By Ly Nguyen
Soon after coming to United States in mid 1975, I started working at various jobs on the weekends and nights so that I could go to college during the day. I drove an old AMC Javelin, shared room, ate cheap food and saved every penny. On a Spring day in 1978, I happened on an ad where it showed a brand new hot red hatchback Monza at a local Chevrolet dealership. Since I already had an offer to start as a technician soon after I would get my AA degree in the next few weeks, I figured that it’s about time for me to really live the American dream and own that thing.
Looking into my black savings book, I was astounded at the number on the last entry. I figured if I could take half of it to pay down 1/2 of the car, I could still pay my next semester tuition toward my B.S. Confidently, I headed to the bank then to the dealer. By the next day, I was driving around town in a red 1977 Monza. It had everything a 20 year old could want: a red sporty hatchback with white interior, a 5.0 liter V8 engine, 3 speed manual stick shift and a black hatchback shade for the kill. Then came the oil change schedule.
I always did my own oil change and helped with most clunkers in this poor neighborhood. So I was an expert on this simple task. It’s not so easy with the Monza. After I got the oil filer and the oil, I jacked up the car and put cinder blocks under the front wheels. I crawled under the car. To my dismay, the oil filter was hidden in a tiny hole enclave in the engine. I did not have the cup that fit the filter so I called a friend for help. He brought over a sack of cups. We took turns crawling under the car and tried every conceivable cup. After several hours, we decided to punch the hole to drain the oil and managed to remove the old oil filter. If we were not persistent and lucky, we would have had the most expensive oil change in our life. Furthermore, if we had not punched the hole, the oil would have splashed all over the street. I never attempted another oil change with that car.
A monkey must have designed that V8 engine with its obscure oil filter location. That Monza, however, was the most beautiful and reliable car I ever owned. It had over 200,000 miles when a young man made an offer to buy it in 1989. My wife was the happiest lady when it raced out of the garage and up to street with a loudest screech that a 5.0 liter V8 Monza could make. I prayed that the young man wouldn’t attempt an oil change himself.