Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Math of Old Cars

I did some math around what remains to do on the little car and it wasn’t pretty. A big chunk of that is paint and bodywork but there are some other things I underestimated that are going to bite me a bit before this project is done.

Sometime ago someone at a wedding introduced me to some hotrod guy. I guess the thinking was that we both like to play with toys so we might get along. One of the first questions the fellow asked me was either how much I planned to spend or how much I had into it. I remember saying something like “twelve thousand bucks”. He looked at me deadpan and replied “That’s how much I spend on a paint job.”

It was like (excuse the term) he was slapping his dick down on the table and I didn’t measure up. He didn’t look to me to be a guy who had turned many wrenches in his life and I measure more on that than how well your money spends.

When did this become about the money? I get asked all the time about the money; mostly by my wife but that’s understandable as she has the same amount of romance for past cars as she does for past toasters. But I get it from others too.

I was going to make this about Sunfires but it seems that era has ended. And thank goodness for that as I only have one positive memory about those cars and even that had very little to do with the car itself. It seems the car I need to use to make my point is the Chevy Aveo. This car, or more aptly, this box with wheels, sells for 14,000 dollars in the Canadian market.

That is more money than I have in the TR6. It’s way more money if you finance one. For that money you get a car that no one will remember. All it does is get you from point A to point B safely, last you seven years if you’re good to it and it's passed onto a student or traded in for a slightly boxier car.

When I was a kid I had a very real fear that I would never get to drive a car. I thought that by the time I came of age cars would fly like on the Jetsons and I would therefore miss out on one of the defining experiences of being alive during the twentieth century.

It worked out for me, I didn’t miss out. I dragged my heels long enough that I, so far, have gotten to drive/own some of the neatest cars of the last six decades.
I don’t think anyone from Harvey Earl to Hanna Barbara could have predicted that cars would get so uninteresting.

I see a lot of kids around the age of getting their driver’s license and the most engaging thing in their world is Facebook and their phone. There’s a reason for this – we haven’t given them anything else to engage them outside of that. Look down your street. All the houses look the same – all the cars look the same. This is not an engaging world. There’s nothing to look at.

It’s worse now. When I was sixteen (almost sixteen years ago now) there was still some neat iron around. One kid I graduated with had a 1967 Polara two door. I had the ’80 Road Runner. Another friend had a ’72 Newport and another had a ’66 Mercury Meteor Montcalm. My brother Neal drove a ’88 Monte Carlo SS and brother Lachlan (because of a sick attraction my father had to these cars) drove a ’81 Dodge Mirada.

As my uncles would say these were character cars. Not only did the cars have character but they also built character. Every one of the owners of the cars I just mentioned could change a tire, most can change their oil (and have), some could bleed their own brakes and one or two would take on changing a water pump.

You don’t see that anymore. I bet I’d be hard pressed to find one kid in Calgary driving a car more than seven years old. And almost all of them couldn’t change a tire without the use of a cell phone. Helicopter parents and modern cars make Johnny a useless tit.

My wife is horrified by this statement but I think the best thing I could do for our kid to build problem solving skills and independence is hand over the keys to that ’63 Belvedere when he/she turns sixteen.

When the TR6 is done it’s going to have about sixteen thousand dollars into directly, maybe a little more. You could buy a really good used one for a little less. It will be a character car and kids will ask me about because it will be as foreign to them as fin cars are to me. It will be very difficult for them to understand the path from the 6 to their Aveo. Unlike when I was their age there’s a stratum between this vintage and what is deem safe and reliable transportation. That’s untrue and very unfortunate.

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