it all began when the glove box latch busted off

In case you hadn’t noticed, when the latch to your car’s glove comparment breaks, the door won’t close. When that happens, the microscopic light inside the compartment drains the battery over night. I don’t see how that’s possible, but then I’m a writer and make stuff up and have no clue why cars think what they think.

Tape won’t hold the glove box door shut. Neither still twine. It takes high-quality wire out of the miscellaneous wire chaos box in the garage.

However, by now the battery has been jumped so many times it must be about shot because this morning the car wouldn’t start and the glove box door was closed tighter than the lid to a vampire’s casket. My trickle charge indicate the battery was too dead to accept a charge-another one of those things that kind of defeats the reason for having a trickle charge.

This all brings up a sad fact. I’m the only guy in the county who doesn’t know how to fix a car. Everyone else does, though they started having more trouble when all the computer stuff got added. But most of them know how to start a Buick even if they’re Ford people. It’s a good skill to have because you can’t run a farm if you can’t maintain your tractor, riding mower, bob cat, backhoe, air compressor, and anything else with a motor in it.

Growing up, I had a car with a stick shift and knew that as long as I parked it on a hill, I could get it running. Later, when I had a Jeep for a few years and then a Saturn for a few years, they could always get under way on a hill or with a brief push.

I like cars the way they were than the way they are now where it costs $1,000 to get somebody out to your house and start your car when the glove box latch breaks off and the light inside drains your battery. (By the way, that light is in such a small space, I can’t squeeze my fingers in there to get it out.)

Thinking back, I’ve had a negative reaction to most changes to cars: automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, power windows, and a hundred dashboard ikons that are harder to decypher than hieroglyphics. I’d rather see the words up there than silly little pictures. (“Check engine”? Give me a break, check it for what?)

Okay, well just maybe I like the backup camera that shows you whether your rolling over your child’s favorite toy. Otherwise, all the new stuff costs a lot of money to buy and a lot to fix when it breaks. And it will break. Nobody will know that’s broken because all they’ll see on the dashboard display is something that looks like it came out of an old alien invaders game.

It may be time for a new car which will have to be an SUV because the sedans have gone away. At least an SUV has enough room in the back for a generator to start the thing when the light in the glove box drains the battery.


A little more nostalgia

In the last post, I showed you pictures of the first car I wanted and the first car I ended up with. But, I finally got a Jeep.

Wikipedia Photo

Kaiser Jeep Corporation made a big mistake in 1970 when it sold itself to American Motors which ultimately got scooped up by Chrysler which merged with Fiat. When I was growing up, there were still a lot of Jeeps on the road with the original CJs (civilian jeep) carrying a Willys-Overland or a Willy’s Motors logo. A friend of mine had an early CJ-2A that we drove all over north Florida for years at its maximum speed of 45 mph and a four-wheel-drive that could only be engaged by manually changing the setting of the front hub caps (before you could shift into high or low range). The first thing you needed to remember was to turn on the ignition before stepping on the starter button.

My Jeep was much newer, a CJ-5 “Universal” built by Kaiser in 1970 before they sold out to the anger of Jeep purists everywhere. The top speed was about 80 though you really didn’t want to do that often. The four-wheel-drive still had to be locked in or out (before shifting) with the Free Lock or Warn hubs. This model had a Buick engine, removable doors and removable top. Fortunately, the manual starter button was gone. The manual choke was still there and you could blow off your muffler if you forgot to push it back in before shifting into second. I always had studded snow tires on mine during the winter months when I lived in Illinois.

On casual Friday, I still had to dress in clothes like those in this picture. The Jeep was fun to drive but noisy at highway speeds. Drove it from Northern Illinois to Glacier Park Montana once. At some point, I got flagged down by a trucker standing by his broken-down rig at the side of the road. Took him five miles to a gas station. He thanked me and said that he sure as hell preferred the relative quiet of his Mack truck to the “noisy contraption” I was driving.

I still had the Jeep when I moved to Georgia in 1975, though it was becoming nearly undrivable. Going up hills on the Interstates, my speed dropped to 40 mph. I picked up a hitchhiker in a rainstorm who had been standing beneath an overpass; he got out five miles down the road because of our slow progress and the fact we were showed with water through the falling-apart top every time a big rig passed. Sold it a year later. I was sad to see it go, but on a college teacher’s salary, I couldn’t afford to repair it. Traded with another college teacher, ending up with an Opel that tended to randomly catch fire on the I-285 connector around Atlanta (where everyone except me was driving at NASCAR speeds). They still do.

My wife and I ended up driving a Grand Cherokee once when we got upgraded by the rental car company from the Taurus we selected to this red barge. It was comfy. Had a radio. Had A/C. Bucket seats. But I really wasn’t a Jeep. Plus it cost a whole lot of money.

Now there’s a bunch of foreign stuff out there built to look like a Jeep. I won’t touch the stuff because I still remember, with more nostalgia than sense, the days when buying a real working Jeep meant something–as suggested by this old advertising poster.


A few days in a 2010 Mustang

Ford 2010 Mustang
Ford 2010 Mustang
It all seemed so simple. Gordon Lightfoot was performing in Columbia, SC, just three hours away. Why not? We drove over and enjoyed the concert, though his voice sounded a little more strained then it had when we saw him in Atlanta a year ago. Perhaps a cold or an allergy, but nonetheless we were glad to see him again.

The plan was to be back in Atlanta in our trustworthy 10-year-old Ford Explorer by midnight. We had to drive 2.5 hours to Rome, GA the following day and needed some sleep first.

Instead, we arrived home at 3 a.m. in a bright red 2010 Mustang. Okay, so a little less sleep, but we drove to Rome anyway and everyone thought we’d gone crazy and bought a new car.

Truth be told, we enjoyed driving the Mustang for several days, though the circumstances could have been better and cheaper.

When leaving Columbia, the freeze plug blew out of the Explorer. This was late on a Sunday night–at the time we didn’t know it. We thought the water pump had gone out. It took a lot of cell phone calls to find a tow truck that would take the car to a place that would assess the damage the following day; then to call a taxi to take us to the airport, the only place with any rental cars open.

We called ahead and reserved a cheap, mid-sized car. But traffic was heavy and the place ran out of cheap. So they gave us the Mustang as a complimentary upgrade.

When my wife–who had several Mustangs in the 1970s–saw the car in the airport parking garage, she said “things are looking up a bit.”

The following day, we learned that there was no major damage to the Explorer–just a corroded plug. We thought it was going to be worse.

You can tell we’re both out of touch with today’s cars. When we pulled in to a gas station, we had no idea how to open the gas tank “door.” We expected a latch on the inside. We felt pretty stupid when we found out all you do is tap the door and it opens.

I keep wondering if Gordon Lightfoot is somehow responsible for all of this and needs to buy us a car or send us an autographed CD! Or maybe a sack of extra freeze plugs…

Visit Malcolm Campbell’s author’s site at Vanilla Heart Publishing.