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My PT Cruiser

Recently, I had to part with a car I’d driven for nine years. I tend to form attachments to vehicles. I spend a lot of time in them and sometimes they seem like a home away from home. The car I recently ‘lost’ was a burgundy (technically, cranberry) Chrysler PT Cruiser. I felt very connected to that car because I love vintage vehicles, especially the ones with the rounded lines and the PT reminded me of those old car styles.

Vintage Pickup Truck

In a perfect world, I would drive a restored Vintage pickup truck, 1940s. But, realistically, I put 20,000 plus miles a year on a vehicle and that would not be practical, even if I could afford it initially. I like a vehicle with passenger and cargo space but I don’t want anything too cumbersome or too gas greedy. The PT allowed me to carry 5 people in comfort and fit a footlocker in the back to haul all the picnic, camera and beach gear etc. I tend to keep in the car most of the time.

My PT broke down suddenly, several weeks ago now, and the estimate to have it repaired was several thousand dollars. With the age and mileage on it, it just did not make economical sense to go the repair route. In the past, whenever I’d tried to think ahead to the day I’d have to replace my car, I’d hoped to make it until greener cars were the norm. That would at least be balm to the wound. And if PTs could be made more efficient it would be an easy decision. Unfortunately, this is also the last year Chrysler is making that model so replacing it with another PT didn’t seem logical to me. Of course, when one is emotional about vehicles, it’s hard to be logical…

My car had personality, vintage character and styling, it also felt sporty with the manual shifting. I love driving a standard. The PT was a very practical vehicle for me. When my sons were moving back and forth to college, all the seats except the front could be removed and we could move a dorm room’s worth of stuff in one trip. A large dollhouse fit in the way back and plants and groceries were a breeze to carry. It even had a pull out tray in the back that could be used as a picnic table, with the back opened, it provided a built in canopy so even inclement weather picnics were an option. I loved the color; my last several vehicles have been burgundy. It was very ‘Me’, an extension of my personality. See, I’m becoming nostalgic all over again…

Beyond all of those considerations, my doctor has been advising me for some time to exchange my standard transmission vehicle for something automatic, due to arm joint issues. Again, I wasn’t yet psychologically prepared for that change either, thinking I would still have a few years to go before having to replace my PT.

Suddenly I was plunged into the mad and crazy world of car shopping. While I realize this experience might be considered ‘fun’ if one is prepared and is in no hurry to buy, perhaps has a little money set aside for a down payment etc.; for me, at that time, it was not fun at all as none of those conditions existed. It was a sudden immersion into the market and I had the equivalent of emotional burns from the entry process.

My car died Friday morning at work with no foreshadowing, just days after I’d put $400 of general maintenance into it, and it had to be towed. I was advised not to drive it again for any distance. I needed to get to work on Monday. I live about 45 minutes away in good weather. I was in denial and despair. Where to begin?

I knew the replacement would need to be a used vehicle. I began my search by making a list of my needs; good gas mileage, low odometer mileage, passenger and cargo space, safe, affordable, dependable…

Then my wants list; similar to above but adding; probably foreign make, heated seats, automatic start, could it be a color I love ?, and something a bit ‘fun’ to drive, and could it be vintage somehow?

Then I started my research in earnest, visiting seemingly endless dealers and web sites. A whole new language had to be mastered. Compact, sub-compact, crossovers, compact crossovers. SUVs, sedans, trucks, vans…

I looked at things like Rav 4s and CRVs, which fit many of my preferences, but rather pricey and disappointingly relatively gas inefficient as well. I looked at several compact cars, having about given up on a lot of cargo space and focusing on, efficient to drive…. None of these would accommodate my partner, 1 foot and 2 inches taller than I, so they were out. Fortunately, I had great support while going through all of this, being carted around good naturedly, to and from work and car shopping every evening after work for a week and a half.

It soon became apparent that my ‘wants list’ was pure fantasy in my limited price range and I focused exclusively on the most important ‘needs’; dependable, affordable and relatively low mileage.

To make a long painful story shorter, I did find a car. Surprisingly, probably because it is five years old and therefore more affordable, I did end up with some perks I did not expect. It has leather seats, a 6 CD changer, cruise control, air bags in places I didn’t know they put them, flexible seat adjustments, a moon roof, 23, 000 miles on it and I was able to purchase an extended 4 year warranty. The real bonus is that I found a really good dealership as well. No pressure, a good interest rate and they agreed to put a heated seat element in on the driver side gratis. So, hopefully, this will last me for several more years and then it all begins again, groan!

I was nearly through grieving for my PT, when someone stopped me in the parking lot at work yesterday. They said they wondered where my PT had gone and couldn’t imagine me driving anything else! “That car was so you,” she said over and over again. “I will miss seeing it everyday.” So, it wasn’t just me…