There are plenty of things we remember fondly enough to say to ourselves “I would like to re-live that experience”. But when it comes to big-ticket items in life the chance does not come along very often. And when it does, it can cause some deep thought. I have now had that option appear for a second time when I saw my first house for sale recently. And the decision was not as hard as the first time because Marianne is not moving back to a place with a total of two closets. But last time it was all up to me.
That was the time I had the chance to re-purchase a car (one of my very favorites) I had sold to a friend. Around 1995 I had cash in my pocket and was looking for a second car. In my world, especially at that time, the “second car” was not the same thing as “the good car”. The second car had four requirements – it had to be inexpensive, it had to be reliable, it had to look decent and it had to be fun and/or interesting. Not necessarily in that order. I have always loved tinkering with old cars and I started looking for one that would make a decent daily driver.
The search yielded a 1968 Chrysler Newport sedan. It was a really nice old car that needed a few things done to bring it up to DD (daily driver status). Those things were done (within budget, even) and I had one of the most satisfying rides of my life. It was powerful, it was comfortable, it was air conditioned, and it was almost perfect. The “almost” being a great big dent in the right rear door, caused when the elderly prior owner lost control in a gas station and somehow ran the door into one of those concrete poles that protects the gas pumps.
Fixing that door was never going to get past the one-woman finance committee at my house, but it opened, closed and sealed perfectly so caused no functional issues. And it was on the passenger side, so I didn’t have to see it often. But when I sat behind that wiiiide, chrome-covered dashboard and listened to the gentle burble of a big pre-emissions Chrysler V8, I felt just like No. Two Son pictured above – totally happy to be right there and I wouldn’t change a thing. OK, I would change the weird combination of beige paint and green interior, but with cool old cars, we get what we get.
After about a year and a half, a friend contacted me and offered to sell me me his late mother’s car. It was lots newer, had fewer miles, and did not have a big dent in the passenger side. I didn’t really want to let go of my Chrysler. We all like what we like, and I liked 1960’s Chryslers a lot better than I liked 1980’s Oldsmobiles, even when the Oldsmobile was a Ninety-Eight Regency, the top of the line. But sometimes we have to act like adults, and that was a suck it up moment for me. I bought the Oldsmobile and prepared to sell the Chrysler.
Right about that time a fellow I worked with had a son in high school who was hot to own a “classic car”. I didn’t really think of my Chrysler as a classic – after all, I had been alive when it was built. But, uh, yeah. I told him all I could about it, they came and looked, and then drove off with my Chrysler, after leaving a stack of hundred dollar bills in my hand. I don’t remember how how big of a stack, but it was a number that I considered fair.
Life went on, but I missed my Chrysler. I especially missed it when I had to replace the transmission in the Oldsmobile. The transmission man explained that even though the car had only a little over 50,000 miles on it, it was a bad design that suffered from lubrication problems caused by a little old lady who drove it so seldom. I paid for a rebuild, which was not a lot less than I had paid for the whole car. The finance committee was not pleased.
Time came and went as my Oldsmobile was upgraded to a twelve year old Cadillac I bought from an elderly neighbor. Then one day my former co-worker called me. His first and then second son had gone off to college and the family no longer had any use for the Chrysler. “I thought I would offer it back to you first in case you were interested” he said to me. He said it was still in about the same condition as when they got it, but for two things. First, his son had cut holes in the door panels for speakers, and the transmission was shot.
I had not expected to think so hard about this, but I did. The door panels were pretty easy – replacements should have been find-able. The interior was green, which was a popular color then, so there had to be a few out there. And the transmission rebuild for a 60’s Chrysler would surely cost a lot less than one for an 80″s Oldsmobile. I even called the shop and I was right – about half what I had paid.
I really, really wanted my Chrysler back. But that adult gene kicked back in. I realized that I had “been there, done that”. I had bought it, owned it, enjoyed it, but I had moved on. As much as I had enjoyed my time with it, I was not willing to make room in my life for it to come back, especially as I was sure it would require work to get it back to the kind of condition I would require for something I would drive everyday. And instead of being almost thirty years old it was now on the way towards forty.
So I had to call my friend back and tell him that while I appreciated his offer, I would not be re-adopting the Chrysler. He understood and said he had a couple of other people who had expressed interest, so it all worked out. I have no idea whatever became of it.
Sometimes I wonder if I made the wrong decision. I have not had a car since that I have found as deeply satisfying as that one. There was something about it that massaged my psyche in all the right places and gave me enjoyment every time I drove it. But then again, I have to acknowledge that past performance is no guarantee of future results, so taking on a car that was older and with more use under its belt might not give me the same experience I had enjoyed.
It is said that “you can’t go home again”. But every once in awhile and the opportunity presents itself to say “maybe you can”, we are forced to remember a second saying – Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And I am not sure this is an actual saying, but in my case I add one more – not buying my Chrysler back was the best decision that I still regret.