The End of the Story…

I took my 1999 Honda Accord into my mechanic last week for its regular oil change and inspection. The body showed its age but the car still rode nicely, even beneath the weight of its 333,500+ miles. 

One of three things can happen when one takes a car made in the last century and with high mileage in for an oil change and a look under the hood.  The first is that the mechanic can come into the waiting room and say to you, “You’re all set.” The second is that he can come up to you with a clipboard in hand and say, “You need your (fill in the blank) replaced, but hey, we can do that right now if you like!” The third is that he can stick his head into the waiting room and say, “You need to see this.” “This” is never good. Rest assured that he is not going to tell you that he found a winning Super Lotto slip taped to the engine block.

Number Three happened to me. I was solemnly ushered into the workshop as an organ dirge started playing in my head.  My car was up on a lift and appeared okay until the mechanic started pointing at certain areas with a pen and demonstrating that particular areas were loose.  I am not mechanically inclined but I could see that the undercarriage had some major rust in a couple of strategic places where the thigh bone connected to the knee bone, and the knee bone connected to the leg bone, and…you get the idea. My car was breaking apart. I received a long and patient explanation to the effect that repairing it would cost much more than the car was worth, what with the age of and the miles on the car. In answer to my question of how long it would last in its present state, the mechanic shook his head and said, “Possibly five years, if you don’t hit a pothole, but more likely five miles. Or five blocks.” His summation — “You need a new car” — was one that required no further explanation. 

Some retroactive anxiety reared its head.  I had been driving my granddaughter and her friend all over the city during the Labor Day weekend in a car that was ready to come apart. The realization of what might have happened sealed the deal. I did some extensive research over a couple of days and leased something called a Honda Fit Hatchback. It has all sorts of bells and whistles that I am getting used to — I can now answer my phone using the steering wheel and rudely hang up on people, just like Ray Donovan  — but it is not much of an adjustment. 

I am a little upset. I try not to get too attached to the things of this world.  Cars specifically have never been important to me other than as a means of getting reliably from Point A to Point B. I am surprised by my emotional attachment in this case, however. I had a lot of physical and psychic DNA in that Accord. I used it to drive my children thousands of miles, to schools, parties, vacation destinations, movies, friends’ houses, shopping, concerts, and doctor visits. My granddaughter has been a passenger in it on an average of once a week since she was born almost fourteen years ago. I did some business traveling as well with it, going to and through thirty-seven states and having some adventures along the way, including a Pulp Fiction experience in Arizona and an encounter with tribal police in New Mexico which could have gone badly if not for my charming courtesy and winning smile.  I witnessed the most horrific traffic accident I have ever seen outside of a small town in North Texas. I drove to author conventions in Chicago, Indianapolis, New York, Nashville, Madison, Cleveland, and Phoenix,  made well over a two dozen trips to New Orleans and southern Louisiana, and somehow acquired a bunch of dear friends in the process. My Accord was always part of the story. Now it is gone. I donated it to a charity and watched as it boogied on down the road and across the rainbow bridge without me. 

 

The Honda Fit has a transmission which is called  “continuously variable,” a term that accurately describes my mood right now. It will in all probability be my last car, given my age and the manner in which my older friends seem to decline precipitously once they hit the downside of seventy. That’s part of a story that will be written at a future time by someone else. 

And on that note…

…have at it, chillun! Please tell us a car story, or your favorite book involving a car,.whether as part of a book written by someone else (you by all means can mention Christine or Drive), written by you, or a personal experience. Thank you and good day. 

All photos by Al Thumbs Photography

The soundtrack for today’s submission:

Rapture — Blondie 

Marquee Moon — Television

Y’All Think She’d Be Good 2 Me — C. C. Adcock

This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) — Talking Heads 

Spare Me a Little of Your Love — Fleetwood Mac

Looking for A Kiss — New York Dolls

What a Party — Fats Domino

Soul Kitchen — X

It’s All Over — Willie Nile

Sorry You Asked — Dwight Yoakam

Time Has Come Today — Chambers Brothers

The Kids Are Alright — The Who

Bitches Brew (album) — Miles Davis

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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

56 thoughts on “The End of the Story…

  1. I had a FIT in Orlando, when they were just showing up in the US. Because it came in ORANGE. (Actually, the Hubster did research on 3 comparable vehicles and said they were all about equal, so I went with the color.) I loved that car. I named it Zippy. I expected it wouldn’t survive a year in the mountains when we moved, but I got five more years out of it. Of course, that meant if there was more than an inch of snow on the ground, the Hubster was called upon to drive me in his pickup.

