... our beloved purple 1997 Ford Escort station wagon.
I'm surprisingly nostalgic as I contemplate this transition. I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps it is because we really do view the car as a family friend.
This was the first car that we purchased together as husband and wife. We had been married for a little over two years at that point, and had been quite content with owning only one car. That was a 1980 Chevy Cavalier that my parents had given to me at some point during my transition into independence as a graduate student. Jane & I were living in Ann Arbor at the time. Most of the time, we traveled together to campus to our respective research labs. And if we needed to move in different directions, we were close to a bus route that got us most other places we needed to go. (It was nice being in a city with reliable public transportation.)
But as spring rolled around, and I had agreed to take a position on the faculty at Kettering, while Jane was continuing her research work in Ann Arbor, it was abundantly clear that we would need a second vehicle. And so, one week, while Jane needed a break from the intense work involved in finishing her Ph.D. thesis, we bought the Escort wagon, brand new off the dealer's lot. It seemed to suit what we thought our future needs would be ... and although it's quite silly, purple is my wife's favorite color.
Thirteen years and 260,000 miles later, it's still in great shape. We had it Ziebarted, and detailed every year, and changed the oil perhaps a little too often ... but as a result, it's really in remarkable shape. It still gets fantastic gas mileage ... regularly up in the 30-35mph range with highway driving. It's had its share of repairs, but no more than one might really expect. It's been a great investment; we really can't have asked for much more from it. (It still has its original clutch!)
But now the transmission is starting to fail ... either the injectors, or the computer, or something ... but the amount of money to fix the transmission on a thirteen-year-old car is probably more than the car is reasonably worth. And since the car has been gracious enough to us to start failing slowly, rather than leaving us stranded somewhere, it's time to replace it.
Finding a replacement has been stressful. Jane despises minivans ... partially because of the view one gets from the driver's seat, but mainly because they get terrible gas mileage. (As she'd said multiple times in this process ... "it's been thirteen years since we bought the Escort ... why hasn't anyone been able to build a car with better fuel efficiency in that time?") And, living in Michigan, we do feel a certain obligation to buy domestic vehicles if at all possible. (Though the definition of "domestic" is increasingly blurred.) Paying for it is no fun, either ... not having a pay raise for five years (and likely more to come) really, really sucks.
Add to that the adventure of actually finding someone willing to sell us a car. In this economy, you'd think we'd find someone who would actually want to sell us a new car. But Jane would call dealers with requests for a test drive, and not get any callbacks. We finally found one willing to deal with her ... we're driving an hour away to get there, but the customer service they're providing is getting them the sale.
Wonder of wonders, Jane finally found a new car she liked: a 2010 Ford Fusion. Its gas mileage isn't horrible, and it should be big enough to support hauling teenagers around when the time comes. And it comes with just enough new features to be nice, without being indulgent. Hopefully, we'll get a decade-plus out of it like the last one. (And, no, it's not purple ... very few purple cars on the road anymore.)
So, today, I'll spend some time cleaning out the dear old lady, and trying to chase down the last bits of paperwork. Tomorrow, Jane will drive the old car to work, and stop off at the dealer to pick up the new car on the way home. It will be bittersweet.
Goodbye, old friend. You served us faithfully and well.