A tale of two cars.

Frank came home from the mechanic’s shop last week.  The changing of the guard has well and truly finished.

Frank is short for “Frankencar,” so named by the Rocket Scientist.* The body, interior, electric system and engine are the same as when we bought him from a nice young man called Luis, who had decided that maybe a Mustang convertible wasn’t exactly the best car to carry his impending newborn around in. The exhaust system, transmission, and radiator come from our previous Mustang convertible, the late, lamented Vincent.

In 2005, while I was out of town at a conference, the Rocket Scientist called me.  “I put a bid on a car on E-Bay,” he told me excitedly.  I was less thrilled.  “You did WHAT?” I recall saying.  Needless to say, he won the auction.  By the time I had gotten back, he had picked up the black 1996 Mustang convertible from its previous owner.

Vincent, unlike many used cars, had backstory.  He had been keyed by his previous driver, the ex-girlfriend of the young man who had actually owned it.  (He drove a late model Mustang convertible.)  She had been quite unhappy when they broke up and he insisted she return the car.  She did, but not without exacting revenge.

We never asked what a young man in one of the poorest areas of the Bay Area was doing with not one but two Mustang convertibles, but we had our suspicions.  Those were confirmed after the Rocket Scientist found a film canister filled with pot in the center console.  For about a year I debated whether or not I should take the car to the Mountain View Police Department and have them check it for drugs for me.  I never did, though.

Like many cars bought unseen on e-Bay, Vincent had his share of problems.  Those problems tended to manifest themselves at inconvenient times, stranding the Rocket Scientist on the side of the road.  One day, in exasperation, I said to the Rocket Scientist, “You need to call this car Vincent.”  “After Vincent Price, because it’s so dark and mysterious?” “No, after Vincent Van Gogh, because it keeps trying to kill itself.”

The name stuck.

Over the years, as we did more work on him, Vincent became somewhat more reliable.  He was, no doubt, a lot of fun to drive, especially with the top down. He also came in for more than his fair share of abuse: during the time that he had the “No on Prop 8” (California’s ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage) bumper sticker he was keyed, had acid dripped on him and his tires slashed three times. (It probably didn’t help that his vanity plate consisted of my non-gender specific name with my husband’s non-gender specific name.)

I became quite fond of Vincent.  If nothing else, he was interesting: I usually got quite a reaction from new friends and co-workers when I mentioned, oh yeah, my husband once bought a car on e-Bay. I loved driving him, although I had to quell feelings of guilt over his terrible gas mileage. He made me feel much freer than when I drove Bruce, my Ford  Freestar (named after the shark in Finding Nemo) and other drivers were less likely to cut me off in traffic. (Minivans get no respect.) I almost hated to admit it, given how disgruntled I was when we bought him.

The past year Vincent had not fared well.  We had put a lot of miles on him, and needed to change out the transmission, the cooling system, and the exhaust. Oh, and add four new tires.  A lot of money went into making him fit to run well for several more years.

Then came the accident.  I can’t talk specifics — there is the possibility of  litigation — but Vincent was totaled.  It does not take much to total a 18 year-old car, but in this case the damage was sufficient to make him undriveable.  He was scrap — except the transmission (still under warranty), the exhaust and radiator.

Our mechanic suggested a way to mitigate our losses.  Find a car of a similar age, but that hadn’t had all that work done, and switch out all the almost brand new parts we had put into Vincent. The Rocket Scientist and our mechanic (who really is a wonderful guy) were both enthusiastic over this project. After an exhaustive search, which involved driving as far afield as Sacramento (a beautiful drive if you take the backroads), we found Frank.

Frank was the proverbial “little old lady’s car.” Luis’s mother had bought it, but driven it very lightly, until six months ago when she gave it to Luis.  End result: an 18 year-old car with roughly the same mileage that Vincent had had when we bought him in 2005. The suspension and handling are much better than Vincent: I don’t feel like I am going to roll when we go around corners really fast.  It doesn’t have Vincent’s leather interior, sadly, and the stereo system needs to be changed out, but the top and back window are in much better shape. (Vincent’s nice stereo system ended up in the green Mazda the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy drives. He was quite happy:  before that he had no way to play music in the car, which was driving him nuts.) In general, a nice car. I am looking forward to driving him this summer with the top down.

Frank is also ticket bait: a red Mustang convertible, with a black top and owners who have an unfortunate tendency to drive aggressively. It’s just a matter of time before we get the first speeding ticket.  Yay for traffic school!

So, welcome Frank.  Rest in peace, Vincent.  I hope your metal is used for something interesting, like a new Tesla.

*Although the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy immediately chimed in “shouldn’t that be Frankencar’s Monster?”  I love living in a literate household.

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1 Response to A tale of two cars.

  1. Resident Shrink says:

    Frank is certainly pretty, and not having to periodically redo the safety pins in the canvas is a plus.

    Re: traffic school, while it is still good to take it, it no longer removes points from your license. It will prevent points from appearing on your public driving record, preventing your insurance company from seeing them, but they will not be erased from your DMV record.

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