14 August, 2005

Planes, Grains, and Automobiles

I have been saving my money since early April to purchase my next car.  The Thunderbird is a rear wheel drive, and I should have known better than to purchase a RWD vehicle in Kansas City; I was lucky that the mishap I had last winter was relatively minor.   I was planning on saving up until the fall, when I figured I would have enough to purchase a car (I don’t use credit, I am a cash and carry person) that would last me til I was out of college.  But ever since I had saved up more than a grand I have been looking in the ads each week just in case I saw a good deal.  Sometimes people just really want to get rid of their car, and if you are flexible, you can get a car for like one third of it’s market value, if you are willing to do some minor repairs.  I have seen a few (I saw a 1993 Taurus LX with leather interior that I wanted so bad I could taste it), but they got snapped up before I had a chance to react to them.  On Friday, I saw an ad for a ’94 Saturn that was well below market value and within my price range.  It was a manual, which is something that I wanted anyway, and of course it was front wheel drive, because I only have to drive off of one cliff before I remember that rear wheel drives suck in the snow.  I have been researching Saturns; the majority of owners of similar models as this one are very happy with their cars, and so I was pleased when I saw this one come on the market.
This is almost what it looks like.  This one is an SL1, and mine is an SL2.  They are pretty much identical, with the exception that mine has about 45 more horsepower and the bumpers match the paint job rather than contrasting with it.  Most of the differences besides the powertrain are cosmetic.  It gets tremendous gas mileage, which is something else I was looking for with gas up to $2.45 for regular unleaded; it gets about 28 mpg in the city, and 35 on the highway.  Hopefully I can increase that a little bit after I give it a tuneup this week. It needed new brakes, and the stereo doesn’t work (I think the lady had another one in there, and threw the original back in when she decided she was gona sell it.  It is not really a big deal, though, as I was planning on putting a new stereo system in it, anyway.  I need something that is MP3 compatible, since I will be commuting two days a week this semester and then commuting five days a week starting in January when I transfer to UMKC.  Not a chance I want to listen to the morning DJs talk in the morning, and with MP3, I figure I can burn one mix and it will last me for a month, at least.  You can get about 12 hours of music per CD, right?  I am not sure.
I am wondering if I should get an iPod that hooks into the car stereo, though.  I was looking at the Rio and some other portables so that I can take some music with me when I run.  If I could get me one that goes directly from my car to my armband, that would be sweet.  I don’t know much about the iPods, though, only what I saw on the commercials.  I think they are designed to do that.  Does anyone know and want to save me research time?
The purchase of the car cut into my monthly budget, though, and unless I sell the Thunderbird quickly, I will be living on plain rice by the end of the month.  Now I am really wishing I had started a garden in the spring when I had a chance.  My dad was gonna let me use some square footage in his backyard (I earned it, I used to have to mow that big son-of-a-bitch with a push mower; yeah, and I walked uphill to school, both ways…) and I could have used it to grow me some vegetables to round out my meager pantry.  I have plenty of rice and potatoes and pasta and other grains; I just need to be creative in stretching what food I have until September first.  Or, maybe the Thunderbird will sell and I can eat a big juicy steak to celebrate.  I paid my insurance in full, just to save me 24 dollars in processing fees.  I am wondering about the intelligence of my frugal ways right now, as I stare at an empty fridge.  Ah, what the hell.  I got a full tank of gas and all the bills are paid.  I can live on mashed potatoes and pasta for two weeks; it will be worth it in the long run to have this car, I think.
It is fun to drive a five speed again.  My Trans-Am was an automatic, because I figured with that much power, I didn’t need a manual to make it sporty, and the computer would shift faster than me, anyway.  I had a Shelby Daytona back in the early nineties that I drove over in Germany, and then a Golf GTI that I drove in the states when I was a recruiter in Alabama.  I also got to drive both an Alfa Romero Spyder and a Fiat Barchetta (alas, it was not red…) in Germany in the late nineties when my van was in the shop for repairs (gotta love the rental car coverage) and that was perhaps my favorite driving experience of all time.  I had that Spyder up to about 165 mph on the way up to Hanau almost every day, but it was even funner on the back roads.  I couldn’t top it out like on the straight-a-ways on the autobahn, but straightening the curves gave me the g-force sensation that I craved.  To me it is much more important that a car handle the curves well than it is to have a remarkable top speed.  I was dissapointed with the Trans-Am.  It had the WS6 sports package on it, and the ram air, so it was fast as all hell, but it was so squirrelly in the corners that I never felt comfortable in it.  The SL2 is not a sports car, by any means, but it is a good compromise, I think.  It handles well, the suspension is nice and firm (but not stiff), it has plenty of power, the stick shift lets me play with the torque, and the steering is very responsive.  It is sporty enough for my purposes.  Besides, if I drove a Trans-Am again at my age, everyone would think my penis had stopped working.

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