Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Feb. 19, 2004

Used car lot

Our 1984 rusty, beat-up Chevy Cavalier has been a trooper in all this winter weather the past few weeks. With nearly 190,000 miles on it, it's lasted longer than I ever would have imagined when I bought it 20 years ago.

The Cavalier was the only car we even tried to maneuver out of our steep driveway when the snow began piling up. Our other vehicles were either left in the garage or covered with drifts.

I usually drive the van and Art takes the Cavalier to town, but I was glad when he offered to give me a ride to work when the roads got nasty. Since he's from Wisconsin where winters are colder and snowier, Art doesn't let a few inches - or feet - of snow deter him. That determination, coupled with his ability to coax old vehicles farther than any person I know, meant that while others were struggling to make it through the slush and ice, we were plowing right through it. And we didn't have to worry about the sand and salt damaging the car's exterior as there isn't much left to damage!

Art said that engineers seem to fall into one of two categories when it comes to cars. One group always has nicely-tuned machines and leans toward buying the best ones available. The second group enjoys seeing how many miles they can squeeze out of vehicles. Art is definitely in the latter category and has owned his share of "character" cars in his life. His philosophy is that fixing up an old car is always cheaper than making payments on a new one.

When I first met Art in 1987, he owned a 1971 blue Buick. It took us on several trips to Wisconsin and even to family reunions in Pennsylvania and Colorado. It was Art's main mode of transportation to work for years. Its engine finally failed after 288,000 miles. Katie was a baby when we had to call a tow truck to get "Big Blue" out of the drive. I remember feeling a sense of loss as the truck hauled it away.

Art's "Sunday car" at that time was a 1979 red Oldsmobile Delta 88. He picked me up for our first date in that car. He made it clear from the beginning of our relationship that if having a man who drove a fancy car was a priority, he was NOT the man for me.

The Olds' diesel engine eventually failed, but Art kept it running a few more years by converting it to gasoline. After the conversion, it made more than a few trips back and forth to Wisconsin, and served as Art's fishing car for years. After 258,000 miles, it "gave up the ghost" a couple of years ago. Before we got rid of it, Katie insisted that we take a family picture next to it and that Art and I have our picture taken with it since it took us on our first date. If she inherits Art's love for old cars, our driveway may end up looking even more like a used car lot than it does now!

I must confess that I could never stand to drive some of the cars Art has driven, but his ideas do make sense. The property tax on an old car is minimal. There is no need to carry comprehensive insurance. You never worry about scratches. And, as Art says, if someone steals it, you won't feel that you lost much and you might even get some satisfaction knowing that whoever took it now has more problems than he or she ever dreamed of having!

I almost cried when �Big Blue� was hauled away. It seems we become attached to our old vehicles.

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