My grandmother's 1992 Colt Vista, quirky genre-busting tall AWD wagon, is no more.
You may recall I posted a brief review of the strange machine last year, and pointed out that while the Colt Vista answered questions few people ever really asked, it had its strong points. It boasted cartoonish volume inside its otherwise modest dimensions, room for an entire circus' worth of clowns.
One of those strong points was never corrosion protection.
While under the care of my grandfather before he died, the Vista enjoyed regular maintenance and lived in a garage. That's good, but the garage was in the great state of Minnesota, where winter is long, cold and full of snow. They salt their roads in Minnesota.
We salt our roads in Tennessee too, but in Minnesota they mean it. A couple of decades of that can take a toll on things that are made of steel and then put up wet in a slightly warm environment. Lather, rinse and repeat a few hundred times and it can be pretty hard on your underbody.
I had no idea. I've long known that Japanese cars of a certain age are susceptible to breathtaking corrosion problems, particularly Toyotas and Hondas from the 70s and 80s. But I had assumed that, by the 90s, they would have figured out that American roads are hell on cars and would have taken steps to make them last better.
I called on a nice guy who'd been offering advice and encouragement via e-mail, a nice guy who had left a note on the car when I left it at the shop offering to buy it. He came over and looked at it.
"Oh, man!" he said, clambering out from under the car, shaking his head. "I'm so sorry. There's almost nothing left."
I had spent all my time under the front of the car - the very front, removing bits so I could get around to pulling the head. It's a bit greasier up there and things are usually in somewhat better condition.
"You've got cracks in the suspension mounts, the pinch weld is almost rusted completely through, shoot, you have cracks in your driveshaft. I mean, wow."
I squeezed under the car and looked around. It was amazing. I had spent absolutely zero time under the car aft of the front wheels, looking around under the Vista's back 40 was an education in decay. It gave me the shudders to imagine trying to drive it anywhere at all, let alone letting my kids drive it.
"Well," I said. "That's that."
Tom was dismayed. "I'm really sorry to give you bad news, man."
"Don't be. I don't have any emotions wound up in this car. I don't even associate it with my grandmother that much."
Tom showed me his handiwork under the hood of his very cherry sedan, showing me his deep interest in other Mitsubishi models and particularly his handiwork wrenching on Mitsu engines. The mill under the hood was beautiful, and definitely not stock. "I take it to the strips and make the Corvette guys work for their slips on Saturdays."
"Sweet work. What's that do to your fuel economy?" I can't stop being an ecomodder.
"Well, at the end of the night I push a button to fire up the economy programming and it gets 30-plus the whole way home."
We said our goodbyes and I called Pull-A-Part to come get the Vista. And now that it's gone, I'm actually much happier. It was hanging around, no one was driving it, and it took up space. So that's the end of that.