Curbside Question: When Does a Curbside Classic Become Just an Old Junker?


My parents bought their home in 1976, when I was nine. One set of next-door neighbors were salt-of-the-earth types. The mother went to Mass every single morning; they’d give you the shirt off their back if you needed it. At the time, their oldest son drove this 1972 Plymouth Satellite coupe. He parked it not far from my bedroom window, and I remember hearing its engine burble when he came home way too late at night. That stopped sometime in the mid-80s; I assumed he sold it.


That family still lives there. When you’re neighbors with a family for going on 40 years, you get to know all of their quirks. Their main quirk is that they don’t throw things away – their garage is filled to the rafters with junk. Their second quirk is that their kids never seem to leave home. Both sons are over 50 now, and they still live with their mother. When my parents’ other next-door neighbors retired and moved away 10 years ago, the aforementioned older son bought their house. He doesn’t live in it, mind you; he still lives with his mom. He just keeps junk in his house and parks his three cars there.


Turns out the Satellite wasn’t gone. As soon as he bought the house, it appeared in the driveway, right under my mom’s kitchen window. It must move sometimes, because an equally junky early-80s Buick occasionally appears in front of it in the driveway. It’s plausible, I guess, that the Satellite could move under its own power; it does have good rubber on it. But my dad is almost always home, and he says he’s never heard the Satellite running or seen it moving. And regardless of where the Buick is, the Satellite seems always to be in exactly the same spot.


To people like us who follow a site like Curbside Classic, a ’72 Satellite coupe, even one in rough shape, is a sight to behold. But to average, everyday people, this car is an eyesore. And for years now, my poor mom has had to look at it every time she’s worked in her kitchen. And now that my elderly parents are getting ready to downsize to a smaller home, they’re worried that the Satellite and even the Buick are going to chase away potential buyers.


There’s an old saying: My right to throw a punch ends at your nose. Over the years, dad has spoken with the owner many times, asking him to please garage or sell this car. The fellow is always polite and pleasant, but he has always simply refused. I even investigated the junk-car laws in my old hometown, but found them to be too weak to force this fellow to act. Last time I visited my parents, the Satellite was at least crudely covered with a tattered gray tarp that improved the view only marginally.

What do you say? At what point does a curbside classic become just an old junker?