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November 02, 2013

In Memory of Cars - [Niedermeyer's Dead Horse]

Let me state right off: I am not a car expert nor do I pretend to be a car expert. I am just a person who, basically, has owned cars. Some here, such as kbdabear, can spout off the tech specifics of individual cars quicker than Mona Lisa Vito. It's impressive.

Cars are more than just transportation. They, like it or not, do convey something about the owner: How one cares for their car, how flashy the color, how high or low the chassis, all reveal something about the person behind the wheel. Most often mine have said This gal purchased what she could afford. And, I was in my 40's before I ever walked into a dealership and purchased the exact car I wanted. (Note: the photos that follow are of similar cars, not my own.)

When I was 19-years old I worked at a Chrysler/Jeep/Renault/Jaguar dealership, first as a receptionist, then as an inventory supervisor. If I recall correctly, I made something along the lines of $3.00 an hour. Several times a week I was handed the keys to any number of cars and asked to run errands. My favorite amongst them was the Jeep Grand Wagoneer and, when I drove it I felt guilty for having been seen in it. The folks who walked into the dealership to purchase them were successful businessmen and, who was I kidding, I was a clerk making barely above minimum wage who, at the time, hadn't yet owned her own car.

I was married very young. At the age of eighteen I married my first real boyfriend. Together, we barely made enough to cover rent and utilities but, with each of us working two jobs, we eventually saved enough to purchase our first car. It was a used 1981 Chevy Chevette. We knew it was a crap car when we purchased it but, for us, it meant no more walking to work in the rain. When we separated later that year, he got the car and I was back to walking to work or begging for a ride. Fortunately, my predicament was remedied quickly with a purchase of my own.

I had been working my tail off at the dealership when a nice man, a co-worker, took notice and quietly dropped by a buy-here/pay-here lot down the street and offered to secretly co-sign a loan for me. With that, I purchased my first ever car of my own: a 1974 Volkswagon Beetle. The back floorpan had rusted clean through and I once lost a shoe through the hole but, for me, it represented freedom. It meant no more racing for the bus or standing in the blaring Florida sun. It meant Saturdays at the beach and drive-thru Dairy Queen. Most of all, it meant the freedom to look for work and housing that didn't fall strictly on a bus line.

In essence, that little rust-bucket changed my life for the better and I've never forgotten the man who believed in me enough to put his own money on the line to make it happen. It was only at the end of my loan term that the dealer told me what he had done and, by then, I had long since left the dealership.

Following that purchase there was a series of other cars, some hits and some misses. The 1982(?) MGB - MISS, the 1996 Chevy Cavalier Z-24 - HIT.

Over the years I have owned a number of used cars and, for the most part, I did very well in extracting value from the deal. The 2003 Mitsubishi Galant ES that I purchased for a steal in 2005 is still driven by my daughter.

Until my most recent purchase, my favorite was a 1986 1/2 Toyota Supra, purchased in 1992. It was a beauty and I only traded it in after wrecking it. I have a photo of it stuffed away in a box somewhere. I missed that car for a very long time. Then...

One afternoon in November 2008 I was driving a rental car, on my way to Atlanta to meet a co-worker for a business event in Chattanooga, when I spotted a Jeep dealership up ahead. I had driven a few Jeeps in the preceding weeks but had never purchased a new car and, until that moment, hadn't really considered it. Then, I pulled over. I left the dealership a few hours later with a vehicle that years before I had never imagined I could afford. It was exactly what I wanted: A brand new 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Rocky Mountain Edition. I bought the 6-cyl so that it would be good on gas and the 4x2 because, frankly, I had no need to go off-road. The color was a deep burgundy (Red Rock Crystal Pearl) and it had a sunroof, heated seats, and a great sound system... all the extras a girl could ever want.

I transferred my luggage from the rental into the Jeep and headed off to Atlanta in my first-ever brand new car.

I can't describe how I felt. I was excited (OMG! I did it!) and nervous (OMG! car payments!). It was the kind of thrill one gets from finally "making it" and that purchase marked a level of success in my life, from struggling single mom, to struggling young woman working two and three jobs at once, to one who had, at long last, reached a certain level of comfort and consistency in her life. It was only a Jeep, but to me it meant so much more.

That Jeep is still parked in my driveway and now has more than 50k miles on it. During the past five years, it has only needed regular oil changes, a few changes of the wiper blades, and one replacement of the tires. It has been a terrific truck and I will probably drive it for years to come.

What has been your favorite car? Did you, like me, have a moment where a car marked a significant turn in your life?

Tell me about your dream car.

H/T to EC for the video

Open thread.

digg this
posted by Open Blogger at 02:20 PM

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