The Truth About Cars » dogs The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » dogs Sunday Stories: “Gus’s Seat” by W. Christian Ward Sun, 20 Oct 2013 17:45:53 +0000 IMG_0381

It was Sunday. Sunday was coffee day.

Gus knew some things, not everything, but he knew enough. He knew that the passenger seat in the old Malibu was his. He knew that when it rained his hips ached, and that in the hot months the floor of the kitchen felt good against his stomach. He knew that he was safe, loved and he knew Sunday was coffee day.

During the week, Stefanie usually brewed a small pot at home before work, but after she had gotten the old Chevy roadworthy, she had made a habit of driving to the diner on Sundays to get a cup of coffee. It kept the car from sitting and Gus loved it.

Stef would get up, attend to her morning routine, and then she would back the red ’66 out of the garage and let it warm up. While it idled, she would slip back inside, grab her purse and call for Gus. He would trot to the passenger side and wait for the door. Stef would let him in, roll down the passenger window, and hop in the driver’s seat.

Once at the diner, Stef would go inside for her coffee. She would speak to the regulars, occasionally engaging in an extended conversation about the unrestored ‘Boo, and more often than not, Gus would get a small slice of bacon or another treat from the woman behind the counter. Another nap on the way home and he would spend the rest of the day in the corner of the living room on a dog bed that was as old as he was.


Gus had no words for the old red car, its owner, or the days of the week. Like humans, he thought in pictures.  It didn’t matter; he was fed in the morning and again in the evening. In the afternoon he laid next to the couch on his old bed and at night he slept on a flannel pillow in the bedroom.  It had been so long ago, he had almost forgotten the pound. He was housed, fed and loved. And, for the last 10 of his nearly 15 years, Sunday was coffee day.

Today was no different. He dozed as he heard the small block fire and the car back out of the garage. While it warmed he heard Stephanie come back inside, grab her purse and call his name.

Winter was coming, so his hips hurt. The half of an aspirin ground into his food hadn’t kicked in yet, so he struggled slightly. But by the time he walked through the garage to the passenger door and looked at Stef expectantly, his tail wagged in a steady motion. Had he been human, he would have been smiling. Stef was smiling as she opened the long door. When Gus only placed his front paws in the car, she lifted his rear haunches and placed him delicately in the seat.

His seat.

As they idled out of the subdivision, Gus’ nose confirmed all was right in his territory. He settled and curled into a ball, snoozing during the ride to the diner. It was chilly so Stef leaned across at a stop sign and rolled the window back up. Gus was grateful when she adjusted the heat controls to warm the cabin. He inhaled deeply and let out a contented sigh.

This was as it should be; his seat, his day. He was still asleep when Stefanie eased the Malibu in front of the diner and popped inside. She returned quickly and he didn’t notice she had left until she placed the bacon near him. His tail thumped sleepily on the dark red velour as he slowly chewed the crispy treat. When it was finished he returned to slumber, asleep before Stef even secured her coffee between her legs and backed the Malibu out of the parking space.

It was a perfect day. When they got back, he knew he would find his spot on the floor and Stefanie would spend the rest of the day on the couch, typing on her laptop and occasionally rubbing his head. It might even be cold enough to start a fire. Gus thought of the fire and how the waves of warmth would ease the throb in his hips. There in his seat, contented, safe and loved; he dreamed of that evening, of bacon, and of slender fingers gently patting his head as he slipped away.

When the Chevy made the right into the driveway the shocks creaked, making the old car bounce slow and lazy. Stefanie parked and shut the engine off just outside of the garage. Gus was still motionless in his seat, and Stef went to gently rouse him as she had many times before. This time, there was no response, no matter how long she shook him, until she stopped and collapsed forward against the wheel.

The tears started flowing as Stefanie looked for the shovel, and kept flowing while she dug an over sized hole next to the deck in the backyard. By the time she was finished, it was almost sunset. She wiped her eyes with a dirty glove and returned the shovel to its spot on the wall. Then she went to the toolbox and grabbed two wrenches.

She carefully unbolted the passenger seat and broke it loose. It was awkward and heavy, and her friend was still curled there, his eyes closed, his breath stopped. She lifted the entire seat carried them both to the back yard.

