For the last eight years or so we’ve had a fancy car. It was a new thing for me. I grew up in a place where cars routinely slide out of icy driveways, and you don’t drive a fancy car in a place like that. But in a city built before the age of the automobile you need something small to squeeze through the charming narrow streets.
Or that was my rationale.
Because nobody needs a fancy car. It’s been fun in a we-always-gets-there kind of way, and it was delicious to have something that would start every time — until of course it didn’t. It started not-doing all sorts of important things — and on our budget this was increasingly difficult to maintain.
Special cars are put together with special tools that ordinary humans don’t have access to, so even something as simple as changing the oil was impossible to do on our own. Only special mechanics have the special tools to work on special cars, and as such can charge a special price.
Very, very special.
The other problem was simply that of lifestyle. We just really aren’t fancy car people. Right after I got a confirmed buyer on craigslist I had to take a shop vac and try to remove as much alfalfa as I could from the seat-crevices, from our last trip to the chicken feed store. We go driving on tiny forest service roads to see where they go. Last October we drove our friends to a secret spot in the pouring rain to harvest tarp-fulls of chanterelles to sell in restaurants. I go on painting safaris that take me through murky trails, and climb right into the cockpit without removing my mud encrusted galoshes. It just wasn’t meant to be, and finally a month or so ago we got something totally different.
In addition to this gem — which cost less then my most recent pair of glasses — we found a man in the suburbs with a garage full of parts, which meant we were able to immediately replace the things that were most pressing: the unlatchable front hood, the rear door (which had a piece of opaque plexiglass taped in place where the rear windshield was supposed to be), and the radiator. Unable to find a grill, we’ve affixed some hardware cloth to the front to avoid a bird-into-engine grade disaster, and we are in the process of filling the rust holes with epoxy so that the interior will stop getting soaked when it rains.
Anthony named the car “Hugh”, short for “Houston”, as in: Houston, we have a problem. We’re actually tickled to death with it. Having a car that looks like it’s been rolled down a mountain takes a great weight off one’s shoulders. There’s none of the old low-level dread that comes with driving what was essentially an uncashed check. There’s no obvious value to this car whatsoever. The insurance on it is less than three cups of coffee. The mileage is delightfully low for an ’88, as it sat in a barn for ten years, and the key components seem to be in great shape all things considered.
My day job involves driving quite extensively (otherwise we probably would have gone car-less), and so I really put daily drivers to the test. Thus far it hasn’t failed me. We’ve taken it into the shop twice: first for the initial check up, and just the other day because the muffler fell off. The mechanics are have an earnest, undisguised enthusiasm to be working on such an object, and they have an endearing habit of tucking in all the frayed edges of the steering column duct tape.
We’ve rarely driven it past the radius-of-walkability, but once things settle down we’re looking forward to seeing how far it will go. Can it get us to the waterfalls and back? Will it make it to the coast? Can I drive it to California in a few months? There’s only one way to find out!