Tag Archives: old car

Have Car, Will Travel – As Soon As My Daughter Gets Her License

Emily with her 1190 Volvo 240 DL

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.

Not my actual car but a re-creation through the magic of Power Point

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.


Filed under Humor, Teenagers

That New Car Smell Has Left My Minivan

I have a love/hate relationship with my minivan.

It’s a Toyota Sienna XLE, and I love that I can fit six kids in the car with me – twelve if they’re small and double buckle (Just kidding. Really). I love lots of cup holders and extra pockets to store things I forget about like contact lens cases even though I got LASIK a year ago. I love the leather interior, sunroof, and captain’s chairs in the middle row so if I’m chauffeuring grownups they don’t have to feel like 5-year olds bouncing on a school bus.

And the hate part of the relationship? My minivan is a 1998, which is misleading because I actually bought it in the summer of 1997 when my daughter Emily could still ride in her infant seat. This week she starts driver’s training. According to Wikipedia, the week I purchased my Sienna, Microsoft bought “a $150 million share of financially troubled Apple Computer.”

I’m just saying – it was a really long time ago.

My car also has an antique cassette tape deck, a CD player that doesn’t recognize disks made on a laptop, no iPod plug in, no GPS, no DVD player, and I have the humiliation of dropping my kindergartner off at school and having the volunteer valet stare at my sliding door, waiting for it to magically close on its own.

The best thing about my minivan is I haven’t had a car payment in almost 10 years. It’s ok to have the kids eat in my car and I don’t get freaky hysterical if they leave crumbs because that new car smell has been gone longer than Titanic – the 1997 2D version, not next week’s 3D release. 3D glasses won’t help the fact that my son spilled a sippy cup full of milk on the carpet last summer. Now my car probably smells like it too has been at the bottom of the ocean for a century.

I got rear ended a few years ago, and the driver was overjoyed, not only because I didn’t immediately cry “whiplash,” but that when I noticed the hole in my bumper, I sympathetically patted the poor driver on the shoulder. “My daughter just got Student of the Month and I think my new bumper sticker is just the right size to hide the dent.” My insurance company must love me.

There’s one thing that irks me the most about having an old car. Little by little, my beautiful leather driver’s seat has been tearing and wearing away until it now resembles some kind of angry punk rock attire. I can wash and wax the exterior. I can vacuum the interior and hang up a mini pine tree to make the car smell like Once Upon a Time’s fairy tale forest. But that shredded driver’s seat just screams: “Donate your used vehicle!”

I started searching for seat covers. While at a red light, I would peek in at other cars and study their seats. Not too hard, mind you. People really freak out if you look at them in their cars. And if they catch you staring, you can’t justify it by saying “I wasn’t looking at you, I was just admiring your seat covers” because that sounds like a really lame excuse, and they’re liable to report you to 1-800-CUT-SMOG just because you give them the heebie jeebies.

It’s a little bit easier to snoop inside cars while they’re parked. No one’s behind the wheel to freak out, but then pedestrians think you’re trying to break into the vehicle. Either way, it looks suspicious.

Anyway, snooping inside other vehicles proved to not be very productive. Frankly, there’s not a single seat cover I liked.

Do I really want a cheetah print? It would match my daughter’s bedspread, but it’s not like I’ll be parking my minivan in her bedroom to coordinate patterns.

A two-toned Neosupreme cover that is supposed to give my minivan a “sporty” look when it would more likely resemble a costume for some disco-era Superhero?

Camouflage? My “Republicans for Voldemort” bumper sticker should be a clear indication that I’m probably not a big NRA fan.

One of those Hawaiian slipcovers that looks like it belongs on a dune buggy?

Sheepskin? That one seems itchy and sweaty, and even if it is fake sheep skin, I would still keep imagining Mary’s Little Lamb following her to school one day and ending up in the slaughter house because it was against the rules.

My kids fondling my future seat covers

The only cover I really wanted was what I already had, but without the rips. A professional upholstery job would cost too much, so I started looking online for a half-assed substitute that didn’t look like a half-assed substitute.

I ended up finding a faux leather seat cover that could be custom made for my 1998 Toyota Sienna XLE. The package included covers for the two front seats, backs with built-in pockets, arm rests and head rests. But what I really needed was exactly that – just the but, or rather, butt. The rest of the seat parts were perfectly fine. Unfortunately, my special request couldn’t be accommodated. Apparently it would be like trying to order a Happy Meal when all you really want is the toy. Which is why every parent in America has a toy box full of plastic Scooby Doos and American landfills are full of uneaten Chicken McNuggets.

So now my butt sits on a non-torn imitation leather seat cover that is only about three shades lighter than the rest of the seat. I am content. And I am saving the passenger side seat cover for 15 years from now when my new current seat is torn to shreds from extra poundage, and Titanic is being re-released in 4D. That is, 4D Smell-O-Vision. After all, like my minivan, the ship will smell like it has been rotting at the bottom of the ocean for over a century.

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Filed under Financial Insecurity, Humor, Kids