Column: The search for a summer carThe past week has been particularly soupy in Minnesota, with local radio broadcasters declaring it “Underarm-ageddon.” The phrase sums up the moist heat wave we are enduring. It’s a much more clever twist on words than this past winter’s “Snow-mageddon.”
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
The past week has been particularly soupy in Minnesota, with local radio broadcasters declaring it “Underarm-ageddon.” The phrase sums up the moist heat wave we are enduring. It’s a much more clever twist on words than this past winter’s “Snow-mageddon.”
In the midst of this heat wave, I’ve been searching for a new car. I thought it might be time for me to buy a summer beater. I have a reliable, sensible car with working heat for the wintertime. But I crave the unpredictable experience of a car that is over 10 years of age. I’m looking forward to a flashy sports car which is past its prime.
I believe summer is a better time to experience the doubtful starts and occasional breakdowns of an elderly car, so I’ve been perusing Craigslist dutifully. A short while ago, perhaps 10 years ago, I would have spent a happy Sunday morning drinking weak coffee boiled by my percolator and perusing the automotive classified ads. Now there is scarcely a car under $3,000 in the classifieds, since all owners of cheaper cars fled to Craigslist.
This movement to the seemingly free Craigslist has a price all its own, however. The ads are completely unsearchable. There is no spell-check or common list of abbreviations to assist would-be car buyers. Many sellers don’t even bother to indicate whether the car they are selling has a manual or an automatic transmission. Although it appears to be free of charge to include pictures of the vehicle, most sellers don’t, or they include curiously foggy photos taken inside a dimly lit garage on a humid night.
Searching for my summer beater on the badly organized Craigslist became a search for a proverbial needle in a haystack. After leaving voice mail messages for several owners and emailing several more, I finally found an owner who accepted text messages. He messaged me back immediately, indicating he wanted to trade cars with me. I was in no mood to trade my reliable winter hatchback, but I pursued his slightly rusty summer sports car undaunted. This car was particularly exciting, with a black hood and a bright red body. I promised the owner a fair price instead of a trade. In reality, if he saw my goofy little hatchback, there was no way he would accept a trade. My hatchback is quite reliable, but it also looks a bit like a clown car.
I arrived at the sports car owner’s home with my husband and dog along for the ride. The dog eagerly stepped on the hazard light switch in my husband’s car. The dog does this every time he is left in the car, even when there is another human being present to pet and comfort him. The dog firmly believes if we aren’t busily driving towards points unknown we must be in the breakdown lane.
The car owner graciously offered to ride in the passenger seat as I took a spin in his more than slightly rusty sports car. I decided he looked more like a high school senior than a serial killer, and took him up on the offer. He announced the air conditioning compressor was removed by a previous owner, along with the power steering pump. We commenced with a sticky, strenuous rise.
We cruised through the local trailer park at 15 miles an hour. The car, although it was a sporty two-seater with quite a large engine, made a strange sound at this low speed. It might have been a screeching coming from the rear axle or a cat stuck in the trunk. Then a stop sign loomed from behind an overgrown shrub. The spongy brakes took what seemed like minutes to slowly halt from 15 miles an hour. My heart pounded as a massive, corroded white pick-up blasted through the intersection inches from the hood of the little sports car.
We safely returned to the owner’s home, and I offered him half of what he was hoping to sell the car for. He declined, very politely. I bid this summer’s hot car adieu.
Hopefully Craigslist will turn up a few more sporty summer beaters for me to test drive. If not, there’s always Ebay. I know there will be a not-so-new car in my future before the State Fair is here. I might shoot for the stars, but when it comes to cars, I shoot for the lowest, rustiest one I can manage.