It’s with a heavy heart that I announce the death, by brain cancer
of the Scopmobile (a.k.a. “Freya”), now revealed on the blog as a white
‘84 Volvo 245 with pristine leather interior and no body rot.
I had bussed up to Connecticut in the hopes of picking up Freya from the mechanics where she had been taken due to an intermittent start up problem. The local CT mechanic, who works only on Volvos, said the problem was most likely the wiring harness (a reasonable assumption given the flaked and exposed wires). He worked on her this past Thursday and pronounced that she’d be ready to pick up on Friday.
So on Friday (after a 10 hour bus experience on Thurs.) SisterSchool and I bicycled the trail up to the neighboring town where Freya was stashed. I drove Freya around on Friday evening, running various errands, then up to Cape Cod, where I drove her around on Saturday, our do-nothing-beach-day. On Sunday, we got up early to drive her back to DC, planning to stop en-route in CT to pick up some bookshelves and a few odds and ends from PhotoGal. As we were packing the car, a local Volvo owner stopped on the road to admire the Freya, and we chatted about her year and model and so forth (Freya was a handsome lass). He drove off, Freya started up just fine and then mysteriously puttered to a stop two minutes later (I was letting her warm up). Then, try as I might, Freya would not turn over. I poked around in the wiring harness, drinking lots of water, sweating, swearing, getting my hands black and my neck burnt. The Volvo admirer drove by in the other direction, and, as luck would have it, he happened to be a Volvo mechanic. He got out of his car (a Volvo of course) and helped me do some tests under the hood. No spark to the coil. He told me to bring her by his shop on Monday if I couldn’t get her going.
After spending most of Sunday on the car, I decided to have her towed. The mechanic spent all Monday with her, before figuring out that the ECU was faulty. All the signals/power fed into the ECU but didn’t come out of it. A newer ECU from a different model injector system fixed most of the problems, but wasn’t actually compatible with Freya – not all the problems were fixed and she wasn’t driveable. Freya was essentially the victim of her year – 70s to 83s didn’t fit, neither did 85s to 93s (used ECUs for these are pretty easy to find). However, the 84s are pretty much exhausted from the scrap-yards, both from picking out the ECUs and from the mass clearing of scrap-yards that happened about 5 years ago when the price of used steel took a big jump (the foreign cars are sold first).
Rebuilt, it would have run $700, plus the diagnostic labor up to that point. However, given the state of the harness, there was no guarantee the replacement ECU wouldn’t be blown out by some kind of odd power surge. The preventative solution for that, a new wiring harness, would run about $300, plus a lot of labor to install (say 5 hours?).
Given that it was looking at being about $1,500 (plus the $300 already spent in CT), it was just time to retire Freya. I figure she wanted to go out on the Cape, so she took us there and died. I took the stick shift knob and a Volvo badge from her as a souvenir. All in all, she gave me a largely reliable car and made my move out of the south possible. I have no regrets (beyond not trying to pick up an ECU from one of my GA scrapyards while I was poking around – assuming such existed of course.)
All in all it’s been a bad year in my family for cars. The youngest, my stepsister, was hit by a drunk driver in Nov., wrecking her car. Then the next oldest (Youngest Brother on the blog) had his car melt down (engine) a few months ago. Then just this weekend(!), the next oldest, my stepbrother, hit a drunk driver, wrecking his truck. Skipping the next oldest, (Younger Brother on the blog) who does not have a car, we have me and Freya’s death. This means my parents are next. They’ve already started picking out the replacement car.
Sigh. Here is a photograph of me and my amazing biker's tan, something I will have no choice but to exclusively cultivate for the rest of the summer. Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge biking proponent, but it does not hurt to have a project vehicle nearby, provided you don't run it all that often for every little thing you might be inclined to do (like drive to work).
It’s really like losing a friend. I spent hours on her and she took me up and down the seabord, to and from GA, to and from New England.