Bad Car, Ma
I love that new car smell. I haven’t smelled it since 1975, when we bought our first and only new car right off the dealer’s lot.
Before that and since, our cars have barely made it into the decade we’re living in. In fact, almost all of them except our current vehicle have been of the last century, in more ways than one.
When we got married in 1969, my husband was driving a Volkswagen Beetle. In the winter, the doors would not completely close, so you would have to drive with one arm across your chest, holding the door handle to prevent your own ejection, this being before seat belts. One day during my driving lesson the Beetle blew a tire and rolled onto its back, beetle-like, wheels spinning in the air. I was tossed out of the car and received a head injury. I’ll never know what I could have become.
We then bought my father-in-law’s car. It was totalled when my husband went through a stop sign. A friend who knew him said, “So you’re not perfect.”
We bought a 1957 Sunbeam Rapier for $50. That car was sweet; gears like a hot knife through butter and leather seats. You couldn’t even hear the engine. It loved to go. Only trouble was, it didn’t love to stop. My husband was driving down a hill in Fredericton when the brakes failed completely; I’m not sure how he managed to gear down and pull over without going into the Saint John River. When we went west for four months with my in-laws, we left the Sunbeam in their yard. When we returned, in the dead of a very cold New Brunswick February, my husband dug it out of the snow bank where it was completely covered, turned the key, and vroom. I think I’m still in love with that car.
We bought a huge station wagon. We’ve had a few station wagons, even BC, Before Children, and one such station wagon moved us to British Columbia. It needed some work before we could move, so we took it to a relative’s garage. He took a month to fix it. It began to look as if it would never be repaired, and we were planning to leave at the end of that month. I did part-time office work at his garage just before we left Fredericton, and discovered what the delay was. The man wouldn’t shut up. He jawed with everyone who came into the garage and repairs were completed at a snail’s pace. I started hounding him, although that was usually not done. Goodness knows you wouldn’t want to tick off your mechanic by mentioning you expected your car back.
When we got to Vancouver, my husband went through a red light. So we got an enormous Oldsmobile Cutlass. Eventually it needed so much work that we bought the new car. The night we bought it, we left the Cutlass parked on the street outside our apartment. At 2:00 a.m., we got a phone call from the police. The Cutlass had been stolen and run to ground about 100 miles away. The motor had expired during a high-speed chase.
The new car was 1975 Plymouth Valiant; the name was optimistic. It rains a lot in Vancouver; the Valiant eventually developed a leak which would shut the car down just as I was about to drive onto the freeway. And several times during the bumper-to-bumper ride.
When we decided to move back east, we bought another gigantic station wagon, a 1984 Mercury Marquis which pulled our travel trailer around six thousand miles to Nova Scotia. It had worked hard and it was struggling. In Yarmouth a friend borrowed it, and that finished it off.
We bought a 1974 Volkswagen Jetta from a “friend.” The first week we had it, the clutch failed. Five hundred dollars. In the next year, we spent $2,000 on that blasted car. It had a leak somewhere around the windshield frame that we could never find. When it rained, the rain would dribble over your foot, run under the driver’s seat and make a pool on the floor for the rear seat passenger. In summer it was a pool, but in winter it became a skating rink.
The heater worked in the summer, but not in the winter, so you would drive down the highway madly scraping a tiny hole in the frost, peering with one eye through the hole, hoping you could avoid the ditch or oncoming cars.
One door opened if you used the door handle, a unique concept to that car. One door wouldn’t open at all. A third door opened if you pushed it from the inside and someone else pulled it from the outside, and the fourth door only opened if you put your finger inside the rusted-out area around the handle and widdled it around to connect with the lever.
When you put your high beams on, the horn beeped.
This car had a security alarm. I’m not sure why. One day when I was driving down the highway the alarm short-circuited; we beep-beep-beeped all the way home. Cars got off the road, thinking I was the police, at least until I passed them. We disconnected the alarm, which did not worry anyone in our family and raised no flurry of activity among the town car thieves.
Finally, one day my husband was driving kids to town, and the car suddenly banged to a halt in the middle of the road. We were told a rod had gone through the motor. I believe instead that a stake went through its evil heart.
We’ve had a few more lemons, but our current car, a Honda Accord, has leather seats with seat warmers, a working heater and air conditioner, non-rusted windshield wipers; all other parts function beautifully.
Every day I tell it I love it, and so far it believes me.
Copyright © 2010 Barbara Pottie Holmes