I was half expecting Audrey Yates's call since she had leased a Volkswagen Golf the same month my wife Lisa leased her VW VR6-GTI. Lisa was buying out her lease and I knew Audrey, a savvy marketing consultant, would want my opinion on what to do.
This story is from a few years ago, but calls like this come a few times a year. Sometimes it's an old friend such as Audrey, though it could be a close relative or even an obscure acquaintance. They chat me up about family and what's going on at work, often offering tasty tidbits of gossip before getting to their automotive needs.
Audrey's Golf had low mileage. She is a single career woman so the interior had not been trashed by a brood of rambunctious kids or a rowdy rottweiler. The exterior had a few minor blemishes, the kind to be expected with someone who isn't a "car nerd" such as myself. She could have bought out her lease since, with only 32,000 miles, the Golf would provide many more years of reliable motoring.
I figured she had two other options. Getting a new car would be a clean start along with the excitement that comes with a fresh set of wheels. Sending the Golf packing and finding a clunker to drive for six months had merit, too. She could then savor the big decision which would have resulted in two car-fever hits. But I knew Audrey would want to do the right thing for her situation.
I thought back to the early 1960s when my grandfather wanted to trade his pink 1959 Vauxhall Velox for a new car. A stroke had left him with a partially paralyzed right hand that rendered the Vauxhall's column-mounted three-speed manual shifter problematic. Grampy was finally going to buy a car with an automatic transmission.
At the time, my father was driving a 1963 Mercury Custom Monterey. The peacock turquoise 300-horsepower unit with a "breezeway" rear window was road candy to my older brother Bruce, who had just gotten his driver's licence. Dad located an identically colored 1963 Comet at the Mercury dealer and suggested Gramps buy that. He liked it, so Dad spent a week hammering out the deal.
The Comet's "Big 6" powerplant had adequate performance but it never idled as smoothly as the Vauxhall. If Grampy placed a glass of water on the hood, there was too much surface turbulence for his liking. And so began a parade of visits to the Mercury dealership to rectify the rough idle. My father, of course, having made the suggestion to buy the car in the first place, shouldered the brunt of the loud verbal abuse.
Oh yes, as his hearing faded over the years, Grampy's volume was about twice what was required in most situations. When he was excited it got even louder, borderline yelling. Sometimes I'd be up in my bedroom drifting off to sleep and I'd hear it through the floorboards.