Wednesday, April 3

The Wild Stallion 5.0.



My first car was a 1986 Buick Somerset (shown above). In 1998 (at age 16) I paid $200 for it with my own money as a bartender (I've told this story before). It was massive, it was embarrassing, and as most cars go, it housed some of my most cherished memories. Even when I eventually sold it (for $50), it still worked as perfectly as you could hope for.

The Somerset was unique for its age in that it had a fully digital dashboard. The mileage, speedometer and fuel gauge were all LED displayed, and there was even a button that allowed you to toggle over to metric. I liked switching it when I drove my younger sister around; I'd drive 70 MPH, and it would display 113, which always seemed to terrify her.

Eventually I hit a deer with it (with the Somerset's hulking front end, it didn't stand a chance), but as parts for this car were impossible to come by, I had to compromise by zip-tying the headlights into an ill-fitting replacement grill. From that day forward, I couldn't see anything when I drove after sunset; the tops of the telephone lines and the ditch were plenty illuminated, but that was about it.

That was The Wild Stallion, and like most First Car Relationships, I cherished it.

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Like I said, I eventually had to sell the Somerset and 'upgrade' to a 1993 Ford Tempo in 2001. All I really remember about this car is:

1. It had well over 250,000 miles on it before I even turned the key on.
2. Every single thing inside of this car was broken.

Everything. Every light, every knob and every button was faulty. Nothing worked, nothing. I would blow a fuse every time I tried to jury-rig my CD player in there, which led me to keeping a spare hundred or so fuses in the glove compartment.

It never broke down, though. As legend has it, some still see this car rolling around the streets of Winneconne with a Mediocre At Best sticker on the trunk, odometer creeping closer and closer to 1,000,000 miles.


Upon moving to Madison, I purchased 'The Wild Stallion 3.0' in 2004, which was a 1997 Escort Wagon. I really quite enjoyed driving a wagon: I'm never one to be too self-conscious about the cars I drive, and it held all my groceries and corpses and whatnot. The only reason I sold it was that my in-laws wanted to sell me their old vehicle at a price I couldn't refuse (more on that in a second).

The Escort allowed us to move to two different apartments without the assistance (and fees) of professional movers. I strapped the mattress to the roof; the whole nine yards. However, there were some costly repairs that begin to become commonplace, so I had to see it for cheap and start over again. 

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In 2007, I bought a 2002 Mercury Sable that I drove until about two weeks ago. It was roomy, it had Climate Control (and a cassette player!) and a kickass engine.  It belonged to my father-in-law, a auto enthusiast that good very good care of it, and was always kind enough to share knowledge on repairs and certain behaviors. Unfortunately, time was not on the 'Wild Stallion 4.0's side, and the amount of repairs and fixes once again became insurmountable.

The Missus determined that we needed a new car. I was leery, not only because cars are sort of expensive, but also because I've never purchased a 'new' car in my life. I didn't understand the process and I didn't know if we could afford one. When the Missus gets an idea in her head, though, it expands with life until it completely transcends argument and logic. By the time she was done with me, it wasn't so much "How can we afford a new car?" as "How could we afford not to?"

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The Wild Stallion 5.0 is a 2013 Ford C-Max hybrid. It's astoundingly energy efficient, runs on a combination of gas and electric, and can get nearly 45MPG under normal circumstances. I think it's purty, but it blends in nicely with society and doesn't drive or feel like some of the earlier, flimsier hybrids. This car is roomy, heavy and fast.

There are a ton of settings that allow you to monitor how efficiently you're driving, which is pretty cool, although I have no idea how to change my driving in order to be 'better' at it. The Sync system allows for hands-free everything, and to my surprise, it's actually quite receptive. And even though satellite radio is completely unnecessary, I know I'm going to keep subscribing to it for the all 90's channel.

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I've never driven anything even close to a vehicle like this, and I almost had to re-learn the art of Driving in order to properly manhandle it. There seems to be a whole lot going on at once behind the wheel of this thing, but after an hour or so of tooling around the neighborhood and forgetting to look out the windshield for minutes at a time, I think I've got it mostly figured out.

So after 15 years of used relics, I can finally say I have a new car. The wrinkled hand of Fate will probably put me in an accident by the end of the week that throws me back to square one, but that's a risk I'm going to have to take. The Wild Stallion 5.0 is go.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. The Walking Dead Friday arrives in less than 48 hours.

Comments:
The first car I bought myself was a 1987 Volvo 240D leading into my first senior year of college, summer of 2001. Big ol' shitbox, bought for a grand from a hippie from Janesville. The tires were worn out because the alignment was off so I bought a set of used tires from the local body shop, $10 a tire - Safety First! A month or two later the tailpipe fell off when I was driving to work. The muffler was still intact but was located about five or six feet from the rear bumper and it pointed to a rusted out hole in the floorboards, bringing about an exhaust fume issue that might explain some of my poor decisions that year. I did pick up the tailpipe when I was driving home that night and carried it around in the trunk for the next couple months, setting up my standard "Oh, I know exactly where it is" response whenever someone told me I was missing it.

After a year the tires leaked so badly I'd have to pump them up weekly, usually coinciding with topping off a quart or two of oil. I kept a dipstick rag tucked in a corner above the wheel well for convenience. The alternator eventually gave out that winter, stranding my father and me in Verona where we waited in a liquor store for my sister to retrieve us. That night the combination of my dead car and the Badgers' poor third quarter play against Colorado in the Alamo Bowl drove me to drink, and then the Badger comeback and OT victory led me to drink more. The next morning my unsympathetic mother took me car shopping where in the throes of a vicious hangover I found the Saturn I'd drive for the next five years. Yet the legend of the Volvo did not die as my father had the alternator rebuilt and tires replaced, getting two more years out of it.
 
Nice; I love shitty car stories. I don't really like cars all that much, but there's a specific type of emotion when you're talking about the first vehicle that belongs to you. It's a whole new kind of freedom.

I had similar muffler issues with my Buick. Celia tells me that she could literally tell when I entered the village of Winneconne by how loud my car was.
 
Your Sable was a 2000, babe. My Mini is a 2002 :)
 
You could have corrected me in private, you know.
 

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