When I wrote a few months ago about the pleasure and strong memories evoked by long drives, several readers responded with memories of their first cars. (They were all male, I should note.)
What is it about a first car? Please tell me, because I’m having issues with mine. When I first started making a good salary, one of the first things I did was go out and buy my dream car: a 1989 Mustang convertible (see photo).
It’s now 22 years old and has 141,000 miles on it, at least 10 percent of which came in its first year. Over the years, I have replaced the top and the hydraulics that control the top; I’ve had it repainted, and essentially babied it so that it would last … well, forever. I only drive it in the spring and summer now, and refrain from taking it on long trips, but even on that limited basis, it’s a lot of fun.
But like me, the Mustang is showing its age. Every spring I take it to the dealer for its annual physical. The news was unpleasant this year.
The fuel gauge wasn’t working because of something in the gas tank itself. Cost to fix: $800.
There was a minor oil leak that, for reasons I didn’t quite understand, would require the removal of the engine. Cost to fix: $2200.
The oil pressure gauge stopped working but is no longer manufactured by Ford. No aftermarket manufacturer makes one that replicates the original. Cost to fix: $0. It’s broken forever.
How can I maintain what could someday be a classic car if the manufacturer stops making parts? The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t. Ford wants me to buy a new car, preferably more frequently than every 22 years.
Whenever I read a story about someone selling a car they loved, he (and it was always a guy) always say they regretted it later. I didn’t want to be that guy. I also didn’t want to spend $3000 on a car that I don’t use that frequently. To help me decide what to do, I polled three of the most practical and rational people I know.
Their responses surprised me. The first two, one a doctor and one an entrepreneur, both said, essentially, “This is not a decision you make with your head. This is a decision you make with your heart.” Both of them suggested, unequivocally, fixing the car. Need I add that they were both guys?
The third practical person I polled was my wife. Now, this really wasn’t fair, because my wife is notoriously circumspect about opinions she knows I won’t like. We had been together ten years before she admitted to me that she hated convertibles. Her diagnosis: fix the gas gauge, ignore the minor oil leak, and live without an oil pressure gauge.
That seemed a good compromise, and that’s what I did. Perhaps this is why we’ve been married for almost 20 years, even with a convertible in the garage.
But all I’ve done is postpone the decision about how long I can nurse the Mustang along. Like me, the car isn’t going to zip along on sunny summer days forever. But I’m postponing thinking about that for a while too.