Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Tale of Two Cutlasses

I had to say goodbye to the Infiniti last week. There was too much wrong with it and I couldn't justify spending more to fix it than the car was worth. So I sold it and began a furious week of car shopping.

I spent Friday and Saturday looking at used cars in the $8-$12,000 range. It used to be you could find a decent five year old sedan with around 60K miles in that price range. Not anymore. Everything out there was either pushing 100K miles, a subcompact the size of a phone booth, or abused worse than Mel Gibson's girlfriend.

My wife and I upped our price range and began looking at minivans and crossovers. Maybe we could find something for her to drive and I'd drive our venerable Nissan Pathfinder. I was happy with this idea because I like the Pathfinder. It's a good, capable vehicle that's comfortable to drive. An honest SUV with a mechanical 4WD transfer-case and legit off-road chops, it's been dead reliable for the eight years we've owned it.

But the more we looked, the more we realized there was nothing in our price range we wanted. Eventually we upped our price range again and looked at a Saturn Outlook, which is the twin of the GMC Acadia. In 2007 GM got out of the minivan market and began building the Acadia and Outlook crossovers. Both vehicles have been homeruns for GM and it's easy to see why. The Outlook is like Goldilocks--it's neither too big or too small, but just right for our family. We almost took it home that night.

Then fate intervened in the form of a Cutlass Supreme.

Just before we went back to buy the Outlook, my grandmother offered to loan us her car, a 1997 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme four door sedan with 76K miles. I drove it home and we took it the kids out to dinner in it that night. Over margaritas and Espinaca dip we decided borrowing the car would be a good stopgap while we saved up some more money.

The car has a few bumps and bruises from parking lot mishaps, but is otherwise solid and in good condition. So good in fact, I'm thinking of buying it. It appeals to my cheapskate side and I also have a soft spot for Cutlasses, having driven one in high school. My philosophical side wonders if the two Cutlasses are a a metaphor for my life. The 1968 coupe I drove in high school was more cool while the 1997 sedan is more practical and family oriented.

As my wife would say, I'm probably over analyzing things again. In reality the two Cutlasses are as different from each other as Jimmie Johnson the football coach and Jimmie Johnson the race car driver. Both have the same name, but are totally different.

Monday, when I drove the Cutlass to work, "Roll With It" by Steve Winwood came on the radio just as I hit the highway. The song was popular in 1988 when I had the first Cutlass. And it felt good driving and listening to it in this Cutlass. Maybe the two are not so different.

But either way, sometimes you just roll with it, baby.

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