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1988 Chevrolet Celebrity Wagon
 

2.8 Liter V-6 FWD
4-Speed Overdrive Automatic
Power Steering and Brakes
A/C, AM/FM Cassette,
Delay Windshield Wipers,
Rear Window Defroster

July 31, 2021 -   The only real damage to the Celebrity's original paint was on the right side just behind the front and rear tires.  The original owner had a driveway with gravel along one side, and the rocks gradually chipped off areas of paint on the right.  You can see the surface rust along the right rear fender in the upper portion of the photo.  There was no actual rot, and I just had to sand and clean off the surface before repainting.  Although the 'after' image on the bottom looks darker, it is just lighting.  To understand how good a paint match it is, I taped off the rear bumper extension plastic on the left, so that is original paint next to new paint - indistinguishable!
July 10, 2021 -   I had Discount Tire order a set of Hancook 195/75-14s, one of the few still available with white sidewalls. I have the same tires on my 1986 Buick Electra and have been very pleased with them. Discount Tire has very good prices, great service, and they let me remove and install the hubcaps in the bay. The tech who checked the car out was fascinated with the wagon - he was in his early-twenties, and was amazed that it was all original. "This is SICK, man. I would be rockin' in this car all day long!" I guess that's good. :grin.
July 4, 2021 -  I had noticed some vibration at speed on the trip back from Delaware, but as long as I kept the car under about 65 MPH, it was smooth and steady.  It hasn't gotten worse, and I was planning on simply having the tires rebalanced.  However, a desire to replace one badly scuffed whitewall had me researching Gillette Tire, which it turns out was closed down in 2009.  I finally crawled under the car to get the date code and discovered two things - the inner sidewalls are cracking, and the date code of MOJ7 MY8 puts manufacture at January 1998.  After 23 years, I think 'baby needs a new set of shoes.'  New whitewalls ordered and should be installed at the end of the week.
June 27, 2021 -  With the Celebrity once again reliable, I am using it more often.  It got a good run today when I took it out to my Mom's Dan's and Richard's (he wasn't home), as well as grocery shopping.  All told the car did about 80 miles today.  Note the blue tint band at the top of the picture - factory option!
June 19, 2021 - One of the harder issues to work with on the Celebrity was the original R12 A/C system.  Although it would cool somewhat at road speeds, the system was barely working at idle.  After some research, I decided to try some R12A, which is a new replacement which is supposed to be compatible with the original R-12 gas and system oil. Three cans of Frosty-Cool, a recharge hose, and an adapter came last night via eBay, and I added one can this morning.  I was pleased to find that the A/C system is blowing cold again after just the single can!  The charge also seems to have quieted compressor noise.  Since I do not think the system has been serviced in a very long time, the seals are probably pretty good.  I'll see how the A/C holds up.

June 16, 2021 - After a couple of false starts, the Celebrity has the Inspection sticker she doesn't need, given the Antique tags.  However, I wanted to make sure the car was safe, so when I had the fuel pump replaced, I had the station perform an inspection  Which the car failed due to bad wiper blades and rust in the rear muffler and tailpipe.  I fixed all that in a few days, but before I could get her back for a re-inspection the running issue got way worse.  I had them re-inspect the car when the troubleshooting and fuel injector work was done, or at least paid for it.  They forgot about the inspection even though it was billed, so I took it back today to finally get the inspection completed. She passed with no issues this time,

June 8, 2021 - The Celebrity is finally running steadily. After months of replacing items (Idle Air Control Valve, Electronic Control Unit, Crankshaft Position Sensor, new relays for fuel pump and cooling fan, Fuel pump and filter, Ignition Control Unit, Temperature Sensor, MAF assembly, and MAP sensor) and getting no codes and no improvement, the overall culprits were three bad fuel injectors out of the six, their plastic innards ruined by ethanol. On top of that, the dealership had only done part of a Prom reprogram to remove the MAF from the system - they changed the computer but did not pull the fuse and relay that powered it. Also, the forward oxygen sensor was not working. She now has all new metal injectors, and the various sensors are working properly. Unfortunately, the week of diagnostics and final solution pushed the repair costs to more than I paid for the car - but I got a good deal and the overall investment is still within reason. I don't play with cars for profit (a good thing), and the wagon is rare and desirable, so it will all work out in the end.