    When my current CRV was in for service and I needed a loaner, no question about what I requested. Man, it was fun driving that little guy up the mountain pass.

    Enjoy your Fit.

    As for books with vehicles playing a major role. I haven’t written one, and have no recollection of reading one. Sorry.

    • FIRST! Terry, I am howling at the image of you driving around in an orange car up and down the mountain pass. I love it! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I completely understand what you’re going through… Not mechanically inclined myself, but mechanically curious about what ought to be straightforward, I have had my man-card punched a number of times on things I attempted but discovered I should’ve paid the up charge for and gotten on with life ~ from my 1994 Pathfinder (affectionately known as the Hoopty), to the recently demised John Deere, I have spent more time futzing about, barking knuckles, and discovering new ways to string profanity (when there are no witnesses), instead of biting the proverbial, which would’ve put me back on the road or in the yard sooner, if not poorer (though there have been a few “AHA!” moments as well).

    Staying with the “write what you know” maxim, I opened a NaNoWriMo exercise one year with my protag under his ‘64 Ford Ranchero, watching strangers approach up his driveway.

    As to vehicles in others’ yarns, I often think of Travis McGee’s Rolls pick-up, Miss Agnes. (What is it with me and pick-up trucks? 🤔)

    As always, thanks for the opportunity to blather…

  3. George, I could listen to your “blather” all day, particularly when you invoke the spirit of Travis McGee. We share the same mechanical talents, apparently, though thanks to an instructional video on YouTube I was able to change out a broken side mirror. I then spent the next 600 miles showing it off to whoever was sitting in the passenger seat (“Look at this. It works! It moves! It didn’t fall off!”). Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

  4. Hey Joe,

    Al Thumbs isn’t a bad photographer. My stable of photographers includes: I.M.Shaky and Thum Onlens.

    To add to today’s playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ip_pjb5_fgA

    Had a 1984 Lincoln we called Christine b/c the power door locks popped up and down by themselves, the dash lights intermittently went black, and she sometimes put herself in gear and took off. The last incident happened at a friend’s surprise 40th birthday party.

    On their long driveway, I put Christine in park and left her running while I went to get the gift out of the trunk. As I’m lifting the gift out, the door locks clicked and she took off. I ran alongside punching the keypad trying to unlock it. As soon as the lock popped up, before I could open the door, it instantly relocked.

    A cinderblock retaining wall finally stopped her, but not before she had run over an above-ground water pipe, causing a geyser.

    Needless to say, my friend was VERY surprised.

    I hardly knew anyone at the party but they all knew me!

    We learned later the dealer who sold Christine to us neglected to mention the car had been in a flood. All the electronics had corroded, causing her weird behavior.

    • Debbie, I’ll be sure to pass that high compliment off to Al. Thanks.

      What a terrific story about your car. I’m glad that you weren’t hurt. That dealer needs to be introduced to forty feet worth of chain, a boxcutter, and ten miles of cinder road. You might enjoy reading More Better Deals by Joe R. Lansdale. It’s narrated by a crooked car salesman.

      What a TERRIFIC addition to the playlist. Thanks so much. Enjoy your day.

  5. Great story, Joe. I haven’t had many cars that I’ve become attached to, but I can think of two.

    My Dad owned a service station for about twelve years when I was in grade school. I loved going across the street to his station after school. That was back in the days when he wore “whites” to work…and came home with grease spots that Mom would somehow make magically disappear in the washing machine. I loved the smell of the three bays, and would beg Dad to let me ride up and down on the lift. (I also kept discarded car parts and a few tools under my bed, too.)

    The two cars: our present one, a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee with about 175k miles on it (we don’t get out much). We bought it brand spankin’ new in August 2003, and it’s been a great ride lo these many years; but it’s getting to the end of its life span, I fear. (Time to start looking for what will probably be our last car…) And then there’s my first one.

    A salmon pink, 1955 Chevy wagon Dad bought for me for $200 from my great aunt. (I paid him back with my part-time job money.) My aunt had put about 50k miles on it, then it sat in her garage for years.

    My oh my, when I pulled in to the high school parking lot for the first time in 1971, I, the shy, never-had-a-date-yet junior was surrounded by guys who appeared out of the brick work. It was like their fave rock star had suddenly descended from the clouds. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’d never had such cred before that day.

    I wish I had that car today, but alas, life intervened. I owned a succession of cars after that, but none like that one.

