By Roger Canaff
Cars. It is a guy thing, although women love ’em too. I have owned quite a few of them, since I got my license in 1960, on my fifth try ( in those days, you had to parallel park). My first was a 1953 Mercury, bought from a friend. I have since purchased new ones: 1964 Ford Galaxy, 1970 Ford station wagon, 1984 Ford Granada, 1990 Ford station wagon, 1994 Ford (I forget the type) and a 1987 Ford Ranger. Get the picture? Fix or Repair Daily. I always preached Buy American to my kids. After the Turn of the Century, we bought a Honda Accord (my son assured me I had paid my dues). Two hundred thousand miles later, I got a 2009 Accord.
The Fords ran well, until they didn’t. Things would break down, such as A/C, heater or some other ancillary function, which usually cost an arm-and-leg to get repaired. My two Hondas just keep on running, and (I hope the universe doesn’t get me for saying this) never need repairs, or so it seems. The best longevity I ever got from my Fords was maybe 100K .
Lots of interesting things happened along the way. For example, I performed long distance maintenance on my Ranger. My daughter had it at Old Dominion University, when she was a student there. ODU is located in Norfolk, VA, I was working at a DEA lab in Washington, DC, about 200 miles away. Got a call from her one morning at work. Dad, the heater’s not working, but the engine seems to be running hot. OK, Jen. Can you pop the hood? You see what looks like a milk container? OK, is there any fluid in it? It’s dry? OK, you need to get some water in is as soon as you can. Then start the car. Let it run for a minute. Getting some heat? Good. Now you need to buy some antifreeze, and pour it into there before you go anywhere……..All this before there were cellphones!
Since we were a two worker family (working about 5 jobs between us) we had to have at least two cars. The second car was generally a clunker. Some of these rides provided some thrills and chills:
Bet you never knew that some Buicks only had three wheels. I was driving a 1970 V-8 (which was given to my by a friend). I was moonlighting as an adjunct chemistry professor at Prince George’s Comminity College at the time (1993). I left campus after teaching to drive home. I got on the Capitol Beltway, accellerated to 65, and moved into the left lane. Suddenly I felt like I had run into the mother of potholes, and the car dipped momentarily. A split second later, it did it again. I slowed down glanced out my side view mirror and saw a shower of sparks astern. I stopped on the shoulder, got out and saw only three wheels. I never saw the fourth wheel again.
We have, as a society, become accustomed to (at least the concept of) electric cars. I once drove the diametric opposite, sort of. One evening, I left my day job to go teach some chemistry at PGCC, about a half hour drive from New York Ave in the District (not a nice neighborhood). Since the car was old and decripit, I didn’t bother locking it. Class was at 6PM. When I went to start the car, it was dead. Battery? Upon lifting the hood, it was apparent that I didn’t have one, dead or alive. Midnite Auto Supply strikes again! I went back to the lab , borrowed a car from a coworker, drove to an auto supply store, bought a battery, dropped it in the car and made it to campus on time (only had to cancel office hours).
VW Rabbit Diesel Non-starter
I bought it used. Car soon developed a compression problem; it wouldn’t start. Fortunately, it was a stick shift. You just had to get it rolling and pop the clutch, and it would start. I learned to park on inclines so it would roll, or sometimes, the kids on my street would push. An engine job would have cost too much (had two in college at the time). One of the pusher kids was a senior in high school. They told me that when she received an acceptance to college, she wondered what I would do when she left town. Who would push Mr.Canaff? Cheryl, where ever you are, thank you so very much……
As the song put it so well, thanks for the memories!