My Life with Cars: New and Used

It all started when our new car, a 1987 Dodge Van, had its gas cap fall apart. The car had only 30,000 miles and this was the last straw in a series of mechanical problems. We traded straight across for another new car, a 1969 brand new Subaru 360 van. This was a new car in many ways; a car this small was new to the U.S. It had a 2 cylinder 25 horse engine and could get up to 60 miles per hour only by going downhill at full throttle. It had ten-inch tires and looked like a baby Volkswagen van. But this nice new car could hold a foam mattress for camping, although our feet stuck out the end.
We called the car Blossom.

Blossom moved with us from California to Washington State. It worked well for about two years but then developed some mechanical problems. The mechanic took a month and built the engine backwards and, a lawsuit and action by the Attorney General later, we traded her in on a used, normal sized Subaru wagon. The novelty of the little van had also worn off. We named the used car Big Blossom. Big Blossom went through graduate school and three years on the road hauling heavy musical equipment for my husband who was in a rock band. Big Blossom racked up close to 200,000 miles of very hard driving and she was a great used car bargain.

Big Blossom died on the Grapevine when we moved to LA and we traded her in on a 1977 Subaru wagon. This was a new car, a boring tan colored car that we called the Tan Torpedo. The Tan Torpedo hauled musical equipment all over the LA area with strength and dignity. When she was about a month old we took her on the Angeles Crest highway and a bolder rolled down and smashed her pristine side. It would be many years before we drove on that highway. At around 200,000 we felt she had done her duty and we traded her in on a used 1986 Subaru 4-wheel drive station wagon. This was one sweet car: she was comfy and roadable; got about 30 miles to the gallon and went off road with ease. We called her Whitey and she was the great car love of our lives. On day I was driving home from work and, a block from home, a car ran a light and broadsided Whitey. I was ok, but Whitey was totaled. We both cried as she was towed away for the last time.

But life goes on and we needed another car. We bought a used car, a 1986 Camry sedan with about 140,000 miles. This was the only car we didn’t name-we may have been grieving for Whitey and unable to name the Camry. There were signs of poor maintenance but we were able to drive her to Sedona, Arizona getting about 30 miles to the gallon. But after about a year the Camry developed a horrible sound in the engine that the garage said would cost $2000 to fix. So we traded the Camry in on another used car, a 1986 deluxe Nissan Stanza Wagon with only 40,000 miles. This car had a great sound system, great AC, cruise control, and good handling for a van.
We called her Hunee. But she felt tinny and not well put together and at 80,000 miles her transmission went out. We sold Hunee to my son in law and relied only on another car we owned, a very used 1981 Honda Civic that was named Silver Sweetie. Sliver Sweetie went 300,000 before she gave her last gasp. She could be repaired for $2000 or we could buy a 1988 red Acura Legend coup with a stick shift and a sports package for $2500. This was the second great car love of our lives and we named her the Red Baron. We couldn’t believe we could get such a wonderful car for so little money. But there was no catch, no sudden problems, nothing. The car performed beautifully. Then disaster struck.

I was tooling from Santa Monica to Pasadena. I was in the fast lane to transition from the Santa Monica Freeway to the Pasadena Freeway. Traffic suddenly slowed and I had to slam on my anti lock disk brakes. Just as I was about to sigh with relief, there was a horrible sound and I felt like I was on the inside of a clothes dryer. The Red Baron was rear ended at 75 miles per hour and while I was ok, she wasn’t. She was totaled by the insurance company.

After a suitable period of mourning, we bought a used Volvo, a 1986 sedan with a turbocharger. This is a good car but we have had to put some money into it and it only get 19 miles to the gallon. We call it The Brick. We had also considered another Subaru but I am now so afraid after my accident that I wanted a bigger car. We can only hope there will be no more accidents and The Brick will be a faithful and reliable car.

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