    • Those are wonderful stories, Deb, particularly the “first car story.” A car as an aphrodisiac…it doesn’t get anymore old school American than that. I’m discovering to my great surprise that such is still true. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Don’t think of it as losing your old faithful car, but as another step in your Accord’s independence. It just turned 21, after all, and that’s an age when the young’uns take wings and fly. 😎

    The funny thing about your post was near the end when I read “favorite book involving a car…” I instantly thought “What?” & scratched my head. It was truly a foreign thought to me since I read almost all historical and try very hard to disappear from the modern age of autos, computers & 5 million people per square inch to the days of yesteryear when horses ruled the travel pathways and you could go for quite a while without seeing another soul.

    So while probably not intended, your post was a reminder to me of what great value books are as an escape for all of us — who either want to read about the here and now, escape into the past, or warp into the possible future.

  7. Well, Joe. I’m so very sorry for you to lose an old friend, this one mechanical.

    But at the very least–the very, very least–it did not serve you up to that fate that the little green men suffered, when their craft, if all that wreckage that used to be out there was in fact a craft, and apparently people can still find bits and pieces of, outside of Roswell, New Mexico. (Actually, from what I’m told, the alleged crash site is 75 miles northwest of the town that’s become one of the world’s most used pieces of trivia.)

    That would have been really humiliating, wouldn’t it? Flying billions-upon-billions of miles from their home to New Mexico only to allegedly crash in a storm at a site closer to Corona, New Mexico, than Roswell. And after the deadly crash, only to wind up dead, your naked corpse on full display in many nationally-broadcast TV shows over the years. And worse, perhaps, never getting to eat a taco

    But the real questions about all of that are these (and I want you to spend all day today ruminating and/or meditating on these two things): what do you suppose the commercial jingle of the company that built the dang machines way back THERE, sound like, and was it built by their lowest-bidding contractor?

    I hope you enjoy your FIT. I know you’ll love having your granddaughter ride with you.

    • Jim, I have the commercial question down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT5e4pua9LI

      As far as the question as to whether the lowest bidder is concerned, my guess is probably. I’m wondering if the warranty covered failure on impact.

      The first trip that my granddaughter wanted to take was to the local mall to visit Bath & Bodyworks. I had never been to one of their stores but their marketing is terrific. Lots of sparkly jars, soft scents, etc. My new car scent didn’t survive the trip home.

      Thanks as always for stopping by, Jim!

  8. Good morning, Joe

    I don’t have any good car stories, except maybe the Dodge Minivan (early to mid 80’s) that tore up three transmissions in the first two years. And, I guess, my ’96 GMC pickup that I’m still driving, and has only 70,000 miles on it. I’ll drive it until it falls apart.

    Your Fit is a great looking car. I loved your old car’s stories and all the places and memories it held. I hope your new car will take you on many more new adventures, places, and create memories for your stories and books.

    • Good morning, Steve! Actually, those are two good — or should I say interesting — stories. Three transmissions in two years? I thought that was unusual until I did some quick research and found that’s apparently a problem with those. Yikes! As for your pickup…sure. I totally get it. I’m amazed at the relatively low mileage you have on it.

      Thanks for stopping by and for the good wishes. Have a great weekend.

  9. My wife and I also run vehicles mainly to get from point A to point B (and sometimes Z with a few stops in between) and keep them forever. We recently traded her 2008 Jeep Patriot with 240,xxx miles for a brand new Subaru Forrester. You’re gonna love that transmission—until the first snow hits. Ain’t nothin’ intuitive about that transmission and snow. Once you get the hang of it everything is better, but ohhhh the learning curve.

    My grandfather was an auto mechanic in western New York his whole career. Back in the late 1920’s, he was the only mechanic a local whiskey runner allowed to work on his car since Grandpa was the only one who knew about the tank under the back seat. I wrote a highly fictionalized short story about that car’s demise and its after-life. It placed in a local writing contest and I later used it to make the top ten in the Missouri Liar’s competition.

    As for my favorite book involving a car, I’m still drawn to a book we read in seventh grade by Henry Gregor Felsen. Hot Rod captured teen angst but also was exciting. The conclusion, as I recall from those 44 years ago (OMG has it been that long), was loaded with tension and excitement and one BIG moral bite.

    • Douglas…I was a HUGE fan of Felsen’s: HOT ROD, STREET ROD, and my favorite, BOY GETS CAR. I read all three in junior high (umm…57 years ago). HOT ROD was originally published in 1950 but stood up well in 1963 (and obviously in 1976) when things moved more slowly. Now something published in 2010 seems dated.

      That’s a great story about your grandfather. I hope he passed on many tales to you that become fodder for some of your other stories.

