(first posted 7/3/2011) Those of us who have owned several cars very seldom get to re-connect with an old one. Sure, we may see them around for awhile after we sell them, but then they inevitably vanish into our memories and photo collections. However, during a recent driving lesson with my youngest teen, I came across this old friend which I sold nearly 6 years ago. I am happy to see that it is still at work.
For most of my life, there has been one constant when it comes to my cars. I stumble across a well-kept, one-owner, low-mile car in the 12-15 year old range. I will then enjoy it for about 4 years and 40 thousand miles, then the process seems to start again. My then-16 to 19 year old car is still clean and well kept and finds another owner, and the automotive circle of life continues.
In the fall of 2001, I was in the 4th year of my 84 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Regency 2 door. I was not looking for a car, as I had FINALLY gotten the automatic temperature control system working properly for the first time under my ownership, and life was good. Then I noticed that an elderly fellow down the street had an old Cadillac for sale at the end of his driveway. I knew enough about old Cadillacs to know that I did not want one. I guessed it to be an early 80s model. Whether it had a V8-6-4 or that horribly underpowered HT4100, there was just no reason to go there. So, of course, one day I stopped and looked.
I was surprised to find that it was a 1989, that it had the same 5 liter (Oldsmobile 307) engine that I knew so well from my Ninety Eight, and it had only 76000 pampered, garage-kept miles. A really nice car, but I didn’t really need one and it was a little expensive. The gentleman saw me looking and came outside. He was a retired businessman who had become a Lincoln man in the 70s, but his wife still preferred her Cadillacs. This car was the last one she owned before she passed away. He had kept the car for awhile (he had a nearly-new Grand Marquis), but had decided that it was time to sell.
Hmmm. 2 more doors (the Oldsmobile was a pain with 3 kids, even as a second car), a lot fewer miles, leather seats and that shiny Cadillac ornament at the end of the hood. Then the owner told me that he was tired of fooling with it and gave me the price he really wanted to move it down the road. I was hooked and bought me a Cadillac.
I owned this car during the middle of our child-rearing years. In fact, it joined our household on my daughter’s 7th birthday. This was a happy time in our lives, and the Cadillac was usually in the middle of it all. This car made me an instant celebrity among my kids’ friends, who had grown up in a sea of minivans and Suburbans. This was the coolest car at school by far, to hear them tell it. When someone talked about “The Cadillac”, everyone knew that the reference was to our car.
Football, basketball, cub/boy scouts, brownie/girl scouts, and to school every morning on my way to work, The Cadillac did its thing for us. The Cadillac was often the first choice for any trip that did not involve all 5 of us. For me, I didn’t have to adjust the mirrors and it was our family economy car, since it got about 2 mpg more than the 94 Club Wagon. For my wife (who is not a hot weather girl), the Cadillac had the coldest air conditioning in the history of mankind. In winter, the car had the fastest warming heater we have ever had. All of the kids and I still remember the school morning when we proved to ourselves that the outside temperature indicator would register below zero.
But all good things must eventually come to an end. In the fall of 2005, I got a call from my mother. For years, I had told her to let me know when she was ready to sell her 93 Crown Victoria. She told me that the time had finally come, forcing the cycle to begin anew. Once again, a newer, lower mileage car plunked itself into my path and I could not turn it down.
Despite the protestations of my oldest son (then 14) that it would be a perfect car for him to learn to drive, I was not going to have a 3rd car sitting around for 2 years waiting for him. The Cadillac went out to the end of the driveway with a for sale sign. We soon found a buyer and after 16 years, the Cadillac had to leave the only street on which it had ever lived to serve a new owner.
I saw the car several times over the next couple of years. Its new owner or someone in his family worked at a local daycare center. The Cadillac was easy to spot. It was a seldom-seen color combination and had the sticker of a local security company in the lower left of the back window. But one day I noticed that the car was not at the daycare center anymore and that was the last I saw of it. Until last week.
I drove by the current owner’ s house a couple of times. The Cadillac still goes to work every day. There was nobody out when I caught this picture one evening last week, and I was reluctant to knock on the door and intrude on the owner’s evening. But I got a photo from my car at the curb which was enough for me. The car is 22 years old now, and while normal use and the elements conspire to knock it down, it is still in there doing its thing.
So, what do you say to a good old car when you bump into it by chance? I guess there is nothing else to say but that It has been good seeing you again and going over the old times. So long, old friend. Maybe we will see each other again some time.