The Car

March 31st, 2009

1974 pontiac lemans

The main goal of this road trip is to show America that it is possible to buy a decent car for under $1,000, and we figured a coast to coast road trip is as good a way as any to demonstrate the reliability of a car. But what car? We wanted something that would have general appeal and be up to the challenge, so we thought about a cheap used honda accord or maybe a late model toyota. At the same time, we are two six foot plus guys who will be in a car 12 hours a day so we wanted something comfortable. 

But then, what is this trip really about? To us it is about nothing less than freedom, that great spirit that drives the American machine. The open road and the freedom to cruise it, or perhaps more appropriately for our times, the ability to get to and from work without having a $600 a month car payment. Or what about doing things the old school way, without a car payment at all? What if you could find a car for less than $1,000 that would work for day to day driving?

With that general idea in mind, we set out browsing looking for the perfect vehicle. We found exactly what we were looking for in the 1974 Pontiac LeMans. It was located about 130 miles north of San Diego, in Ventura CA. Undaunted, we bid away on the eBay auction and ended up winning this car for $899.89. Don’t believe us? Here is the bill of sale. There we were, just 2 months removed from a $17.4 billion federal bailout of General Motors, buying a Pontiac for $900.

The LeMans is an amzing sight to behold and I hope the video does it justice. I mean, just imagine this car being purchased in 1974 Los Angeles. White on white leather interior V8 two door coupe. 1974. If this car could talk man the stories she could tell.

She is not too beat up, the passenger side looks like it has been mangled in a wreck and then hammered back out. The interior is amazingly clean, with a few exceptions. Not too much rust on the body and the frame seems straight. The engine turned right over for us – well kind of. We did’t know it at first but the 1974 Pontiac is equipped with a state of the art anti-theft device – a ground under the drivers seat that disables the starter. So the car starts fine, just as long as you aren’t sitting in the drivers seat. The battery was dead but after a jump she purred like a kitten. We shot the opening video moments after starting it, a working driving car for $899.89. Amazing.

We replaced the battery, all the fluids, spark plugs, and gave the car a once over. Here is our mechanic Joseph breaking down all the basic repairs:


There was intense debate on how much money we should put into the car before the trip, with opinions ranging from no repairs at all to a full overhaul. In the end we decided on doing the least amount of repairs possible while keeping our safety and the safety of other drivers on the road the highest priority. 

We registered the car at the DMV ($160 fee!!!), got some insurance from GEICO and we are ready to hit the road!

  1. rickey franklin
    June 4th, 2009 at 03:04 | #1


  2. Scott
    February 5th, 2010 at 17:50 | #2

    A stupid question, but do you have the car and if so would you be willing to sell it? I’m in need of something to drive back and forth to college daily. My truck doesn’t ge tme as far as it used to with a smashed front end…

  3. Alex
    February 16th, 2010 at 07:21 | #3

    The LeMans is a nice find for what you paid, but in general, a mid-70’s LeMans or Grand LeMans in nice shape and original condition, even without many options, will sell for far more (usually between $3500-5000). You can find great things for not that much money if you look long enough, or stumble upon a good deal such as this one – but people without much car knowledge should beware of most $1000 cars.

    In the 1990’s, $1000 would buy you a serviceable, usable car to use every day, probably of late 1970’s or 1980’s vintage. But today that grand doesn’t go as far, and as cars became more complex over the last 20 years, repairs have become more expensive as well. A 1970’s car may not be fast, but it’s easy to repair. The same cannot be said of many late 90’s cars, with On-board diagnostics and other electronic goodies – an era of automobile now drifting into the $1000 range.

    I used 1960’s and 1970’s cars as my daily transport well into this decade, and I still have a 1979 Pontiac Grand LeMans. They have seat belts and are fairly safe compared to the cars of the pre-1967 era, but in the last decade the gulf between a 1970’s car and a modern car, in terms of safety and usability, has grown considerably. My old car is now reserved for nice days and shows. Using a car like that every day is not for everybody, and racking up mileage on a 30 year old car will eventually necessitate repairs, even if you’re driving that bastion of quality, a Mercedes W123.

    This is an interesting site you’ve got here, an I approve heartily of the concept. But a quick search of cars in my area reveals a $1000 1996 Jaguar XJ. Anybody buying that car should regard it as a grenade waiting for the pin to drop out. The asking price may only be $1000, but the maintenance required will be exponentially more.

    Nice site, nice Pontiac. But Caveat Emptor.

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