Reader Question: Older CTS-V?

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Heres’ the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Erie asks: I was rooting around for a minivan for the wife and got sidetracked as usual. I ran across some CTS and narrowed it down to manual shifters. Up came some older CTS-V models with higher miles. Do those last when properly maintained in their earlier years? I am not going to bother if they have electronic problems and such. I am far more inclined to simple cars with nothing more than a good fast heater and driveability in snow and my climatic conditions. Chasing down electrical problems is beyond me anymore so I would have to leave it to the “experts”. That sounds expensive. What is the life of that CTS-V chevy engine if had regular oil changes, etc?

My reply: I like this kind of sidetracking!

One the one hand, the CTS-V’s V8 is a known-rugged/reliable powerplant that, if treated reasonably, can generally be counted on to last almost indefinitely. Even though it is “modern,”it is a very simple engine in its basic layout. No overhead cams or multiple valves. Fundamentally, it’s a Chevy small block – only better than the originals because the current/recent ones have been designed to withstand internal pressure (horsepower) and high RPMs that would have grenaded a classic-era cast iron 327 or 350.

The six-speed manual is also a rugged, simple box. Not much different from an old M-22, just better because it has overdrive.

But, it’s a CTS-V. A high-performance car. Such cars tend to be bought by people who use them. Not always, but the odds are high. This means extra due diligence when you find one and are considering a buy. I’d want service records – and a very thorough examination by someone competent to do the evaluation. The upshot is it’s pretty straightforward to determine whether an engine is tired; same goes for tranny and clutch.

If you find one that checks out, I’d go for it. These things are – as the saying goes – stupid fast. Which means a lot more fun than a minivan. I took my ex father-in-law for a ride in a press car; we hit 147 in fourth.

He remembers it to this day!

. . .

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  1. Depending on the fluid, there could simply be a fluid “thing” going on. The wife’s Cutlass did same with over 30,000 miles on the fluid that would best be described as “severe” use. The fluid looked fine and the filter wasn’t clogged. It was as though some electronic thing had screwed up but there’s not much electronics to it. BTW, it had a tiny leak somewhere, probably an o-ring on a line.

    So I changed everything, filter and fluid, and just drove it. It immediately got better and although it wouldn’t go into 4th, it shifted almost normally. Then it went into 4th after a week or so so I spent the extra money on fuel to drive it in 4th without lockup. And then one day it locked up and ran fairly normally with not quite right shifts. A couple months of this and it operated properly and the leak stopped. I chalked it up to cheap jobber fluid(been changed at a shop)and my getting the fluid hot using it in the heat and dirt all day every day. After it began to shift normally and go into lockup I just shook my head and said “Thank god for Amsoil”. It never missed a beat from 2012 till a year and a half ago and the transmission was fine, I had spent huge amounts of money on the doors replacing the innards for $500/each. Too much money on a car that age(95). Then the engine developed an oil leak on the intake manifold and did some funky stuff although it still ran. We bought anther pickup and rarely used it(couldn’t get in the damned thing and had replaced the vertical door handle 5 times on the driver’s side). The battery died and we cut our losses. But the transmission is probably still fine.

    I forget what the transmission is. Maybe 4L60E?


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