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The Hundred Year Old Car In My Driveway

November 6, 2018

Today, I spoke in my Toastmasters club. This is a speech I gave called, The Hundred Year Old Car In My Driveway.

Technically, it’s not 100 years old. It’s only 95 years old. Next year it will be 100 years.

And technically, it’s not a single car. It’s actually five cars.

How many of you have ever had a car break down?

Did you pay a mechanic to fix it?

I used to pay to have my cars fixed. Years ago I had a 1978 Ford F250. It was “mostly green.” I loved it, but it did occasionally break down. When I got ready to sell it, I asked my mechanic how much I should list it for?

Based on how much you’ve put into it, I say about ten or twelve thousand dollars.

However, in recent years I became “a car guy.” I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve found I am no longer intimidated by car repairs. We were going to be there a week so I opted to drive my Suburban. Somewhere in Northern Nevada it died. Fuel pump went out. It was $1000 to replace. (In hindsight it would have been cheaper to fly.) I was relating the story to my aunt,

You should have called us. We’re great at fuel pumps.

It’s not that I didn’t believe her. But, I didn’t really believe her. It was A THOUSAND DOLLAR repair!

Two weeks ago, I replaced the fuel pump in my son’s 1992 Chrysler New Yorker. To replace the fuel pump in that car you have to siphon out the fuel and then drop the tank to access the fuel pump. Three days later the fuel pump went out in my 1994 Dodge Dakota. To replace the fuel pump in the Dakota, you don’t have to drop the tank, but you do have to remove the truck bed. Once you get the entire back of the truck removed, the access to the fuel pump is pretty easy.

Two thousand dollars worth of repairs if I’d had them done in a shop. The two repairs together cost me just under $300 in parts. In fact, my 1996 Lexus is sitting in my driveway waiting for me to replace its fuel pump.

I’ve found I enjoy my new hobby of keeping old cars running. Obviously, a major benefit is the cost savings. My dad used to say,

Everyone makes a car payment. You either pay the bank or you pay the mechanic.

I discovered there’s a third option. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you pay the auto parts store. My son’s 92 Chrysler is probably worth about $500 or $600. It’s vinyl top is in shreds. It’s been in a few accidents prior to him getting it. Last summer I replaced the power steering pump and alternator. A job that would probably cost $800 at a mechanic. More than the car is worth. I did the work for about $200 in parts.

My daughter recently was in a minor fender bender in her 2001 Honda Civic. Unfortunately it was her fault, and fortunately no one was hurt. Her car ended up with a crumbled hood, broken headlights and a mangled top radiator support. Probably $2000 to repair in a shop. Currently, it’s up on blocks in my driveway. I’ve been to the junkyard twice scavanging parts. It will probably cost $500 to fix.

And that’s the second reason I enjoy working on cars. I keep learning new things. YouTube is a wonderful tool. But, much of the diagnoses and actual work is learn as you go. The top radiator support is spot-welded to the frame. I’m learning to use a grinder to grind through the welds without damaging the frame.

But, even more than the cost savings and the opportunity to learn new things, I’ve discovered that car repairs are “my happy place.” I normally work as a Program Manager. I end up dealing with the intersection of people, computers and problems. I enjoy my job, but it’s mostly conducted via email, Skype and phone calls. I have to involve a lot of people to do my job. I enjoy it, but sometimes I enjoy the opportunity just to “putter” in my driveway with a socket wrench and an old car.

Maybe that’s why I have old cars. My son’s Chrysler is 26 years old. My Dakota is 24. My Lexus is 22. My daughter’s Honda is 17. Our “new” car is my wife’s 2012 van. Together they are 95 years old. Next year they will be 100 years old. And hopefully, I’ll finally have them all running at the same time.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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