Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Forever Cars, Part 2

By Bob Von Scio
I turned 16 glorious years of age on a sunny October day in 1999. I had already obtained my learner’s permit and soon I would be a licensed driver. Due to a decent collection of savings bonds, I was able to go “car shopping” at some area dealerships, but the selection was limited to vehicles that were… past their prime.

I settled on an atrocious vehicle – a 1993 Plymouth Duster (not mine in this photo).
I think two years’ worth of insurance exceeded the purchase price of the car. The new water pump, electrical relay, radiator, front bumper (snow-crash), rear bumper (parking lot crash), three sets of tires, cam seals, overdrive thingamabobber, assorted belts, and windshield (rock) essentially doubled that once more.

I drove that sunovabitch like I stole it, and it returned the favor by acting as if I had it hostage.
My wife fondly recalls the day we went for a drive and the timing belt broke out by the Copper Kettle.
I recall the gallon jug of water I kept in the back seat for trips of more than 5 miles because the water pump was as water-retentive as a burlap sack.

I didn’t learn how to fix anything with that car. No, that would be left to my next one – the one that I would modify, pimp, slam, learn to take apart and put back together.
No, with THIS car, I learned how much all the individual component parts of a car cost. I learned that a 3.0liter V-6 with 119 horsepower was more than enough to shred cheap tires as long as you were flooring it out of a turn. I learned that a plastic wood dash insert doesn't take superglue very well when it snaps in half. I learned that sunroofs retain their hermetic seal for only three months into their second owner, and then leak like a basket full of milk.

I learned to appreciate and value a car that reliably starts when you turn the key; to appreciate cars that can operate at highway speeds without vibrating or pulling further to the right than Sean Hannity at a gun show in a church basement; to appreciate a car that accelerates without question, without hesitation, and with the confidence of a bullet-proof German shepherd.
I recall that car fondly, the way an old man recalls the nuns who would slap his knuckles with a ruler.

Don’t get me wrong, though... I would NEVER want to drive one again, and I feel that all of the surviving models need to be euthanized immediately.
But, it was my automotive purgatory.

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