Wastelands of Suburbia

A place where the cast-off ephemera of the last four generations comes to rest, and is discussed fondly....Like junk, or the injection-molded minutiae of history? Welcome home...Junkyards, yard sales, roadside oddities, thrift stores and more-your memories are deep inside the box, so keep shaking.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In defense of the Big Old Car...

I drive a big, old car-I didn't always, however. My choices of the last ten years or so have gravitated around the small, fuel-efficent japanese models, particularly Honda Accords. I've owned five, and they are without a doubt the best cars I've had up to this point, and I've owned a lot. Due to a low boredom threshold, I average a new (to me) car every eighteen months or so-realize this average is partially due to a string of VERY crappy cars in my youth. My ownership periods have gone way up since switching to the Hondas.

As I have mentioned briefly in previous posts, I have a nagging back injury incurred in December of '05-basically 1200 pounds worth of telephone pole crushed five of my thoracic vertebrae, three ribs and my sternum, while simultaneously boogering up my left shoulder to some degree. I began to find it difficult to get in and out of my low-slung Accord as a result, and the relatively lively suspension, one of the things I previously loved about Hondas, began to be a source of pain with each and every Pennsylvania pothole (assumably, five per mile is a state law). I decided I needed a bit larger and softer vehicle. My justification at the outset, beside the obvious, was that being laid-up equals less driving, ergo, less fuel burned and savings regardless of vehicle-sounded good to me anyway.

As luck would have it, my close friend George had a 1994 Mercury Grand Marquis he was looking to get rid of-it had been his great aunt's car, before she had reached that age where driving becomes dangerous for the elderly driver and everyone nearby. He had only put a few miles on it personally, and was as meticulous with maintenance as Aunt Anne, which fortunately, is on par with my level of maintenace. It was partially due to this I bought the car without needing a mechanic to check it. I tend to buy from people I know, and i have only been sorry once, but that's another story. The final deal-maker was the price-just $400. Of course this is the "friend discount" as George and do each other favors on a weekly basis, and he had nothing into the car since it had been a gift.

As I took some time to drive the car, some things began to become apparent-first of all, the chassis and suspension this Merc (and the sister car, the Ford Crown Victoria) is built on is suprisingly nimble for a large car-no, it's not my Honda, but it didn't feel like Uncle Bill's 1975 Cadillac either. I can make my way through traffic and in and out of parking spaces without feeling like Captain Stubing, and believe it or not, I can average as much as 25mpg on the highway, just two mpg less than my 1994 Accord. Parts are plentiful and cheap, due to the sheer numbers of this car out there. While I have had to put some additional money into it, it has been for wear parts like brakes, and universal joints devoid of grease fittings (one of my pet-peeves of cars of the last 20 years or so). Anything less than a car payment each month, spent on maintenance, is a bargain in my book. This chassis platform has pretty much replaced the late Checker Marathon as the primary NYC taxi, and reports of up to 400,000 miles are not uncommon out of the 4.6 liter V8 engine. Truthfully, take care of any car and you can expect at least 200,000 miles if your maintenance is regular and you don't drive like a Japanese drift racer.

Another thing that became apparent was the ROOM-I had forgotten how much room I had sacrificed for smallness and fuel-efficiency in the past. My last big car had been my late grandfather's '74 Plymouth Satellite, a big beast of a car with four doors, huge V8 and bench seats. I guess maybe it was that nostalgia that helped me adapt to the bigness of my Merc. As frequent road trippers, my friends will chip in for gas, knowing the Merc will be the most comfortable ride out of all our automobiles, ranging from an '07 Honda Fit belonging to my friend Big Brain, to various Asian small sedans, Ford Explorers and even Stiffy's WRX. In spite of the recent highway robbery on the part of the oil monopoly, the Merc hauls five in comfort, and six in a pinch with the 50/50 front seat-all without breaking our collective bank. It's great for weddings and funerals, as everyone can ride without wrinkling their finery too much. I keep it in good shape aesthetically as well, so that it is as presentable as a later model. I'm not fooling anyone-it's an old car, but a 12-year old car can look as nice as a one-year-old car, and a new car can look as if someone has wiped their ass with it. No one other than my last girlfriend has ever been ashamed to ride in it, and I figured if it mattered, we were better off apart anyway.

The final thing my car has been able to do for me is reduce my automotive fleet, which has numbered as much as 4 cars at once plus motorcycles in the past. I currently keep a truck and the Merc, but the large engine of the Merc will allow me to pull a small trailer for bikes and such, and I can ditch the pickup. Sure, I will miss the 4wd this winter, but if the weather is that bad, do I REALLY want to be on the road? Plus, when I do return to work, my job is a mere three miles from home, so I can snowshoe it if need be. I'm sure I'll find some other vehicle I will fall in love with and build the fleet back up, but with not being able to move anything in and out of the truck (including myself some damp days), there's no sense in hanging on to it at this point.

Am I wrong here? Comments are welcome.


Blogger Darth F said...

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10:01 PM  

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