Headache #1: 1991 Pontiac Firefly

I rarely get headaches, let alone migraines. Oh I’ve had a few hangover headaches back in the day but one of those hasn’t surfaced in 25 years.

During a recent chat about migraines with Lisa, I wondered out loud if women get more of them than men. I was on thin ice!

My premise may stem from the fact that the many women in my life – mother, mother-in-law, three daughters, a granddaughter, a slew of nieces, a sister and sisters-in-law and, of course, wife, Lisa –  have all suffered from migraines at some time or other.

I’ve never had a migraine but I have headaches of another kind.


BIG personality. The Fly lives! Garry’s 33-year old Pontiac Firefly, Headache #1
Photo: Garry Sowerby


Headaches by the number. Troubles by the score.

No pain with these babies but they are always there, painless headaches. Ten of them.

When ten cars and trucks have come under your stewardship because of a stubborn rule to never sell one, a stable full of wheeled millstones is inevitable. This self-imposed rule actually saves money, I rationalize, because once the fleet grows, one thinks long and hard before getting another one.

The rule obviously works because we haven’t bought a vehicle since 2010. But we still have ten, count ‘em, ten cars and trucks, ranging in age from 14 to 44 years of age. That’s ten headaches.


The Fly: BIG night out.


You may ask: You have ten vehicles to take care of? Why not just sell a couple?

Every single vehicle has a list of excuses for not selling it. We’ve had this one for four decades, you see, so why get rid of it now? And this one is the last Checker Cab, we’ll need it someday. Oh and, we can’t sell Red Cloud, that’s the one that started this mess of metal, memories and the collecting of these pesky painless headaches in the first place.


Left to right: Ken Langley, Paul Rimstead, Toronto Sun and Garry Sowerby with the 1982 Checker Cab, the last one to leave the plant when they stopped production in Kalamazoo, Michigan.


When you’re talking about a collection of quirky (old) vehicles, the big thing is, there is always something wrong with every one of them.

There are the usual problems: license, safety inspection, insurance, batteries and storage. But what about the rest?


Headache #1; The 1991 Pontiac Firefly. Who else would keep one for 33 years? And what’s a Pontiac?

I bought the econo-box from Eastern Automobile in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, in the spring of 1991. It’s a base unit with a three-cylinder, 1-litre engine coupled to a five-speed manual transmission that put-puts out 55 horsepower.


The Fly


Fuel sipper. I drove it on a business trip to Nashville, Washington and New York in the early 1990s and it averaged an impressive 3.7 L/100 km. That’s 64 miles per Imperial gallon.


1991 Pontiac Firefly hanging with the Harleys.
Photo: Garry Sowerby


The petite 740-kilogram ‘Fly’ is lighter than the some of the batteries in today’s electric vehicles.


There are no options on the 1991 Pontiac Firefly but an AM FM radio with four tiny tinny speakers.
Life inside The Fly.
Photo: Lisa Calvi


I had upgraded the tires to Michelin ZX’s but Michelin no longer makes tires for 12-inch rims, so a set of Hercules 155 R12s with a cool tread pattern does the job now. They are pretty skinny, like four half-sucked-on black licorice Lifesavers.



The car has been stored every winter except its first one in 1992. Its original paint still looks like it just came out of the box even though it is a third of a century old.


1991 Pontiac Firefly
Photo: Garry Sowerby


But, like all 33-year-old vehicles, it has issues. Wiper blades and arms need replacement and they won’t stay on low unless you hold the switch down. The headlights are fogged up, the control tubes for the rear lift gate are worn out, threatening a concussion every time you put something in the back.

The more-than-faint whiff of mold in the cabin gives Lisa a migraine.



The biggest problem is a door crunch that happened under shady circumstances while it was at a storage facility in Moncton, New Brunswick three years ago. The door needs to be replaced and that means it will have to be painted, and I know they will never match the paint.


How many nights has matching the paint on the Firefly been the last thing I think about before dropping off to sleep?

Painless headache twitching away.


Portrait of Worried Man with Headache #1: His 1991 Pontiac Firefly that needs a few things…
Photo: Lisa Calvi


Matching silver is hard. When twin Larry painted the front clip on his Porsche Boxster S, it took the shop several tries to get it right. Why did it need to be painted, you ask? That’s a long story and you can read it here (I’m still sorry, Larry).


No, the whole Firefly will need to be painted.

The Fly deserves a factory-perfect makeover, so why not freshen up a few other things?



Those bothersome faded window cranks (finally!), the piece that fell off the undercarriage last week (what was that anyway?). Maybe sneak on a new set of performance shocks, avoiding the watchful eye of Ms. Calvi, of course.



The Fly: Chick magnet


And let’s bolt a turbocharger or supercharger on it so the diminutive Pontiac Firefly can blow the doors off those hot EVs populating the landscape these days.

But first things first. Today’s headache, get that crunched rear door fixed.

‘The Fly’ will live on!

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