COAL: 1999 Dodge Intrepid – Chapter 14, My First Internet Purchase

1999 Intrepid1999 Intrepid

When my wife and I got married in 1996 she owned a Subaru Legacy.  While it was a part of my life for 5 years it was never “my” car and I’m not doing a write-up on it.  I don’t recall any issues with it and I even considered a Subaru when my Toyota Pickup died.

When our twins were born in October 2001 we realized that we couldn’t fit three car seats in the back of her Subaru (nor could we fit them in the back of my 2 + 2 Talon).  It was time to look for a car with more hip room in the back.  I’d considered an Intrepid back in 1996 but decided back then it was too much of a family car at that point in my life.  It was time for a family car and we were replacing the Legacy not my Talon.

Comcast had recently installed the infrastructure for cable internet in our neighborhood.  I’d been pestering them enough that I got access (for free) for three months as a beta tester before they formally rolled out general availability.   I was noodling around on the internet a few days before Thanksgiving and found a dealership down in Springfield, VA (the south side of DC an exit or two south of the Capital Beltway) that had a likely candidate at a good price.  I e-mailed their internet sales associate, got some more detailed photo’s and reached a tentative deal. After reviewing the photos I called and made an appointment to come see the car (and buy it) on Nov 23rd (aka Black Friday).

In late 2001 I knew a couple of people who’d bought a car locally after finding it on the internet, but I didn’t know anyone who’d purchased an out of town car.  A quick look at Google says that both CarMax & AutoNation existed but they didn’t have the nationwide reach that they now have.  If you were shopping for a new car there were regional networks that your local dealer could access to swap for a car that had the features / color that you wanted, but used car sales were still very much a local affair.

My brother and his wife live just outside of Charlottesville, VA.  They’d come to Baltimore for Thanksgiving and I caught a ride with them down to Springfield.  If the car hadn’t met my expectations I would have taken the DC Metro to Union Station and either MARC or Amtrak up to Baltimore.

Like the Subaru this was essentially my wife’s week day car.  We had an AuPair.  She drove the Town & Country during the week (for child transport) and drove the Intrepid on evenings and weekends.  I continued to drive my Talon.  The photo above is one of several where the Intrepid was in the background of my TMI ’30 on the hard just before I donated it to a charity.  The only other photo I have of the Intrepid is a poorly lit traffic camera photo.  The AuPair ran a light about 40 minutes away from the house less then 30 minutes after she left.

Post 9/11 the Baltimore Washington airspace was shut down for several months and Detour Dave started doing his traffic reports from the studio.  Traffic camera’s had gotten good enough in the Baltimore region that the station decided to not put him back in the air when the airspace reopened.  The traffic watch operator in DC wrangled a waiver to operate in the Washington DC TFR and I started flying for him in April 2002.  I wasn’t getting paid much, basically just enough to cover the expense of driving the Talon down to Hyde Field in Clinton, MD plus I was getting flight time that I wasn’t paying for.

One of the features that had me in interested in the Intrepid back in 1996 was Chryslers new Autostick transmission.  This was a driver-interactive automatic transmission that offered gear-shifting capability.  As a new technology in 1996 I was wary of its reliability.  By the time I was looking at the used 1999 Intrepid I trusted it.  It seemed to me that it offered the ability to upshift early and keep the engine RPM’s low (a technique that can improve gas mileage).  It also offered the ability to delay an upshift to keep the engine in the sweat spot of the torque band a little bit longer.  For all that potential in three years of ownership I only used Autostick mode  a few times.  The electronically controlled transmission actually did a fairly good job of shifting for economy and by this stage of my life my foot had gotten lighter.

While we were still in Baltimore my experience with the Intrepid was very much like that others have reported during the first few years of ownership of a Chrysler vehicle.  Basically trouble free.  Top off the windshield washer fluid and put air in the tires.  After we moved to the Philadelphia area in July 2003 I replaced the battery, the tires and the air conditioning compressor within a handful of months.  By Dec 2004 it was time to turn the twins car seats around and it became difficult to get all three kids in and out of the car.  At that point it was time for a second minivan.