Saturday Single No. 223

Some while back, I told the story of my dad and his 1952 Ford, the brown auto that he bought for cash when it was new and drove for some twenty-four years until it was actually a hazard to him and his passengers.

The ails that the old Ford accumulated were many, and long before the time Dad let the car go to some junkyard here in St. Cloud, the cost of repairing it was greater than its dollar value or even its practical value.

I must have acquired from Dad the gene that pushes a driver to get every possible mile out of a car before letting go of it, forcing me many times over the years to find a place to dispose of a valueless auto instead of being able to trade it in as part of the next vehicle’s purchase. The roll call of my cars over the years is long, and I’ve had most of them hauled to junk: A 1961 Falcon, a 1967 Falcon wagon, a 1971 Duster, a 1972 Toyota, a 1977 Chevette, a 1981 Toyota, a 1988 Mazda and a 1990 Oldsmobile. Almost all of them were driven until they had essentially no value, with the repairs that would have been required to get any of them back on the road costing more than the car was worth.

Beyond the practical difficulty of leaving me carless in a culture that is very much designed around the automobile, I felt little grief in walking away from most of those vehicles. The only time I felt anything approaching my father’s reluctance to get rid of his old Ford was when I had to let go of my first car – the 1961 Falcon I called Farley – in 1976. His rear springs had failed and his engine and electrical system were both showing signs of needing major repairs. My buddy Murl found me a 1967 Falcon wagon and arranged the transfer one Sunday evening. But when the moment came to get out of Farley for the last time, I found it difficult to do so. I took a deep breath and looked blankly out of the windshield – not seeing Murl’s back yard but all those semi-distant places where I’d gone with Farley – and before I left him, I laid my hand on the horn ring and pushed, letting Farley give himself a twenty-second farewell salute.

I won’t be quite so affected this week as the Texas Gal and I go find a replacement for our 1998 Nissan Sentra. We’ve been lucky it’s lasted as long as it has; the Texas Gal bought it new about two years before she moved to Minnesota, and about four years ago, it became our second car, the one I use for errands around town. It’s got, we think, about 150,000 miles on it, but we’re not sure, as the odometer quit working a while back at 91,000 miles. The driver’s window no longer rolls down; or maybe it would, but it would most likely stay down, so we don’t try it, as open-window driving in Minnesota’s winter is not a good idea.

And the vehicle gives off odd clanks and groans as it idles in the driveway. It’s time. So we’re heading over to a nearby used car lot this afternoon; we’ve got our eye on another Nissan Sentra although we’ll take a look at the fellow’s other inventory, too. And we plan to stop at a couple of other places before we make a decision.

And when we do, I’m assuming we’ll feel better about our new used car than does the narrator of Bruce Springsteen’s “Used Cars.” It’s a track from his 1982 Nebraska album and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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2 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 223”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    My dad had a new-toy-every-four-years car gene, while mom got the drive-it-’til-it-dies trait. I worked in radio, so you can probably guess which gene I inherited.

    Car number two, a 1970 VW Beetle, left its mark – literally – on the I-94 Crow River bridge between Hennepin and Wright counties, where it came to rest after the engine blew. Luckily, one of the WJON sales managers happened by within minutes. Checking up on The Oil Stain remained a passing ritual for the next several years.

  2. […] was nearly a year ago – last January – when I wrote about beginning the process of replacing our second car, at that time a 1998 […]

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