CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Is my '92 Bonnie a classic or just basic transportation?

My beloved above referenced car, in “British Racing Green” is now officially 20 years old - I purchased new when I was…younger. Still it only has 135,000 miles on it, and runs like a baby’s nose. Cosmetically it’s in less than good condition. And some of the soft tissue parts like rubber and plastic elements are aging out. But would I hop in this sweetheart and drive from Kansas City to L.A.? -Damn Skippy!

My dilemma. Do I restore this beauty at some cost (I’m not a do it yourself in the garage guy), or trade it in and let someone put the next 135,000 miles on it for probably a penny a mile in repair costs? My wife and daughter refuse to ride in it, and I admit the neighbors have agreed to let me stop mowing my lawn if I promise to park it on the next block.

I admit a gently used BMW would be a treat, but a penny a mile…really?

There’s nothing special about a 92 Boneville. Just basic/cheap transportation.

Tester

Yep, move on…

I agree. If you want a GM classic, consider a 1995 ZR-1 Corvette.

Drive it for another 135K. Never mind what everyone thinks. It is cheap transportation.
After all, another 135K and it will be a classic.

Then slam it on chromies, shave 5" off the top, tub the rear wheels, run NOs, bag it and re-paint it lime green.

No classic value. However, with some money on a paint job and some detailing it doesn’t have to be the eyesore of the block. This is a nice body, decent styling, and if it isn’t full of rust holes you might be able to make it look much more presentable. Not a full blown restoration, but this good ol car has served you well. Spend some money on cosmetics and make it look good again. Then, reward yourself with many more years of cheap driving.

Unless you’re really emotionally attached to it, I’d just let it go. I expect it has pretty bad rust. My friend’s first car was an old Bonneville. It served her well, but was rusted so bad that when she locked her keys in the car, I simply reached up through the rust hole in the door, found the lock mechanism, and popped it open. It’s hard to let a car go after so long. You do get emotionally attached to them, despite them just being machines. I just drove my old 94 for the first time in a month, got it washed and waxed. Started right up like it always has and the A/C was as cold as ever. I’ve been through a lot in that car in the last 13 years that I’ve owned it-- 3 jobs, 3 girlfriends, two friends that have passed on had ridden in it. And it never let me down. We have a history. I could have traded it in the “cash for clunkers” program, but it would have bothered me to see it destroyed needlessly. In the end though, nothing is forever, and the car will not hurt or be lonely or feel betrayed if you get rid of it. (so I tell myself)

I owned a 1978 4-4-2 for 33 years. I bought it new in October of 1978 and sold it in October of 2011. By 1978, the 4-4-2 designation was just a trim and handling package. Mine had the 260 cubic inch V-8 with a 2 barrel carburetor, an automatic transmission and a single exhaust. The earlier 4-4-2 cars had a much larger V-8 engine with a 4 barrel carburetor, 4 speed manual transmission and dual exhaust system. These earlier 4-4-2 muscle cars are collectors items. Mine wasn’t. It provided great service, but wasn’t worth putting money in to restore. I sold it to a person who needed transportation. Had I thought it would be a classic, I would have driven it only in good weather, kept it garaged, and had another car for transportation.
I got a good price on the car because the muscle car buyers didn’t want it nor did the conservative older drivers. The dealer had the car on the lot from April of 1978 until October of 1978 when I purchased it.
I purchase vehicles for transportation.
Let me give another illustration. My late aunt gave me a wrist watch when I was in college that had belonged to her late husband. The watch ran for a year and then quit running. I took it to a watch repair shop and the estimated cost of repair was $65. That was too much for a college student back in 1960, so I put it in a drawer and forgot about it. I bought a cheap Timex instead. About 5 years ago, I was talking to a local jeweler about the watch and he suggested I bring it in. I did bring it in and the jeweler was amazed. He sent it to a speciality watch shop. A week later, I got a call. The price to restore the watch would be $195. The jeweler said, however, that the watch is estimated to be worth $4000. I had the watch restored, but I seldom wear it. The watch I bought for $5 at Big Lots keeps better time.

$5 for a plastic watch. Good buy. I pay about $14 and those things keep good time also. My Dad had a stopwatch with a broken mainspring. The watch repair guy made a new one by cutting up a beer can. Dad probably had the first Budweiser watch…

Yeah, it’s just basic transportation. It’s not going bring six figures at Barrett Jackson in another 10 years or whatever.

I’m with Remco except for the nitreous oxide. That stuff will not only wreck the engine…it’ll put lumps all over the hood where the engine parts hit when it blows!

If wife and daughter won’t ride in it, do your marriage a favor and let someone else enjoy your…umm…“classic.”. Time to move on.

And don’t take it personally, next to no '92s are, or will be, ‘classics’…

I think a car has to be at least 25 years old to be considered an antique. In my state, if a car fits this category, antique plates are available, but the car can only be driven during daylight hours. However, just because a car is an antique (and your 1992 Bonneville does not qualify) does not make it a classic. Collectible cars are muscle cars (Pontiac GTO for example), convertibles, etc. There are very few cars that are considered as true “classics” --Duesenberg is an example of a classic.
I always thought that the 1951-54 Kaisers had great styling, but even though they are rare, they don’t fetch really high prices with the exception of the Kaiser Darrin sports car. IMHO the most recent classic would be a 1963 Studebaker Avanti. I have a friend who collects Studebakers and his most recent purchase was a rust free 1963 Studebaker Lark 2 door sedan. It has become his daily driver. Had it not been in rust free condition, he never would have purchased it. That Studebaker is in good condition, but it is not pristine. It really isn’t worth putting a lot of money to make it pristine. Even if your 1992 Pontiac Bonneville were in great condition, it doesn’t have antique value.

I agree there is no collectible value in this car. They made about a billion of these things (okay, I’m exaggerating, but only a little), as well as this car’s twin, the Buick LeSabre/Park Avenue. Junkyards are full of these things because they are pretty much a dime a dozen and are getting old and worn out, kind of like yours. If the family is as unhappy with the car as you indicate, it’s time to move on to something else, maybe even a newer version of this car since you like it so much (they really are wonderful cars with one of the best engines ever made). They made this body style until '98, but the '99 redesign is certainly worth looking into, and even the newer ones are still a dime a dozen and a whole lot better than the one you have.

I think it’s time to sell this potential beauty to a teen age kid and let him fix it up. With a cool car like that, he’ll get som cute dates to ride in it with him, and with your loot from the sale, you can score a used BMW, which you do need. Sell it. It’s a win-win situation for everybody involved.

Always liked that Bonneville, especially in green. But I wouldn’t own one and they have no value at present. Maybe in a few decades people will look see this as a minor classic. Who knows? People are restoring old sixties Country Squires wagons that rusted unwanted for decades.

Along with Mark, I bought a 64 Rambler because I like the car. It isn’t a desirable car, it isn’t a fast car, it has a bunch of stainless steel (not chrome) but isn’t even a particularly pretty car. It used to be a grocery hauler in the day - a typical family car. It has no rust, orginal paint and rides comfortably, though, it being a couch with a steering wheel. It is straight up time machine out of the 60s. It is a fun car to cruise around in.
At cruise nights and car shows, I get lots of fond comments on how people remember riding in them when they were kids. Sure, people oogle the Camaros, Roadrunners, TransAms, Mustangs, etc but how many regular people, non collectors, walk up to those cars and get comments like mine?

If you like the car, do what you want with it. Never mind what people say. Note you’ll never get your money back, though.
It is your car.

Its essentially a $500-1000 car regardless of the condition and will still be even with tires, wax, paint, etc. So move on unless you really enjoy it or need something to pull a boat.