When Did Our Cars Become Fashion Accessories?

Friends and family love making fun of my car. They just can’t believe I prefer what it has: hand-cranked windows, manual door locks, good mileage for a gas-powered car (36 city, 44 highway), a radio with a CD player and an engine that won’t quit.

Car aesthetics have never concerned me: I’d never worried about scratches and dents, figuring that the worse it looks, the less likely it’d be a target if I parked in rough parts of town. But I finally bit the bullet and had it painted before the rust in the roof grew into actual holes. It looked so good that when I took it in for an oil change the other day, one of the mechanics exclaimed over the paint job. Though it was repainted the same color blue, he noticed it has the little sparkle in the paint, something I hadn’t detected.

Ron, the shop owner, also has a 2004 Honda Civic with around 250K miles on it. He once told me about a woman who’d been in an accident with the same car. Hers had at least 250K miles and, of course, insurance wanted to total it. But she fought them by proving her car should run for another 100K, so they paid for repairs.

I was considering buying an electric car, but news of the current microchip shortage has dissuaded me. And with car production down, car parts are in high demand and thieves are out harvesting them. Ron said there’d been a rash of catalytic converter thefts on his lot – $15K worth – and that he’d gotten an exorbitant bid for a fence. What about car thefts, I wondered? He said I needn’t worry because with the scarcity of new cars and old parts, insurance companies are paying what it’d cost to buy a comparable new car. Besides, Ron said thieves don’t want to mess with the Honda because a computer chip in the key shuts down if you try to start it without.

When our parents were alive and my siblings and I were younger, they’d pass along their old cars when they bought new ones. The one my mom handed me had an ignition that, before long I could start with a screwdriver. The benefit was that I could leave it running on a cold day, lock it, do a quick errand and return to warmth. The stodgy-looking car my brother inherited was comfy and drove well. The mess inside wasn’t his fault because someone(s) broke in and ripped off the door handle on the passengers’ side and the doors’ upholstery (in vain, if they were looking for drugs – he doesn’t even drink!). And somehow the vinyl all along the dashboard buckled so he held it down with a row of vice clamps.

As for me, my new problem is worrying about nicks and scratches on my glittery paint — I have an image to maintain.

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2 thoughts on “When Did Our Cars Become Fashion Accessories?”

  1. Deb,
    You have a great car with all the modern conveniences. I own a 1960 MG A roadster—no windows (side curtains), no door locks, no door handles, no power steering, no power brakes (occasionally no brakes at all), no radio/CD/Bluetooth, must pull choke out to start, intermittent headlights (Lucas), and no synchronized mesh (meaning you have to learn to double clutch to downshift and be at a complete stop to shift into 1st gear). It’s a true midlife crisis car not a cheap imitation. It’s beautiful and a lot of fun to drive. I’m closing in on buying a ‘69 or ‘70 Jag XKE so my wife says I will have to sell the MG. The only real unsolvable problem with the MG is that it’s very hard to get in and out of; it’s just too small.

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