The Best Car I Ever Owned

The first car I owned was a 1978 Mustang II. Like a lot of cars from the late 70’s, it was a “cluge” of American and Japanese parts.Half the bolts were Imperial and the other half Metric. It had plenty of pep and got me where I needed to go, but it wasn’t very reliable. At one point I decided it needed a new alternator. The space under the Mustang’s hood was so tight that we had to drop the steering mechanism including the power steering pump to even get to the alternator.

A few months later the Mustang’s transmission went out. Rather than trying to work on the “cluge” again, I found a reputable mechanic and took it to the shop. He said it would be about a week to get it fixed. I figured I would ride to work with my room mate until I got the car back. Well, it wasn’t quite that simple. He wrecked his Toyota pickup so I had to ride to work on the back of his motorcycle. He thought passing multiple cars on a two lane road at 85 mph was a pretty normal thing to do.

When I got to work I decided I’d had enough of that. I got to checking around to find out what it would cost to rent a car for a week. That did not look like such a good idea. Then I remembered that there was a car sitting on a car lot in town with $200 on the windshield. I called my insurance company and asked how soon after I bought a car I needed to notify them. They said I had two weeks.

I got a ride to the dealer after work and looked at the car. It was a 1962 Oldsmobile 98 with pushbutton start, a huge V8 and power everything. About the only thing “power” that still worked was the tilt seat. I looked under the hood. It had no air cleaner. There was a hole in the radiator manifold. The previous owner had “fixed” it by sharpening a forked stick and shoving the pointed end in the hole. He had then wrapped baling wire around the manifold and the cleft of the forked stick, didn’t leak a drop. It cranked great but it didn’t have a muffler. It was almost 20 feet long and had seats wide enough that you could lie down and stretch out full length. There were 4 may-pop tires and no spare.

I wrote the man a check and drove it home. That was a Friday. I went to all my usual places that weekend. Everybody loved the car. I loaded about 10 people in it with elbow room to spare. The car served me well until I got my Mustang II back. The mechanic had said one week but it took two. I had no trouble with the Oldsmobile except once when a tire blew out. I left it on the side of the road with the keys in it about a mile from a filling station.

I hitchhiked to my destination and called the filling station. They got their wrecker and towed it to the station and put another may-pop used tire on it. The whole deal cost me 20 bucks.

I got my Mustang II back from the shop two weeks later. I sold the car for $200, the same as it cost me and I never did tell the insurance company.

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