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Goodbye Old Friend, Hello Old Friend

“And now the sun’s coming up, I’m riding with Lady Luck, freeway cars and trucks,
Stars beginning to fade, and I lead the parade
Just a-wishing I’d stayed a little longer,
Oh, Lord, let me tell you that the feeling’s getting stronger.”- Tom Waits, ‘Ol 55

Rod: Despite my best efforts, and the conviction that THIS was going to be the vehicle that stayed with me forever, at 110, 945 miles my Chevy van failed inspection the other day. To anticipate state regulations,  I packed and sanded globs of  Bondo into rusty holes in a fender and rocker panel, but couldn’t patch the cancerous abscess in the engine block that was leaking coolant at an alarming rate. Feeling like a battlefield scavenger, I stripped the electronic EZ-Pass tag, license plate and registration from the Venture. Another untimely death of a Bunt automobile.

It’s happened before. A blown transmission on the ’95 Dodge caravan in 2004. Standing on principle, it took nearly a year of my objections before Rochelle managed to have it towed from our driveway for a charitable credit on our income taxes. A cute, red Plymouth Reliant wagon, pre-Car Fax days, that had apparently been rewired by a chimpanzee after an accident that a dealer swore never happened. The last time I saw that vehicle was in a service bay in a car dealership when the doctor/mechanic put his arm around my shoulder and said, “we did all we could son. By the way, we’ve got a nice clean ’88 on the lot that just came in this afternoon!”

It started in 1974 with my sharp ’69 Chevy Nova. Actually this belonged to Rosie and Jack Bunt (or, Mom and Dad). It was totaled on New Year’s Eve after a head-on collision with some poor drunk who hit me and my friend while doing 80+ miles per hour. An accident resulting in the loss of a good portion of the young man’s skull, not to mention a twisted, tangled mess of Detroit steel which should have been dragged to the nearest high school lawn as a cautionary tale about the dangers of drinking and driving.

A few years later came my first true automotive love- a 1971 Dodge Charger, big, beautiful and capable of speeds exceeding 140 miles per hour (provided the driver was under the influence of alcohol on a parkway at three in the morning). Thirty years later I still scan crowds, hoping to catch a glimpse of my former four-wheeled lover. Unfortunately, at the time most of my meager cash reserves were spent promoting bottles of liquor and financing apartment parties, so the mechanical state of my Charger declined to the point of bald tires and beer cans wrapped around a leaky exhaust pipe.

And I would be  remiss if I didn’t mention the loss of our ’99 Intrepid. Luckily the vehicle was already on the downhill, so after the sudden death of the engine I at least had enough time to coast to a liquor store in a neighboring town and console myself with a pint of vodka while I waited for the wrecker dispatched by AAA.

For Chrisssakes, it’s not like I’m losing a human being. It’s just a car. But it’s a damned shame.

Angela: I still remember my senior year of college, walking begrudgingly to my car because I was heading to my internship (I mean, what senior has shit to do on a Friday) when I smelled something funny. I spotted a huge puddle that spread underneath White Lightning (what the ’93 Chrysler Lebaron was endearingly referred to as) and the car next to it. The car next to it happened to be my sister’s, so I knew either outcome wasn’t going to be good…

… yup, definitely my car. What the fuck, I had just dropped 500 bucks the week before to get the oil gasket replaced because it was leaking. I stormed back to my apartment in a huff, shirking my car owner responsibilities until the morning.

R.I.P. White Lightning

When I woke up the next day I had a voice mail. “Hi, this is campus security. We had to tow your car. There was a gas leak that was causing a safety hazard, and the fire department had to come soak it up with special towels,” (“towels” that my sister joked were probably extra-large Shamwows.) That was the straw that broke the Lebaron’s back, and when Tim from Tim’s Auto told me how much it would cost to fix the ol’ beast, I knew the next time I’d be using her was when she was reincarnated as a tuna can.

Now, after a full year of borrowing my parents’ vehicles (thanks guys!), I can finally say I am the proud owner of a Toyota Corolla. Two-thousand and eight, phantom pearle gray, seventeen thousand miles. It couldn’t have happened at a better time, seeing as my dad’s Chevy Venture just bit the dust. I feel bad- he loved driving that big green monster. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a kick out of driving it, too.

I wonder what it will be about my Toyota that is most memorable; the 6-disc CD changer, side-view mirror defrosters and shiny dark gray exterior are all possibilities. Of course, I haven’t had the car long enough to know what I’ll really remember about it: What six CDs will be in rotation during future road trips, what weather will the car endure that requires those fancy defrosters? Only time will tell, but for now it’s just me and my lady on the road. That’s right, I’ve already determined the sex and name of the car. Goodbye White Lightning, hello Phantom Pearle.

Saying goodbye at the car dealership

Jackie: Don’t forget about my Purple Chevy Cavalier! She lasted me 6 years, and I probably could have driven her for a little longer, but after the whole brakes not working incident, I felt it was best to say goodbye.


Reply mention of the famous Ford Mustang that we started our marriage in? Standard and quite fun until all those babies came along…I used to look for that little number all the time as we drove with a car full of kids and a dog all around town.


wowzas jack nice surprise addition at the end! i want more.


ange nice job pulling all that narrative together into a cohesive story!


My first car was a delorean. I called Laurie.

Kate Mahaney

Long Live Phantom Pearle!

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