My daughter Emily is a resourceful gal. She’s not quite 16 and doesn’t yet have her learner’s permit, but with her own hard-earned money she’s already purchased her first car – a 1990 Volvo 240 DL. She bought it for $1,000 and spent another $500 to get it in top running shape so in a week or two when she gets her permit she’ll be traveling in style. Even though she just got the air conditioner refurbished, it’ll have to be in not-so-cool style since an adult (most likely me) by law has to drive shotgun for the next six months.
For a 22-year old car, her Volvo is in great shape. Rather than shop for a flashier car, Emily is thrilled to own an automobile with some character to it, as well as a great safety rating. There’s a reason that the incredibly bad (and mercifully short lived) 1992 tv show Woops! featured a main character who survived a nuclear holocaust because he was driving his Volvo at the time.
It’s déjà vu all over again, as the oft-quoted Yogi Berra used to say. I was just 15 and a half when I bought my first car – a 1967 Chevy Chevelle, which like Emily’s auto was an older, white, 4-door sedan. I scored it for just $350, which was a sweet deal for any running car, even back in the Carter era.
It used to be a Shell Oil test car, so my vehicle had the letters R2-16 stenciled on the sides and top. Star Wars was released the year before, so I called my car R2 for short, as in R2-D2. Although there weren’t any visible rips, I could feel the seat’s springs popping through my bony butt, which made for an interesting ride on bumps and curves. One door didn’t lock; another didn’t open. The roof had a one-inch hole in it, so the inside got a little wet on rainy days. The passenger side floor had an even larger rusty opening, so it was quite a conversation starter to be able to watch the road racing below my guests’ feet. I used to compare the hole to the main title sequence of The Flintstones, since instead of running his car on horsepower, Fred literally ran on foot power.
For some lack of common sense on my part, I affixed my first bumper sticker to the back end:
“I’m not a cowboy. I just found the hat.”
This was three years before Urban Cowboy. God knows what I was thinking.
I was quite the dweeb.
Back in 1978, an 11-year old car seemed mighty long in the tooth, yet Emily’s new car is old enough to successfully get carded in Vegas. Even though it is officially an antique (apparently cars get that rating after 20 years) our new mechanic at Zen Volvo told us she’s got a lot of good years left in her. I’m assuming Emily will refer to it as a her, but knowing my eclectic daughter, her car is bound to be ambisexual.
I wish I had taken pictures of R2 during the short time I owned my Chevy Chevelle. I guess I should have thought to randomly take a shot with my cheap Kodak camera, drop off the film at Thrifty Drugs and wait a week or two for the film to develop in a lab somewhere far away, but it never occurred to me that my first car would be totaled in a freak head-on collision only a few months after my 16th birthday.
Today it’s a breeze to pull out my iPhone and instantly post a photo of Emily and her new car to her Facebook page. God willing, Emily won’t be losing her new wheels in a freak head-on collision any time soon. But the good news is, even if she did, she’d probably walk away from the accident without so much as a blister. After all, this is the car that survived a nuclear holocaust, and lasted two decades longer than a failed sitcom.