      Thanks for the warning about CVTs and driving in snow. I had no idea. I’ll head to the closest empty parking lot to practice when the first snow hits.

      • Funny. I was so moved after writing this that I went to Amazon and ordered Hot Rod (for the grandsons of course). His daughter recently (2011) re-printed it and added some commentary and photos. My (I mean the grandsons’ 😉 ) copy arrives Tuesday.

  10. These days, Joe, with *these cars* starting to drive themselves, having a mechanical aptitude doesn’t help. I hotrodded a 1930 Ford Coupe when I was nineteen, but anymore I refuse to pop the hood on our eleven-year-old Ford Escape Hybrid. Too many gadgets under there.

    Speaking of hotrods, I’m in the midst of a series about a street rod builder who solves crimes. The opener has Jack desperate to finish a frame-off 1940 Ford pickup rebuild for the Las Vegas SEMA show, or it’s back to the lube pits. When the car’s owner turns up murdered, the salient question for Jack, besides who killed the victim, becomes who owns the car now?

    I once traded in a Pontiac for a new Honda. Ten minutes after we got home with the new car, the salesman called to tell me the Pontiac’s engine froze on the mechanic’s first test run. Maybe my luckiest day.

    Sorry for your loss, but these old friends don’t last forever.

    • Dan, thanks for sharing the plot of your work in progress. It sounds like an extremely interesting two-pronged plot. As far as who owns the car is concerned, it will probably be the murderer, if the murder was married to the deceased!

      I like your luck. You probably had to find a new dealer after that.

    • I wonder if that story would be a “cozy”, or amateur sleuth. It’s hard for me to tell the difference.

      • Carl, my understanding is that cozies generally consist of stories involving amateur detectives who are women and which take place in small towns or villages which tend to be somewhat upscale. While murders take place, they do so off of the page without graphic description. There’s no crude or earthy language. Sex is generally a no-no as well, at least explicitly. The books are probably best described as “gentle.” And they are extremely popular.

    • My dad restored a 1941 Hudson pickup he took to car shows. He won a lot of awards. Beautiful vehicle. My daughter owns it now. (She got her love of trucks from her mom. 🙂 Her main rig is a little bigger than mine. She has a 1 ton 4×4 and I only have a 3/4 ton 4×4, but at least they are trucks. Handy out here in the wild west of Eastern Oregon and Idaho. 😀 ) I’d love to see a picture of your truck.

  11. There’s a scene in MASH where someone destroys a Jeep belonging to Col Potter, former cavalry officer. He sadly looks at his car, pulls out his pistol, and shoots into its engine block to put it out of its misery. That’s how I’ve always felt when a car that has served me loyally for many years needs to be traded for a new one. But at least it wasn’t as traumatizing as my last two that were totalled early in their lives with me.

    • Thanks for sharing, Marilynn. I’m glad that you were able to walk away from both incidents. Did your insurance agent decide to join a cloistered monastery?

      • The first was totally not my fault. I was tee-boned by a SUV the size of a Hummer. The second may have been my fault, but I don’t think so. I was at a stop sign ready to make a turn onto a divided four-lane road. I took my foot off the brake and barely touched the gas, and the next moment I was batting away the air bags with my car pancaked and straddled on top of a huge culvert in the median. How I could achieve that much acceleration in an older Ford Focus to make the leap over the culvert and plow bumper first into dirt at two-lanes’ distance is beyond me. Since I survived, Nationwide and the police didn’t autopsy my car to see what went wrong so I’ll never really know. I have heard of weird acceleration problems with Fords since then. I highly recommend Nationwide, by the way, they treated me very well for both wrecks.

        • I’ve heard of those acceleration problems with Fords as well, Marilynn, among others. Regardless, I’m glad that you’re still with us notwithstanding those experiences you described. As for Nationwide…I sit here typing about fifteen miles away from their world headquarters in the heart of Columbus!

  12. My son turned sixteen this year and got his first car just last month. It’s a 2009 Honda Accord. 192K on the mileage ticker, dull gray. It has a little 4-cyclinder with power comparable to my electric toothbrush… But my son loves it. There’s just something magical about that first car. My first ride was a 1977 Cutlass (had a V8/350). I get the hopeful feeling that my son will be speed-testing his ride and risking his life less than I did when I was his age.

    Honda is a good choice. I work in sales for a manufacturer selling suspension and frame parts to Honda America in Marysville (Ohio). What we make on a Monday morning is put on a car at the Honda factory Monday afternoon. It’s called ‘Just-In-Time’ supply. To do this well, attention to quality must be extreme. Honda’s quality standards are second only to Toyota.

