Despite its low mileage, the Seneca's condition was poor. The paint was faded white, with the original metalic blue showing through the white, and whatever sheetmetal wasn't faded was rusted. The interior was light blue on dark blue, with a blue headliner, and all cloth was torn, rotted and full of bugs. The weatherstripping was all out, too. The tires were bald, and the brakes did not work. All the wheel cylinders were leaked, and the brake shoes were down to the metal. The radiator leaked and worst of all, when you signaled - the horn blew. The floor boards were rusted out and there was a hole the size of a basketball on the drivers side. When you stepped on the gas pedal, it moved the floor board. This car was a real dog.
Anyway, we got it to Borough Park, Brooklyn. I had the car taken in to a place called Great Bear Auto, on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 65th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. All I wanted was four tires and a brake job. Well, it's 1979 now, remember. These guys could not get the drums off to check the brakes. The drums had to be manually taken off. The dodge seneca had the drums "swedged", so they went on to the axle. It took hours to figure out. But they got them off using real brute strength.
What we found was ugly. The drums were down to where they could not be turned anymore -- the cylinders in each wheel had no seals and the wheel bearings were shot too. The car was there for 2 days. But it all got fixed and done right, too. The bill was about $550.00, a lot of money in 1979, for me. I was 25. But an owner of a soon-to-be-classic car.
It was kept as a Sunday driver, for the beach at Coney Island, Nellie Blye Park, and to use with the kids to go to Shore Road, and The Narrows in Bay Ridge. Because it was so beat up outside, no one bothered it.
The engine by this time needed a tune up, and a 6 cylinder tune-up was about $40.00 back then. After the tune up we drove to Bear Mountain State Park up the Hudson River Turnpike. The car was a cruiser. The horn still blew when you signaled. I got pulled over by a cop for this, but he really only wanted to check out the car. It resembled the old police cruiser in Car 54, Where Are You? It was a hoot!
Well, as time went on, we relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1982. We were fortunate enough to afford to load the car in the moving van. Atlas Van Lines. People though we were crazy taking this car with us. It was all we had. I was 28, my wife 26. Our kids were 4 and 18 months old. We did not know what Utah winters were like, but hey, they could not be as bad as New York, right? Oh, boy!
Well, we survived. Had the floor board welded and all the rust fixed in 1985 and painted her white. Had the headliner done, white. We recovered all the seats with Channel light blue. It was almost back to looking like new. The horn still blew when you signaled.
The car now has 143,000 original family miles, and is still roaming the streets. I think it will go on to 200,000 miles by 2020, based on our driving habits.
Good mechanics are not hard to find; older brake repair men are, but I have been lucky so far. The engine runs hot in summer, so I take the thermostat out, but its ok, because it gets a radiator flush every 6 months due to this. The Seneca has just gotten its first set of new tires since 1989 -- the old tires had less than 30,000 miles on them! It gets a tune up every six months, whether it needs it or not, and new oil every 3 months too. Oh yes, the radio always worked and still does. The horn still blows when you signal, once in a while.
Well, I am out of good things to say. But I love this car. Oh, Yes, it gets an average of 12-13 mpg in town and 18-20 on the freeway. I keep it about 55-65, but can get it going to 85-90 with no problems.
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