 2- or 4-door sedans and 4-door wagons. There was a large range of engines, from the ancient Iron Duke four up to a 4.3l diesel V6. The Chevy was built until 1990, and the Pontiac until 1991; the Olds and the Buick stayed on the market until 1996, no joke. And they were essentially unchanged, though by '96 you could have them with a driver's airbag. There were lots of configurations; starting in 1988, you could even get the Pontiac 6000 STE with AWD.
I got my Celebrity when my stepdad got fed up with the crappy Pontiac Phoenix from my last post. I was only peripherally aware of them at the time, but knew there was no way it could possibly be worse than the Phoenix. I was thrilled at the thought of having a car that worked! It was in good shape, too; it was clean inside and didn't smell weird. It had originally been the color of the coupe in the above photo, but someone repainted it with a dull, lifeless blue that was pretty much a matte finish. I was a bit disappointed that it was automatic, but only a little. It had cruise control, a/c (that didn't work), an AM/FM radio, but everything else was manual. It had Chevy's 2.8 liter carbureted V6 (112 hp!) that everyone seems to kind of hate, but I never knew that at the time. I jumped in it and picked up my best friend Jason, and we spent the afternoon going over it and checking out everything. This car was a 180 degree turn from the Phoenix. It wasn't slow (to me), it stopped well, and everything WORKED. Sure, it was a dad car, but who cares? I loved it.
My parents had put a tape deck in the Phoenix just before it broke down, and when it was traded for the Chevy they'd had the dealer take it out so they could have it put in the Celebrity for me. After it got installed, the first cassette tape I listened to in it was Kate Bush's "The Whole Story", her greatest hits album. Since then, every time I've gotten a new car, that album is the first thing I listen to on the stereo. It's not even the best Kate Bush album to listen to, but it's my tradition.
My parents trusted me with that car more than they ever should have, even though I never really got in trouble with it. I must have driven over every road in Colorado Springs in that car, usually accompanied by my best friend Jason. The east side of the Springs was still under construction, so there were places east of Powers Boulevard that had fully constructed roads with no houses yet, and we would go there and just drive around. One night, near the intersection of North Carefree Cir. and Peterson Road (which was not completed yet), we were making a u-turn when he saw something behind the road closed sign; it was a young couple having sex in the road. I never saw them, but he could not stop laughing about it.
While I wasn't (and still am not) much of a drive-fast hoon, I can tell you that in a drag race the 1983 Celebrity can beat a 1985 Escort L (owned by a female friend of mine), and also a 1984 Mazda 626 LX (my friend Jason's car). He was so bummed when that happened; outwardly I was nice to him about it but inside I was thinking "FUCK YEAH! MINE'S BIGGER!" I can also tell you that the Celebrity is somewhat ok at off-roading, though getting it high-centered in a sand pit sucks. Also, if you are high-centered in a sand pit, and you had floored it so that the wheels are spinning, DO NOT put the transmission in 'Park'. The noise was horrifying, but miraculously it didn't hurt the transmission. I can also tell you that the 1983 Celebrity sedan can seat seven high-schoolers in it. I had a weird bench that had a quasi-center console area but was level with the seats. It wasn't a bench seat that was meant for 3, but that didn't stop us. We got four people in the back; it helped that three of them were girls and one was a skinny little guy that was about 80 lbs soaking wet.
I never got lucky in it, but looking back there was a day that I could have. I had a friend that I went to high school with that eventually became a friends-with-benefits thing, before I even got my license. One day when I was out with him and my friend Jason (none of us were out to each other), my friend (in the back seat) was trying to discreetly touch my ear and other things, but I'm bad at being perceptive about those things so I thought he was just trying to irritate me. I'm a dumbass.
While it was mostly reliable, a few glitches did start to rear their head. A year after we got it, the speedometer failed completely. We took it to a shop, and the mechanic said it was either an outer gear that was bad or the inner gear, but the outer gear was faster and cheaper to replace. We had him replace the outer gear, and the speedometer was back to working normally...for one whole day. Then it failed again, but not totally. If you were traveling at highway speeds, it would read about 25-30 mph, but the needle would be swinging wildly. Whatevs. We left it that way for the rest of our time with it. Colorado does not require inspections like that. WILD WEST, YO. The power steering wasn't working right, either. Sometimes it was ok, but randomly it would become hard to steer (not impossible), and it would be worse on cold days. Also, the inside door handle on the drivers' side stopped working, so I would have to roll down the window and open the door from the outside. While I was attending my Grandmother's funeral in Michigan, my stepdad noticed fuel leaking from the fuel pump, so he had that fixed. It was never a problem again after that.