    We also make GM parts. We use basically the same stamp-weld-paint-assembly processes for Chevy that we use for Honda. We typically get hit with seven or eight quality issues in a month on the Honda parts (which we are allowed to fix). We never hear a peep from GM’s quality department, though it’s basically all the same processes.

    I don’t talk much about cars in my stories, lacking the detailed knowledge to do so. My favorite car featured in fiction is that beautiful black 67 Impala from the TV series Supernatural.

    • Carl, thanks so much for stopping by and giving us a peek behind the veil. I don’t often think about all of the little parts that go into a car or just about anything, really, until they go don’t function. Just the simple act of turning on a ignition involves a series of mechanical interactions and the parts that go with them that are beyond my intellectual pay grade. I live just up the road from Marysville, btw.

      I’m glad you mentioned television series vehicles. My favorite was featured for a second in an episode of Miami Vice. Crockett’s undercover car got wrecked and he was furious that the only “”loaner” available was a pickup truck. “I can’t be drivin’ up to a million dollar drug deal lookin’ like L’i’l Abner,” he said. It was a jet black pickup with an extended seat. It looked so cool. Anyway, thanks again.

  13. Hi, Joe. Not only did I laugh out loud at your story, but the comments were also great. I haven’t driven a car for years. Just hearing the screech of brakes and accelerators revving in India sets my teeth on edge. I used to take motor rickshaws. I remember vividly the hole on the floor of my first car. I could see the pavement through it. I mentioned it to my dad who helped me buy it and he covered it with a mat. The best way to describe it was transportation. Take care. 😀 — Suzanne

    • Thank you so much, Suzanne. I like those tuk-tuks. They’re the cousins of what we used to call puddle-jumpers when I was younger (I originally wrote “when I was a kid” but I kind of still am one).

      I have a faint memory as a teenager of riding in an old car that had a hole in the floor. You could see the pavement flying by and it was mesmerizing. The owner called it the “Flintstone-bile” for obvious reasons. Be well, Suzanne!

  14. Oh boy do I understand your feelings about having to give up your favorite car. I had my favorite vehicle ripped out of my hands (literally). After my late husband passed away unexpectedly at the too young age of 48 (I was 44), my dad gave me a 1990 Dodge half ton 4×4 short bed, standard transmission, in my favorite color: blue. I loved that truck!

    I gave my 16 year-old daughter the car and never looked back. At the time I owned a flower shop and the truck was the perfect delivery vehicle besides my off-road-get-away-from-it-all companion. Yes, I went off alone in the wilderness with just my truck to the constant irritation of my dad. He didn’t care that I was 44 and almost a grandmother. He still wanted to know where I was all the time, until I remarried four years later.

    Then, came Valentines Day – my D-Day. I was rolling down Main Street with the last delivery of the day when I felt a hard jolt and heard the horrible sound of grating metal. In the review mirror I observed a fancy red sports car jerk to a stop with its front bumper torn off and lying in the street. What the heck? There had not been a vehicle in front of me. I would have seen it.

    As I watched, the driver hit the gas and flew at me. It was exactly like slow motion. I remember thinking, “Man that’s one mad driver!” Then the car smashed into the back of my truck. Parts flew up and down the street. I was thrown back and forth, hitting my head on either the steering wheel or the review mirror despite my seatbelt.

    People swarmed. Police were called. Then the truth was revealed.

    Witnesses stopped to watch a woman in the shiny sports car try to parallel park. She was unsuccessful several times and they all mentioned she was getting more frustrated and angry with each attempt. Realizing something bad was about to transpire, they stayed around. Good thing for me they did.

    As my front bumper passed her, she pulled out without looking and rammed my truck, scraping the side from front bumper to back. My back bumper tore off her front one. She panicked and hit the accelerator instead of the brake and rear ended me. That second hit totaled my truck. My beloved, blue, half ton 4×4.

    She didn’t stop there. She told the police that I had hit her. Thank goodness the evidence and witnessed said other wise. The responding officer actually walked her up to the front of my truck and pointed out there was no read paint on the front of my bumper, proving I didn’t hit her. All the damage was to the side. She started screaming and had to be restrained. Even her insurance company said she was a nightmare to deal with.

    My husband just bought a 3/4 ton diesel 4×4 club cab (which I called the Big Truck and mine was the Little One). He announced we didn’t need two trucks and suggested I buy a car just for the shop. I ended up with a Taurus SE station wagon. I hated the thing the moment I drove it off the lot. The six foot bed was good for cargo and the hair conditioning was nice, but I missed my truck. Still do. However, now that the Big Truck is our main vehicle and I get to drive it as much as I want, I am somewhat mollified. But it isn’t blue.

