Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias Not long ago, a survey was published that included a listing of the worst contemporary automobiles ever to roll off of a production line.

Thanks to either an incredible coincidence, or perhaps an overwhelming amount of bad judgement, I have been associated with most of those cars.

When I met Cindy, I was driving a perfectly good Chevrolet Impala. It was built like a tank, and as gas prices went crazy, I firmly believed I�d be better off with a model that sipped, not gulped, fuel.

So I bought a brand new Chevy Chevette. The geniuses who designed this car decided to make it a hatchback with a rear wheel drive.

In other words, there was virtually no weight above the rear wheels. During the one South Dakota winter I owned the car, it maneuvered like a pig on ice.

I lost control of it on a gravel road and rolled it. It was a gentle tumble into a ditch. By the time the car was released from the body shop, winter had settled in.

My Chevette and I encountered ice only one time. The ice won. I totaled the car.

Not too long after that incident, Cindy and I were married, and I became part owner of her Chevrolet Vega station wagon.

The Vega, I discovered, had an engine made of Reynold�s Wrap. I religiously checked the oil and water to make sure it wouldn�t overheat.

But the plumbing didn�t always work right.

Before Cindy and I celebrated our first anniversary � while I was driving, naturally � the engine blew.

We (okay, I, no use dragging Cindy into this) then purchased a very solid looking Ford Granada.

The Granada was fine, until it rained. Then water would collect along the rubber seal of the windshield, and suddenly start to drip right on the driver�s lap.

The rate of the drip depended on two things: the intensity of the rainstorm, and the speed the car was traveling.

The only way to fix the problem was to carry a towel in the front seat so the driver could attempt to keep his/her lap dry.

Eventually, we found a solution. The engine threw a rod and we sent the Granada to a salvage yard. Thanks to relatives who pitied us, we received a small loan and put a down payment on our next car � a two-door Plymouth Volare.

Guess what? The Volare is on the list.

The Volare gave us our fair share of adventure. Christmas Eve, with temperatures at 10 below and a 30 mile per hour wind, it started lurching seven miles from Grandma�s house, our destination.

Stopping was not an option. We had precious cargo aboard � Sarah, who was only 4 months old.

Somehow, the car kept running at a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour. We burned three quarters of a tank of gas in those seven miles.

We fixed the car, and kept driving it, because we couldn�t afford not to. That�s the problem when you find yourself stuck with a lemon.

Often, you end up with a bad car because its the only thing you can afford at the time. As you get eaten alive financially with repair bills, you wish you could afford a better car. But you have no money left after making the car payments and sending a check to the repair shop.

Somehow, I can�t help but suspect that car manufacturers intentionally foisted lemons on us as a way to keep their production lines busy.

What other explanation is there for the introduction of the Chevy Vega, Chevette and Citation, the Ford Granada, Pinto and Tempo (the wheels nearly fell off � literally � of my Tempo last year), the Plymouth Volare, or the AMC Gremlin?

Have you noticed that you meet very few, if any, of these models on the street? Most of them are rusting in a salvage yard.

There is a car model you�ll still find roaming around in Vermillion � the tested and true Volkswagen Beetle.

I�m not talking about the �new� style of Beetle that Jim and Colette Abbott use to run errands around town.

I�m talking about the �old� style that�s been a part of auto lore among motorists around the world since the end of World War II.

Guess what? Volkswagen is ending production of this classic car.

It may be nearly impossible for anyone in this country to get their hands on one of these last edition cars.

The U.S. banned the bug in 1977 because the car�s rear, air-cooled engine doesn�t pass safety and emission standards.

That hasn�t stopped local enthusiasts from keeping their Bugs in top running condition.

This bit of news from the auto industry is difficult to take.

I mean, we�re talking about the Bug, a car that�s just kept on running and running for over 50 years.

I guess good things do eventually come to an end.

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