Car Dust Memories

By Larry Teren

Recently, a Chicago area restauranteur tried to sell a car in an Ebay auction that was leased for a couple of years by President Obama. He set the starting bid for the gray-colored 2005 Chrysler 300C at a cool one million dollars. Naturally, nobody jumped at the chance. The same owner had once before tried to auction the car but quickly withdrew it when a joker offered one billion dollars. According to its blue book value, this 5.liter Hemi V8 engine model should fetch $14,500 to $17,000 if it is in very good condition.

My first car was a 1965 Chevy Impala that had a 283 V8 engine. At that time, it was considered a powerful and very reliable engine that pretty much would continue to turn over even when the body was all rusted out. I paid 50 bucks to the older brother of a very good friend for the ten year old beater. There were two conditions to the sale- 1) I was buying it as is and 2) I had to agree to offer to sell it back to the older brother for the same $50 when I tired of it.

So, in 1975, the older brother drove the chevy impala to a gas station two blocks from my house, took the cash, gave me the keys and the ownership title paper. I then took the key, sat in my car, turned the ignition and hoped to be on my merry way. Nothing happened. No noise other than a click. I tried a few times and still nothing. The seller looked at me and said, “Oh, I forgot to mention. You will probably need a new starter.”

I got the attention of the station owner and asked him to look at my car and tell me for sure if I needed a new starter. He did and indicated that a new solenoid would do the trick. It cost $60 but- what the heck- I had my own set of wheels for such a cheap price, even if it was ten years old.

I pretty soon learned that this particular chevy impala had its own personality. That is, it acted like the automobile driven by Fred Flinstone in his cartoon shows. The floor was rotting and it felt as if every time I applied the brake, my right foot would scrape the street pavement.

During the first winter of my driving discontent, the heater whistled like a kettle every time I turned the slide switch to the ‘on’ position. Still, it was better than standing outdoors for a while doing a frozen snow dance wile waiting at a bus stop.

After one year of owner internship, I gave the chevy impala back as promised and bought my first brand new car- a 1976 chocolate colored AMC Hornet for which I paid $3600 during the course of a 36 month loan. By this point in time, mostly drag racers and cops were the only ones buying brand new v-8 engines. The hornet had a v-6.  I was very proud when I signed on the dotted line as I procured the loan without a cosigner even though I was barely 24 and had recently started a job that paid less than two dollars an hour.

The bragging rights lasted for about two years. The car developed a case of recurring pneumonia. Apparently after speeding through a giant puddle, the water gushed up through the wheel wells and did damage to the electrical wiring. After that, every time I had to come to a full stop at a red light, the car would die and I would have to start it again. I rued braking and became pretty good at rolling stops at stop signs. For a while, I wish I had the chevy impala that whistled in the winter.

Another thing that doomed the car for the graveyard was that the built-in rear defroster stopped to function. So, by 1981, after a week into another new job, I traded in the Hornet for a 1981 Oldsmobile Omega. You may begin to notice a pattern that I have a tendency to buy models that get discontinued. This continued with the 1993 Chevy Geo Prizm and is alive and well with my current 10 year old Chevy Cavalier.

I’m thinking of auctioning off the Cavalier on Ebay. The built-in cd player stopped working two years into ownership- not that I used it much anyway. The driver side sun visor is broken and hangs lazily when it is pulled down. And there are a couple of nicks here and there but nothing dramatically noticeable. At least I don’t worry about getting the car to move after stopping at a red light or have to consider rolling at stop signs.  Besides, I know a restauranteur who thinks I can get a lot of money for my wheels.

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