Tuesday, August 26, 2003

requiescat in pace, Cherry (A work in progress)

Bought a new car last night. Well, okay, not a new car, which would be completely out of character, but a newer car. The newbie, a 2001 Saturn SL1 (the link goes to a picture of a car the same year and color, not my actual car), will replace Cherry, who has 144,000 rode hard and put away wet miles.

The new entry to the Kalezac Kar Stable got me to thinking about those who had gone before, so I thought I'd try to lay electrons to monitor screen in reverential reminiscence of them that had gone before.

1. 1974 VW Karmann Ghia. Ah, the first car. Is there anything better than a first car? Bought sometime in 1987. With Dad's money. Of course. Car actually ran on the road only a couple of times, as I was still with driver's permit, and Motherdear and Stepdad Version 1.0 were somewhat deaf to its charms.

As an air-cooled Volkswagen, heating was an option only available during the summer months. In addition, Karmann had a big hole in the dash where a radio had once been, which let in lots of nice, fresh, brrrrisk air. Had a nasty habit of in transit windshield icing, but that was okay, as it usually happened on the inside of the windshield, and could thusly be scrapped off without having to stop the car. By the time I got her, Karmann had been extensively “modified”, including the replacement of standard VW seats with low-slung Chevelle sport buckets, making it damn near impossible to see out of the kraut-burner.

I got a lot of practice sculpting bondo and finishing with ferrous oxide, and single handedly kept the local car parts store sold out of WD-40 during the year and a half I “worked on” her – which consisted mainly of taking parts off and stowing them in the garage (many of the unidentified automobile guts still in Motherdear’s cavernous barn-slash-garage are remnants of Karman).

Karmann became carro non grata when I took Motherdear out for a drive and the failing vacuum advance failed to advance. Right in front of a big truck. She was not amused. Orders came from on high that Karmann was not sufficiently safe to be a daily vehicle for a freshly minted driver, and I was instructed to find alternative transportation. Karmann lingered in the yard, a visible manifestation of the festering rebellion of my teenage years, and witnessed the passage of many of the following vehicles, finally being sold to some enterprising middle-aged gentleman (perhaps his buttinski mother had just passed on) for $25 about the same time as the decommissioning of the SS Impala.

2. 1979 Plymouth Volare , (My car, a 1979 with a two-tone tan and brown color scheme, mag wheels, and louvers on the rear 35rd quarter windows was even more guido'ed up than this picture). After the deposing of Karmann, Motherdear filled the temporary wheels gap by arranging for a friend of Stepdad V 1.0 to part with his 1979 (?) Volare for the measly sum of $475. Now, back in 1988, when Kal’s nights were spent busing tables and breaking in on poor little oysters and clams just so some pseudo-yuppie could eat them, $475 was big money.

Fortunately, the $1100 I got for the Volare three months later was bigger money. Motherdear was not amused, as I assume the $475 was a somewhat discounted “family and friends” rate, and her ungrateful issue was taking advantage. But, c’mon. $1100 for a Volare?!? Who could resist?

This gap in wheels necessitated a quick replacement, as the slowly disintegrating Karmann was still not an option. The unexpected windfall provided the opportunity to move up a bit in the automotive genome, and perhaps buy something with a little class.

Naturally, squandered that opportunity:

3. 1981 Mustang Hatchback. First foray in Ford. Should've learned my lesson then. Much unhappiness and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments would've been avoided. Much sorrow that was mine could've been others. And, actually, that's what happened.

Bought the pig sometime in my junior year. Brown interior, brown exterior. In-line six (although not the fabled in-line six of the Volare which, as Motherdear proclaimed, would run until the cows come home. Well, Motherdear, of course the engine keeps running. It's trying to distance itself from the ugly guidofied body it's stuck in...). Automatic transmission.

Yes. Automatic. Automatic, in-line six. Varoom, indeed.

It was a serviceable ride for a junior in high school, but parking lot braggadocio had to be backed up, and a fervent quest began the August before Senior year to find more chick friendly wheels for the final year of high school.

