the death of my beloved 1985 Honda Civic I
found myself alone in a world without transportation. I rented a car, but
it cost me my total daily paycheck just to pay the bill. I needed transportation
I hate used car shopping. In fact, I hate shopping. When I buy an item, I tend to gravitate toward the best (and often most expensive) selection. If I do not, then I purchase the cheapest one I can find. Can you see where I'm going with this?
I started looking at new cars, but quickly decided I was not about to spend 40k on a new vehicle, nor was I about to spend 28k on a used vehicle. Next came the used car dealerships which were also out of my price range. I looked on Craigslist.org but couldn't get anyone to sell me a car. I'd offer extra money, all cash up front, but no one who had their car listed actually wanted to sell it. They must have been afraid of the rental car bill they would be faced with while they searched for new transportation. I wound up at a not-sleezy car dealership outside of Walnut Creek. The lot was filled with old cheap cars. The most expensive was $6000. My pocketbook told me I was in the right spot!
I asked if I could take some test drives, and the dealer/owner just started handing me keys - he didn't even care to come along. Too busy surfing internet porn I imagine.. The first car I chose was a fairly new red Daewoo, something along the lines of an executive sedan. Yes, you can stop laughing, Daewoo made an executive sedan. I have nothing against Koreans, but Korea is where cheap crappy manufacturers go when they want to save money after moving their factories from Taiwan to China. The car -looked- like it was in good shape, but the AC didn't work, the sun roof stuck in the open position, and the check engine light came on immediately. Back to the dealership I fiddled with the cruise control, which did work. The owner told me the check engine light was no problem - in fact, I could reset it just by unplugging the battery for a few minutes. I quickly left the Daewoo parked in a corner. My pocketbook wouldn't be happy anyway.
Across the lot, directly opposite the Daewoo, rested a blue Kia, priced at only $5500. I hopped in, drove around, and couldn't find any problems. The car only had 40k miles on it, and seemed like a good buy. I went home and did some research, only to find out that the particular model of the car was known to have power and weird shifting issues. Never the less, I decided to purchase it. I went back the next day but the car was already gone. The owner politely pointed me in the direction of the lot, and I found an old 1996 Ford Escort, priced at only $1800, with 87k miles. It was filthy - inside and out. No stereo, cold AC, but it drove great. I sat and thought about the car (trying to get the terrible stink out of it) and decided to purchase the Escort.
I gave the guy my money (cash of course) and took the car home for a complete scrub and clean.
I'd say it came out looking okay. I purchased a new tire and changed the oil, and drove the car back and forth to work for several days before the check engine light came on. However, the light would occasionally turn itself off, and I wasn't hearing any engine noises or experiencing any additional problems. I continued driving unhampered, glad to be free of the dreaded rental car.
As you can tell, the car is rather low to the ground. I know from personal experience though, that this car can go 4x4ing. I've managed to take it through snow, ice, and a foot of mud. I've also had to urinate on the wheels and disassemble half the axle in order to free up the said mud which froze overnight rendering the back half of my car immobile and connected through a perverted column of solid earth to the ground. Once I chipped away at the mass of dirt, it was good to go again.
A few months later, after the engine rolled around first 90k, then 100k, and then 115k, I started hearing slight noises infrequently, accompanied by slight loss in power. It was brief enough that I couldn't be sure if I didn't just let my foot off the gas. I went on vacation (Memorial Day 2005) drove with my girlfriend up to Nevada, and had no problems. On Sunday, we decided to go to town. I decided I would change the oil, since I was approaching 4000 miles since the last change, so while they waited, I jacked up the car, drained the oil, filled it again, and then we all hopped in my car and drove to the post office. We stopped to check the mail and I turned off the engine. I'm an environmentalist hippy, so I do stuff like that. Once my grandfather came out of the post office, I tried to start the car. Oh lord, what a noise it made. The engine wouldn't start - it would only repeat it's death throes upon command via the turning of a key. So there I was, 40 miles from home, 40 miles from the rest of the family, on a Sunday, before a major Federal holiday, 400 miles from home, and I've got piles of crap AND work on Tuesday. It would have been fine had it just been myself, but I had my girlfriend and my rather unhappy grandparents. We all stared at the car and pretended we had some clue about the car. By chance, a friend who also didn't know anything about cars showed up. While they were not mechanics, he and his son were truck drivers, so they knew more about cars than a bunch of environmental hippies who could tell you plenty about organic gardening or herbal remedies or web servers. They concluded my engine had blown a rod. To the salvage yard!
Upon hearing this, I was faced with a fierce predicament - I was miles from home, with people depending on me. More importantly, I was considering the idea of renting a car once again. Oh the horror! My grandmother remembered that one of their friends who owned the Mercedes repair shop had an old car for sale - it wasn't diesel, so I couldn't convert it, but it was a pretty little green 2 door, but she thought it was sold. Grandma called her friend, who just happened to be at home because his toilet was broken. Unfortunately, he had already sold the car but the buyer didn't pay him yet. If we could get over there first with the money, we could have it. My uncle arrived 10 minutes later, we piled into his van, and drove to the mechanic's house where we saw a beautiful 1981 280E Mercedes Benz imported car, which is in fantastic shape. After a bit of considering, I bought it for less money than the old crappy Escort!
So, here's to hoping this nice car lasts longer than my last car.
RIP 1996 Ford Escort - you only had 118,000 miles, and still managed to get 27-30 miles per gallon, but your reputation for breaking down on the side of the road is sadly well deserved.
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