Friday, October 26, 2001

Thousand Dollar Cars

Thousand Dollar car it ain't worth nothin, thousand Dollar Car it aint worth shit.
You might as well take your Thousand Dollars and
Set fire to it.
-Bottle Rockets
One of the guys who works in my building had a beautiful 1990 Volvo Diesel Sedan, which died a horrible death last weekend. We often talked about old Volvos, as I had one back in college. And the discussion with this guy (he bought a 1999 Honda somethingorother) got me reminiscing about all the really stupid cars Doug and I have had since college. Before we made enough money to buy something that would run longer than 10 months and cost more than 2500 bucks. Thinking about the Dead Show memories also made me reflect upon these piece-o-crapmobiles we've driven around, and I thought I would take the time and write about them here. I am not sure on some of the dates of acquisition or demise, so apologies up front.
Levon - 1985
My very first car was a canary yellow Mercury (?) Gran Prix (?) something or other named Levon. Two door, hatchback. Levon got his name from Gregg, who conned me into driving it to an Elton John concert the very first day I owned the wretched little beast. I told GPJ that if Elton played my favorite song, the car would be named. He did and the car was. Levon's hatch hydraulics had long since stopped working, so I used a broomstick to hold the hatch open when I needed to fill or unload crap from the way back. I had 2 very important bumper stickers on said hatchback. One from the University of North Carolina where my best best friend Rob was going to school ("If God Isn't A Tarheel, then Why Is The Sky Carolina Blue???") and a USNaval Academy Rams sticker from my other best best friend Jonathan, who was a plebe that year at Annapolis. Levon had issues starting below 40 degrees and I used to call my ex-boyfriend to have him jump start that rolling banana in order to get to my internship at the newspaper. At 5am. He was a sport. Especially when I cried. Levon died a horrible death and ended up at my mom's mechanic's shop. I swear a few years later I saw that same car, same bumper stickers (that was the give away), broken down on the side of the road on Long Island, miles from the mechanic. I still possess a set of the keys.

Portnoy - 1987-1989
Named for the Bloom County Character, not the Complaint, Portnoy was
the 1978 Dodge Omni, which is exactly the same as a Plymouth Horizon. Same shit, different bucket. It was brown. Like Portnoy the hedgehog. I bought it for $300 from the head of our college's co-op job placement office. His name was Dan, and he was THE nicest guy on earth. He scored me a great job at the Hammond Castle Museum where I was a tour guide, and I needed this car. He sold it to me because it was his wife's car, and they were moving to Illinois, and needed to unload it. It was a stickshift, and Dan taught me to drive it. It took me weeks to get the system of driving manual transmission down pat, and I recall swearing like a bitch on wheels (which I was) when the car wouldn't go into gear (Smitty, you can attest). Portnoy was awesome, and I had some really nice dead stickers in the back window. The car had been rearended long long before I got it, so the hatchback never closed all the way or could be opened. It had a large gaping hole where the hatch was supposed to contact the rest of the car body, and when I went to renew inspection in 1989 the garage flunked it. They stated that it was dangerous and I could die from carbon monoxide poisoning if I sat idle at a stoplight. So they forced me into getting:

Sven the Mighty 1989-1991
Ah, Sven. Sven. Sven. The love of my life. My favorite car ever. I bought it from the garage that killed Portnoy for $900. Sven was a very special and wonderful car. It was a 1970 Volvo Sedan (aforementioned in the intro to this section), Green, with sky blue doors. It looked like a psychadelic saddle shoe. Because I didn't have the money to paint it (Uh, oh better get Maaco costs more than $300 for their "ambassador service") I decided it would look cooler if I just slapped some more deadhead stickers on the car. So it was a fucking sight. I was known to the cops in the towns in which I attended college and lived because they were tony, chi-chi towns with lots of nice new cars, and one big ugly piece of shite. Sven could turn on a dime, a huge sedan with a u-turn radius to die for. Great mileage, reliable (only had one major problem in that the heat never turned off, so I rigged up a clamp on the hose that sent air into the vehicle). Sven died, sadly, the April right before Doug and I got married. I was driving to the T station to go to work and ran over a rubber snakey looking thing which got sucked up into my engine, punctured and shredded my radiator and sent green death spewing all over rte 1A in Revere, MA. Sven was towed back to my apartment, and attempts to heal him would have cost me over $4000. He was towed away right after my honeymoon. I grieve to this day.