It was after all, Gus’s seat.



W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, including the one pictured above. Her name is Shady Ray and she is quite healthy at the time of publication

]]> 27
New or Used: Yo Dawg, Listen Up this Time! Tue, 22 May 2012 11:15:10 +0000


Mark writes:

Hi Sajeev and Steve,

Sajeev tried to save me once before but I didn’t listen. Maybe this time I will. Last year, I bought a bomb of a project and he did his best to scare me away. He saw the monstrosity in person. That monster being the 1995 Ford Bronco I bought on a whim. We talked on the phone before I purchased the OJ Bronco. Sajeev told me to avoid it like the plague. Yet, I didn’t listen. I got burned. I owned it for less than 6 months (3 of those months being spent in my garage) before selling it to an offroader in Ohio.

But, now I am in a different situation…

I am back in Canada where gas is significantly more expensive (very unlike cheap Houston Texas gas). My girlfriend and I will be in the market soon for a vehicle and we have the following criteria:

1) Fun to drive: must be a manual, preferably RWD or AWD, and a bit chuckable (not in the “chuck it in the garbage” sense of the Bronco).
2) Practicality: I don’t need a gas guzzler. Something efficient. Two doors are doable. Four doors are better. Wagon or hatch is best. However, it must have enough room for my girlfriend and I, plus two black Labrador mixes (see cute doggy brothers picture).
3) Utility: It needs to be able to tow two motorcycles (~400lbs each) and trailer. Also, we need another room for camping gear, even when the dogs are with us.
4) Realistic: We have finite funds (like most people) so we would definitely be going for something used, under $8000. I couldn’t care less what badge is on the front.


Steve answers:

If you fold down the rear seats, most any modern-day AWD wagon should do the trick.

Subarus tend to be fully priced. A Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed version would be rare and priced too high for your budget. Hondas have stiff price premiums and no real wagons in that price range… at least in the states. Nissan only offers wagon-like SUV’s with AWD, although a Versa hatchback may be just enough to fit the two pooches with the rear seats down.

But that Versa is front wheel drive as well. To be frank, most of what I usually recommend would be front wheel drive because precious few hardcore enthusiasts would ever get the virile satisfaction of actually using the capabilities that come with a good RWD or AWD setup.

This is not an easy deal. You need to figure out whether FWD coupled with a great set of tires can already take care of your sporty needs. If so, let me offer a real dark horse to this race. A 2007 Ford Focus ZXW. Surprisingly chuckable. Great fuel economy. Cheap to maintain. Plus with the seats down in the back, it should be enough to transport the two labs. You should be able to get a very low mileage one and keep it until the Blue Jays win a pennant.

Yes, I am aware that it probably fails the ‘fashion du jour’ test. If you must have AWD and a stick there is always a Subaru Legacy, a Saab 9-3 or a Volvo S60. But I have owned and/or driven all of these cars from the 07′ – 08′ time period and I believe the better bang for the buck can be had with a domestic. Consider the Astra XR AWD as well. Good luck!

Sajeev answers:

Oh man, did I ever try hard to show you the reality of your situation!  Then again, I shoulda known better.  Nobody learns their lesson until they burn their finger on the waffle iron. Many people like the notion of owning a cool old vehicle and think they can make it work, but even I had to give up on that notion and buy a new vehicle to get to work.

I like Steve’s recommendations, except for the towing part.  Then again, you are probably towing 1500lbs or so, and any of these vehicles can make it happen…stopping at highway speeds is another concern.

If you insist on a stick, a Subaru Forester does it all.  Find one with your manual trans, a long service history and scan the forums for potential problems with that particular year and powertrain. Also keep your fingers cross it wasn’t abused.  Not that I’d recommend this option, especially they can be awful thirsty…but it does make sense considering your requirements.

A Focus wagon is great for your budget.  Maybe a Toyota Matrix XRS or a Mazda 6 wagon, too.  None of these are great for towing, but maybe you can overlook that. Just like you and the laughably horrible Bronco I saw many moons ago, you want a vehicle that doesn’t exist at your price range.  Time to make some compromises (fuel economy, manual transmission, budget, tow ratings) and see what you REALLY need in a vehicle.

]]> 50