Freshly washed and parked outside with old sol shining out of a clear blue sky, each of us would have been proud to have that baby in our driveway. We could see the white interior and red dash, and the combination "worked".
A Cosworth that now belongs to the widow of the former owner of Morningstar Chevrolet in Decatur Indiana, this amazing find turned out to be #3184, a firethorn Cosworth with a white vinyl interior.
So, what does a 29-year-old brand new car look like, sound like and drive like? We're here to tell you.
How Did It Look?
First impressions mean a lot. And we were impressed. Freshly washed and parked outside with old sol shining out of a clear blue sky, each of us would have been proud to have that baby in our driveway. We could see the white interior and red dash, and the combination "worked". The bumpers were shiny, the BR70-13 Custom Steelguard blackwall radials filled the wheel wells nicely, and the gold stripes stood out just enough on the reddish paint.
Second impressions matter too, and often undermine first impressions. That was the case here. A second look from a distance and we all noticed the ugly wheels. Very dark, especially in shadow, where they looked almost black. The paint on the wheels was in good shape, but badly faded. To look good from a distance, this car needed some
Wheel Medic, Inc. refinished wheels.
As we walked closer, approaching from the right rear quarter, we noticed immediately that the carpet on the rear seatback was badly faded. The red, as this car had red carpeting, had bled away significantly, leaving only traces of orange and brown showing. Obviously, looking at this seatback and the wheels, this car spent a lot of time out in the sun. This was confirmed when we opened the doors and looked at the white plastic backing on the seat cushions. It was badly yellowed where exposed to the sun, and starting to crumble, but nice and white where the seatback protected it from the UV. The rear side panels were not quite so bad, perhaps because they had been replaced, a conclusion suggested by a screw missing from the right rear panel. It also seemed to be confirmed by the gleaming dash bezel. It had to be an NOS unit. No bezel in a Cosworth that has seen any significant amount of sunlight is in such good condition.
Other first impressions of the interior were, in no particular order: No floormats! This was a real surprise. There was one of those dealership paper floormats in the driver's footwell, but just bare carpet everywhere else. Great dash bezel, as we have already noted. Glove box door had that traditional sloppy fit. Only 981.7 miles on the odometer. Load floor carpet in perfect condition; it must have been turned over when the car was stored outside, kept inside, or recently replaced. Very faded cardboard sleeves on the driver's sunvisor provided even more evidence that this car once sat outside for a long time.
Close examination of the body exterior belied our original impression of the quality of the paint and stripes. The rear quarter panel stripes on the driver's side were gouged in several places, and sighting along them from the back of the car showed dents at each gouge. Plainly this car had been parked next to another car and a door or doors had been banged into it harshly on numerous occasions. The stripe above the key entry for the hatch was similarly gouged but no dent was seen there. There were
other smaller gouges and dents around the car, and in a couple of places the paint had chipped off! There were even several small dents in the hood, though you had to get down and look just right to see them. The
paint on the passenger side of the hood was mottled, a condition visible to the naked eye that stood out even more starkly through polarized sunglasses. However, overall the paint was otherwise in excellent, well cared for condition. There was none of the typical chicken-track cracking of the paint anywhere, which is saying something for a car that sat out so long. Was it repainted? We don't think so; we saw no evidence of any painting..
We did notice, we must add, that the window stickers are still on this car. Faded for sure, and starting to peel off, they are nonetheless still there. But they do look 30 years old.
What about under the hood you ask. Well, that was a big surprise too. No hood pad! Imagine that. Less than a thousand miles, and no hood pad. We suspect it fell victim to mice. There was also rust at the hood hinge weld to the hood on the passenger side. The inner fender panels were dirty, as was the area under the cowl. A tug on the fan caused it to move easily. Plainly the cam timing belt tension is too low, and undoubtedly it is cracked, though we did not look to see. The throttle body shaft was rusted, and the top of the air cleaner too. Moving forward and down, the battery tray itself was rather rusted, as was the sheet metal below it. One could see the rust in that sheet metal from underneath the car as well.
While on the ground we looked around underneath and noticed heavy rust covering the passenger side front frame rail, on the sway bar mount, and on the sway bar itself. This was a surprise. The bottom of the block and the oil pan were dirtier than expected, though the floorpan and exhaust system looked reasonably clean. The front valence was cracked at the mounting locations on both sides, and these pieces are no longer available new or used, but
Chris Wheaton repops them with a stronger, better design, so this is not too terrible news.
The bottom of the spare tire well looked pretty ugly. It looked as though it had been sprayed body color and that it was flaking. The gas tank had been removed and restored. We could see the bung welded onto one corner where the probe used for sandblasting had been inserted, and the Allen screw that sealed the hole was plainly visible. The outside of the gas tank was coated in a heavy black tar-like substance, definitely not a stock appearance, but the ugly rust on the straps holding the tank up clashed big time with the fresh black coating on the tank. Whoever removed and reinstalled the tank was certainly not interested in restoration or appearance. A wire brushing and a quick coat of satin Rustoleum would have improved the look one thousand percent. (Many of you know that I have that insidious disease,
restorationitis. There is still no known cure.)
Moving up and opening the hatch told us at once that the lift struts were shot. They wouldn't hold the hatch open. As mentioned, the load floor carpet was in perfect condition, but the carpeting on the seatback would need to be replaced or re-dyed. The aluminum load floor panel had been removed in the past, but not carefully, as the scratches on the rear plastic panel mutely indicate. The aluminum load floor cover had no dents or scratches, and the insulation underneath looked perfect-no mice in here! But what was really impressive was the surprise we found, something none of us had ever seen before. There, lying next to the jack, was a plain white envelope with GM repeated on one side. That's odd, we each thought. Never saw that in a Cosworth before. Wonder what it is doing in here, wonder what it is. We picked it up and it was heavy, there was something metal inside. Can you guess? We couldn't.
It was the license plate bracket holder and bolts for the front bumper. The installation directions were printed on the other side of the envelope. Imagine that. None of us had ever seen of heard of this before. It sparked an immediate discussion about questions we couldn't answer. Did they ship one with every car? Did they only include them with cars being shipped to states that used front license plates? Was it part of the "make ready" prep for this to be installed? Maybe somebody in the Club knows the answers. We sure don't.
The spare tire was flat, and we did not remove it. We assume that the bottom of the spare tire well is in excellent condition. So we carefully replaced the load floor and its carpeting. We lamented the lack of swingout windows and rear defogger as we closed the hatch. It took the typical little slam to get it to latch.
How Did It Sound?
How did it sound, you ask. Like a Cosworth, but quieter. It started right up and after a few seconds settled into a nice but low idle. It had been started and run that morning before we arrived, so we didn't get to hear a cold start. The idle was low, about 1100 rpm indicated, but it seemed comfortable there. The valve lashes were fine and though we thought the timing belt a bit loose, it did not rattle and slap the shield and snubber in the front. It revved nicely, though one of us thought they detected the slightest burble on acceleration. The exhaust was quiet, as it should be with the catalytic converter and stock muffler still in place. There was simply nothing out of the ordinary here.
One thing did sound great. Don't laugh. It was the horn. Beep beep. Beep beep. I loved the bright sound of that horn. And the horn button worked so effortlessly, unlike the pads and covers on today's steering wheels, where you can hardly figure out where to press, and invariably have to press and press and press just to find that one precise spot--you know, the one you can never find in an emergency. Beep beep.
How Did It Drive? (Next Page)