June 1, 2021 - The Celebrity was carried off to Great Bridge Service Center today - the issue has suddenly jumped to occur when the engine starts to warm up - I moved it out of the driveway this morning with no issues, but when the flatbed showed up she started and moved to the foot of the bed and died.  I compiled a history of work done on the car since I got it in December, as well as symptoms and results.  All of the old parts are in a box in back, and all of the factory manuals are on the front seat.  Hopefully, enough for them to work out the issue!

May 29, 2021 - After delays caused by a bad fall, Fred came back over to try a full reset using the GM diagnostic tool, and this time the car stalled partway through the process at 110 degrees inner temp. Same hot start issue.  I have finally decided to have the car flat-bedded to Great Bridge Service Center and let them figure this out.  I explained the problem to the shop foreman, and he is confident they can fix the issue.

May 11, 2021 - Even though the diagnostic tool indicated the Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor had been programmed out of the computer PROM, I went ahead and replaced it today.  The first unit was defective (loose pins), but the second plugged up and seemed to work OK.  No luck with the fix though - the car has the same hot start issue. A friend of Fred's thinks the car may need a hard reset using the GM diagnostic tool.  Fred will come over later this week to give that a try.

May 8, 2021 - Very piddly work on the Celebrity today - when I installed the new tailpipe and muffler, the tailpipe end hung down about three inches from the body.  Too low, but until today I just let it hang.  I finally took the five minutes total to get the 9/16" wrench and reposition the exhaust end to an inch from the body - looks correct now.

May 7, 2021 - Somewhat frustrating times with the Celebrity, but there is a glimmer of hope.  Fred came over with his diagnostics again yesterday and as before, the car threw no codes and actually had perfect numbers on all readings.  This is actually unusual, as most cars have a few readings off by a number here and there.  However, it did its usual fail after warming up.  The symptoms seemed to line up with a bad Mass Air Flow sensor, which had been determined early on to be programmed out of the computer prom - a common fix.  It seems that the MAF was not as fully removed as we thought.  I got a new one and installed it tonight, and for the first time the Celebrity reacted to a total reset (remove battery cable for 12 hours) the way I expected it to - having to relearn.  It still wasn't right, and on the third drive around the neighborhood, it stalled and would not restart.  Same as before.  Naturally, it was the furthest point from my house.  Going back an hour, then two hours later did not get it to start, the the second time the car made it one block before dying again. That was when i checked the connection to the new MAF and discovered that one of the connector prongs was loose and bent.  Buddy Chip came over to help me tow the car back to the house, but just before we hooked up he suggested disconnecting the MAF.  The car started immediately after I did that, and got me home. This indicates the MAF is still being read by the system.  A replacement MAF will be in Tuesday, and I'll see if a new MAF with all the pegs connected solves the long-standing issue.

April 27, 2021 - Busy times with the Celebrity.  I replaced the ignition control module over the weekend, and spruced up the engine bay by removing the old maintenance stickers and magic marker notes and also painting the black braces and mounts.  Then I spent some time checking out the cooling fan, and replaced the relays for both it and the fuel pump.  The fan works fine on its own, and will kick in when you turn on the A/C.  Tonight I installed a new temperature sensor.  All to no avail.  Weirdly, the car is doing worse now - it starts up as always when mostly cool, then shuts off.  After a few times of that it goes back to the start and immediate stumbling stall. Oh, well.

April 22, 2021 - I am planning to replace the ignition control unit this weekend, and figured I would go ahead and give the Celebrity's engine a good cleaning.  A liberal covering of Gunk engine degreaser on a warm engine was followed by pressure washing.  It came out very nice!  According to the shop manual replacing the ICU is fairly straightforward.  Hope that holds true!