I had my first accident in the Celebrity. I was pulling out of a parking space at my high school, and I hadn't seen the jock ass in the Bronco II who was driving way too fast. He banged into the front edge of my fender and dislodged the front fascia that housed the headlights and the grille. While it was my fault for pulling out of the space, he was going way too fast in the lot. He rounded up some 'witnesses' and they spoke to the guys' dad and we ended up having to pay for the repairs to his car. Asshole. I hope he gets terminal jock itch. Anyway, the mounting brackets were broken on the fascia, but we only had liability coverage on it. Break out the wire hangers!! We fixed it so that the grille was tied to the radiator supports with a couple of wire hangers, and also the headlights helped keep it attached to the car.
When I graduated, I decided I needed to buy a different car for some stupid reason. I ended up buying a 1987 Honda Civic CRX, and my parents decided my older sister should have the Celebrity. She's 3 years older than me, but she had never been in a hurry to get a drivers' license. We took it up to Boulder and it sat for a couple months before she was able to get in for the test. She drove it for about 3-4 years, and it was solidly reliable for her too. Oh, shit broke on it, but none of it ended up keeping the car from moving under its' own power, even when it should have. Like the time that all the motor mounts failed and the engine was resting on the axle. It happened in a bad snowstorm, and she made it back to Boulder and was still able to drive it to the shop. It developed a check engine light that we faithfully ignored, and the drivers' side outside door handle broke, leaving the door closed FOREVER. She had to start sliding across the bench seat from the passenger side. Once, she bumped her head on the mirror and it broke off of the windshield, taking a chunk of glass with it.
Sometime after she graduated from CU in 1997, she moved back to Colorado Springs and didn't need it anymore. We asked my dad who lives in Lakewood (west of Denver) if we could park it in front of his house and he said ok. It then sat for almost a year and a half, when I suddenly needed to use it again. We charged the battery and it fired right up, clunked for about a minute until the filthy oil circulated, and then was running like a champ. I drove it off and on for the next few months, while I was trying to sort out some automotive and financial problems. By that time it had developed some sort of problem with the cooling system, probably a clog somewhere. It had trouble keeping the engine cool whenever it was not moving. You could not sit and let it idle or the overflow container would boil over. I didn't have money to fix it, so I had to try other options like driving always with the heater on full-blast, which worked to my amazement. By the way, driving during summer with the heater on full-blast is one of my least favorite activities. I got tired of the door not opening, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. There was a problem, though; to fix it, I'd need to take off the door panel. The door panel can only be removed when the door is open. Solution? Pruning shears. I cut into the panel until I could get to the rod that pulls the latch open, and it opened! I took off the plastic trim around the broken door handle so I could always have access to the rod and just pull it to open the door. It still didn't open from the outside, but it worked.
Eventually, I was able to solve my automotive dilemma and I didn't need the Celebrity anymore. I knew it was nearing its' end, as it was starting to struggle to move itself up hills and the overheating problem was getting worse. I parked it in front of my dad's house again, and left it. A few months later, the city was getting ready to pave his street and the car needed to be moved. He'd misplaced my phone number and the car ended up getting towed away. It would have cost more than the car was worth ($50) to get it out, and I knew it was time anyway, so that's how the story ends.
I am ashamed to say this, but I don't have a single picture of my Celebrity. I asked my sister, who also owned it for a few years and possibly loved it more than I did, and she didn't either. We owned it long before camera phones (or even cell phones, really) were ubiquitous. I only ever had a shitty 110 camera, and I almost never had film for it.
My sister and I had way too much fun with this car, and it's a testament to the old line that GM cars will run bad longer than most cars will run at all. I owned this car during a time in my life where I didn't take maintenance seriously or couldn't afford it, and it never let me down. Ok, ONE TIME the carb flooded and it took half an hour to get it cleared, but that's it. I miss it. Since then, I've owned a few more GM vehicles, and my sister is on only her 4th car ever (a black Pontiac G6 convertible), and all have been GM cars. I think it left an impression on her, too.