Doug's Chevy Monza, aka the "Smitty you better not puke in my car" mobile 1987 -1990
Doug doesn't name his cars. Doug's powder blue Monza took us camping a whole bunch of times and provided a lot of fabulous memories. Aside from Smitty puking in the front seat, the way back was an awesome viewing spot for the star filled sky due to the long sloping angle of the glass. For Doug's birthday one year, I believe it was 1989 or 1990... we were coming home from a dinner out and the alternator died. The police tried to jump start us, but it wouldn't take. Doug was very crest fallen. It was snowing and sleeting and cold as a witch's tit out, and the cop was giving him all sorts of grief that we should give up and get it towed. The car turned over. The cop seemed irked. We made it to my driveway where it died again. Thankfully, we made it home.

this isn't a picture of Doug's Monza. I'm sure I have one somewhere. I found this online. It is a similar car to his, only grey.
I forget what happened to this sucker, but after it went away Doug's dad did a hand-me-down of his car:

The Rust Never Sleeps Mobile, 1990-1995
This was a white Chevy Celebrity, and all Chevy's from this time period developed horrid rust on the doors. When we got married we didn't rent a limo or anything, so this car was driven by my new husband Douglas to the wedding reception, with me, his fat and happy bride hanging out the car window with my veil riding the breeze. The wedding party decorated it for us, we got lots of cheers and beeps as we rode from the chapel to the reception hall. We took this car on our tour of Nova Scotia for our honeymoon. We had Jessica, we got missy and rode around with her in the car, I have a wonderful picture of her behind the wheel hanging out of the driver's side window. We lived in the city of Lynn, MA for a while and one night this car was stolen. The police recovered it a few blocks away with the steering column cracked open and the seat pulled up so that the driver's chest would be flush with the wheel. They figured 10-12 year olds had stolen the car and it was a practice mobile. We never paid to get the steering column fixed. We started the car with a small screwdriver which we shoved into the steering column to pull on the ignition and get it started. And we also bought the club so that the car was somewhat inaccessible to thieves. The car pictured here is not our car, but is from a page on mullet madness. When I searched for a rusty old Chevy Celebrity, it came up with this page, and I died.

Doug's Sexy Mercury Cougar, 1993-1995?
We were at a wedding in the summer of 1993 and Doug told one of his former highschool classmates that he had a Mercury Cougar. Which was true. Only it was a 1985 or so stationwagon, brown, with fake wood sides
. Before Mark could get too too impressed with Doug and his super car, I corrected him, pointing out it was an old station wagon and Doug was none too happy with me.
This car is more a blip on the radar screen for me. We didn't have it long. Actually, I might even be underestimating its lifespan. We could have had it longer but it was so unmemorable that the fact I even remembered it is remarkable.

The True Blue Clue, years unclear.
The true blue clue was another Olds, no where NEAR as boss as the last one. Missy ate a headrest out of it. Doug bought it from some shady dude in Salem, MA... a used car lot that looked like a total front for heroin trafficking. The door panel on the drivers side was never quite attached, and eventually the door was hard to close. Not sure what we did with this one. It's all becoming a blur. I am pretty sure we used this car as a trade in on the next car:

