Saturday, December 11, 2004

We Auto Know About Heaps

The hood of our big white dinosaur Aerostar has a few duct tape flaps hanging off it. #1 Daughter wrinkled the hood and radiator a month ago. The hood latches work, but I don't want to push my luck.

We've had an assortment of heaps, fossils, and one pretty new car that lasted long beyond its expected lifetime.

Somebody honored our wedding day by writing our initials in shaving cream on the hood of our little blue Comet. Our initials stood bleached into the hood for the rest of the car's life. We were still picking rice out of it the day we traded it in 7 years later.

We bought an extended warranty on the only new car we ever had, a dainty light blue hatchback. #1 Son, age 5 at the time, heard the name "Plymouth Reliant" and called the car "Timothy Lion." Four years into the car's life, a fifty cent part broke deep in the engine. The dealer needed two days to take the engine apart, replace the fifty cent part, and reassemble the engine. We suspect that the reboring the dealer had to give the engine while making the repair extended the life of "Timothy Lion" by forty thousand miles.

My mother had a big, heavy,1976 Chevy Nova that needed repairs. The mechanic in Chicago said $600 for the repairs and another $300 if she wanted the air conditioning to work again. So she sold it to James for $1 and he took it to Randy, the grumpy Madison Mechanic, who couldn't say three words without cussing. I dropped the car off at Randy's shop and told him what the Chicago mechanic had said. When I came back, the air was blue with Randy's opinions about Chicago mechanics. Randy had fixed the Nova for $104, air conditioning included.

The Nova had a sound engine and ran well. The bottom of the cab had rusted out, however, so the only thing between our feet and the roadway was the carpet. Without the carpet, it would have been a Flintstone Mobile. Actually, I painted some slabs of plywood and laid them under the carpet so our feet wouldn't go through the holes in the floor. Most of the time you wouldn't notice a thing, but if you drove through a deep puddle you got quite a surprise!

The Nova saved our lives and our friend's lives. One morning in 1986, when US 51 just south of 12-18 was still 2 lanes, some southbound bonehead tried to pass 10 cars in a line, at 100 mph and counting. As I came northbound over a bridge he was at 100 yards and closing rapidly. I steered for the shoulder. The Nova fishtailed for about 400 feet and came to rest in the only place where the ditch was shallow. Because I was wearing my seatbelt, I was able to keep my hands on the wheel. Because our kids were in tubular steel reinforced seats, the only thing thrown around the car was the diaper bag. Because I was driving the Nova, I didn't flip.

A few years later, when we lived on a bus line, we didn't need the second car. We sold it to our neighbor Joe, an excellent backyard mechanic. Joe and his family had to take evasive action on Christmas Eve, and the car veered into the brush. The sticks tore the bottom out of the car, but the car stayed upright. Joe's brother took the engine out of the Nova and put it into another car. For all I know, that sturdy V8 is still running.

We had just finished paying off "Timothy Lion" when we learned we were expecting one more kid than the car had seats for. James found a massive 1986 Olds, originally owned by a carpet installer who had Arrived in this world, and wanted something big enough to carry his tools and carpet rolls, but with Class. We had it from 87,000 miles until Reverse quit on it, many miles later. It rode like an ocean liner; smooth and unhurried. I once drove it in a 60 mph crosswind and it didn't so much as twitch. We made the mistake of trading it instead of fixing the transmission. Whoever said, "Never put $1000 into a $300 car" probably owned stock in an auto loan concern. I'm sure I saw the Olds cruising majestically down East Wash last summer.

Mrs James (and Mr)

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