Long may you run
Feast your eyes on Auntie Ruth’s odomoter. That’s no Photoshop trick, kids. That’s real life—a real car in real time. A car that’s been on the road a while and will be on the road a while more.
Of the distinctly American fetishes, the fixation on new cars puzzles Ruth the most. The minute a new car leaves the lot, it plunges in value. And that doesn’t speak to how “as much as 28 percent of the carbon-dioxide emissions generated during the life cycle of a typical gasoline-powered car can occur during its manufacture and its transportation to the dealer,” according to Scientific American.
Shop ’til you drop? Hell no. Cruise ’til you stop.
A used car. It’s a known quantity (to somebody). It’s a proven steed. It has quirks to it, no doubt—those that don’t annoy may come to enamor. You can use phrases like “vintage” to describe your car (and never mind those folks with their Model T’s and ’66 Mustangs. That’s not “vintage.” That’s “time capsule,” “fetish” in reverse).
Slate noted that the average American gets rid of a car every eight years, but then “a well-made vehicle will typically last 15 years”; The New York Times noted that 200,000 miles is the new 100,000. Blame it on the recession, sure. But demands made by the Environmental Protection Agency and CalEPA have pushed catalytic converters to “perform within 96 percent of their original capability at 100,000 miles,” according Jagadish Sorab, a technical leader for engine design at Ford Motor Company, in a NYT story. “Materials are so much better. We can use very durable diamaond-like carbon finishes to prevent wear.”
Aunt R’s spousal unit always buys used cars. Has for years and—knock on tire tread—has never bought a lemon. Buys models known for good value and longevity, always visits the owner at home and gets a feel for the kind of owner he or she is. Always checks the VIN against the national databases for any record of damage, always has a trusted mechanic look the car over before purchase. And the oil gets changed often, with a religious fervor. An old car feels right—environmentally speaking, of course, but also in that wizened way of a consumerista that knows her bounds.
There was a time not long ago when the odomoter in a car only went up 99,999 miles. That’s a puppy of a car. Barely house-trained.
Long may you run.