Labor Day Trio: Three Cars That You'll Love to Work On
On this Labor Day, many will attend cookouts, perhaps head off to the beach or the lake for perhaps the last time this year, or just hang around the house and lounge our damn asses off. Still a great many will partake in the time honored tradition of working on their car with their well-deserved day off. To these do-it-yourselfers: we salute you. There's just one problem- unless you have an engineering degree, new cars are near impossible to work on. Be it their unnessesary engine covers or their complicated designs, it is getting more and more difficult to wortk on your car. Here are some exceptions, that we have found. 3) Jeep Grand Cherokee
This one is pretty simple, and strikes at the heart of what would qualify a car to be on this list- they have relatively simple mechanics, and have been made in great numbers. The straight six is a trusty, reliable engine. The ancillary components are inexpensive, and more importantly, accessible. One area to look out for is the Selec-Trac 4x4 systems. There are two types of four-wheel drives on these Jeeps. The single-mode has rear-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive and that's it, but the two-mode has a full-time and part-time four-wheel drive. The latter of those systems can be complicated, so beware.
2) Chevrolet Silverado/Chevrolet Tahoe/ GMC Yukon
Just like the Cherokee, it is simply laid out and they come in great numbers. The only difference is that they made even more of these vehicles and they are even more simply laid out. Add to that a supremely accessible engine bay, and you have a car that is a breeze to work on. Oh yeah, the Tahoe rides high enough off the road that as long as you don't need to take off the wheels for any reason, you don't need a jack. Check to see if these trucks used Dex-Cool coolant at all in their lifetime, as after 10 years, the molecular alignment of that coolant changes, and it becomes corrosive to the very gaskets through which the so called "Orange Death" flows. Otherwise, there can be a lot of gasket changes in your future.
1) Mazda Miata
Simple layout? Check. High volume. Check. A great area for mods and upgrades? Oh you bet! One of the quickest mods that first generation Miata owners do is remove at least one of the front corner signals and replacing it with a vent, allowing for better airflow into the engine compartment. From there, the possibilities are endless. Turbos, intercoolers, small dislacement superchargers- heck if you're a real mad man, you can combine all three on a car that is twin-charged. My favorite? Use a 1st-gen Taurus SHO engine. That Yamaha-sourced V6 was mated to a Mazda-built manual transmission. That can make for a nice, tidy engine and transmission swap.
Still, any 90's American car, 80's Japanese car, or most trucks make for great projects because of their high production numbers and the availability of parts. The 90's American cars, in particular, signified an ideal time when the car technology was getting very good, but the car had not yet become prohibitively advanced. Find that balance of high-volume, and low-but-not-poor tech, and you have a great canvas which which to start your project.