The Life and (gradual) Death of a Car

I feel like everyone’s first car is a car they remembered. My first car carried me through high school to college graduation. Ended up being a total of seven years. Not bad for a car that was almost 10 years old and had over 100k miles when I got it.

But I digress. For the first few years I spent driving, I was borrowing various cars across the family. The car I borrowed the most often was at first my aunt’s car, then eventually my grandmother’s car, a 1991 Buick Regal Limited.

A facsimile. But it looked exactly like this. Real pictures of this car will remain with me.

It got to the end of high school, and I needed a car to get through college in New Orleans. My grandparents made an easy decision. The Buick was getting old, and it was a perfect car to get beat up on the mean streets of Uptown.

So, my first ever visit to a notary public was to pay my grandparents $100 for the title to the Buick.

I rechristened the car immediately. Inspired by (or directly stealing from) Sam Raimi’s infamous automobile

The Classic

And that was its name for the rest of its life.

For a long while, it was THE chosen mode of transportation for my friends. Punk rock show? Lets take the classic. Going to see a movie in New Orleans? Pull the classic around. Etc. Wal-Mart run at 1am? Most definitely need the classic.

My first semester of college, freshman weren’t allowed then to have a car on campus. So, the classic moved from spot to spot all over uptown. Hiding out in strategic locations for relatively easy access.

I took the classic up to Chicago for an internship semester in the winter. It got buried in 5 feet of snow, and I had to dig it out. And it still started like a champ.

Many many trips on the east coast, out west to Texas were made in the classic. Never failed on any of those journeys.

It was a common sight to look for this buick in a parking lot, and then you would know thats where the stupid was at. And if people were being assholes… when my aunt had it, she actually had the entire audio system replaced, so the classic could fucking bump if it had to. … it was not uncommon to see me do a shitty peel out while blasting Pussy Crook at full volume.

However its biggest claim to fame is its survivability. This car died the slowest death of any car I will ever own. It flat out did not want to die, and was going to make it to my graduation come hell or high water.

It all started with the alternator. That car ATE alternators. I don’t know if it was a flaw in the model, but it was one of those things where I had one car place I would go to. Cause they gave me lifetime guarantee on the alternator. Big mistake. I went through 5 different alternators in the last five years of the car, and only paid $40 each time to replace it.

Then it was the struts. The city of New Orleans was not kind at all to the classic. Again, I went to a lifetime warranty place for the struts. That was more like $150 to change all 4 struts after I bought them new. That I just couldn’t afford to change. So, eventually, I would just bottom out every single time the car got too full or I hit a bump. If I was going down the overpass on Earhart Blvd, I was bottoming out the whole way down.

But, the car survived multiple assassination attempts. The first was on a wet Mardi Gras day. I had parked next to a friend of mine’s house. Can’t even remember where we were going. We were hanging out for a bit then we heard a big BOOM. Didn’t know what the fuck it was. Turns out a drunk driver ran a red light and did a full 360 into the classic.

Ok, maybe just one picture of the actual Classic.

Fucked up the car real good. I drove it home and the suspension was all fucked up. The car kept jerking to the right.

We figured it was a total. Oh no, they could repair it. This one repair shop had piles of old buick parts for some reason. Quoted a price to the insurance to fix it, and that was it. The classic came back to life. And you would think that would be it.

Oh no. Not for this car.

Like a year and change later. I am driving through Alabama, on my way back to New Orleans. I just tanked up. I go in the Wendy’s drive thru. Giant jacked up truck in front of me. Decides he doesn’t want to weight in line. And I saw it all happen in real time… “He’s gunna drive over me.” I slam my horn. He lands his full tire on the top of the hood. The car is still running.

I get the insurance information. Cause I didn’t want to waste time in Alabama. Ill deal with it when I get back home…if I could get home. I pull in a local repair shop, with the car still running. I just ask them, “Can it make it back to New Orleans.”

Their response was simple, “Well its not overheating. Its running. Keep it that way. Drive it home and don’t stop. I am not sure what will happen when you turn the car off.”

So I do that. It made it all the way back to New Orleans. Parked in front of my apartment. Boom, car died.

I thought for SURE that would total it. Oh no, it only damaged the hood at the compressor. I never got another A/C to work 100% right in that car. Always too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. Just whatever replacement part they found, wasn’t right.

Then the radiator died. We still aren’t sure why that one happened. Bad hose? Something. I did get that fixed for cheap.

Then a friend of mine broke the passenger side seat belt. My grandfather bolted a replacement he found into the steel frame with a rivet gun.

Then the brakes crapped out. I ended up tapping someone. That was more annoyance than cost.

The car sat outside for Katrina. Went through that Chicago winter I talked about AFTER all that happened to it. Managed to drag across the finish line. I am about to graduate, and one day I go to the car….and it wont start. Alternator…yet again….

I was about to move up to Chicago permanently. Was hoping The Classic would make one last trip up to the Land of Lincoln. But, alas. That’s when I decided to get my first grown up car.

I ended up having that car for 10 years. I am now 5 years in on my 3rd car. And both of those have been reliable and I have no complaints. But, those cars don’t mean to me what The Classic did. It was the car that got me through that right time of my life. Got me through hard times and good times.

If you are curious about the final end, I actually donated it to a halfway house that had a used car lot. My grandmother was taping the local TV and happened upon an ad for their car lot…and what’s at the front but The Classic.

I can only hope someone else got some life out of that car. Cause, I know I did.

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