“We are the walking dead.”- Rick Grimes
What is a zombie car? Unfortunately it is not a shambling corpse of a vehicle that never needs gas and likes mauling and consuming other properly working cars (this would be freaking awesome). No, instead a zombie car refers to a make or model that no longer gets made. Some zombie cars are such for really good reasons, they didn’t sell enough of them, the company that made them was insolvent, or they were absolutely awful. Weirdly enough, this 2001 Oldsmobile Alero is one of those zombies with an interesting story. It was a sad turn of events that made this a zombie car, and we really can’t figure out why.
The Oldsmobile Alero was typically outfitted with GM’s peppy little 4 cylinder, or the slightly bigger V6. This one has the 4, with a manual 5 speed gearbox. It is a small, light car with a decent amount of power compared to other options in the segment. It handled well for a front wheel, 4 cylinder compact. I really didn’t have any complaints. This one had done 170k, and had taught 4 young drivers how to drive a stick shift. It still had the original clutch and gearbox. Seriously what is that thing made out of?
It’s not a bad looking little car either. It was significantly better looking than the other GM options on the platform in the form of the Chevrolet Cavalier or the Pontiac Sunfire. It had a little bit of body rust from spending its entire life in Western New York, and the paint was a bit faded. Other than that this car has aged extremely well. It had been well taken care and it showed. It is as reliable as it was when it was new according to the owner.
The interior is still very pre bailout GM. It is not very innovative but it is comfortable for a small car. It isn’t very well appointed, but it was a base model. I am not the tallest car reviewer on planet earth, so i had a bit of headroom, but someone much over 6’ would have been a bit less comfortable. This part of the review is usually more interesting, but as previously stated, this car was extremely well taken care of. Everything worked. We can’t even make a shameless plug for Surfwrench’s services. It worked that well.
The 10 Yr, 100,000 Mile Bestseller
However, despite its failures GM learned an extremely valuable lesson with this car in particular. When it was announced that they were going to stop making them and kill the brand off, they faced a conundrum with what to do with the remaining unsold cars. They came up with giving them a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty. They then found themselves in a different conundrum of, “holy shit we should make some more of these things.” They sold like an unreleased Harry Potter novel set during Hermione’s bi-curious phase. The first 3 years of the model sold over 120,000 each year. Even after it was announced they weren’t going to be made any more, they STILL sold 79,000.
This make and model was one of the last cars my grandmother ever owned. She wasn’t a car girl. Even when she got into a series of low speed collisions because of her lack of cognitive ability from Alzheimer’s, it was easy to stitch together. And really pretty cheap. My grandma wanted something low maintenance that was comfortable to run around town, and this car served her nobly. The car I drove had a very different purpose. It was meant to teach people how to drive. Again, you’re looking for a lot of the same qualities, and this Alero stood tall. It’s still driven by my friend’s mom because it is so damn reliable. I have hammered Oldsmobiles in the past, some of them are some of the most poorly put together things on four wheels. This one completely changed my mind. It is brilliant. It is what GM should have been doing through the 80s and 90s. If it had done as good a job with this car as they did with their other ones, there is a very good chance that Oldsmobile would still be making cars today.
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