One man's (very hot) Crosley.
- All first-time car buyers should suffer a little
A young friend of mine recently was hired onto the first job he has ever held, and his instantaneous reflex, when he had drawn his first week's pay, was to buy himself a car. And it must, he insisted, be a new car - a used car would never do. He did not, for one thing, wish to buy somebody else's troubles, he said.
Well, that's just great, and I applaud his reasoning, but I don't know why HE should not be made to suffer a little bit, too. I have been buying somebody else's troubles for as long as I have owned a car.
None of it has made me a better, more tolerant man, but it has taught me a great deal more about faulty spark plugs and inoperative generators and batteries that would barely grunt.
With but one exception - when I bought a shiny new vehicle and then suffered recurrent nightmares for three years until it was paid for - I have driven a succession of secondhand heaps.
They rattled and bucked and coughed and groaned and squeaked and vibrated and shuddered and squealed.
They rarely started in the morning when the temperature dropped below 36 degrees. And when the temperature climbed above 48, they often boiled dry over a two-mile course and smelled like a pot of scorching beans.
All of which reminds me of the very first car I owned after I got a job and began making big money in the, aah, newspaper game.
This car was a Crosley, and it had been taken in on a bad debt by the newspaper for which I then worked. For $85, payable in $5 weekly installments, it became mine. Lordy, was I proud of it!
Its previous owner, a shoe repairman, had painted it a rakish, luminescent yellow and imprinted a formidable black heel on the door. I doggedly sprayed about 50 gallons of green paint onto it, but that heel was never completely obscured. And if the sun hit it just right, you still could read the cobbler's phone number.
But what it possessed in modish configuration it sadly lacked in speed. By hunching over the wheel and muttering words of encouragement, you could whip it to about 30 miles an hour. But if you maintained such a reckless speed for more than, oh, three or four minutes, the radiator would boil dry and billows of smoke would rise up to blind you.
I carried a bucket on the floorboard for dipping into handy New Mexico streams. On a typical Sunday outing the car would consume a pint of gasoline and 38 gallons of water, dipped and carried a gallon at a time.
Then, out of a cantankerousness that sometimes accompanies age, it became grossly negligent about starting. Not only would it not start, it would make no sound on which to base a diagnosis.
I had to park it each night about four blocks from home, on a steep hill, if I hoped to start it the next morning.
I believe, in retrospect, that it simply liked to whiz down that hill, at speeds far beyond its own limitations.
When I finally sold it to a kid going off to college, I got for it exactly what I had paid, many miles before. It was fortunate the kid was going off to college for he had much to learn.
By Joe Aaron.
I have always had used, old cars. Two or three of them I worked on with an old boyfriend, but most recently bought a 1950 Crosley wagon, thinking: I can do this! Alas, that boyfriend is long gone, and man oh man DO I HAVE COLD FEET. For some reason, especially after reading the shop manual.
She is in my garage, and I feel horrible that she should suffer from my being a dilettante, who was probably only better as an apprentice.
And my goal had been a simple one: get it running smoothly (as it now runs really really roughly) before doing any cosmetic work.
A new (terrified) Crosley owner,