Monday, June 30, 2014

The Green Dragon

Pictured in 2012

Here it is, my first car.  The 1999 Mercury Sable LS Wagon.  You will notice from now on that my love for this thing is pretty absurd (no, not to the extent of the man with the orange Monte Carlo).  I grew up with this car.  
My parents bought this car brand new in August 1999, months after moving into our house in Northville, Michigan.  My father had once ridden in a buddy's car with 200 horsepower - a lot in the early '90s - and promised himself that one day, he'd buy himself a car with 200 horsepower.  He landed a job at Ford soon after, the same year they released the 3.0 Liter Duratec overhead cam 24 valve V6 for the Taurus and Sable that put out exactly 200 hp @ 5750 rpm and 200 ft-lbs of torque @ 4500 rpm.  The base engine was a 3.0L Vulcan V6 with a pushrod valvetrain, squeezing out a feeble 145 hp.  After a few years of saving up, my parents bought a new house and their first Ford vehicle.  I was almost 4 years old at the time.  I still remember the day we went to the dealer to pick this car up.  The salesman gave me two toys from his desk that I still have to this day.  I also remember riding in the back during the test drive, seeing telephone poles through the windshield.  My parents really ponied up for this back in the day, paying exactly 20 grand (boy have the times changed!) for a fully-loaded Sable wagon that had the top engine option, leather seats, push button climate control, rear-facing hidden trunk seat, the whole shebang save for the trunk-mounted 10 disc CD changer.

I took this picture after giving the engine bay a thorough cleaning

Anyway, my mind being young and impressionable, my love for this car was quickly cemented.  This car was in the background of nearly childhood memory - rides to the store, to the park, or watching Dad come home from work every day.  My father taught me basic maintenance such as oil and filter changes and raised me in a way to appreciate everything I had.  We kept the interior of the car spotless and even today, it looks brand new inside.  My first life goal was to drive this car during high school.  Long story short, that was accomplished.  The one thing that prevented me from becoming a teenage speed demon during that time was my commitment to give this car a long life. 

Notice the dual exhaust - it 's actually a single pipe that splits below the trunk but this makes the '96-'99 model one of the very few nice-sounding V6 cars you can buy.  The best sounding, in my opinion.  

The engine itself could have taken the abuse. It's hella tough (lives up to the Duratec name) and was offered in many Ford vehicles until 2012, as well as in 400+ hp, twin-turbo form in supercars like the Noble M12, M15, M400, and the Rossion Q1.  Mine still performs like it's brand new after almost 140,000 Michigan miles.  Many other things though, such as the undercarriage, suspension, and transmission were known weak points on the Taurus.  I've seen many with rockers that were completely rusted away and mine just recently joined that club despite holding out a few years longer.  More on that later.  My suspension and shock towers are still in good shape but the transmission has been on its way out for oh, maybe six years.  Michigan is making some modifications to the car and it's not even close to being done (Yeah, I know I say Michigan a lot but it's a big deal to me).  

Relegated to outdoor parking since 2007, here it is in January 2013 after my hospital stay.  That poor thing.  

For a long time, I told myself that I'd keep this car for my whole life.  The wealth of car knowledge that I gathered over the years gave me the skill to do several minor repairs necessitated by Michigan or by other people.  I have enough knowledge and love for this car to keep it running indefinitely if no other factors were to play in.  Sadly, that is not the case.  Although my family considers this car to be mine and treats it as such, it's still technically registered under my dad's name.  That means he can do whatever he wants with it, including trading it in.  Practicality always trumps emotion for him (I've always thought this was the main difference between him, an engineer, and me, an architecture student).  I'm tempted to say this car has never let my family down because the failed brake line and radiator hose were caused by Michigan salt, but fact is fact.  As cars get older, repairs add up and despite my age, my parents retain control over my life including the decision to buy the car and fix it when my dad doesn't want it anymore. We'll just have to see what happens in the coming years.