The Old Jewish Lady with the Son Who is a Doctor mobile, 1994-1996

This was a 1988 Olds Delta 88. Maroon. Power EVERYTHING. We had to buy it on a credit card. It was lower interest than getting a car loan. Go figure. Anyway, this car made us feel like an old Jewish lady from Long Island whenever behind the wheel. All I needed was a big wig, a velour jumpsuit, a cigarette with a long filter and I'd be all set. Oy! It was a very smooth riding car car, like buttah! Excellent power and acceleration on the highway, and I enjoyed it even though it made me feel really old. It died an untimely death, though, and almost took my husband with it. Doug was on his way to work in a snowstorm, at some ungodly hour of the morning, as was his duty to do, and a snowplow came rocketing out of a parkinglot in reverse like fucking Apollo 11 into orbit, and Doug smashed right into it. The cop tried to blame Doug, but when it came down to it, the plow jockey was at fault. We got a very nice insurance settlement for it, about $5000. Doug bought another car, see the next one, for like $1200, and the rest of it we used for a downpayment on the house we now own. How you like them apples.

The Pokey Red Pony, unsure of timeframe... but I had it when I was in the hospital trying not to have Geoff in 1997 (I remember because I had to leave it in the parking lot at the doctor's office and I was very upset that it would be towed)... The Pokey Pony was a little red Buick Skyhawk Stationwagon. It was small but useful. The springs were poking through the seats. I remember the day we bought it, it was hotter than hell and I thought I was going to melt in the car lot while Doug signed the paperwork. Meh. The pokey pony, like the true blue clue eventually died. We drove cars into the ground at that point in time... and usually they died horrible irreparable deaths. Deaths that would have cost over $4000 to repair. That's why we moved on to the next piece of whatever. But we're starting to enter a new phase here... The phase of cars that last.

Except this one:

The Waynemobile, forget the time frame again. what is wrong with me!
We bought a big blue fake wood-sided stationwagon from our friend Wayne, who was using it as a tractor on his property. Isnt' that a riot? Wayne would load the way back up with yard stuff and wood and all kinds of dreck that needed hauled around, the car wasn't registered. It had a way way back seat, which Jessica loved to ride in. He sold it to us for a couple hundred bucks, and he thought it would last a few months. It lasted for quite a while, kept us going, not a bad deal. We gave friends of ours the nice tires that I bought for it when their tires on their very similar station wagon died... It was a good car. 

We traded it in to buy our first real grown up car:

The Starship Shapiro, Warp Speed 10!, 1997 - 2000
Shapiro, Shapiro! Fans of Kablam! and their Sniz and Fondue segment will recognize the song and sing it loudly. A Saturn SW-II, the larger version of their station wagons... Gold. 14,000 miles on it. Wonderful car. Geoff was about 5 months old when we bought it. We had this car for quite a while, only trading it in recently when it got too small for the 2 dogs, 2 kids, 2 big parents. We didn't want to buy a minivan or anything... too suburban and soccer mom for me. Having a stationwagon is great because there is room for the big smelly dogs in the way back. We put a lot of miles on this sucker. At the same time, we owned, and still own:

Doug's Maroon Car - which is the exact clone of His Mom's Car, 1998 - current
We bought this car right after Doug got out of Graduate School. It is a 1994 (?) Maroon Chevy Lumina. Needs some work to get it through the winter, like a new blower for the defroster/AC unit. Has over 166,000 miles on it right now. Has seen a lot of road and hopefully will live through the wonderful winter ahead, getting us to at least the end of the school year. Doug uses this car mostly, and it serves us well. And, our current long term holding is:

Rudy, The Red Saturn - 2000 to current
Last Christmas we decided we had enough money and the first Saturn to use as downpayment on a nice new big wagon. So we bought Rudy. He's just now starting to lose his new car smell. I use Rudy most of the time, lucky me, and it rocks. Doug drove Rudy this summer on our vacation to the Great Southwest, and the car performed awesomely. Rudy currently is in need of a tuneup and an interior cleaning before the winter starts.

The maroon car will be driven til it can't be driven no more. We also have been through a lot of alternators as I look up this list. I think every car other than Rudy has needed an alternator. We drain them I guess. The Starship Shapiro needed one two weeks after we bought it. The Saturn mechanics and sales guy were embarrassed and I gave them shit for selling me a car with a doomed alternator.

Okay. So that's the list. That's a lot of cars. Many of them overlap... I'll have Doug draw up a Visio flowchart..

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