The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

June 18, 2007

It’s ugly, but it gets you there

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 2:37 pm

I come from a family with no shortage of car fanatics.  My dad has been turning a wrench since his teenage years, and continues to be the person we all turn to when something breaks.  My two brothers have followed in his footsteps, and frequently can be found assisting him in the garage on a Saturday afternoon.  I’m somewhat of an exception in that I haven’t ever really gotten into cars as much as they have (I can do some basic maintenance tasks, but not much beyond that,) although I do enjoy auto racing, another popular pastime in my family.  In fact, just last month we all went down to Utah to go see the American Le Mans Series race at Miller Motorsports Park.  If you have any interest in auto racing, I would highly recommend getting out to see an ALMS race at some point.  In addition to seeing a variety of different race cars (everything from open wheel racers in some of the support series that follow ALMS around up to the cutting edge LMP cars)  everyone who attends the race gets open paddock access, which lets you see all this stuff up close, and really get a feel for just how much work truly goes into running a racecar.

 But I digress.  Needless to say, with all the gearheads around the family, I have to drive something really cool, right?  Well, now I do (I’ll get to that in a minute) but up until this weekend, not so much.  For nearly the last ten years, my daily driver has been an ’84 Toyota Camry.  From this picture (after the jump,) you might guess that this car is actually in pretty good shape:

 ye olde beater

 To put it nicely, this picture shows the car’s “good” side.  When looked at from another angle, the picture isn’t quite so pretty:

even worse

This car was purchased sometime in 1997 for the princely sum of $2,000, and at the time was actually in pretty decent shape for a car of its age.  Unfortunately, the years and miles haven’t treated the car all that well.  Among this car’s numerous dents and dings, the following items stand out:

  • The trunk can no longer be opened (the result of getting rear-ended on 520 by a truck sometime about 4-5 years ago, which is also where the prominent dent in the right rear quarter panel came from);
  • The passenger side window can only be opened if the weather is good (otherwise the rain jams up the mechanism);
  • It takes 1 1/2 keys to operate it (one to open the door, and half of one for the ignition, which has the other half broken off inside it);
  • The upholstery is ripped up;
  • The front tires need to be replaced for the umpteenth time;
  • It burns oil at a rate of roughly a quart per 800 miles (Automatic oil change!);
  • It hasn’t been washed in so long that moss is growing on the roof (Free carbon offsets!);
  • The suspension is shot (and has been since sometime in the Clinton Administration;
  • The light switch on the instrument panel is flaky;
  • And last but not least, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t ever be able to take someone out on a date (more than once, at least) while I’m driving this thing.


As mentioned, this car was in a fender-bender on 520 sometime around 2002 or so (I don’t remember exactly when it happened,) and at the time I really wasn’t in a position to do much about it, so I continued driving it, planning to replace it as soon as possible.  I looked around at some stuff, but the car continued to run, and I didn’t really see the point of replacing it.  Not too long afterward, the transmission went out, but when that happened I was in even less of a position to do anything about it, so I had to buy a transmission from a junkyard and keep it running for a bit longer.  Of course, by this time, the ongoing decrepitude of my car had become a running joke among the family, but it continued to run, so I kept on driving it.  Sure, the $3 it would have cost to run it through the car wash every once in a while would have been a waste of money, but with one exception (when a timing belt went out on me in just about the only spot in Bellevue that could be considered even remotely close to “middle of nowhere”) it always got me from point A to point B.  If maintained properly (not that I’m saying I maintained it properly) these old Toyotas will run practically forever.  In fact, if not for the fact that the replacement transmission was starting to get flaky in reverse, it probably would have still been a viable car.  I had recently started shopping around for a new car again (now that I was finally in a position where I could afford one) and just as I had come to the decision that I was just about ready to buy, the reverse gear on the transmission finally gave out.  This car lasted me just long enough.  On Saturday, I took one final drive over to the local Volkswagen dealer, and traded it in for $500 (I’m still scratching my head over that one) on this:

  2007 Volkswagen Rabbit

A 2007 Volkswagen Rabbit, 4 doors with automatic, sunroof and stability control.  It shares its platform with my Dad’s current car, a 2006 VW GTI.  I would have liked one of those, but they were just a little out of my price range.  This one is not quite as fast (and his has a number of features that mine doesn’t) but it is a very nice car so far, and after driving a rustbucket for so long, the difference between my old car and this one is night and day (it’s kind of nice actually having headlights that let you see stuff at night.)   Even so, it is somewhat hard to give up a car that has been so reliable (if not pretty) for so long.  I made sure to take a bunch of pictures before I traded it in, so that way when I have teenage kids who complain about having to drive Dad’s old beater ’07 Jetta, I’ll be able to show them what I put up with.  And by golly, I LIKED it!


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