OUCH! I JUST got stitched up on a car. Actually, I shouldn’t say “stitched up” because I don’t think the bloke who sold it planned to rip me off, nor did he cover anything up, like some dodgy used car salesperson you see on A Current Affair.

The reality is, I took a risk on a cheap car… and unlike almost every other time I have bought a car in my life, this time I lost.

The car was a 1999 Holden Statesman V8. Ok, so it’s not really a classic Unique Cars type of car, yet, but I’ve always liked luxo Aussie stuff. When we were younger, my mates always seemed to gravitate toward the Caprice/ LTD end of the car-buying spectrum (were the luxo models cheaper to insure than SSs and XRs?) and most of the Aussie stuff I’ve owned has always been comfy, too: Senators, Fairmont Ghias and Calais rather than SSs or XR8s. These Aussie long wheelbase Statesman barges (and I tip my hat to Ford’s equivalent Fairlane and LTD here) have been a part of Australian culture for decades and, as a journo, I attended the Holden media launch of this car – and its allnew powerplant, the all-alloy GM LS1/GEN III engine – in Qld in early 1999 when it was a brand-spanking new model worth $60K.

Anyhow, I decided to get one because I wanted something comfy, relatively safe and reasonably economical to jump in and drive to Melbourne to hang out with Morley, or hit ‘Cruise’ to Coffs Harbour to see my fave cousin and her kids. Wherever. I’m sure many readers will agree that although hefty around town, these Statesmans are comfy for big road trips. Oh, and you can make these LS1 V8s go fast.

I found out about the Statesman from a carenthusiast mate whose mate had it for sale. I had a look at the car on a Friday night.

Rolling low over steelies rather than the standard 16-inch alloys, the Stato had a few dings but the dual-zone air-con worked – even if its back-lighting didn’t - and the optional leather trim was quite tidy.

I reckoned for another few hundred bucks, I could buy standard alloys and springs.

There were a few gaps in the service history but it started easily, didn’t blow smoke and there were no rods hanging out the block.

During the test-drive, the trans refused to kick-down and the ‘Check Engine’ light flickered randomly. The story was, it was more than likely just a dodgy air flow meter and with a couple of other projects poking their noses out from his backyard garage, the seller said he really couldn’t be bothered any more. Fair enough.

These all-alloy GM LS1s have a good reputation for performance, reliability and durability… what could possibly go wrong?

Well… keen to find the problem, on my way home from buying it we plugged it into my mechanic mate Juddy’s scan tool. It revealed a faulty throttle position sensor. But what the scan tool didn’t tell us – and what I quite embarrassingly didn’t notice during my test drive and my too-casual inspection – was one dead cylinder. By a process of elimination, we (more to the point; Juddy and his apprentice Jake) found there were zaps and juice, but no squish and boom, in one pot.


I had a choice: A) Source and install a second-hand engine; B) Rebuild the engine that was in it; or C) Cut my losses and either sell it the way it was; or D) Wreck it for parts. I really didn’t have time for A, B or D so I chose C.

So a few weeks later, I pocketed a fistful of 50s little more than half what I counted-out the month before and watched my ambition of comfy country cruising disappear around the corner on the buyer’s trailer. Ouch and damn.

So what do you reckon?

I made a bet – and lost – on this car but what’s the biggest gamble – good or bad – any of you has made on a car? Let us know.