Family Car

1990 was one of our better years, work was steady, bills were paid, and Pontiac was offering a significant "customer loyalty" rebate to those who had Fieros. Besides my wife was complainig about the 9-11 MPG of premium she was getting from the '67 GP ragtop.

After considerable discussion, (I wanted a GP, she wanted a Bonneville) we settled on a new Bonneville SE as a compromise. The SE was the "middle" car in '90 between the rent-a-car LE and the sporty SSE. I wanted a number of things that were optional on the LE but standard on the SE and Linda wanted the 55/45 seat which was not available on the SSE (for some reason she does not like buckets). We agreed that the crosslaced wheels looked better than the spoke though I had reservations about the 16" wheels (this was 1990 & 15" was the largest standard size).

Interior at 13 years & 124,000 miles
Digital camera made seat look dirty. Isn't.

In 1990, CDs looked like a fad & ordered car with cassette,
In 2004 finally found an original factory CD (works with steering wheel controls).

Deep red and a gray cloth interior (that has worn like iron) and the only significant option was the full steering wheel controls for radio and a/c that was available before airbags.

By then our home had a full garage so it has never been left outside for any period of time except once. In January , Linda's father was very ill and she needed to spend considerable time in Indiana. We agreed that I would drive up with here and fly back then when she was ready I'd fly up and we would drive back. Early January had several days around zero F and one day she called to say that the oil pressure light was coming on at idle and only making the first division at speed. Engine was quiet and otherwise seemed fine. At this point odo was reading 85,000 miles and was out of warrenty.

Having had trouble with GM oil pressure senders before I told her to take it easy and when I came up brought a new sender with me. Installed the sender - same readings but everything seemed fine otherwise.

Took to local dealer in Anderson who kept it for a day and pronounced everything fine, said the guage was bad. With this in mind I had the oil and filter changed and we headed home to Florida. Entire trip with stop in Gatlinburg everything stayed the same. I'd shft to neutral and rev to 1200 rpm at stoplights to keep the oil light out (and the fuel pump running), and ran 1,000+ miles with onramp excursions past 4,000 rpm several times & normal 70ish mph cruise. Everything seemed fine and mpg was in the high 20s as normal.

Got home and hooked up a mechanical gauge. Zilch psi at idle, 19 psi max 2,000 rpm warm (spec is 40 at 1875). Uh-Oh.

Pulled pan and found two mangled center cam bearings lying on bottom. Gauge was reading correctly since oil goes to com first and was just dumping out. Crank was fine, as were pistons, rods, and everything except the scored center bearings on cam. Apparently it had gotten very cold sitting out one night and when started seized and spun the bearings.

Decided to just replace the long block with a 36,000 mile "recycling center" 3800 also from a 90 since no oversized cam bearings seemed to be available and I would not trust stock ones not to sping again (once rebuilt a VW transporter engine three times in a winter because the initial rebuild got the center main .002 off center. One warm days (Texas) it would be fine but start cold at 30F and it would run for about 20 seconds and freeze. Third time (complete rebuild each time) we found the problem.)

Dropped the new engine in along with a new water pump and brass freeze plugs & now have another 40,000 miles on it with no drivetrain difficulties. 3800s tend to be very long lived engines.

As to the 1,000+ miles with no oil pressure of center cam support the only thing I can figure is that the engine was designed in the early 1960s for conventional lifters. In 1988, 3800s received much lower drag roller lifters but the bearings were still sized as original. One on each end provided just enough support.

Other than that, I've needed to replace the water pump one other time, the a/c evaporator another (was converted to R-134A at the same time and willl still freeze you out), two front wheel bearings, and it has eaten its way through four alternators so far but is supposed to be a weak link on these cars anyway. It does temd to get a bit cantankerous occasionally.

Most recent was the a/c which refused to switch from defrost to dash vents unless a swift kick was administered to the underdash panel and the suddenly you would here something under the dash pop free and cold air would stop fogging the windshield. Turned out to be a combination of the diverter rod at full extension vedging the plate (shortening a touch cured that), and disintegration of the sponge filters in the HVAC "programmer" clogging one of the servos. Fortunately I had an extra in the garage.

Have had to replace one cosmetic item, the plastic spin-on wheel centers that holds the stud cover on the crosslaced wheels in place. Last year while rotating the tires I notced a large crack on one. Close examination showed that all four had multiple cracks. Not wanting to lose a center and since they were still available, I ordered a full replacement set which now hold the wheel centers properly.

16x7 Optional Crosslaced Wheels with Michelin X-One 225x60x16

So now a teenager but still acting frisky.

On tires

The first time the Goddyear GT+4s wore out at 20,000 miles I thought it a fluke. When the second did the same we switched to Michelin X-Ones in 225x60x16 and now have the X-Ones on three of our cars, they are that good. Extremely long wearing On second set in 80,000 miles and less than half worn), quiet, comfortable, and I have never seen any tire that is better in rain (and in Florida we get A Lot).

Best example I know of was when my wife had picked me up at the airport and we cam to a toll road lane with the arm down. Usually they go up as soon as they sense the transponder in the car. This one didn't. Linda had the tires talking but not sliding and stopped with the steel arm over the hood. About four inches in front of the windshield. Seemed like less than foot in front of my face. Significant rate of decelleration. I will buy more X-Ones when necessary.(plug)