Auto recall of long-gone jalopies

By Anthony Buccino

I learned to drive on an azure aqua '64 Chevelle station wagon earlier that summer. The gas gauge never worked. We never ran out of gas, but it wasn't exactly a chick magnet either.


NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Next to buying a house, buying a car is one of the biggest investments the average person will make. The similarities include new sticker shock and the ongoing money hole that comes with old houses and used cars, not to mention endless payments. We may someday see a 40-year "mortgage" on your new gas guzzler.

My one-time boss summed up life and cars: "During a man's lifetime, he will need one true love, two doctors, three dogs, 16 cars and 128 tires." If he's right, I've had too many dogs and not enough cars, although it could be argued that a few of those cars were dogs.

You hardly ever hear someone talking about their worst car ever. That's usually thanks to the greater fool theory with which all investors become familiar. But ask someone, any guy especially, about his favorite car and be prepared for a dissertation on that old beauty that ran like gold and never had a problem until, oh, fill in in the fate: It was stolen, or T-boned, or didn't fit with a growing, or shrinking family.

The first car I bought with my own money was when I paid $250 for a 1963 VW Bug, in 1972. I wanted that old, gray car so bad that it didn't matter that I couldn't handle a clutch or drive a shift. Before I could move it anywhere, I sat in the driveway and cranked the canvas sunroof open and closed!

And 41 years later, I'm on my ninth car, as near as I can remember.

That gray Bug got me through my senior year, and to my first job, at $2.25 an hour, until I traded it up for a '71 semi-automatic M&M-orange-colored Bug, which I drove until an icy road and my forehead turned the windshield into a mosaic.

I graduated to a '75 Datsun B210. It was M&M green. When it was new, we drove it to Indiana and almost made it home when we had a blowout in the front-left tire, about 5 miles from home, on a giant hill near "Pleasant Valley Way on a Sunday," in West Orange, N.J. Carole King never wrote a song about a Datsun, but it wasn't that far removed from a lawn mower.

Ah, the memories those old cars stir. Yes, and fond memories of gasoline at less than a quarter a gallon. Joy rides, day trips, traffic jams in snowstorms and bringing the baby home from the hospital and later to the college dorm.

I got my first warning ticket while driving Mom's Pontiac Tempest (GM_). That little car had an overhead cam engine and was so light that it, without notice, flew past the 65 MPH speed limit through the off ramp from the interstate near Erie, or so the trooper told me. I got the warning (rather than a ticket), as the officer had pity on a young kid driving his Mom home from a visit in Ashtabula, Ohio.

I learned to drive on an azure aqua '64 Chevelle station wagon earlier that summer. The gas gauge never worked. We never ran out of gas, but it wasn't exactly a chick magnet either.

Chevelle, the name sounds like some kind of animal. Gazelle, Jezebel? Oh, well. We had cool brand names in those days, Comet, Javelin, Vega, Pinto, Caravan, Voyager, Ram, not like car brands these days. It seems like the auto industry hired some pharma copywriters to come up with weird car names, Sportage, Optima, Scion, Hyundai, Avalon, Prius, Fusion, Volt, Sonata? Well, I see Impala is back. You'll know we've gone truly retro when Ford revives the Edsel.

So, the way it works now is, my wife gets a new car when she's ready. I get my wife's used car. You remember those problems Toyota was having with floor mats. Well, in spite of that, I bought a Rav4. For my wife. She loves it. And if she ever gets another new car, she says she wants a VW Bug to tool around in.

I'd get the low-mileage Rav and if we had to go anywhere in the snow, that's what the AWD is for.

I sure hope they've adjusted the Bug architecture by the time I need to ride in one. I'm not as flexible as I was at 17. The new models look lower and squatter, maybe it is designed for me? But I bet $250 won't cover the monthly nut on that new puppy. It may be enough for a tank of gas by then.

-- Written by Anthony Buccino in New York.

At the time of publication, the author drives a 2002 Kia Sportage.


First published Aug. 1, 2013 and © 2013 TheStreet, Inc. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2013 by Anthony Buccino. All rights reserved.

Read More:

This Seat Taken? Notes of a Hapless Commuter

Rambling Round, Inside and Outside at the Same Time

ANTHONY'S WORLD

Anthony Buccino


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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards. The Pushcart Prize-nominated writer has been called ' “New Jersey’s ‘Garrison Keillor” or something to that effect.’

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