5/3/06

How many MPB* does it get?

I was on my way to work this morning and I was waiting at a red light next to another car. The car happened to have a "For Sale" sign in the window. It was a pretty nice looking car, so I started checking it out. I don't need a car, it's just something I do. Don't judge me. No rust, no dents, not bad for the asking price.

I looked up at the driver just in time to see him nose-mine a good-sized booger and wipe it on the pillar between the side window and the windshield. I was going to roll down my window and ask him if he was going to throw in the whole collection at no extra cost, but I figured that was a given.

This got me thinking, which, as you all know, isn't always a good thing. I've purchased my share of used cars, and I got to wondering how many ounces of other people I've actually owned over the years. All the bitten-off cuticles and fingernails, the dandruff, the lost hair....everything you can think of stuck between the seats and ground into the rug. You name it, and it's probably there somewhere.

Luckily, I bought my last car new, so I don't have to wonder how many of someone else's farts the front seat has absorbed before I got it. Probably a max of three or four would be my guess -- just from the test drives, I would think.

I've also had my share of piece-of-shit cars over the years, and I promised Sarah that I would mention some of them. In fact, in talking with her today, I remembered quite a few details I otherwise probably wouldn't have. So let me tell you about my first junker, and my last junker and maybe one or two in between:

An orange 1975 subaru two-door coupe - This is the car that I learned to drive on. I failed my driving test the first time because this orange piece of crap overheated in the middle of an intersection. My father bought this car for 200 bucks, and the only thing that was really wrong with it, (other than the fact that the paint was so chalky that the orange had faded to the color of wet baby aspirin) was that the support member across the motor was rusted out, which meant the fenders were falling in toward each other. If you opened the hood, you would never get it closed again without a guy on either side pulling on the fenders. I learned this the hard way the first time, and ended up driving home doing 15 mph with a torn strip of t-shirt holding the hood closed. A little creative welding, however, and it was good to go.

It had an aftermarket cassette player in it -- and I am not talking about an in-dash. This thing was the size of a small suitcase and it hung down under the dash on two sharp brackets, just far enough to guarantee that you would bang your knee on it at least once every time you drove it. On the plus side, the motor on the cassette ran slow, so it was really easy to hit the high notes in the REO speedwagon and Triumph songs. The stereo system also had a separate component amp, and the genius who had the car before me had wired it wrong so it was always on. In addition to the gigantic ear-splitting POOMP! sound that happened every time you turned the radio on, if you didn't disconnect the amp at night your battery would be dead in the morning. Eventually, I got tired of forgetting to do this and I fixed the issue permanently by tearing the piece of shit out from under the dash and leaving it in the dumpster at Star Market.

The other shitty thing about this car was that it only weighed about a thousand pounds. Having both an easily identifiable orange car that weighs considerably less than Rosie O'Donnell, and friends that like to fuck around with you at every possible opportunity is not a good combination.

I would stop at the convenience store for a soda, or come out to the parking lot after work, and my car would invariably be in a different location. It wouldn't have been so bad if that location wasn't (a) on the sidewalk, (b) up against the side of the building with the driver's side door about an inch from the wall, or (c) nestled sideways between two other parked cars. I can't count the number of times I had to climb in through the trunk and pop the back seat because I didn't have room to open either door, or wait for one of the owners of the other cars to come out so I could actually move.

The day the car died, I was driving along minding my own business when suddenly it felt like I hit the mother of all potholes. I slowed down and pulled over, but didn't see anything obviously wrong. I opened the trunk, thinking maybe the spare tire had shifted. Indeed, it had. It was being pushed up by something coming through the floor of the trunk that looked suspiciously like the rear spring and shock absorber of the passenger side rear tire. I didn't know much about cars, but I was almost positive that what I was looking at was supposed to stay underneath the car at all times. A little more creative body work, and it was ready to hit the classifieds.

I sold the car to a guy who wanted it to make a single run to North Carolina or something. I expected the bondo'd up trunk spring to give way first, but he returned the next day and wanted his money back because the engine exploded about 2 minutes after he got it on the highway. It had an aluminum block, and he actually brought pieces of the engine back to show me. My dad felt bad and gave him half his money back. $25 bucks, I think it was.

1969 Impala - The first car I actually owned free and clear. I got it in 1981. This was my dad's old junker before it became mine, and he offered me a choice as my high school graduation present: The car, or $300. I figured the car was worth at least $400, so I took it. I bought aluminum mag wheels for it, and when they wouldn't fit, I cut the wheel wells out with a saw. When the exhaust fell off, I put on headers and had side pipes welded on. It got 8 miles to a gallon, and blew dense, white smoke for the first 10 minutes after you started it up. It was so bad that it looked like they were fogging the neighborhood for insects. The car was primer grey and blue, and had orange Rolling Stones tongue logos stenciled on every surface, and across the back of the trunk, written in black sharpie, were these immortal words:

Life is Just a Cocktail Party On The Street

My parents were so proud.

