After sailing in a land yacht, one would think everyone would want to drive.
The ‘one’ of course being me.
In the course of growing up, it was necessary for me to secure transportation. Where I live, the public transit options are not … robust, we’ll say. A search was then made for a suitable mode of transit.
I enlisted the aid of my father. My father seemed to have a gift for finding vehicles that were low mileage and cheap. Sometimes even classics. He would know since he owned a few.
One that stuck out for me was the 60s Impala couple owned. Rebuilt small-block 327, painted a racing orange and driven when he was courting my mother. I know this because not long after I was born, they soon parted ways with it (I’m guessing I had something to do with it). The crime was the amount.
50 dollars. 50 DOLLARS! I would’ve given them the money if they gave me a little time!
Given his experience, I thought Hey, maybe he could help me find a car like that, super cheap! I’m sure everyone has a car like that they want to unload for nothing!
So, he went to work. In the meantime, I used the time-honored tradition (at the time) of using a newspaper (yes, it was still on paper then), looking in the classifies (it was a print version of cars.com, I guess), and seeing what was out there.
For 50 dollars?
I likely thought car pricing was not that dynamic in the late 20th century, or I thought cars would drop to zero, regardless of how well-maintained they are. I was in for a surprise.
The 60s Impalas were not in my price range. Even the ones ‘needing work.’ And almost any classic American muscle car was often laughably expensive.
For me, that is.
My father, however, seemed to have cars being thrown at him for nothing, and people begging him to buy their cars. One he found while I was deliberating was a Plymouth Gran Fury, with less than 80k, one owner. All the service records (the car was approaching 2 decades by this time, so this was exhaustive), no accidents, no dents, no rust, garaged its entire existence by an elderly gentleman who never drove it harder than was needed to keep it from coasting to a stop. The interior was showroom perfect, the trunk spotless. Even under the hood, every hose and wire was updated and new, and it shined like the rest of the car.
It could be had for 500 dollars. But my dad said, “No, you don’t have a job yet.” 500 dollars! 500 DOLLARS! I will sell lemonade in the front yard and raise the 500 dollars! This car won’t stick around till I do! I will pay you back! This was the fun of searching for a car with him. My dad would take me to look at awesome cars that could be had for nothing, then decide later that I probably couldn’t afford even that nothing.
I don’t want you to think we were wealthy or had resources unlike anyone else at our disposal. It’s more likely that when I was younger, I had no idea what I was talking about when it comes to automobile ownership. I knew I would need to insure it, put gas in it, maybe change various items.
The problem is that young people can be flighty when making durable goods purchases with other people’s money. Something about not appreciating dollar values. I would eventually get work, and sufficient income to purchase a ‘cool’ car.
But once again, I faced a challenge. As I feared, all the awesome cars my dad found all disappeared as soon as I had money, so I was forced to buy something less perfect. It was still special.
I bought this:
I decided to go with a Buick. While I was sure I had a LeSabre, this is the body style of the car I had, which is actually a Park Avenue Electra. I remember the fins the most.
And like most older vehicles, it was not aging gracefully. It needed work. The first thing was tires. Fortunately for me, I had extra money after I bought the car, so I was able to buy a complete set of tires for like 200 bucks. I know, I was outraged, too. But it didn’t stop there.
The starter went out. Then the battery. Then the Carburetor was out of adjustment. The plugs and wires needed replacement. Yes, it needed brakes. It’s an old car!
I think I mentioned that we were not a monied family. This was another thing my dad was wanting to avoid, with babysitting a car while I saved up the dough. Even a well-cared for auto would eventually need work.
But when it ran, wow.
Before I ruffle any more feathers with my goings on about this car, a few inquiries might be made (or, a few accusations made):
-Isn’t this a rather large car? (Gas guzzler!)
-You’ve already mentioned your maintenance foibles. Shouldn’t you have bought a low-maintenance car? (Imports were better, especially then!)
-Wasn’t it expensive to put gas into it? (Probably burns 3 gallons to the mile!)
Um, I’m going to answer the questions in a later blog. For now, I will explain why I chose the Buick: my Grandfather. I remember when I was in elementary school, we would occasionally go out to lunch, and I would get to sit in the front seat (the Front Seat!) of his Electra 225. The paint was the brightest yellow ever put on a car, but the interior was black velour. It was like sitting on a couch while riding a cloud. I couldn’t tell you if the road was riddled with potholes, gravel, or freshly paved asphalt. The ride was smooooooth…
So, I bought one, too. I miss that ride. I remember driving on some terrible roads and thinking, that wasn’t so bad. Newer cars, of course, handle dramatically better and can turn and stop. That ride was almost worth the maintenance headaches.
Except when the transmission went out the second time, I kicked it to the curb. Nope, not buying two transmissions for one car!
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