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New Wheels
Written October 19, 2003


Last month, I did something for the first time in a decade.  I bought a new car.

Here it is, a Subaru Legacy sedan in Mystic Blue.  (You can click the picture for another view.)

Once upon a time, new cars came into my life much more often.  My father was a Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealer, so our family always drove a "demonstrator."  The theory was that if a prospective customer wanted to test-drive the latest Chevy, we'd let him take our demo for a spin.  Actually, that didn't happen often; there were other new cars on the lot that the customer could try out.

But what did happen more often than I liked was that someone bought our demonstrator.  It was usually equipped with all the latest gadgets (for example, one 1958 Chevrolet had "air-ride" suspension), so it was attractive to the buyer who wanted a fully loaded model at a slight discount.  I remember a beautiful white-and-red sport sedan that I got to ride in only once before a customer took it away from us.

So the Thomas family changed cars several times a year.  I realized this was more often than necessary.  Once a year seemed about right.  Many of our customers did buy annually, replacing their "old" vehicle every fall when the new models came out.

When I got my driver's license in 1963, my father found an old 1954 Chevy on the used-car lot and gave it to me to drive while I was in high school.  It looked something like this model.

The plain-looking straight six wasn't the sort of sedan that would impress the girls, although I do recall being on a decoration committee with Roxye Carter and giving her a ride downtown to pick up some crepe paper.  (That's Roxye with me in the senior class play, from a yearbook photo.)

When I was in college I had no car, because students were discouraged from driving.

When I got a job in 1970, I drove a current-model Chevrolet.  Around 1973, I moved up to an Oldsmobile.  My father retired that year, so from then on, I actually owned the cars that I drove.

I stayed with Oldsmobile for thirty years, buying a new one every three years or so.  In 1993 I purchased what turned out to be my final Olds, this garnet red Cutlass Ciera.

It was much more trouble-free than the earlier General Motors cars that I had driven.  I could have traded it in, but there was no real need because it was running well.  I had set aside funds for my next car, but I didn't have to spend that money because I kept this one year after year.

The Olds passed 100,000 miles in the summer of 1999.  I had never driven one vehicle that far.  It passed 150,000 miles in the summer of 2003.  Finally, some little problems began to accumulate, and I feared that eventually something major like the transmission would give me trouble.  So before the car broke down, I broke down and bought a new one.

Oldsmobile, of course, will go out of business after the 2004 model year.  I considered buying one last Olds, but my local dealer also sells Subarus.

I decided that the Subaru would be my best bet for reliable transportation.  It corners much more confidently than the Olds, and its all-wheel drive will be a plus during our Pennsylvania winters.  And I didn't even have to worry about being considered un-American for driving a Japanese car, because my Subaru was assembled in Lafayette, Indiana.

So this is the car that I may be driving until I reach retirement age.  It depends on which of us wears out first.

UPDATE:  Upon reaching retirement age ten years later, I did in fact replace this Subaru with the latest model.  See it here.



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