I got some interesting advice from CC readers regarding the choice to sell my 1987 Plymouth Gran Fury. Most people seemed to be of the mind that I should keep my car, light the 1970 Impala sedan I was wanting to make my project on fire, and buy a modern car to use in the meantime.
Well, much like a certain CC writer, I took all your advice, weighed it in my mind, and then did what I wanted to do anyway. (Of course, I didn’t get a full size Ford from the 70’s…)
This adventure I had over the past weekend, began at my local Kia dealership. Now, those of you that know me and my history with this brand might be asking why on Earth I would set foot in another one of their vehicles. It was suggested I give every brand a fair shake, regardless of my past with them. I might be surprised with how nice their cars might be.
Taking this to heart, I test drove a base model Kia Soul in the above color. While it was a far cry from the POS Rio I used to have, it did little to impress. The high belt line made the ability to see out the back without the aid of a camera almost impossible. The car was a trade in, and the back up camera was added by the previous owner. I was surprised to find that such equipment was not standard with the above visibility issues. The plastic around the cup holders also felt very cheap and brittle. I then drove a 2014 Optima and was impressed with it’s high quality materials and windows you could actually see out of! Shame it was out of my price range… and a Kia. I knew I would never forgive myself if I bought another of their ilk, no matter how good they had become. The manager offered to buy Helen for $2000 on the spot if I made a deal on the Optima. I told them I’d think about it and lit out for the dealership next door.
The Mitsubishi dealership was happy to show me a fully loaded 2013 Ford Fusion Platinum that was at the very top of my price range. Sadly, the car broke during the test drive, the car slipping into some kind of limp mode, transmission refusing to move from third gear. I also drove a white Chrysler 300 C and found it oddly lacking. It was big and comfortable, but everything felt cheap and oddly laid out. It felt like a rental car, something you weren’t really meant to think about, but find pleasant enough.
While trying to find the Toyota dealership used car lot (which was located on the other side of the highway for some reason), I stumbled on a large Mazda dealership next to a bowling alley. I pulled Helen into a spot right in front of the used car building, which was lined with large windows, causing several salesman to flock over like vultures to a corpse. One person broke from the pack and came out the front door to greet me. He was a small, quaint man with a heavy accent. He commented that I was driving a very nice car and inquired what he could do to help. I explained that there was a chance I might be able to sell my car soon and wanted to see what my options were by test driving as many cars as I could in one day. As we sat in his cramped “office” which was more of a cubicle with glass walls, we discussed what I was looking for.
Now, I know it’s not right to call all car salesman sleazeballs, because most are just people trying to do their job. However, I got a whiff of sleaze when the manager walked in. It’s a scent of cheap aftershave, cigarette smoke, and desperation. He began to extol the virtues of the Mazda brand, of which I was only half listening, and trying to suppress the urge to let how annoyed I was slip into my voice.
I am a salesman. My job is to sell concrete pump parts to businesses all over the Americas (both North and South), in addition to managing the warehouse in which those parts are housed. I am the janitor, customer service rep, and receptionist five days a week, nine hours a day. I run the Dallas branch on my own. I am it’s backbone and mouthpiece. I’ll admit, I’m not always friendly. Sometimes I let the stress get to me and I’m trying to work on it. That being said… I hate certain kinds of salespeople that work on commission. I hate how they look at you like you’re just another deal to be made. A walking wallet ready to sign their paycheck. The car doesn’t matter. You don’t matter. As long as they get the commission, they could care less. I am very thankful I am paid hourly! Anyway, he said they had a Mazda 3 with only ten thousand miles and handed the key fob to the salesman that helped me originally. I could tell the poor guy was probably new and wasn’t cut out for the dog eat dog world of car sales.
The man visibly relaxed as we headed out of the dealership and I got to see how this little sedan performed. It was very tight feeling, and the little 2 liter engine was incredibly responsive. No, it didn’t have the raw grunt of my 318, but there was an odd… willingness to how it pulled the car along. It felt like the engine was a little kid at a toy store, pulling the arm of his or her parent through the aisles to show them exactly what they wanted. It didn’t feel like any four-cylinder I knew. I had the chance to rent a turbo charged Honda Civic back in 2016 for a day, and even it couldn’t match the peppy nature of this naturally aspirated four banger. The car rode a little more rough than any of the other cars I had driven that day, and was more noisy, in that I could hear the exhaust through the car. It wasn’t super loud, or enough to annoy me, but was a pleasant background thrum the whole test drive. This felt like a compact car that was more than a commuter. It felt like a shrunk down muscle car, oddly. Fast, without having to scream it to the world. The screen was a little off-putting, but the control knob was easy enough to use and all the materials felt well screwed together. In short… it was a modern car I could not only live with, but could see myself driving. Perhaps hauling small parts to the yard on the way home, or dropping into Sport mode to liven up a back road. It felt right.
A little over three hours later, of wheeling, dealing, and chest beating, I had agreed to sell Helen for $2000 dollars and got financed for the standard seven years. The payments were more than I had wanted to pay at first, but I could still comfortably afford them with some smart budgeting and the like. I turned in my title later that night and began the process of moving things over from Helen to my new car. It was pretty late at night, and most of the salesman had gathered around Helen, admiring her paint and bodywork, asking questions and such as I worked. One young man, a mechanic who shared my name, seemed keenly interested in buying her and keeping her as a show car and cruiser on the weekends. He asked if he could hear her run and handed me the keys. In that moment, I had to stop myself from tearing up as I slid into the driver’s seat and ran my hand over her thin steering wheel. I took a breath and started her up one last time, hearing her big V8 roar to life and idle more smoothly then she ever had the whole time I owned her. In that moment… I’d like to think she was at peace. The last thing I removed was the handcuffs I keep hanging from the rearview mirror and moved them to my new car.
They were a silly decoration used at my parent’s wedding reception, used as a “ball and chain” gag to link two mason jar glasses together to compliment the Western themed event. My Mom asked if I wanted them at the end of the night and they have been in every car I’ve ever owned since then. They are sort of an odd symbol of ownership for me. A car just isn’t mine without them.
I took that poorly cropped photo just before I headed out to get something to eat. The car was originally from Florida which must have some lax laws about dark tint, because my car looks like it has limo tint when it’s dark outside, as you can see from the picture.
I also found the above sticker at a vintage music shop and thought it would look good on my car, me having a tradition of having at least one sticker on each car I own.
What you see there is the last picture I managed to take of Helen the night I bought my new car. I found it oddly fitting, somehow. Thank you to everyone that commented on my last post and I ask that you please respect my choices made. In the end, I feel I did the right thing and am looking forward to finding another classic car to work on while hunting more curbside classics as I tool around in my newest purchase.