I wish I loved cars.
Then I could feel excited about the world of choices in the marketplace and play out some fantasy about getting what I always wanted. I could better relate to the kind of ad pitched successfully by Don Draper on “Mad Men” last season: “Jaguar: At last, something beautiful you can truly own.”
The last time I felt a rush of excitement about a road machine was in 1985 when I bought a Honda Magna, a 500cc motorcycle that took me back to my late teenage and early adult years when motorcycles made my heart race. The Honda got my heart going at age 40, not because of the wind in my hair and the allure of the winding road, but because I felt tremors of apprehension that I never felt in my youth. I sold the bike six months after buying it.
I mentioned in March that I was getting none-too-subtle pressure from my wife to dump my 1997 Camry with the flaking paint. She admitted that it was shallow of her to feel embarrassed by the car’s presence in our Land Park driveway, but that was how she felt.
I’m not perversely proud to be driving an eyesore, but the car, which was hers until 2005, has only 123,000 miles on it. I use it mostly for around-town driving. Why put out money for a new car – or at least a newer one – when I could get maybe another 50,000 miles out of the Camry? Didn’t my father keep his 1939 black Chevrolet until he died in 1967?
Yes, he did and that isn’t a trait I necessarily want to emulate. While it’s wise to be financially conservative, it’s unwise to saddle one’s senior years with unnecessary worries. Lord knows there’s enough to worry about.
For example, the Camry, which has no cute or endearing name, flashed its engine-check light recently. That was a signal to fork over $400-plus for the repair of some esoteric part in the fuel system. In the “remarks” section of the bill, my mechanic reminded me, as he has for the past two years, that the radiator in my car was original and was several years beyond its life expectancy!!! The mechanic’s exclamation marks and his question about whether I ever drove the car out of town have upped the fear factor.
I have been perusing Consumer Reports’ new-car issue for sporty cars that are reliable and affordable. Before the Camry, I owned a 1989 MR2, a mid-engine two seater with handling that reminded me of motorcycling. I gave it up after my hip-replacement surgery because I didn’t want to bother with pushing down a clutch repeatedly. Maybe that wouldn’t be a problem now, or perhaps I could go to paddle shifters. But do I want to go back to a small sports car? How about a new radiator and paint job for the old Camry?
Things would be so much easier if I loved cars — and their illusions.