Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1989 LeBaron GT convertible that I plan to store for the winter. Having never stored a car before, I would like some advice on what I should do before putting it away. - JohnRAY: Well, the first thing you should do is take a lesson from my brother and make sure you put the top up. He stored his '74 Chevy Caprice Classic convertible with the top down a few years ago. Even though it was protected from the elements in a car port, that didn't stop a nice little family of raccoons from setting up a Pocono-mountain-style winter resort in the back seat.

TOM: So aside from making sure the car is completely closed up, here's the minimum you should do. First, add some gasoline stabilizer (like Sta-Bil) to the tank. Second, cover up the exhaust pipe and air intake to prevent moisture and small rodents from getting inside (aluminum foil, a thick sandwich bag and a few rubber bands ought to do the trick). And third, disconnect the battery.

TOM: If you're mechanically inclined, there's one other thing you can do. Before taking the steps listed above, remove the spark plugs and squirt a shot of motor oil into each cylinder. After you put the spark plugs back, disconnect the plug-wires and crank the engine for 20 or 30 seconds. That splashes oil all over the inside of the cylinders and prevents rust from forming in there. It's a good idea, particularly if you're storing the car for a very long time.

RAY: Other than that, just perform the necessary incantations, and you should be all set.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I retired about eight years ago, and at that time said goodbye to new cars (cost and all). I've always driven GM cars; why, I don't know. But now I'm thinking of buying a Ford Taurus. I would like your opinion on the '86, '87 and '88. I need your wisdom and expert advice as to which year is best. - Ken

RAY: Well, I thought the '86 had a very pleasant bouquet. It was fruity, yet smooth and full-bodied.

TOM: The '87, on the other hand, was dry and oakey. It had a woody taste and a good nose.

RAY: Actually, Ken, unlike wine, cars don't improve with age. All three Tauruses you ask about are basically the same. In fact, except for optional anti-lock brakes and air bags, the Taurus is still practically unchanged to this day. The '86 and '87 Tauruses did have some problems initially, but they've all been repaired by now, either by recalls or design changes.

TOM: So for you, the year is not really relevant. Find one that's in good shape with low mileage. We like the 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine (the four-cylinder is underpowered, and the 3.8-liter six is overpowered and so big that it's hard to work on).

RAY: It would be helpful if the seller has the service records. But regardless, have your mechanic thoroughly inspect it before you buy it. Don't rely on a visual inspection. A car that looks good to you could easily need hundreds of dollars of work.

TOM: Finally, when you get it home, treat it like a fine bottle of wine. Store it carefully in a cool, dark place. We suggest the garage.