The Gray Bunny (graybunny) wrote,
The Gray Bunny

The Game of Cars

Like most people who grew up in the late seventies and early eighties, I have a deep-seated distrust of American cars, based on early experiences of vehicles that could be trusted about as far as you could throw them. Nothing sinks into a kid's memory like really really wanting to go somewhere and ending up sitting by the side of the road waiting for the other parent to rescue us. Or sometimes we could just walk home.

My first real car was a used Toyota pickup. It was eleven years old and nearly 150,000 miles when it started to die of old age. Even then, it never actually broke down and could probably have been saved, but given a choice between sinking a bunch of money into it with no assurance that it wouldn't require more major repairs and simply replacing it, I elected to replace it.

I allowed a friend to talk me into buying an American car to save some money. He made a reasonable case that quality had improved substantially over the last decade or so, and indeed his own Chevy Lumina had been pretty trouble-free. I bought a GMC Jimmy, which turned out to be a terrible mistake. It was half the age and half the mileage of the Toyota, but not nearly as reliable. Every few months something new went wrong, leaving me stranded several times. I got to be pretty good at driving with somebody else towing me. For a while, the windshield wipers wouldn't turn off. Then the heater core went. A while later, the alternator fell apart — my friend and I were inspecting it at the time, and a piece of shrapnel clipped my ear! The final straw was when the engine fan came loose.

While looking for my next car, I discovered that the Jimmy was on Consumer Reports' "worst" list. I still wanted a vehicle with some cargo space, but they don't really make station wagons anymore. The closest analog is the Subaru Outback/Legacy, which were on the "best" list but proved a bit on the expensive side for my budget. I was looking for a car which would last for several years after being paid off; the Subarus that I could have afforded would have been old enough to be questionable in that regard. However, the Chrysler PT Cruiser was also on the "best" list, and far more affordable. Given that sort of endorsement, I was willing to take a risk on another American car, and so far that bet has really paid off. My Cruiser has been rock solid, getting me from point A to point B economically while still being able to hold an enormous quantity of stuff when needed.

I say all this as background to the following statement: if I had bought a Chrysler 300, that would have simply reinforced my opinion that American cars were worth less than the raw materials they were made out of. My Cruiser went into the shop for 30,000 mile scheduled maintenance, and they gave me a 300 to drive. It was a 2005 with only 8400 miles on it, and it was already having electrical problems. The passenger-side airbag arming system flickered on and off randomly, and the intermittent wipers were just as unpredictable. The real kicker was the way it readjusted the steering wheel and driver's seat any time I hit a button on the remote. It was inconvenient that I couldn't get into the car before adjusting the wheel and seat so there was some room; it was very scary the time it readjusted the seat while I was still sitting in it! If I were a round person, or pregnant, I could have been seriously injured instead of just trapped.

But now I have my Cruiser back, and everything is OK. It may be Chrysler's low-end car, but it's definitely the superior machine.
Tags: tech
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