April 18, 2021 - When I had the fuel pump replaced I also had the station do a state inspection.  Not required for cars on Antique Plates, but a thorough safety check.  As it turned out, the Celebrity failed for bad wiper blades and rust holes in the muffler and tailpipe.  I ordered the exhaust parts in and finally got around to installing them today.  It should have been a very simple, easy job, though 33 years does tend to rust things together.  Imagine my shock when it actually WAS simple and easy!  I cut the end off the muffler to remove it and the tailpipe as a unit, and then split the remaining outer shell with the sawzall and peeled it off with pliers.  No distortion or stress to the exhaust pipe from whacking or twisting on the bad muffler.  The new parts fit perfectly, and new clamps got it all locked in place. I also got a good look at the Celebrity's underside - it is amazingly clean

March 14, 2021 - I received the fiberglass replacement rear bumper filler yesterday, and had great weather today to sand and paint the piece.  It took a bit of fiddling to get the part to work, but that is typical of fiberglass parts.  The car's original plastic filler was badly cracked and missing a chunk when I bought it, and the new piece really cleans up the back end.  No progress on the stalling issue - it is difficult to track as the symptoms don't really make logical sense.  I'll get it figured out eventually.

March 11, 2021 - The engine stall issue progressed to dying while the car was running, and I began to suspect the fuel pump.  Given the difficulty of removing a fuel tank without a lift, I opted to have it done - a rather pricey adventure that also uncovered a badly rusted muffler.  All seemed right with the world until I went to drive the car home from my Mom's the day I had picked it up - and it started and died.  It also stalled out five times just a few blocks away after I finally got it running and was headed home, but then settled down and ran great the rest of the way. Very frustrating.  I doubt I will be taking it to the Charlotte car show in less than a month.  I did get notice that the rear filler panel has finally been shipped, and I should have it next week.

February 16, 2021 - Amazing 65 degree and sunny weather after a week of rain and the 30s got me outside for a few hours this afternoon.  The initial plan was to replace the oil pressure fuel pump switch which I think is causing the hot start issue.  According to the factory electrical diagnostics manual, the switch will interrupt power to the fuel pump when there is no oil pressure, but the switch is bypassed in start.  So it would allow the car to start normally and then starve for fuel - precisely the issue I have.  Unfortunately, the switch is buried under the fuel intake port and coolant hoses and pipes, and I just didn't have enough time for that much disassembly.  So I tried a different tactic - I have changed out the 5-30 oil for 20-50 and will see if the thicker viscosity will make a difference.  I also put the rest of the hardware in the front bumper extension and closed up the minor gaps that resulted from my admittedly sloppy work a few weeks ago.  There has been too much rain to try getting the Celebrity out of the driveway without creating ruts in the yard - I have a concrete man coming to estimate expanding the back parking pad and the driveway access.  I also called on the rear bumper filler - still in production.

February 6, 2021 - The flat black trim on the widow frames is oddly worn for a car that shows almost no other signs of use.  Some low-gloss black paint fixed all that, plus the faded side mirrors. 

February 1, 2021 - My second attempt at a title and tags for the Celebrity paid off - even though it meant driving almost an hour to the Williamsburg DMV.  However, it was worth making the drive as the next available appointment locally was in April! The temp tags will do until I get the '88 WAGN' permanent plates.  Lots of factory literature in now - a near-perfect owner's manual, the preliminary, shop, and electrical factory manuals, and a magazine article on how the Celebrity would be a future collectible.

January 23, 2021 - The remaining cosmetic issue with the wagon is the rear bumper filler - unique to the wagon, as I found out when I tried to match up a NOS sedan filler piece. I was debating trying to make my own filler out of vinyl siding or guttering, but then did a search on the Internet.  Turns out Replica Plastics in Alabama makes the replacement part out of fiberglass for $69.  They are made to order, but mine should be on the way soon.  I also have factory repair manuals, the preliminary shop manual, and some other factory literature on the way.