Eventually, I did some body work on it, glued blue shag material to the front and rear dash, installed a siren, and painted it refrigerator white. It was pretty reliable for the most part, and even though it stunk like an oil refinery fire, it only gave me trouble once. I was at a bar not far from home, and when I came out, the transmission wouldn't go into Drive. It would only go into Reverse.

After fiddling with it a bit, I did the logical thing. I bummed a ride home from a friend. No, I didn't, because that would be stupid. Instead, I did what any normal teen would do after a night of drinking -- I drove it home backwards.

1986 toyota tercel - My last piece of shit car was one that my brother gave me when he moved to Boston. I wanted to use it as a winter car so I could take my miata off the road. The car ran great, but had a host of problems. The most immediately noticable: It had no carpet and no headliner in it.

The radio worked, but only on AM, and it made a sound like a buzz saw when you hit a bump. It was an in-dash model, but it wasn't completely in the dash. It was just placed in there. Not fastened to anything -- so if you took off too fast, it would come shooting out of the dashboard into your lap. The cassette player in the radio would eat 90 minute tapes for breakfast. You could tell when it was dining because the song would get faster and faster until the singer sounded like Alvin the chipmunk.

The driver's side window was permanently up, and the inside of the door was in the backseat. This was from a below zero repair attempt to address the fact that the driver's side window was permanently down.

The entire thing smelled like cat pee when it rained.

I found out later that it was actually mouse pee, and the little bastards had made a nest that looked like an inside-out futon under the hood of the car. By the time I had discovered it, it was huge. It's amazing that the engine could get enough air to the carb to actually run, let alone avoid instantly bursting into flames. I evicted about 14 of them, but the smell never went away. I have often wondered if they looked forward to their daily commute.

As an added bonus, the car was a stick shift, and since it had no carpet, you could actually see road through the rusted out console. I used to stuff the crack with old McDonald's bags when it rained to keep the water from splashing on my leg from underneath.

Toward the end, it started beeping the horn randomly when turning right.

This was awesome if you happened to be be stuck in traffic on an off ramp behind a group of Harley bikers, because as a rule I have found that they are very helpful people and they will come back to your car and ask you if you have a problem with your sexual performance. They are really caring that way.

Anyway, when I had enough (in other words, when my wife said that either it went or I did) I gave it to a friend of mine for nothing.

He drove it for another year before something bad happened in the front end and it would only turn right.

He made right turns for 2 more months, then got rid of it.

It still ran like a sewing machine, and it had over 200K on it.

Try that shit with a chevy.

*miles per booger

12 comments:

  1. I am so happy right now. This is AMAZING. Um...how come you threw in "installed a siren" without providing any explanation like it's a totally normal thing to do.

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  2. Sarah - because the reason is perfectly obvious to anyone who has ever been a teenage boy.

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  3. _sahirs9:57 AM

    memories are the best! happy driving and many more used cars for you.
    new cars just don't make interesting life, do they?

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  4. Too many POS cars...too little time to tell all the colorful stories. Thanks for the entertainment! I kept hearing "Memories" playing in the background, interrupted often by REO Speedwagon's greatest hits. Damn those guys were good....

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  5. Siren. Classic.

    "Toward the end, it started beeping the horn randomly when turning right."

    We had a Volvo that this started happening in. I discovered it while sittin behind 4 Hells Angels on Harley's on Richards Street in Vancouver. The horn sound reverberated off the buildings and made it 10x louder. Meanwhile I'm leaning out the window yelling to the pissed off bikers that I'm not honking the horn, it's the car.

    Luckily, they just flipped me off and drove away. I could have been killed.

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  6. Damn, now why didn't I think to install a siren in my last POS car? My favorite one was an old Datsun stationwagon; the driver's seat had no cushioning left. It was all giant exposed springs so whenever I wore shorts I had to cover them with a towel or risk buring the backs of my thighs in the summer. Whenever I stepped out of the car the cuff of my shorts would catch on the springs and you'd head this huge SPROOOOOOINNNNNGGGGGG! But it ran like a top and carried lots of drunk friends where ever we happened to be going that weekend.

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  7. again, with the excellent funny stuff. mousey commuters. horns randomly honking....too funny.

    my sister had a boyfriend who had an outhouse looking shack on the back of his truck. he attached an old fashioned brass honker horn on the side of his car.

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  8. Fuckin near died laughing man!

    I have had cars with the exact same problems but I think I'm a lot older and had a crapload more wrecks....

    Keep it up....

    Thoughts

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  9. My first car was a Nissan Sentra. That is nothing special, but not many people can say they learned how to drive, stick even, in Manhattan. =D

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  10. why are all the google ads on your page about Urine?

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  11. Mckay -- I have no idea. When I looked, they were all about mold and mildew.

    I'd almost prefer urine.

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  12. Ian_from_Edmonton10:26 PM

    Being a teenage boy once, I found it necessary to install a bullhorn under the hood of my Chevette and hook it up to the PA output of a CB radio.

    I tell you, little old ladies get quite startled when God tells them to turn off the left turn signal that's been on for the last half hour. And calls them Sweetcheeks.

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