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The car that would not die

In ’91, I bought a ’89 Cutlass Supreme. It had only 17,000 miles on it and was in great condition. The driver’s side window was off a little, but with practice I was able to trick it into place. My commute was only two miles.

Six months in, the dashboard began peeling up at the vent by the windshield. I wedged it back into place and the power antennae broke. I bought a house. The commute went up to four miles.

A year later, the front center of the dash started peeling up and the muffler fell off. New muffler, minor repairs, dash kept peeling up (common problem with this model), and time passes. I get married. We buy a new house. The commute moves up to twelve miles.

I have a kid. Cassette deck dies. I open Clarkesworld. A piece that keeps scraping on the driveway cracks and breaks off. I lose a job and several people I thought to be friends. Have another kid. The driver’s side window falls into the door. Window pulled out and stuck in the up position. I don’t care, I still have one more window. Get a new job. Commute 15 miles.

Rear suspension goes. Parking break release snaps off. As I drive, you can hear the clank-clunk of the suspension and the squeak of the wheels. The parking break indicator light on the dashboard decides shine constantly, unless I smack it. Breaks totally gone and replaced. Yet another muffler falls off and the new one is installed incorrectly, melting the fiberglass below the bumper. Paint starts to peel up in the back. Quit old job and take one 50 miles away.

Mileage starts creeping up and passes 100,000. In the Summer heat, the fabric on the ceiling lets go and falls on my head. The engine begins making almost musical noises to the beat of the clank-clack of the suspension. It gets me to and from work comfortably, but people are now concerned about me driving this car. My mechanic is amused, but he rarely sees it. The engine temperature light joins the parking break indicator in eternal brightness and I’m forced to keep oil and coolant in the back seat. My wife decides it’s time to put my trusted friend out to pasture.

…but it has comfy seats and I don’t want it to go.

She wins. The dealer wouldn’t give us $100 for my car, so it’s going to some very lucky charity for parts or fix up. We ended up with a Montana (van with comfy seats) which will come in handy for trips to cons and when the kids are a little bigger. We managed to get a good deal (our price, not theirs) but it still did a lot of damage to the bank account.

Can anyone say bookstore sale? Yeah, it’s inevitable. Just have to work out the details… after I take my old car out for one more fairwell tour/adventure. I wonder what will fall off this time.


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  1. Neil, you are a crack up!

    I’ve lived this with you, but I still was laughing my head off as I read it. Seems a shame to put the old dear out to pasture while there are still so many parts left to fall off of it


    • Re: Neil, you are a crack up!

      Hmm… I think it’s mooning you in that picture. Yeah, it knows you’re the one sending it away from it’s loved ones.

  2. Let me know when you’re ready to do the sale, and I’ll let everyone at this end know. Considering the mileage I managed to get out of my old Cavalier, I know exactly how you feel.

  3. Can anyone say bookstore sale? Yeah, it’s inevitable. Just have to work out the details… after I take my old car out for one more fairwell tour/adventure. I wonder what will fall off this time.

    Well, as long as the parts are falling off the car and not off of you… they tend to get a wee bit tetchy when they know they’re being replaced. Friends’ cars are particularly fond of throwing engine rods when they hear their number’s up. (Or, possibly, I attract friends who are in the subset of those whose cars behave this way, rather than it being a general problem among the populace, but since you’re also in that category of friends of jennifer…you’ve been warned!)

    • I’ll strive to break the curse. Someone’s gotta do it. Besides, if this car throws something, it will probably be an axel. The creeping death seems to be working it’s way in that direction.

  4. I got an ’85 Cutlass as my first car. It had 135,000 miles on it and through about 7 years including college I put another 110,000 miles on it. I miss it now.

    • My first car as a ’79 Cutlass. I loved that car – two-tone silver & black. It was probably something else in its day. I bought a ’93 Cutlass after brand new that, put 175,000 miles on it. Loved that car, too… Too bad Oldsmobile is defunct, but I’m enjoying my Pontiacs now.

      Lisa (Mrs. Clarkesworld)

    • I really think the engine on this car could keep going for a long time. It’s just the rest of the car that’s coming apart at the seems. 245,000 miles? Man, that was a good car!

  5. I totally sympathize. I still drive my first car … an ’89 Ford Probe … and it’s just hard to let it go.

    When you have that sale, I’ll e-shout it from the rooftops!!

    • Thanks! My first car is probably a rusting cube somewhere. Probably the second one too. I’d love to fix this one up and keep it. After all, it’s only another 8 years before either one of our cars could be considered eligible for classic car plates. 🙂 Still, it’s just too much effort to keep it in one piece.

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