Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Favorite Clunker Story

Trying to decide on just one clunker story was challenging.  You see I have owned a long list of clunkers.   I finally decided on a story about my 79-80 Horizon.  It had a Volkswagen engine, three white doors and one orange one.

I paid $300 for it when I lived in Red Lodge and was commuting back and forth to work in Billings.  My little car had a little over 200,000 miles when I bought it.  That little car always seemed happy running up and down the road as I logged lots of windshield time.  It always ran like a top.

I began to notice that it needed to be “herded” down the road more often.  It would kind of list – side to side as it meandered down the highway.  I was planning a trip to Kalispell and decided it was time for a trip to the repair shop for a re-alignment, before I went. 

I checked with several shops and K-Mart offered the best price.  I took it in and was told to come back in a couple hours.  I went shopping and killed several hours.    I returned to K-Mart to collect my car and head for Kalispell.

I asked the mechanic how much I owed.  He replied matter-of-fact-ly that there was no charge.  I looked at him incredulously and repeated “No Charge?”

“No, Ma’m.  No charge.”

“Why isn’t there a charge?’, I asked.

“We didn’t fix it.”

My amazement was quickly turning to irritation, “Why didn’t you fix it?”

He shook his head and responded, “Lady, there wasn’t anything left to re-align it to!”

I thanked him and decided against the trip to Kalispell, then promptly drove it home.

At the time I was a member of the Montana National Guard.  I worked with a great bunch of guys in the Mechanics section.  I shared my story the next time I saw them.  Their eyebrows rose as I told about the aborted attempt to have the car re-aligned. 
Sgt Hammer was concerned because he knew I often drove back and forth to Miles City.  He found me a little Subaru that was more dependable.

I still drove the Horizon in town until one December night it broke down in the Shopko parking lot.   I had gone and called AAA and was waiting for the tow truck to arrive.  While waiting, a family drove up.  The gentleman asked me if they could help.  I thanked him and said I was waiting.

He seemed reluctant to drive off, and leave me by myself.  He had a quick conference with his wife and then finally spoke again, “I used to have a Horizon that I traded off.  I have often regretted that decision and wished I hadn’t.  I just wanted to know how many miles you have on your car.”

I told him that the car had a little over 300,000 miles on it.  I heard him laugh and say, “I knew it!  Those little cars you could drive until the wheels fell off.”  He wished me a goodnight and I could see him still shaking his head as they drove off.

I got the car running again, but finally parked it in the driveway where it sat for the next couple of years.  One of the neighbors offered me $50 dollars for it.  Dan told me to just give it to him, so I did.  I later learned that he sold it for $100.

That little car had heart and I almost literally drove it until the wheels fell off.  My Mother often told me that the only reason I could get a mechanic to work on my car wasn’t because they were trying to figure out what was wrong.  They were trying to figure out why it had been running.  I once told a mechanic what she said.  He looked at me in all seriousness and said, “She’s right.”


  1. Great story! I love the way you ended your slice, it was very satisfying.


  2. What a great story...I could see you chugging along the road. And the bits of dialogue really makes it come alive.

  3. I loved the story & feel the same about the several old hondas I have driven. The term 'windshield time' is great!

  4. Cars DO have hearts - I had a Toyota Tercel just like your Horizon. It was such a sad day when we finally had to let ot go.

  5. What a wonderful story. I love how the gentleman owned a Horizon as well. It truly is a small world.

  6. LOL, great storytelling here. I like your style.

    I'm following and look forward to reading more.


  7. woops .. didn't mean to be anonymous...


  8. My husband and I drove a Ford F150 which we purchased for 50 dollars. We often talk about how it was the most economical transportation we ever had.
    Lovely kept my complete attention and made me think back to those simpler days.

  9. I thought that was a great version of a "car obituary" - such spectacular detail!

    I also found it funny that when I scrolled to the bottom of the story, there was an ad for American Family Insurance asking me if my car is properly covered!

    I look forward to more great stories like this one!

    -Carrie F.

  10. I love comments. It really gives me encouragement. I love that we are building a community.


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