    • Oh, and I want to add, I knew everything mechanical about that truck. I helped my dad with it’s maintenance, packing the wheel bearings, oil changes, replacing the alternator, heater, and on and on. The one time I took it into a repair shop, I told the mechanics the reason the truck was sputtering, the fuel filter. They said I was wrong and kept it all day checking everything but. Of course, they hadn’t fixed it by the time I came back to pick it up. Finally they agreed to change the filter, but couldn’t find it. I had to point it out. It was in a odd place, under the driver side door. (I never went back to that place.) I knew it’s nuances, how it didn’t turn tight toward the right, but did on the left. It was my baby. I could go on, but I think I’ve bored you long enough. 😉

      • Those are great stories, Cecilia, not boring ones. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad that you weren’t hurt badly in the crash or its aftermath. Was alcohol a factor? We just had an incident here where a woman backing into a parking space in front of a speciality store at a local mall gave it a little too much gas and dumped her expensive car through the store’s plate-glass window. Oh, the Humanity! As for your one-shot mechanic, if he had been smart he would have checked the fuel filter first, as in “Yup, it’s the fuel filter, alright.” If you had been wrong, he could have called you and told you and said he would keep looking. Either way, they probably would have kept you as a customer…

  15. I had an ’82 Accord that experienced a similar EOL at around 200K miles in ’92–shortly after my ex got it as part of our settlement. It was too young, years-wise, but that’s Michigan winters.

    My father was into old VW bugs, and my younger brothers were stuck driving them to and from school–remembering to park on a down slope so they could start them without have to push them. They all had holes in the floor, usually covered with old license plates.

    Then there was the little red Mazda whose front struts were completely rusted free from their mounts, and the ’66 Rambler American with the bent driveshaft that went through universals like candy, till even the new-universal option was exhausted. I was actually able to replace the water pump on that thing with zero mechanical knowledge.

    At some point in the mid-80s my wife and I were away for a month or so and told the kids, “Don’t drive the Rambler more than a few miles from home.” We got home. “Where’s the Rambler?”

    “We lent it some someone, and it died half-way to Lake Michigan.”

    As for car stories–I just read Kate Flora’s Dead at the Wheel. Definitely not a cozy, since there’s no “car porn”–the MC knows nothing about auto mechanics.

    Which raises this question: could a novel that features an amateur detective but provides car porn rather than quilting patterns or recipes be a cozy (or, for that matter, one that features Gilstrap’s “gun porn”)?

    • Eric, I love your Rambler story, even as I sympathize strongly as a parent. At least your kids were straight with you about what happened, as opposed to giving you a story about the car was stolen. Thanks for sharing.

      As for your question about car porn and cozies…yes, as long as it adheres to the general rules, those being that the detective be a woman, that there be no violence, explicit sex, or foul language. Given that there are many cozy series, you could get away with dropping some car factoids or trivia in there. The target audience for that genre might even appreciate it.

  16. Hi Joe,

    I feel your angst at having to give up your favorite car. I’ve done likewise a few times, all Honda Civics. I had a ’91 which I gave to my wife when we bought me a 2000 in (wait for it) 2000. I do the bulk of the driving, so she wanted me to have the new one. That was a great little car. Ice teal, handled well. And that leads to my very short car story.

    In July 2003, I drove up to Olympia, Washington for an event, then drove back to the Portland area that afternoon to meet my wife at her brother’s for a family gathering. We left for home around 8:30, me in the lead in my 2000, my wife behind in the ’91. Our route took us up Mt Chehalem, about 1440 at the summit, then down again into a valley. A farm truck got between us on the highway before the big hill, and LeAnn lost sight of me as the farm truck labored uphill. Twenty minutes later, I turned off Farmington Road and headed north on a two lane road, followed by an old Subaru.

  17. Whoops. Extra return caused this to post to soon.

    To continue: As I drove north, a van blasted through a side street’s stop line and right across me. It was a huge old Ford Caravan. I hit the breaks, but couldn’t stop in time. I smacked into the van’s side and came to an abrupt halt. The van lumbered on, knocking down a street lamp and coming to rest in yard, after knocking over a tree.

    When the police arrived, they discovered the van’s driver was quite drunk (BA level of 2.1 taken there, 1.6 later). I was told I was lucky he jumped in front of me, rather than hitting my civic in the side. I wouldn’t be here if the latter had happened.

