I hate to say this but if the American automobile industry dies, the public will get what it deserves. A recent CNN poll has 61 percent of respondents opposing the Big Three’s plea for a government loan to stay afloat. Several so-called “i-reporters” have displayed their ignorance by claiming that foreign cars are better than domestic brands. From my own experience, that’s rubbish.
I drive an Oldsmobile Intrigue, vintage 2000 (left), and it has more than 100,000 miles on the clock. My only serious complaint in these past eight years is that the window motors failed. I am totally confident that if I decide to play golf today, the car will start and run with no trouble. I had a Taurus before that, and before that an Oldsmobile, two Cadillacs, a Chrysler Fifth Avenue, a Pontiac, a Ford Capri, a Mustang, a Camarro, and so on.
My wife, Sandra, has a wonderful little Escort (below) that she has driven for 13 years. It has run for nearly 90,000 miles and looks like running for another 90,000. I haven’t checked the gas mileage lately, but I would be surprised if it isn’t in the high 30s. One tank of gas seems to last for weeks. She made the mistake once of buying a Nissan, and that piece of junk was in the shop more than it was on the road. When the transmission went out at 75,000 miles, we sold it to a mechanic for a dollar. The car she had before the Nissan was a Pontiac, and that lasted for years and years.
Once, when I was in financial trouble, I bought a 1965 Oldsmobile, which had been sitting under an oak tree in a Florida junk yard for who knows how many years. I named her Matilda. Before I could get Matilda to run, I had to clean out a squirrel’s nest in the carburetor. She was 24 years old, but I got her on the road and she transported me from place to place for a couple of years. Unfortunately, the squirrels had done some lasting damage to the carburetor and I was too cheap to replace it, so Matilda (through no fault of her own) left me stranded from time to time. A mechanic in Miami, who lived in the same condo complex as Sandra and me, promised to fix it. He removed the carburetor while I was asleep one night. The next morning, when I turned the key – kaboom! Goodbye Matilda.
My father never drove anything but a Ford, except for a 1937 Chevy that was a real work horse. Nobody I knew as a child who drove a pickup truck bought anything but a Ford or Chevy. Well, maybe a Dodge. Those Dodge pickups were “tallawah,” as they said back in the mountains of Jamaica. At one point we had a Jeep for off-road chores, and that thing could climb straight up a grassy hillside. Once the hill was so steep that it flipped over backwards and nearly killed poor Uncle Arthur.
My daughter, Grace, is driving up (from Miami to Lakeland) with her husband Frank and her sons, Jonathan and Adam, to see us after Christmas in her Saturn, and – believe me – it will get them here safely and comfortably. Frank has a vintage Caddy that he treasures, but it’s not easy on gas.
My sister’s husband, Wendell, always drove an Oldsmobile until he switched to a Buick Roadmaster, which he loved. Recently, he inherited a beautiful Cadillac. Wendell and my sister, Elizabeth, drive back and forth from New Port Richey, Florida, to Toronto, Canada, two or three times a year – so far, without incident. My brother, Bill, also has a love affair with his Caddy, which he will be driving from London (Canada) to Florida this winter, as usual.
My wife’s father, Buster, had an Impala for more than a decade and reluctantly sold it – as a favor – to a friend’s son, who totaled it. My brother-in-law, David, bought Buster one of those Chrysler X-cars – I think it was a Plymouth – and he drove it for the next 20 years or so. After his death it went to his sister, Ruthie (God rest your soul, Ruthie – we miss you!). I will bet anything that X-car is still chugging along somewhere.
So don’t try to tell me Americans can’t make cars. Look around you: What really, really old cars do you see on the road? No Sentras or Suzukis, a Toyota or two, maybe, but mostly Fords, Chevys and Chryslers. I wonder whether his beloved Hyundai will be around when my grandson, Jonathan, is my age. I doubt it (and not just because he keeps running it into things). I will bet anybody a sawbuck right now that Sandra’s Escort will be chugging along then, though. That baby is immortal.