It's gone. "It" being the 1993 Chevrolet Cavalier that my daughter’s driven from the time she was a junior in high school until last week. That was when she announced that her car was “making noises” and asked me to look at it.
I did and the results weren't pretty. Finding a bit more than a quart of coolant emulsified in the oil pan pretty much spelled the end. I'd already rebuilt that engine once and it didn't make sense to spend the time and money that’d be necessary to revive a 16-year-old car that wasn't the best thing on wheels even when it was new.
Still, I thought about it.
That's because guys my age grew up messing with cars and were generally divided into either Ford or Chevy camps as in "I'd rather push a Ford than drive a Chevy" or "Ford: Fix Or Repair Daily."
Females were not cognizant of such distinctions. They did, however, group us into "have car" or "rides bus" categories. The "have car" group seemed to have a leg up in the ongoing effort to procure dates on Friday nights.
My dad was responsible for my interest in cars.
At the end of my sophomore year, my dad asked me if I wanted a car. I said “Sure,” and, the following week, he gave me the title to our old 1957 Ford.
It was a heap. The engine was toast and there was a pool of oil under the transmission. Two tires were flat and the drive shaft was hanging loose on the pavement.
My dad's words were, "If you really want a car, fix it."
I was upset at first but, then, a funny thing happened. I started thinking that if I pulled the engine, I could probably get it running again. Then I could replace the automatic with a three speed and a Hurst shifter. As for the interior, it couldn't cost much to have it redone.
By the time I went to bed, I had a pretty good idea of what "my car" was going to be like. The only problem was money. My dad had already made it eminently clear that the car was to be the extent of his largesse. The solution became obvious. I needed a job.
I had friends who worked at the local A&P Food Store and they got me hired at the princely wage of $1.12 per hour. For two solid years, I worked after school and on weekends. After work, I'd do homework and then put in an hour or two on the car. On weekends, I did more. This schedule almost cost me my girlfriend.
Julie Vicknair (my first love) frequently wondered aloud as to whether I cared more for "that car," (said in a tone of voice that only women can produce) or her. I would reassure her of my undying love and then spend most of our date money on a new carburetor or some other "necessity."
I finished the car late in my senior year and it ran like a clock. I'd worked like a dog to build it. I didn't drink. I didn't smoke. I didn't argue with my parents. I never got into trouble. I didn't have time to do any of the above because I was always working on that car.
Shortly after I finished it, I left for a college at which only seniors were allowed to have cars. My dad graciously handled that problem. He took over my car and drove it daily while I was away.
My girlfriend? Julie was never short of common sense. She dumped me for someone else. I think he drove a Chevy.
Which is all water under the bridge because, now, instead of tearing into that Cavalier, I'm guiding my daughter through the purchase of her first new car.
It's fun to watch her interact with salespeople because she's part of the generation that culls every bit of information they can from the internet before they buy anything.
I've watched salespeople do a double-take when she mentions something she's gleaned from Consumer Reports or shows them printouts of vehicles similar to the ones they're showing, but at a lower price.