    My car was totaled.

    The wonderful 2000 Civic gave it’s life so that I might live, and I’ve never forgotten that. I still drive the 2003 Civic that replaced it.

    Have a great Saturday!

    • Dale, thanks for that story. If I may make so bold to correct you, I believe that you stopped in time. I take your point — you still hit the offending car — but if you hadn’t stopped when you did you could still have been seriously hurt even without being t-boned. Good work. Yes, indeed. That 2000 Civic should never be forgotten. Thanks for sharing, and you have a great weekend as well.

  18. I had a Hyundai Excel that i had a bad feeling about but my husband bought because it was the newest thing we could afford (it was only a few months old). I’m convinced Satan was its previous owner. It spent more time in the shop than it did on the road. It was always a choice between making the payment or getting it fixed.

    One day a collection agent called and threatened to repossess it.

    “Oh thank God!” I said. “The thing hasn’t run for a month. It’s in the parking lot at work. It’s open. The keys are in it. I’ve been hoping someone would steal it.”

    They never picked it up and never bothered us again.

    • Cynthia, thanks for this story. I am howling because I have heard similar ones regarding a number of different makes and models. I had an acquaintance when I lived in San Francisco in the early 1970s who had an MG that was a total lemon. He hated the car. He left it in a spot on Lombard Street — this was before parking meters, etc. — with the doors unlocked and the keys inside with the hope someone would steal it so he could collect the insurance proceeds. It sat there for six weeks before he gave up.

  19. Joe, I could post many car stories like how in college I drove a car worth $500 but equipped it with a $1,000 stereo, but all I think about reading this is my dad.

    I’m a book nerd and not mechanically skilled, but it never mattered because my dad is an auto mechanic (retired). Every time a shop recommended something expensive, I can call my dad and he’d usually tell me, “they’re trying to rob you. We can fix it for $20.” I’m 41 now, but I still feel like an amazed little boy when I see my dad fix a car. I’ve always admired that.

    Having an expert like that created a disincentive to learn about cars. Now, especially reading your car story, I’m feeling emotional because my dad was just diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer a few weeks ago. He’s really up against it, and I can’t imagine not being able to call him from the shop in hopes of hearing the car — and everything — will be just fine in his hands.

  20. Anon, thanks for sharing. I love stories about retired shop guys who become apple orchard mechanics. That said, I’m so sorry to hear about your dad’s news. As a father myself, I think he’d love to hear the tribute you sent to us if you haven’t shared it with him already.

    We’re thinking of you during this difficult time.

  21. Joe, you have my sympathy for your loss.

    I drove my first car–a very used Plymouth Valiant–for the rest of its life. I ended up driving it cross-country when I moved, sold it to my sister when I entered the service (she took it the other way cross-country), then bought it back from her when I got out. Yep, there was another cross-country trip involved in that deal. I did most of the work on it myself, including changing the oil, all the filters, changing and gapping the plugs, and adjusting the timing. It finally expired one evening when parts started falling off as I coasted down my street on the way home from work.

    The second vehicle I bought new–an Explorer–was my favorite. (Well, right behind the Toyota Corolla GTS I purchased when it was the first one on the town’s streets.) The Explorer had some hard miles on it when the check engine light started coming on every time I drove up hills or turned the AC or heat on. The service people couldn’t find any explanation. But I was loyal to that thing, staying with it even to the point of breaking down to get a flip phone just so I could call for help if I ended up stuck on the side of the road. That never happened, though I always had to find a place to pull off the road at the top of any significant hill and turn the engine off for a few minutes. I became very good at plotting a course that avoided anything other than gentle rises.

    Alas, the situation became so constant that I would end up prying my white knuckles from the steering wheel after the gentlest trip to town. I waited for a dealership’s “cash for trash” sale and said a sad goodbye as I left that ride behind.

    My current car is so small I can’t haul anything (sometimes a good excuse, other times a major frustration), and so boring I don’t relate to it at all. I miss those old vehicles that had heart and personality.

    • Thank you, Suzanne, for your thoughts and for sharing that story, particularly pertaining to the parts falling off of the car. I can relate. I think the worst in my case was when the gas line broke a couple of years ago. I called the Accord the Valdez for a couple of weeks afterward. And the check engine light…mine stayed on for about 75,000 miles for no particular reason. It was still tough to get rid of, however. Thanks again.

