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Friends and foes of the four-wheeled variety

Register • Jun 9, 2014 at 8:40 PM

It’s been written that America has a love affair with cars. I’ve had more of a love-hate relationship with my vehicles. I love them when they work and hate them when they don’t.

The best car I ever had was a Chevy Lumina, which had more than 250,000 miles on it — with the original transmission — when I finally got rid of it. Unfortunately, I should have gotten rid of it a few thousand miles earlier, because in the last few months the car broke down continuously.

The worst vehicle I ever had was an old Nissan pickup truck that made a lemon look reliable. The guy that sold it to me must have danced a jig as I drove it away.

The truck looked to be in perfect shape, but like the old saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

I’d had it less than a month when I decided to take my daughter on a trip to Kentucky. Everything was fine until we hit Columbus during rush hour. As the car sat still in traffic, the temperature gauge began to rise and I could hear coolant begin to gurgle.

As long as the truck was moving, everything was fine. But when traffic slowed the trouble started.

Somehow I managed to get across four lanes and exit, where I took side roads to get around the traffic jam. Later I found out something called a fan clutch had gone bad. I didn’t even know what a fan clutch was.

I didn’t know what a heater core was, either, but I sure found out when I made a turn a few weeks later and a half-gallon of antifreeze came gushing from under the dash, spraying all over my shoes and pants.

Actually, I know a lot about cars now, because just about everything that can go wrong has over the years. But my ignorance when young was so pathetic that I actually took auto shop to learn about cars. Everyone else in the class already knew everything and just wanted to work on cars. My auto shop teacher gave up on me the first day of class when I asked where the distributor cap was located.

My uncle gave me an infamous Yugo when I was struggling financially. It got me around OK unless it was damp out; then it wouldn’t start. Window cranks fell off. The turn signal fell off. But it was a novelty piece and I got a lot of free information about my car from others. (Why does your Yugo have a rear-window defroster? To keep your hands warm when you push it in the winter,)

My first car is probably still my favorite — a 1965 Buick Wildcat I bought for $100 from a friend of my dad’s. I was 20 years old and although the body was in sad shape, the car started and ran perfectly. It had stainless steel mag wheels. And it was FAST.

I never would have parted with it if the car hadn’t demanded otherwise.

I’d had the Buick for about a year and half and was on my way home from work one day when I heard a terrific crash and the sound of shattering glass. My driver’s side window was gone. At first I thought someone had shot it out, and I looked around for a sniper. I drove about 50 feet and the passenger side window vanished, shattering on the street.

I stopped and got out of the car. What had happened was that my doors were so rusted that the entire window mechanisms, including the windows, had fallen through the doors onto the street.

So off to the junkyard the Wildcat went. I got $50 for the car and $135 for the mag wheels.

I had the car for more than a year and got back $85 more than I’d paid for it.

And that’s a deal that will never be matched.

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