May 152012

I don’t like to drive. I never really did, and living in Massachusetts beat the last little bit of enjoyment out of driving rather quickly. Fortunately I lived in a relatively walkable area, and only needed my car for shopping trips, which I tried to combine as much as possible. The lucky upshot of this was that I was able to get by for years using the car my parents had bought me in college, a 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera.

If this name sounds unfamiliar to you, that’s no surprise. The Cutlass group of models ended in 1999 after almost 40 years of manufacture, as the division tried to rejuvenate its lineup. Oldsmobile itself was closed by GM five years later as the company flailed through a series of changes that culminated in the bankruptcy of 2009. You can still see the later Oldsmobiles on the road, but their indifferent styling means that these models are unlikely to be preserved in any serious way.

Mine certainly won’t. It had needed replacing for years. The compressor died back when I was still living in North Carolina, and the engine had a weird, racing rhythm when it idled. The radio quit working right after Obama went into office, followed shortly by the horn. The trunk lock broke in 2005, and since nothing seemed able to extract the shards of key in there, I had the lock cored out in 2006, so that you could just open the thing with a screwdriver. In Boston, it acquired fair bit of rust, the windows stopped rolling up properly, and the adhesive holding the door liner in place failed.

It was a hunk of junk, and in any objective sense was not worth much of anything. And, let me be clear, it had no sentimental value either. I don’t miss my Oldsmobile. But, it had a great deal of value to me because I could tolerate it, and so was able to hold off replacing it for considerably more than a decade. It was a good car.

Of course, all things come to an end, and the increasing feebleness of the car meant I would not be leaving Boston with it. I could afford to replace it, but it wasn’t until it became clear I would be staying in the northeast that I decided to go ahead and pull the trigger. Now I (occasionally) drive a Hyundai Elantra, and may it too outlast its model line and manufacturer.

Or, barring that, at least survive another quarter-century.

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