A simple fact of human nature, especially in times of endlessly rising fuel costs, is to seek the purposefully driven automobile. Can’t blame us hapless motorists either- we feel guilt just like everybody else. The auto manufacturers, it would appear, are all too eager to use our own consciences against us in their advertising campaigns. I’ve been noticing a lot more ads for hybrids of late and with them boasts of estimated mile per gallon ratings and fuel economy figures over the excessive “joy of simply being alive” style commercials of yesteryear.
As an individual perpetually out of alignment with the latest trend, I recall all too clearly those advertising campaigns from the era of excess. In fact my current daily driver was most likely subconsciously chosen from a sea of econo-cars on account of visions of mud slinging free from knobby all-terrain style tires and the perfect afternoon with the perfect family by the lake-shore smiling as I pull up with the boat I don’t even own in tow. The truth is I do enjoy my oversized SUV for its ample storage capacity and abundance of creature comforts but I would be lying if I said that it isn’t overkill to run down to the store in. I’m reminded of this reality each time I pull up to the pump with cold sweats and clammy palms. I don’t mean to insinuate that the current trend affects only SUVs either. As a bit of a domestic sports car aficionado in my younger days I remember feeling the sting of dropping $45 per week into the tank of my Mustang GT (and this was when gas prices hovered around $.99/gallon). As an individual earning only slightly higher than the then-minimum wage, it was a fairly steep entry fee for the right to show up to graduation parties in style and definite proof of an era now passed.
This current gas crunch has finally taken its toll on my automotive psyche and forced me into taking action to downsize my own modest fleet. Just yesterday a gentleman by the name of Tom made the trip up to my home outside of Buffalo from Canton, Ohio to pick-up my last example in an ever-diminishing collection of markers from another time. But fist a little background: A week earlier, after many sleepless nights in silent deliberation, I had posted an auction on eBay to rid myself of one very low mileage 1993 Corvette Coupe (red if you must know). The car had been floating around my family since it had left the assembly line; purchased first by my uncle who drove it a dozen times then decided it was too expensive a toy to drive only a dozen times in three years. In 1997 my cousin bought it off him and proceeded to drive it for a few weeks during the summer. By the following year he had finally succumb to pressure from his younger brother and sold it to him by transferring over the payment book. My stewardship began in the spring of 2002 whereby word of my cousin deciding to part with it reached me just as one of his friend’s fathers showed up to buy the car. A few urgent phone calls, one drained bank account, and a sizeable loan later, I was able to buy the ‘Vette out from under the expecting party. I foolishly believed at the time that I could treat the car as a daily driver (having invested so much money into it and all).
By the time September of that same year rolled around, I found myself searching frantically for a salt car before the first of winters icy grip could reach the area. The reality of a couple of months spent enjoying the car resulted in the realization that it would never survive the brutal Western NY winter even if I had the heart to subject it to it. The Corvette was put into storage the same day I happened upon a high mileage 1994 Thunderbird LX in need of a new home. As had been the car’s destiny up until that point, the C4 spent a majority of the next few years under a car cover, returning to action for a brief two-month stint in the summer of 2005. The Thunderbird had long since retired from duty and had been replaced by a succession of increasingly practical vehicles.
One day this spring I hopped out of my Trailblazer and took a long hard look at the mummified, bungee-secured car-covered mass in my spare driveway. There was no way I could afford to fuel both of these vehicles and if I didn’t put the Vette on the road now, it would be at least another year before I could consider doing so. What if gas prices continued to rise? The age of excess had somehow passed me by not with a heralded announcement or as some life-changing crescendo but rather as a slow fall from glory, a dripping faucet of budget tightening and prioritizing that carved the landscape like geological erosion: This was anticlimactic in every sense of the word. I waxed the old girl for a final time and snapped some digital photos that same weekend. For a week I watched with an equal blend of excitement and sorrow as the bidding worked its way up to then surpassed my reserve price.
The high bidder proved to be a gentleman both in online communication and in person when we did finally meet on a drizzly Saturday morning in my driveway. The Vette was running a little rough, most certainly due to its long period of inactivity, and the car’s new owner seemed more than thrilled with his acquisition. Apparently he had one very similar a few years back and sold it to make room in his garage. He said that he had been without a replacement for too long. His enthusiasm certainly eased the regret that had been looming as I dug out the car’s title and registration paperwork.
“So what made you decide that now was the time to make the move?” I asked.
“Well the high gas prices mostly. I figured there would be some excellent deals to be had on the old gas guzzlers with everyone looking for hybrids and economy cars again.” Good point.