  22. Oh, car stories!! My late husband was a hot rod enthusiast, and in what I’m sure was a well planned effort, he started my conversion by buying my favorite car ever, a 1967 Corvette roadster, (visible in many of my social media photos) and restoring it for me. Poor guy though, he spent a lot of time prettying it up, to which I said “That’s nice honey, now make it go faster.” Which he did, to the nth degree. (I could rattle on about a 350, balanced, blueprinted yada yada engine, but I won’t.) We discovered that the leaf spring on the new (then) Z models happened to fit perfectly, so he installed that, too. It can take a 90 degree turn at 50+ and barely lean. Not that I ever did that, of course.

    I realized later, when he moved on to his own project, building a ’32 Ford roadster from the ground up, that the ‘vette had been a bribe; I could hardly complain about the time and money spent, now could I? 🙂 I didn’t care. If nothing else, I always knew where he was.

    • That’s a cool story, Justine. Thanks for sharing. It’s nice that you were/are so appreciative. My neighbor down the street is doing the same thing on a red Firebird for his wife. It looks great!

  23. My condolences, Joe. I get deeply attached to my cars, and when it’s time to part with them, I go into mourning. Those 333,000+ plus miles measure the good times and bad in your life. Rust in piece.

  24. Aaaaah, cars. I’m like a teenage boy when it comes to cars. Since so many people have told sad stories of the end of their car’s lives, I’d like to make mine a happy one. I’ve suffered my share of SADS (Sudden Auto Death Syndrome), but now I’m in the fortunate position to drive what is a dream car for many people: a black on black 5 series BMW. It’s a fun car. You just have to watch your speed, otherwise you’re going 85-90 miles per hour with no sensation of movement. It’s great.

    Anyway, for whatever reason BMW likes me as a customer. Or, at least I’ve managed to get onto some sort of list. Every time they have some sort of event in the area I’m always invited. Sometimes these are receptions, other times driving events. My favorite was a chance to drive a series of BMWs on a real racetrack, Pacific Raceways outside of Seattle. They did this in small groups, maybe 8-12. I was the only woman. We had to wear real crash helmets. We got racetrack instructions, and the VROOM! We were off. Down the straightaway and around all ten curves. As fast as possible. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Lemme tell ya, that was a blast. We got to do this multiple times, in different cars. I even took the opportunity to ride along with one of the BMW pro drivers for tips on how to go even faster through the curves. Oh, yeah, I’m hell on wheels.

    Getting the chance to let my inner race car driver persona rule is as fun as driving gets. If an opportunity like this ever comes your way, take it.

    I’ve pasted a link to someone driving that same track if anybody is curious. Just imagine yourself behind the wheel: https://youtu.be/KZ6O12Xx6Gc

  25. Thanks for sharing your experiences and that video, catfriend! Kind of reminds me of driving on the Jacksonville bypass in the late 1960s. I had no idea that a race had been named after me. Wow!

    BTW…BMW likes you for the same reasons that we all do!

  26. I was right there in that garage with you, Joe. The only vehicle I got attached to was my Mitsubishi Montero with a 5-speed stick, killer stereo, and sunroof (back when sunroofs weren’t a thing). Loved that puppy. She never gave me a lick of trouble. Most importantly, I looked cool driving it. 😉 To keep Ol’ Bessie alive I gave her to one of my characters. Now I get to visit from time to time.

    • Sue! Thanks for the commiseration. But…Mitsubishi Monteros are still manufactured and sold in the rest of the world! You should get one. BTW, we all know that your cool factor has nothing to do with your being behind the wheel! 🙂

      Have a great weekend!

  27. Great topic, Joe – sorry to be late to the comment party. OK – gotta boast about this. I grew up around the drag strip – NHRA Div 5 – and I had a ’69 Mustang Mach 1 428 Super Cobra Jet (Drag Pack) go through my hands. In 1975, my buddy knocked-up his girlfriend at the same time he spun the #4 main bearing in the ‘Stang block and pretty much f’d it, too. I inherited the car for a song so he could get a momma-wagon but… stupid me… I ripped out the 428 and stuffed in a 351 from a wreck and sold the fastback.

    Years later, a guy called me who had the bastardized muscle car – he wanted to know where the original engine parts were so he could parts-number it back to OEM. My brother had all the 428 stuff stored in the back of his shop for 30 years and gave it to the new owner who put that piece of history back to original condition. Wish I could post a pic of this now 6-figure collector car.

  28. Garry, you’re not late because we never close! That is quite a story. It’s amazing to me how actions which seem unrelated when performed ping pong back and forth and sideways across time. I’m not sure if everything is connected, but I am rapidly concluding that there is nothing that is unconnected. Thanks for the great story!

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