Unfortunately, this quest ran somewhat awry and produced a vehicle, while still the favorite all-time best Kal vehicle to ever be driven solo (aka, without learner's permit), was, probably, just maybe, possibly, a chick car.

4. 1982 Mazda RX-7. Ah, the second "one that got away". Like Karmann, the Rex was a high school parking lot head turner. And she was fast. In Massachusetts at the time it was the law that if you got three speeding tickets in a twelve month period you'd lose your license for some period of time; maybe six months, can't quite remember. Anyway, I went eleven months with two tickets (got two tickets in the space of a month). To this day I maintain that part of my problem was that I had just started dating Wifeypooh, whose Dad was the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen (think Mayor, and also serves as Police Commissioner) of Pleasantville.

Anyway, ran her into a state trooper. A big state trooper. Not good times. Totaled car. Ruined insurance rating for ten years. Paid hundreds in fines.

5. 1980 Triumph Spitfire. Actually my dad's car. Borrowed her for a time after I crashed the Seven. Broke it and gave it back to Dad. Borrowed it again after I got married and needed a second car. Broke it again. Hasn't been on the road since. Haven’t spoken to Dad in three years. Brotherdear reports in the one conversation he has had with Dad in the interim discussion of Kal's destruction of the Spitfire is prominently featured. Like the stabbing of Frodo by the Fell Riders, Kal's destruction of the Spitfire is a wound to be carried the rest of his father’s days…

6. 1982 or 3 Pontiac 1000. Mine was turd brown, had four doors, and interior plastic that was crumbling like chalk. Cost over $1000 in brake work. What a pig.

7. 1983 Mazda RX-7. First sunroof. First lesson that all sunroofs, no matter how caulked or otherwise "fixed", lead like sieves. I had kept the destroyed Rex, as her motor was still good and I was hoping I could find another Seven with a bustermarated engine and swap them. Success! Dad and I switched the motors over and Rex II lived for a couple of years before finally succumbing to my insatiable appetite for new wheels (well, and to be fair, she had exhaust problems which would've cost thousands and thousands of dollars that I didn't have.)

8. 1971 Chevy Impala 2-door. The SS Impala. Not an Impala SS, which would have been cool. No, this was the SS Impala because driving it was a little like driving the Queen Mary. You didn't so much steer this car, as you aimed it. Gas gauge never quite worked, and she got about four gallons to the mile, so driving it was like a form of automotive roulette.Only ran out of gas once though, which was lucky because the thing weighed about four tons and was a bitch to push.

9. 1986 Subaru XT. Take a look at those pictures, especially the interior. That car was like a spaceship!

10. 1992 Ford Probe. Was my brother's car, my wife drove it until someone ran into her and totaled it.

11. 1986 Nissan Stanza Wagon

12. 1989 Ford Probe. Was my mom's car. First year of Probes. Gave me a good year after many years of slumber at Mom's house. Unfortunately suffered massive multi-system failure requiring thousands and thousands in repair work. Final act of fealty to the family: served as a trade for our first Brandy-new car ever, a 2003 Pontiac Vibe!

13. 1994 Eagle Summit. I got the Summit when we bought the Vibe. That was in March. By July the Summit was in need of $1500 in exhaust and engine work, and sporting 144,000 miles.

14. Earl the Saturn.

Looking back, I believe my continuing bad luck with vehicles stems not from my own complete disregard for the principles of vehicle maintenance and my Mario Andretti on Crystal Meth driving method, and is actually the continuing effects of a curse; a curse first uttered by a dejected 1974 VW Karmann Ghia – her autumnal years relegated to yard planter status and forced to watch her erstwhile owner – nay, her former lover, under the sway of a progression of hulks of iron, plastic, and rubber.

Hopefully Earl will end the insanity and provide some degree of long-term transportation. All these cars hold a special place in my heart (okay, maybe except for the Pontiac 1000. PIG!!!), but it's time I grow up and get some reliable transportation.