January 20, 2021 - One of the changes I am experimenting with on the Celebrity are the headlights - I bought a full set of LED bulbs off eBay, but only installed the right side until I could determine if they were actually brighter than the original halogens.  I got my first chance to actually use the lights tonight.  There is not a lot of difference, but the LEDs are cleaner looking than the orangey glow of the original bulbs, so I'll use them.  They have the added benefit of drawing less power.  I also got in spare wheel covers, which  turned out to be far more elusive than I had expected.  After search eBay for a couple of weeks, I finally found some on WalMart.com, which has opened up to include other sellers like Amazon.  I ordered two, and was disappointed in one of the pair that had some road rash and dings (center cap) and both were missing the center emblem. The company immediately sent me their last one as a free replacement - much better.  And I got in a new hood release cable, though the one on the car (which had been hanging up is now smooth and shows no sign of wear. Oh, and no startup issues all day! January 22 - Follow-up - A bit more experience with the LEDs convinced me that they don't work well - they are cleaner looking, but the actual beam is scattered too much.  I went back to the original halogens.

January 18, 2021 -The only real blemishes on the Celebrity were the front right bumper end and the rear bumper filler. A NOS bumper end was included in the sale, but the top and bottom of the part had to be painted body color.  Dupli-Panel doesn't have the Medium Gray 15C metallic paint, and I didn't want to have a mismatch using a color that was 'close'.  Enter TouchUp Direct, a company that provides correct color paint for older vehicles.  As you can see, the paint is a perfect match - two step base coat/clear coat just like the original.  They sent a large spray can of each, enough to do touchup and also paint the rear bumper filler when I get that done.  I used brake cleaner to remove the cloth tape goo, and some Armor All to restore the gloss on the front strip.  I also wanted to do some more troubleshooting, this time installing a new fuel pump relay after it started to act up - except it wouldn't act up!   I let it warm up, drove around the neighborhood, and tried immediately after and then a little later.  The car started right up and purred.  Oh, well. I suppose I shouldn't complain that the car is running great!

January 14, 2021 - I was surprised to get a call this afternoon that the Celebrity was already done. A mechanic who'd not been expected in showed up and knocked the job out quickly.  Unfortunately, the Celebrity still has the stall after start condition when warm.  Very weird - I can start it up cold and drive any distance without a hiccup (168 miles from Delaware, 22 miles from my Mom's) - then I go out to start it after it has sat for a short time and it will start great and then stumble and die as if the fuel was shut off.  The factory manuals are expected any day, which should help me troubleshoot.  Otherwise, the car is amazing.  I got the touchup paint in, and have ordered a couple of spare hubcaps from - of all places - WalMart!  They are working with other companies the way Amazon does. 

January 11, 2021 - Replacing the crankcase position sensor is apparently a very difficult job, especially outside in the driveway. Given it was 27 degrees outside this morning when I got up, I made a call to Great Bridge Service Center, the folks who did the timing chain cover on my truck.  For an estimated $168 they will put a new crankcase sensor in for me.  Probably not until next week, but they are having me bring the car over Wednesday to leave with them in case they get some free time before then. Since the CPS might not fix the problem, I would rather let the suffering be done by someone else! The other items are comparatively easy. 

January 9, 2021 - The new ECU made no difference, so I kept the old one (also a replacement) as a backup.  Next possibility is the Crankshaft Position Sensor.  The computer prom, which has been previously reprogrammed to delete the Air Flow Sensor, gets transferred when you switch ECUs.  That leaves the aforementioned CPS, and then the Ignition Control Module as potential culprits.  Plus, the possibility of oil-soaked wiring.  So, in order, I will be cleaning and inspecting the wiring under the engine, replacing the CPS,  and then the ICU. I added black door edge guard that looks factory, and just got in a NOS rear bumper filler panel for a sedan that I hope I can adapt to replace the wagon's crumbling rear filler. It was all there when I left Delaware, but had a section fall off during the trip back. And the trip to DMV Tuesday was no help - it turned out the Delaware title is so new it has not yet been updated in national records, and I have to go to a primary DMV office to get the tags done.  Oh, well.

