The Final Chapter in My Auto Saga
In January of 1999 I found out my 89 Plymouth Grand Voyager needed a new engine block. I guess some things aill always be true, such as the old addage, "Burning motor oil & blue smoke are never good things in a car".
I bought that car while on the road with a circus because my previous "disposable car", a 1985 Dodge Caravan, a car also plagued with oil problems, exploded on the highway. I had to get to the next gig and finish the tour and I found a single owner car, the Grand Voyager.
I paid $2500 for that car and I thought I'd have it for much longer than the 6 months or so I actually got to drive the thing. I was devastated. I had no money for a new car and didn't even have any cash for a disposable car. I was fooked!
On January 22, 1999 it was decidedly snowy and awful outside and that felt like the best time for me to look for a car. On a foolish whim I went car shopping to see what was available. I'd pretty much decided I was going to need long-term reliability and stop my cycle of crappy cars. I'd owned nothing but cars that I could scrap in a hurry and I'd never once in my life gotten rid of a car without NEEDING to get rid of it due to massive system failure.
I found this 1996 Ford Taurus, a program car, with 32,000 miles on it. My dad had owned one of the earliest models of the car and the damned thing is still on the road to this day. Back then it seemed like a great idea to get this car.
I got some cash together on my own and got some money from my mother. What I could scrape together along with the "$2000 for ANY trade-in" offer gave me a down payment of $3500.00. That got things in motion.
I had horrible credit (still do) and though there'd be no way I was going to get this car. However as long as there's high interest rates and a blizzard falling to the ground, ANYTHING was possible. The car would be mine should I decide to take it home.
What ultimately sold me on the car was sage wisdom from my older brother, the cash from my mother, and the salesman's willingness to buy me some Lou Malnati's pizza (the BEST pizza in Chicago or anywhere on Earth) for lunch while I mulled it over. Before too long, my panicking about making payments was gone and I was driving home in the Taurus.
I worked my ass off to get more gigs BECAUSE of the car. I traveled everywhere in that car to go to gigs. Had there not been a few monetary emergencies along the way I'd have had it paid off in 3 years. Regardless, that car made me work harder and I did in fact get more work & never made a late payment. It was paid in full on October 29, 2004, a little earlier than Ford expected.
This car was the best car I'd ever owned. Aside from a few repairs, mostly regular maintenance, it had NEVER failed me. There were a few times I had to be towed home, but when I HAD to be somewhere I made the trip in comfort and safety.
As an example of its reliability, the car's original factory alternator did not need replacing until the 155,000 mile marker. The damn thing still turned when I took it out! I was on the road in Ohio and didn't want to chance it failing along the way. I even joked with the mechanic when he told me the thing needed replacing. "What?! MOTHER-FUCKER! You drive a car 155,000 miles and you expect to get a few miles down the road on an alternator!" We all marveled at the car's resolve.
I drove that car thousands of miles, ending its run with me at the 180, 366 mile marker. The last few years I'd taken to renting cars for the longer trips to avoid the headaches associated with repairs away from home.
I changed the oil religiously, gave it regular tune-ups & transmission or radiator flushes, and made sure it always had good tires. In the last few days with me it developed some electrical quirks and needed front brakes. If I'd have fixed the few things wrong with it I'd still be driving it today and would likely get another 50,000 miles on the darned thing. It told me before my Duluth trip that it was time to retire.
When I returned from Duluth I took the money I'd earned that week and bought a new car.
Today, I sold my old red Ford Taurus. Not owing me a darned thing, my car served me one last time and provided enough money for me to make my first car payment and then some.
I'm absolutely in tears as I write this post. Without reseserve, I love that car!