Friday, May 14, 2010

Wistful for a beast

I'm not one of those guys who takes fantastic care of his car. I don't take it in for oil changes as frequently as I should, I don't get it washed (it's gonna rain anyway), and I certainly don't name it.

But lately I find myself increasingly wistful for a machine I treated like crap in the 6 years or so I owned it.

I'm talking about my old Jeep Grand Cherokee. A '95 model, the thing lasted me longer than I probably deserved to have it last. I finally admitted it was time to move on when the rear wheel bearings, ring-and-pinion, and differential all started to go at the same time. That's $1500 of repairs, at least, and the car definitely wasn't worth that anymore, so I sold the thing for what I could get ($475) and got a '99 Taurus with more problems than it let on.

But that Jeep, man, that Jeep. The beast saved my life once when the driver's side front wheel came clean off the car when I was traveling at 65 mph. State cops later said if I'd driven anything smaller than my beastly SUV, the car would have rolled and I probably wouldn't have walked away from the accident completely unhurt.

And despite how poorly I treated the thing (go 6-7,000 miles between oil changes, leave it out in the elements, etc.), the beast took everything I threw at it, chimed "thank you sir, may I have another", and kept right on rolling.

I loved that car. It hurt a bit to have to move on from it when I know it still has life. It felt a little bit like abandoning an aged pet cause it got an ear infection but was otherwise okay. I've found it worse because there are so many mid-90s Grand Cherokees out on the road still - it's as though the world at large is rubbing it in my face that my car couldn't make it.

(Of course, there are nearly as many if not more late 90s Ford Tauri out there, but still.)

My Ford and I haven't yet developed that symbiotic relationship that my Jeep and I did. Of course, that's probably a function of so many things needing fixing on the Taurus (engine skip, coolant flush, new tires, needed brakes and bearings recently, transmission slip), and frankly, I'm not sure it ever will reach the level my old Jeep did. It's a terrible thought, but once I'm settled wherever the boy and I end up living, I want to start thinking about how long it will take to save up for a better used car.

Until then, however, I'm going to remain wistful when I see a mid-90s Jeep on the road, because I should still be driving one.

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