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Thursday, January 31, 2013

It's Not the Years, It's the Body Damage


We bought a 14 year-old car last summer. It’s nothing exciting, more of what we call a “grocery-getter”. It’s a small car, a humble car. There is no worry, with this car, that you will be approached by someone pretending to like you just to get to your money.

That’s why we got it. We’re flying under the radar over here.


The mechanic described the engine as being in “great shape”. And so far, bless him, he’s been right.

The years have been good to this car, engine-wise.

You know what that means, don’t you?

That’s right. It’s disintegrating.

The driver’s side window, for instance, comes off its track if you roll it down more than three-quarters of the way. This is not, as you’d imagine, a problem in the winter. Interestingly enough, however, it was quite a problem this last summer, when we broke the switch that turned the heat off.

It was 94 degrees outside.

And we had the heater on.

It was the Summer of Talcum Powder.

I finally gave up on winding the window down and simply pretended that the car had air-conditioning. After a while, you don't even notice.

The safety belts have gotten in on the fun as well. The passenger-side restraint, for instance, was seemingly designed to pull out only far enough to securely strap in someone weighing under 80 pounds. If you jiggle it properly, however, and if you can really suck in your gut, it eventually releases enough to be used.

Funny how often the ability to suck in your gut is part of the answer.

Then there was the damage done this past fall when the four-door, lane-wide Cadillac next to me in traffic slid off its axle and destroyed the right-side headlight and turn signal.

And now?

The three feet of plowed snow up against the garages in the alley, having been rained on, frozen, and then melted down to the leaden consistency of an embassy’s barricades has evidently acquired a cruel intelligence and has begun randomly attacking passing cars.

At least that’s how Willie describes it.

He has no idea how both sides of the bumper have been shattered. He does recall, though, sliding “softly”, he says, into a glacier after being forced in that direction by the deeply grooved ruts in the alley.

The bumper’s right side, made of only the highest quality plastic available, was ruined. He shimmed the headlight in with two pieces of wood.

Two weeks later, the left side suffered a similar fate; and its headlight was shimmed by use of three pieces of wood and a shoelace.

“Really?” I said. “What, are we out of duct tape?”

“I have no idea when the left side got wrecked! Just all of a sudden I’m walking out to my car and there it is!”

“So you think maybe it happened in a parking lot?”

“Well, noooo,” he drawls. “I did find the pieces in the alley when I took the garbage out…”

Ah ha! So he does have an idea how it happened!

Well, it is a 14-year-old car.

Nothing lasts forever.

And she still runs like a top.

35 comments:

darsden said...

hahaha I feel you Pearl :-) I drive a land yacht myself 1995 Lincoln towncar... but it was my mamas who only use it for going to get groceries.. under 90,000 miles.
Mint condition though..MINT

joeh said...

Those fancy new cars have no personality!

Which coincidentaly is exactly what I say about younger men.

My wife does not ascribe to either sentiment.

Susan Williams said...

I completely relate.

I mean: me, myself, and I.

I relate.

As in: the chassis on this thing is falling apart, and if it weren't for Photo Shop, no one would EVER want to take me out for a spin.

If you know what I mean.

Now, I can only wish that all the world wore Photo Shop Specs.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

That's some fancy motorized skate board you've got there.

Pearl said...

Dar, sounds like the car I got from my grandma, a 74 Ford LTD. MAN that thing had power!!

joeh, I like where you're going with that. :-)

Susan, I have a friend who prefers the world without his glasses on. Says the women are much better looking that way. :-)

Delores, it gets us there AND keeps the rain off our heads!

Shelly said...

The heater that won't turn off, the bumper that got dinged...that sounds like me in vehicle form.

Well, you know, if the engine is strong and gets you where you need to, it's better than ridin' in a wagon, as my grandpa used to say.

Sweet Posy Dreams said...

We run our cars until they just won't run anymore. My husband drove his last car until the frame cracked. It think it had almost 250,000 miles on it. I drive an 11-year-old Saturn, which is mostly plastic, so it still looks pretty darn good.

jenny_o said...

Point A to Point B, Pearl. If it gets you there, nothing else matters!

Leenie said...

The perfect car for merging into heavy traffic. Just wait until an expensive new auto comes along and pull out. You can almost guarantee the fancy car will give you room and if not and you get a few more dings--no worries.

Daisy said...

I always carried duct tape in my old van. It had a good engine!

I also keep things until they are no longer useable SPD. Last month I traded my 25 yr old 18 inch tv for a 32 inch model that I can actually see!

