Hammer Time: Why Keep It?
I have always been a ‘keeper’. Even though my inventory varies these days from muscle car’s to minivan’s, my own daily driver has always been a long-term affair. It’s an addiction that goes well beyond cars. Quality, stewardship. An opportunity to make your professional work enduring. Keeping and preserving your ride usually goes well beyond the economics of the car itself. That’s why the most fervent of horse traders in any business will eventually find a personal keeper or two. And chances are it’s not always going to be something that is flashy or popular.
It’s hard to let go of what you know. I have a friend of mine that’s always driven a Pontiac Bonneville for the last 15 years. It doesn’t meet any Eurocentric definition of a good car. The plastics are a bit cheap to put it kindly. The supersized exterior is riddled with bulbous curves and cheap body cladding. Let’s face it. Most of you will automatically hate this type of car. But you know what? I like it. He loves it… and that’s how a keeper car is kept. Reasoning be damned.
It’s irrational. Even a bit on the weird side. The nice stuff, Mustang Police Interceptors, 300ZX’s, and old school Benzes will always make an enthusiast smile. But they’re never kept as daily drivers for the long run. Why? Because they simply cost too much to keep up with.
I would rather not buy anything than fall victim to ‘ automotive compulsive disorder’ with a barnacle bitch of a driver. It’s nice to drive a fancy and temperamental car. But to keep? Screw that. Keepers can’t be expensive because as keepers, we have a habit of sparing no expense. Price? It does matter. But only as a long-term consideration.
The best oils. The best filters. The best tires. Yes, there are those keepers that are thrown to the wolves of teenage drivers and new owner neglect. But an enthusiast’s keeper is usually given the equivalent of fresh fluids and vitamins whenever it’s required.
It makes a monumental difference in the vehicle’s quality and longevity. Even though my first keeper was a 1994 Toyota Camry, a refrigerator incarnate, I considered my car to be all kinds of awesome. After 12 years and 240k the Camry still shifted and rode like brand new. That was because I changed the tranny fluid every 30k, kept up with whatever was needed, and never dogged the damn thing. .
Irrational you say? Well doing 7 of my own tranny fluid changes turned out to be cheaper than 1 at the dealership. Plus my car is still on the road years after I sold it. While most of it’s contemporaries are either molderizing near Murilee Martin or changing themselves into Chinese exports.
Not too long an old ‘keeper’ was symbolic of a weird guy or an old fart. Today a keeper car is a status symbol of sorts. You, Mr. Keeper, have essentially outsmarted the conspicuous consumer culture. You own the car. You may even have equity in your house… and who knows? You may even become the millionaire next door.
I would hazard to guess that most of you have keepers that are seen as cheap, old… perhaps even a bit crappy. But beauty is found in many things. For the keeper, it’s the pleasure of being the car owner instead of the debt holder. You may be as poor as dirt when all the depreciating dollars are added up. But at least you own what you got… and that’s what makes a ‘keeper’ rich.
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My father in law recently sold me his version of a keeper. It is a 1968 Buick Sportwagon that he bought brand new in 1968. Just over 180,000 miles on it and in perfect condition. My longest keeper was a 1987 Honda Accord that my wife and I put 345,000 miles on in the 25 years we owned it. My current and hopefully last pickup truck is a 1993 Ford F250 with over 220,000 miles. Our 1999 Odyssey minivan has 205,000 miles. We just hate buying vehicles. In the past our philosophy has been to buy new vehicles and then drive them into the ground backed up by a rigorous and anal maintenance routine. Times change, cars are ridiculously complicated now. After your factory warranty expires a new vehicle can be way too expensive to repair. A hard lesson I learned after putting two transmissions in our fine Odyssey. So when my wife got her current ride, a 2011 Accord EX, we leased it. Should be interesting to see how this works out.
My folks bought a new Galaxy silver 2001 Bonneville SE 3800 and still have it today and like it just as much now as they day they picked it up. It now has 120K miles and runs and drives brand new. Say what you want about how terrible the interior is but it has held up very well, the seats still look like new, nothing has fallen off, there are no real squeaks or rattles and literally everything still works as it did when new. Problem areas involved replacing the two rear wheel bearings and the intermediate steering shaft has been greased once and replaced with an updated unit that is still working smoothly today. Thats it other than routine service and wear items. Dad wants to keep it until 300K and judging by all the 3800 cars I see with that many miles I think he has himself a keeper.