Requiem for My Sunbird

with-sunbirdTwenty-five years ago I bid my Sunbird goodbye. As a new mom with a sweet baby and an awkward car seat, my relationship with my two-door, compact car had irrevocably changed. Getting that car seat into the back seat simply was a pain in the ass.

Six years earlier I’d purchased my 1986 Pontiac Sunbird brand new from the dealership. It only had 12 original miles on the odometer when I drove it off the lot.

But I’d brought my sweet baby home from the hospital after nearly 24 hours of labor, 2 hours of pushing, and an emergency C-section. For all the trouble it took to bring him into this world, I wanted to be able to transport him safely around town.

My husband and I received $700 for my Sunbird, which we used toward the purchase of a year-old Buick station wagon. That car had plenty of room for sweet baby’s car seat and all his accompanying accouterment.

A lot can happen in 25 years. No doubt my Sunbird eventually ended up in an auto scrap yard. But my sweet baby has grown up to become a fine young man. All in all, it was a pretty good trade.

Laura Sternweis


Driving Dick’s Cadillac

cadillac-towAs I watched our 2002 Cadillac get hoisted onto the flatbed tow truck, I couldn’t help thinking that it needed a Deadhead sticker. Not that I’m much of a Grateful Dead fan, but “Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” has been stuck in my head ever since we bought the car. (Thank you, Don Henley.) Besides, you’re not selling out if you buy Dick’s Cadillac when it’s 12 years used.

We drive old used cars because we don’t want to pay the exorbitant prices that brand new cars require. Let someone else take out car loans and pay all that interest and eat the depreciation. My husband and I like to buy cars a couple or more years old, preferably from older ladies and gentlemen who took good care of them. And we pay cash.

I had a new car once. I bought a 1986 Pontiac Sunbird brand new from the dealer with 12 original miles on the odometer when I drove it off the lot. That’s when I was young and single and had money. Six years later when we had a baby and a car seat, my husband and I traded in my two-door Sunbird for an old man’s 1991 Buick Century station wagon — one-year-used with about 14,000 miles on the odometer and a trailer hitch. It got us through our heavy hauling years with two kids, their two car seats, and all their stuff. We put well over 100,000 miles on that car.

We bought our next used car, a 1992 Buick Century sedan, from a friendly church lady in our Lutheran congregation. We named the car Lady Elaine in her honor. We drove that car until 2005, when we bought a 1996 model 98 Regency. It was not my father’s Oldsmobile; it had belonged to our elderly neighbor. He’d bought it new and put only 25,000 original miles on it just driving around town.

A 2001 Buick Century became our first 21st century automobile in 2013 and since then we’ve passed it on to our son (who was the reason we bought the station wagon back in 1992) — which brings us back to Dick’s Cadillac. After our Caddy lost power and died on the side of northbound Interstate 35, three hours and $200 later my husband and I were back home and the car had been delivered to our mechanic. When you commit to driving old cars, you understand that you have to set money aside for repairs. That’s the trade-off for not having car payments. Turns out our Caddy had a faulty gas gauge, a common malady in Cadillacs, but that’s another story.

Laura Sternweis