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Shell Shocked: The used car blues

By Staff | Apr 9, 2019

Art Stevens

No one can say that I didn’t pass my baptism of fire test before I ever owned a brand-new car. My very first car turned out to be a lemon. I was twenty-two and was ready for my first of many to come used cars. My first car turned out to be so used that you could also say it was abused.

My friends helped me pick it out. They were “experienced” used car buyers because each of them already owned one. We looked at newspaper ads and went to preview a ten-year-old Buick. I knew nothing about cars and didn’t know how to appraise them. My friends drove it for a few miles and pronounced it fit and ready to be owned by me.

I paid the owner $100 and he gave me the key and ownership papers. Did I detect a slight smile on his face when my friends and I drove away? I drove the car to my street with my friends laughing up a storm. “What a bargain we got,” said one of my friends. “That guy could have gotten at least one hundred dollars more for this car.” They had me believe that we really conned the seller into taking less money than he should have gotten.

I parked the car and my friends and I had lunch at our favorite diner. We then decided to go for a ride in my new used car. I got behind the wheel, put the key in the ignition and – nothing. The car wouldn’t start. My “experienced” friends tried every trick in the book they knew to start the car but nada. We had no choice but to call a local auto repair shop to have the car towed. The auto mechanics gave the car a thorough going over, something I should have done before I gave the guy my hard earned cash. They said that out of the six cylinders only three were working properly and that the car needed a new motor and overhaul. When I asked them how much this would cost I almost fainted when I heard the answer. When they saw the expression on my face they suggested that I sell the car to a junk dealer and at the very least get some of my money back.

Which I did. So, in one day I bought a car, had a mechanical problem, brought it to an auto repair shop – and sold it for junk. I vowed to myself then and there that I would have a brand-new car one day and not have to go through the process of buying a used and abused car.

But the new car genie didn’t show up for some years to come. I bought my next car from my girl friend’s father. It was a ten-year old Ford convertible. He assured me that the car was in fine shape and I took his word for it. After all, would he really want to screw his daughter’s latest beau? The answer was yes.

Was it any coincidence that my girl friend and I broke up several weeks after I bought the car from her dad? And was it any coincidence that the back-seat floor suddenly began to corrode so that you could see the ground whizzing by if you were to sit in the back? Naturally, I couldn’t get anyone to sit in the rear of the car lest someone’s ankle would be shattered if a foot dangled into the crevasse by mistake.

So, after six months of the back-seat cavern growing larger and larger I decided to junk this car also. But in this instance my luck turned for the better. The night before I planned to junk my car I was visiting a friend and parked my car near his house. When I returned to the car to go home it wasn’t where I thought I had parked it. I canvassed the area inch by inch, but the car was nowhere to be found. My God, I thought, did someone break into this jalopy and steal it?

Yes, someone did. I reported the theft to the insurance company and to the police. The car was never found. Maybe the person who stole the car whacked off the leg of his accomplice who was sitting in the rear and went into hiding. Instead of getting $25 for the car from a junk dealer I got the full marketplace value for it from the insurance company.

I still continued to possess a string of used cars which made auto repair shops wealthy and me impoverished. But my wish came true. One day I managed to buy a brand-new car. And I haven’t looked back since.