Okay, first things first: I’m not implying that used cars for sale can easily equate to horror stories.
That said, I was once driving home from work with my buddy, Arnie, when suddenly he spotted a 1958 Plymouth Fury parked out back of an old house, and decided that he had to have it. Next thing I know, he’s acting weird and people are getting killed left and right and…okay fine…that wasn’t me, it was Stephen King’s Christine. The point is, you never know what’s out there.
Take my lifelong best friend for example.
The story of his first car began, as many do, with a sign: “Used Cars For Sale.” He had been saving up for the perfect car and, like most teenagers, he assumed that his first car would be a sleek, sexy chick magnet. It would be lightning fast – a badass panty-dropper, ripe for adventure.
It didn’t take long to figure out that his dream cars were outside of his budget. Then, he saw it. A pale-blue 1990 Oldsmobile Delta 88. Its exterior was mostly unremarkable with the exception of one distinct feature: it had the metallic-gold front end of a Buick Regal. Pre-dating today’s “hybrid” vehicles, this was a more fitting representation of the meaning of hybrid. Even the interior was cobbled together from the carcasses of other vehicles as if Dr. Frankenstein himself had built it. But this haphazard assembly of mismatched parts called to my friend in a language that none of us could understand, and the two were soon joined.
Watching the money change hands, you could have believed that my friend had sold his soul. But he was of one mind to drive this vehicle off the lot. When he did, the soundtrack to the demonic union was the unholiest of songs: yes, “The Sign,” by Ace of Base (the radio only picked up one radio station). And like the precursor to Clark W. Griswold’s Wagon Queen Family Truckster before it, we felt it apropos to dub this unholy beast, “The OldsmoBuick.”
Like the fragmented visage of Frankenstein’s monster – one would look at the OldsmoBuick and marvel. How did it come to be? Where did each of its pieces come from? Was it impervious to silver bullets? Where can we score some holy water? In the days before CarFax, these sort of questions would remain a mystery.
In that regard, today’s car buyers have luxuries we never had. Our parents seemed perfectly content to let us drive off in death traps, as long as it meant they didn’t have to pick us up from football practice and Friday night dances. Today’s parents get the confidence of knowing that only bad decisions would prevent their kids from coming home mangled. My buddy’s parents had to be concerned during inclement weather because (a) the windshield wipers on the OldsmoBuick were inconsistent at best, and (b) turning them on may or may not have once started a small electrical fire. Sure, an exploding car is a great way to cement your social badassery, but I don’t want my kid to have the same bragging rights when she starts driving in a few years.
The bottom line? The transparency of shopping today’s used cars is invaluable. As a parent, I already anticipate ooking for my daughter’s first car in a few years. I can only imagine that the search will be informed by my own experiences. Will the windshield wipers start fires? Can its chassis survive a high-speed flip over a pile of partially-frozen sand in a municipal parking lot? Can the body panels be seared by contact with a crucifix? Perhaps her teen experiences won’t be quite as unique as her father’s but, then again, genetics are a bitch. You never know when you may need to drive through a chain-link fence, or smuggle real estate FOR SALE signs to plant on your chemistry teacher’s lawn.
But, I digress. At the end of the day, I’ll be glad to know that we’ll have visibility of each vehicle’s history. Whether its made available to us by the dealer, or available through simple internet searches, it’s a wonderful luxury. Even the shopping experience is more user-friendly. We no longer have to drive around looking for signs, we can just search online. We can take a virtual tour of nearly every vehicle. We can look over the manufacturer specs. We can compare features to make sure it’s the best fit for her needs. We can check the vehicle dimensions to make sure it can fit another school’s kidnapped mascot so that it can be transported to a bonfire at the sandpits.
Now, you might be asking yourself, “What happened to the OldsmoBuick?” Well, eventually it fell into disrepair. No longer suitable for resale, it was parked on the lawn as private sale, intended for parts. It was eventually bought and disappeared from our lives.
There would be sightings for years to come. Like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster or even the Chupacabra it would appear without fanfare, and usually without witnesses. Wandering the landscape of New England, it had become the stuff of urban legend; appearing mostly in stories that would grow more impressive with time (and occasionally resurrected in blog posts).
I look at my daughter, and am grateful for advancements that will help to find her perfect vehicle, and keep her safe as a driver. But I also have a nostalgic side of me that knows that her generation will rarely know the thrill of stumbling across used cars for sale, buying one sans test drive, and rolling the dice on adventure.
I’m sure she’ll have wonderful experiences and make lasting memories (memories which are statistically less-likely to begin with the music of Ace of Base). That said, they’ll never experience the type of escapades that we survived, thanks to that OldsmoBuick.