Like me, you probably blow a lot of time thinking about cars. Not true? Sure it is. And funny how that car in the driveway once was a glittering beauty. You were out there with the owner’s manual trying to figure out how all of the gadgets worked and just soaking up that new car smell, and generally hoping your neighbor Fred was watching you do it. And now? What to do about or with the aging, old girl (the car). And it hardly helps to see those commercials with flashy monsters that interrupt a ball game far too often.

My old steed, Kermit (so named because he’s green), has now reached that time in car-life where replacement is becoming a nagging consideration. He was new in the fall of 1998, and so now the choice is moving on to a car born in this century or hanging on with the hope that he’ll soon become a revered and coveted classic — of such are dreams made. But you worry: about the things — the big things — that could go wrong, mostly the attendant components in the celebrated drive train. What to do when smoke starts to slip from the hood (fixed that one last week), or suspicious rattlings sound from the tranny, or the ride equates to something from Harvester ($1500 for that one three months ago). The old business of a car “five-dollaring you to death” is an expression my dad used to lean on, but a far cry from today’s reality.

So we’ve begun to look, one criterion — not mine — being that any car under serious consideration has to have a good radio, cup holders and must look “cute.” Mine is that it is mostly devoid of electronic stuff that seems to populate current cars and be reasonably quick from stop-light to stop-light.

Which, for the moment, has brought us to the Cooper Mini, notable for having starred in “The Bourne Identity” and “The Italian Job” (Can you imagine a higher referral?), and it is definitely cute, as I’m sure you would agree. But then again, stop-light haste is a bona fide as well. So after too many sightings on the freeway, with instant drooling and conjecture on color and trim combinations, we decided it was high time for a test drive. The first was with the salesman crammed into the back seat, where I’m sure the circulation to his upper body was interrupted for much of the drive. The second time it was just us and fun, fun, fun. Loud little car, for sure, and very quick from lane to lane (a must in L.A.), plus the automatic features the option of making gear shifts manually via paddles on the steering wheel (just like on a Formula One racer. Oh Mama! Give me strength!!). And, naturally, our little guy was red.

However, after a $4000 down payment, the payments on a lease would have been $436 per. ‘Bye.

Quite suddenly, Kermie acquired a new glow.

And so, as they say, it goes. Dad and I used to go over this time and time again, the business of new cars and payments and warrantys and reliability versus no payments all, as well as how the value of a new car plummets the instant you drive it off the lot. Bottom line there was that he always thought of a car as a not-very-good investment, while I was more in line with the salesman’s pitch that a car was simply an expense. So at least for the time being, my green Solara remains in the garage next to Kris’ Murano, which keeps the name “Rita.” No payments, with an occasional trip to Pete’s shop.

But oh boy! You should have heard that Mini bark when you nailed the accelerator to the floorboard!

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