Clippings: Car selection considered carefuly

A couple of weeks ago I traded in my 2003 Honda Pilot for a 2012 Honda CRV. The Pilot had served me well but it had 210,000 miles on it, rusted fenders, a broken air conditioner, a busted rear windshield wiper, one door that could only be locked or unlocked manually, and some electronic safety system harness doohickey under the driver’s seat that went haywire and prevented the car from passing inspection. So about six months ago I decided it was time and I got all excited about looking for a new car.
You might ask why it took six months to find one. I keep asking myself the same thing. I think for me there are just too many things to obsess about when buying a new car. The cost alone can get your head spinning. And then you have to think about styling. And what about the exterior/interior color combinations? Leather or cloth? Sun roof, moon roof, no roof? Front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive? What about storage capacity? Can it hold just a week’s worth of groceries or can I cram it full of paddles, life jackets, a dog crate, soccer balls, dirty socks, rain gear, a box full of old CDs and a week’s worth of groceries?
I kept thinking and looking but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Maybe I was a little too obsessed with cars to make a decision?
When I was a kid I loved cars. I collected and played with toy cars (Matchbox, Hot Wheels and Corgi), I built scale models of cars, I raced slot cars and I wore out the pages of car magazines that I shared with my brother. I blame my dad for my obsession. When I was born he drove a Triumph TR3, a beautiful, tiny, soft-topped sports car. It was hardly practical for a father of three and I can only imagine how it hurt when he sold it not long after I came along.
Soon he had two matching green Volvos in the driveway. A sedan for my mom and a wagon for him. They were no match for the Triumph, but Volvos, which may be common today, were somewhat exotic back then. A 1946 Willy’s jeep was added to our lineup soon after and then when I was about 12 or 13 my dad pushed our household’s car obsession over the brink when he paid $1,700 for a 1966 Jaguar E-Type. For my money the E-Type is the most beautiful sports car ever produced. One has been on display in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art since 1996.
In 1976 I didn’t have to go to a museum to see one. There was one in my garage, which might as well have been a museum given how much time I spent staring at that car. Everything about it was perfect. The big wooden steering wheel, the push-button ignition, the smell of leather and gasoline, the rumble of the exhaust, the spoked wheels and the curves. Oh my, those curves.
The Jaguar was sold when I went off to college and my car obsession calmed with time. Soon I was a family man driving sedans and minivans. But my obsession never went away completely. And it seems I am in good company here in America. It was reported a few years ago that there are about 255 million registered passenger vehicles in the United States. And by my count there are about 253 million Americans of driving age. This means there are more cars in America then there are people to drive them.
Maybe we are all a little obsessed.
Today a 1966 Jaguar goes for $80,000 or more so a mid-life crisis purchase is out of the question. I am happy (well, happy-ish) confining my classic sports car experiences to museums. A few years ago I saw Ralph Lauren’s car collection at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. When I laid my eyes upon his 1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic I almost fainted. So did I almost faint when I saw the 2012 Honda CRV that I finally purchased recently? Not even close, but it does have a working air conditioner. And at my age, that makes it museum worthy.

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