 

January 3, 2021 - I took the Celebrity to let Fred, the former Buick Dealership mechanic who bought the Reatta, hook up his diagnostic tester. Everything checked out perfect - all the numbers where they were supposed to be - and then it didn't want to restart.  A check of the fuel showed 40 pounds of pressure at the rail, dropping to 30 when the regulator kicked in, so it sure wasn't a bad fuel pump. He also checked and found out that the ECM Prom which controls the computer had been updated to ignore the Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor, an early recall.  That leaves just the ECM itself, which is a known issue caused by age - 32 years can loosen solder joints. Apparently, the time we spent fiddling with the fuel rail and connections under the hood just allowed the ECM time to cool down.  Happily, a remanufactured ECM is available over-the-counter for about $130, and is an easy replacement.  You have to reuse your existing Prom and cover.  I'll pick the ECM up today and install it later this week when the weather is less wet!

January 1, 2021 - One item that the seller pointed out was the Idle Air Control Valve, noting that it was 'probably original' - I am wondering if he had some issues and thought that might be the culprit.  The IACV was inexpensive and readily available, and when I replaced the old unit I noted the screws were a bit loose.  The car started up fine and after letting the computer get reset to the new part, idled smoothly. I also bought some cheap carpet mats and license plate frames, and dumped in a can of Seafoam.  My DMV appointment is Tuesday, thanks to having discovered they were opening DMV Select offices, and my favorite office in Poquoson was one of the two in the state! I also installed black door edge trim that looks factory, and ordered some touch-up paint.

December 29, 2020 - The Celebrity had some trouble today - after an uneventful 168-mile trip from Delaware yesterday and multiple short hops today, it suddenly didn't want to start.  The cure seemed to be bleeding the fuel injector rail, which really doesn't make much sense.  Obviously electrical, the car ran great and started up fine a few times, then had the same issue an hour later with the same apparent cure - bleeding the injector rail.  Once fixed, the car runs great with no hesitation or issue - it is just a startup thing.  Something to work out.  I am very glad Buddy Chip chose the van over the Celebrity - he doesn't need more headaches, and I have two regular drivers. Oh, and the Celebrity managed better than 28 mpg on the trip yesterday.

December 28, 2020 - "Oh, I'll never win this car with such a low bid."  Famous last words, especially when you actually make that 'too-low' bid.  This 1988 Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon echoes one of my Mom's favorite cars ever - same year, make and model, and even similar in color.  It was advertised as a relatively low-mileage, two-owner car that had been garage-kept, in excellent condition throughout. The original idea was to buy the car for my Best Friend, who needed something with more room and reliability than his MGs. However, I also did not want to risk giving him more trouble, and gave him the choice between the Celebrity and my 2003 Dodge van. I got notification I had won the eBay auction on Christmas Day, and coordinated picking it up from Delaware today.  Happily, the car turned out to be as advertised, exceptionally clean and running like new.  Everything works as it should, and while there are some scratches in the paint, no rust or dents mar the body, and the interior is great.  The ultimate test came from driving the car 168 miles home - not a hiccup or stumble.  While I have not checked the figure yet, I expect mileage to be at least 28 mpg.  The car is a great driver, and is also an excellent example of family cars from the eighties. What I know of the history is that the original owner was a lady who kept the car garaged, and had a cover put on the front seat when it was new.  Her husband had a Cadillac sedan which she started driving after his death, leaving the Celebrity mostly unused. The seller bought the car from her estate to use as a taxi for his 'Air B&B'.  He had the fluids flushed and replaced and ordered a NOS bumper end for the right front bumper which was the only damage to the car.  He also replaced both sets of tailgate struts with correct GM parts so the rear window defroster would still work. However, since he is located near the beach, he ended up buying a Jeep so guests could go ON the beach and no longer needed the wagon. The car was listed on eBay a week before Xmas, ending on the actual holiday, which probably limited buyers.  Oh, and Chip went with the van, which made us both happy.

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