Daisy's Barbara

TexWisGirl said...

i have this vision of binder-twine wrapped round and round this car to keep it together as it purrs down the highway...

Perpetua said...

It's so frustrating when that happens, Pearl. We've just had to retire our 16 year-old Ford because the bodywork is now illegal here in the UK and beyond economic repair, while the engine still runs like a dream Sigh....

Buttons said...

Oh I understand the saddness and attachment to a vehicle I had my 16 yr. old Jeep and cried when the body fell silently OK not to silently off on the road bit by bit and we sold it for parts still ran like a top. Salt and Sand killed it. It never had a dent but then again I live in the boonies not the city of shopping carts and alleys. B

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...


Ah...sounds like the husband's Geo Metro, he and a buddy bought for $500 a piece. They share it to ride the 47 miles each way into work. AC broken. Fenders rusted.Goes no faster than 50 mph.
But she runs. 43 miles to the gallon. And there ain't nothin' wrong with the radio!

sage said...

Great story! There are many people I know who keep two cars (I don't know how they can do it with the insurance prices in this state), but on is a junker for winter (when the good car goes into storage for 4 months).

The summer of talcum powder... a classic line!

esbboston said...

I think the shoulder restraint of the seat belt system is responsible for aggravating my shoulder into its two month long pain session. Luckily I have invented a device to totaLLy remove the pressure while maintaining a visual appearance of compliance. I was trying to think of the total number of times in fifty plus years of driving and riding that a shoulder restraint has ever saved me .... um, no, not once.

Diane Henders said...

I love my 15-year-old Saturn. It's got over 220,000 km on it, the plastic body still looks pretty good, and it's never let me down.

Granted, the exhaust heat shield and the plastic wheel well liner are being held on with baling wire, but nobody can see those bits.

I love that car!

Mitchell is Moving said...

Well, as long as she doesn't run like a halter top, I guess you'll be alright.

Jono said...

Sounds like my '95 Sable after the deer attacked it last week.

Kana said...

Running like a car might be preferable - unless icy deathspins are your preferred mode of winter transportation. It WOULD explain the state of the bumpers...

Daisy said...

"three pieces of wood and a shoelace" What an image!:D

That sounds like a fix that McGyver might have come up with.

Linda O'Connell said...

The summer of talcum..I am still laughing. Ihad a cool 65 Mustang. My adult kids still talk about the hole in the rear floorboard.

Glen said...

I had a car whose doors would occasionally open when you went around a tight bend and in which I had to drill holes in the floor to drain out the rainwater that seeped through the roof. I've never loved a car more before or since..

Optimistic Existentialist said...

They just don't make cars like they used to :)

Simply Suthern said...

Fortunately I still have all four corners on the ole 98 Lumina. She aint purdy but she still hums with 229000 and counting. Every yr we think, "If we can just get one more year out of her" then, I get another car.

Stef said...

Those are the best kind of cars! That kinds that just get better with time. Run it to the ground, I tell ya!

Geo. said...

I drive a '71 VW bus. What's a heater?

Belle said...

All I ask for is a drink holder.

Red said...

Old "beaters " have a character all of their own and you described this old character well. You also love this machine.
In my younger years we called them "$100.00" cars!

HermanTurnip said...

Sounds suspiciously like my old '88 Nissan Sentra. You know, the one painted an awful shade of rust, only one functioning rear brake light, and two tire jacks in the trunk, but no extra tire. *sigh* I miss that car...

Tempo said...

Thats quite a car Pearl...but it sounds a little unloved. Of course you know you can follow the heater hoses to the tap that was connected to the heater switch and manually close or open it as the seasons pass...Yeah, you knew that!

Birdie said...

I have a 1997 Toyota Corolla and I love it. It isn't a crisis when it gets a new scratch. It gets me where I need to go. And it is paid for! Yahooo!

Indigo Roth said...

Hey Pearl! That's the way I like my cars; functional and anonymous. I don't like getting postcards, you know? And what she gets up to with the roguish 1972 Chevy Sedan next door is NONE of my business, so long as she's ready for work in the morning. Indigo x

Nessa Locke said...

haha. my dad always had a car like that(and he was a mechanic, shame shame).
We always knew when he was coming home because we could hear his car rattling down the street two blocks away!

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

Cars if only we didn't need so them, my parents have just had the back drivers side door fixed for over a year it would not lock the rest of the doors locked but not that one and my dad was so worried he tied it shut which meant no one could use that door............my daughters car the window will on the passanger side can only be wond down from that door not from the drivers side anymore.........which is annoying but not that much of drama