Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Vintage Car Whine.....or What was I thinking when I bought that vintage Beetle?

Hi all!

I've been fairly busy and away from my computer more than I would like over the past couple of weeks because I've been looking for a "daily driver". That, for those of you who have always just sashayed down to the new car lot of your choice every 2-3 years, picked out all of the fabulous new features your little heart desires and selected the single most delectable color being offered to compliment your eye color and/or favorite Prada bag, means I've been going through the more stressful version of automobile buying - looking for a used car that is in decent shape that is also CHEAP. You see, I'm determined to not go into debt for a car right now. Not in THIS economy, right? Smart, right? Yeah. Right.

Do not think for a minute that I think that buying new cars every 2-3 years is a bad thing because it's not. I'm just trying to be careful and watch my pennies. I also have a couple of other projects that I'd rather be working on - like the restoration of my 57 Chevy and getting new windows in my house. Not necessarily in that order.

I still have the same considerations you new-car buyers do: Can I carry a brown bag with this car? Sure - brown is a neutral it will go with every thing. Is it going to clash with my fave vintage Ilie Wacs cashmere coat? Heck no - everything goes with a navy cashmere!

I sold my van about 10 days ago. The day I sold it, I found what I thought would be the perfect car: a used but extra low-mileage Miata convertible. Girls, it was red. What more could a girl ask for? Aren't we all supposed to love driving red convertibles? No? Ok - not everyone lives in a perpetual second childhood like I do. Personally I love a nice sports car. A red convertible sports car is my idea of one of the more perfect types of motor vehicles on the planet. Perhaps the Miata is not the ideal red convertible - perhaps even a BMW 5-series would be better but the price is right on the Miata - it's clean and well-cared for - looks good to me! But, I'm digressing.

So, I've decided I am going to take the Miata and then the guy with the Miata that only had 65,000 or so miles on it changes his mind in the middle of the deal and decides he can not part with his baby. Do we blame him? I think not but it was a grave disappointment for me. I was already feeling really self-satisfied - found something cute and inexpensive FAST. My friend, Leslie had already started visualizing us driving around with the top down and our hair blowing into a big mess with a WHO CARES? attitude because we were in a fun little red convertible.

Sigh.......and RATS!

Now, I'm totally without wheels. YIKES!

Because I'm now depending on a friend's kindness to take me to garage sales, estate auctions, the grocery & drug store and because my friend can most certainly not be expected to chauffeur me to the mall to go on the much needed search for the perfect pair of flats to replace that pair of Pappagallos that I scraped a huge chunk of leather out of while I was cleaning out the van before selling it, I am now in "rush" mode on buying a car. Any car. It just needs to RUN. Put some cheap wheels under me fast!

I get to the hard searching after losing the Miata and can not find anything cute and fun that has less than about 185,000 miles on it. A week passes. I'm stressing more every day. There is nothing but ugly old beat-up sedans with high miles and broken air conditioning, shredded interiors and head-liners hanging down around your shoulders priced at $2000 above dealer retail because it has "great wheels" on it. One vehicle had four windows that were taped up because the regulators were all out on them. A $2000 repair on a car that I did not even like. You can't even go through the drive-thru at Freddy's to get a concrete in a car like that. HELLO!

Have I mentioned that people seem to think that 200,000 miles is "low miles"? Are they living in the real world here? Please! My personal favorite was the one with 289,000+++ miles on it that you could not even drive across the street. And bad tires. And an interior that could not even generously be described as "fair" condition.

So, finally, I get a line on this not-so-main-stream offering: a 1968 VW Beetle that has had a lot of really righteous upgrades by it's current owner. Aftermarket add-ons to keep the windows from freezing over in the winter. Brand new seat covers, new carpet, new MP3-CD-AM/FM installed artfully hidden in the glove box. It's definitely not something I am really looking forward to driving for a long period of time BUT it is a great vehicle to drive around town for a while until just the right vehicle comes around. And the price was right. I am remembering the red one I had back in the 70s. It was so much fun to rip around corners in - you can park in between a pair of duellies at Wal-Mart without a care. It's easy to steer, stop, and cheap to keep. Good deal. Let's go!

We get in my friend's car and head down to look at the car. We drive it, we like it, think it's an OK deal. The owner is serving in the United States Air Force and he's obviously a smart, caring guy - he's someone I feel comfortable buying a used car from. We sit down and visit with him, he's so great we both agree we'd sure enjoy it if he gets transferred to our city so we can see him from time to time - he's a smart, interesting, nice guy. He shows me all of the things he's acquired to help with finding the necessary parts if something goes wrong or if I want to keep it a while and dome more restoration on it. It's all organized well in notebooks, boxed up in the trunk. It's a good deal. We do the exchange of Benjamins and the title transfer.

I get in the VW, friend gets in his Buick and we head back home. We stop for gas. No problem. Everyone in the lot at the gas station comes by, pets the Beetle and asks what year it is. People are passing me on the highway and giving me the thumbs up, smiling, enjoying seeing my ripping down the interstate in my newly acquired bug. I'm thinking 'what to name this one?' - the last one was Herman the German. This one is baby blue. Needs a more girly name. A guy driving a totally hot vintage GTO convertible pulls up beside me, give me the thumbs up, "right on" nods, all that, I give my version of the head nod/thumbs up commending him on his excellent vehicular choice as he roars around me and exits the highway.

We make another stop on the way home, endure more Beetle petting, questions and one man comes over, gives me his lecture on the art of making a turn in a VW Beetle. More questions, one girl did a swoon over the hood and proclaimed her undying adoration and life-long and very heart-felt desire to own one of these fine shiny versions of German engineering brilliance.

I'm feeling lucky. I buy a lottery ticket thinking that if I win, I might be able to survive without ever working again on the proceeds from a $179million dollar jackpot (less Uncle Sam's and the Lottery Commissions cuts) and that I've been so fortunate to find this cute vehicle that I will enjoy for a month or two while I'm looking for a better vehicle that I'm on a luck roll and the lottery jackpot is probably in the bag. I'm thinking that since they've lowered the price by about $2,000,000 on my dream cottage overlooking the ocean, I might even be able to afford to move out there on the edge of the world and rock back on the terrace watching the QEII coming in and out of dock. I'm feelin' GOOD!

I had realized at some point that I'd left something in my friend's car so I called him on my cell at a stop light on the way into our home town telling him I'd stop at his house before getting on home. He asked me to do something on his computer for him, we did all that, I head out, he waves 'bye' to me at his side door & I toddle across the street where the adorable little vintage bug is parked looking so charming and nostalgic.

Get in, fasten the seat belt, press down on the clutch, put the key in, turn it.


No click. No nothing. The lights come on nice and bright but: What the $*(!^%(@& is going on?

I tried to think of what I could be doing wrong. After about 2-3 minutes, I see the light pouring out of the door of my friend's house as he's realized that something is wrong.

It makes no difference what the banter was at that point. He goes back in, grabs a jacket and the keys to his car and runs me home. We make plans to go to an estate sale the next morning and address the car problem then - when it's light outside.

Next day it's 8 degrees wind chill factor. Decide it is way too cold to deal with the bug.

Saturday, we propelled ourselves to OKC to an antique show, shop, eat Italian. Get back to his house and discuss the situation with the VW ad nauseum - come to no conclusions.

A friend comes by to take a look at the VW and declares it a piece of cake to repair - it's GOT to be a short in the wiring or the ignition switch - a really easy fix.

I agree. Have chatted with the former owner and he concurs. Car still sitting out in front of the friend's house. Looking cute.

Maybe tomorrow.

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