2009-07-25 / News

Lighten up: Buying a junker is the American way

By Dawn Weber

Teens of the 70s and 80s had a very special car lot from which to purchase our first vehicles: it was called the junkyard.

So when my daughter, age 12, thinks she's getting a shiny new car when she turns 16, well, I just have to laugh.

Just who does she think she is, Miley Cyrus from Nashville? iCarly from television? That ridiculous Paris Hilton from ridiculous Beverly Hills?

Well, I have news for her. We're the Webers of Ohio, and we don't take stock in any highfalutin', nice, new first cars. I absolutely want her safe. But she can be just as safe in a decent used Buick as she can in a brandnew Mustang.

Unfortunately, we're noticing more and more parents buying their children dream-cars for their 16th birthdays. Drive through any suburban high school student parking lot, and count the late-model sports cars, SUVs and convertibles. Just imagine all the fun these kids are having in their fancy-pants cars:

''Hey Buffy - you won't believe what we did in the Beemer Friday night! We ate french fries!'' says Biff.

We've also heard of some 13- and 14-year-olds whose parents have already purchased swanky vehicles for them, waiting in the driveway for the children's' Sweet Sixteens. I'm flabbergasted - and jealous - that unemployed cartoon-watchers could own newer cars than we own.

In my day, we had beaters and were glad to have them. We either flipped burgers- a lot of burgers - to save for a piece of crap car, or we inherited someone else's piece of crap car. Mufflers dragging, rust rusting, floorboards rotting - no problem, as long as the radio worked.

There was my first car: a 1982 Ford Fairmont with a malfunctioning catalytic converter so hot that it caught the backseat on fire. My then-boyfriend ripped that seat out before the whole car engulfed, and forever after I drove around with a gallon of water to pour on the hot metal where the seat had been. I dubbed that car the Flaming Fairmont of Death and prayed. A lot.

My best friend received her '78 Buick Regal, complete with puke-inducing suspension system, through the ''Inherit a Piece o' Crap'' plan. We managed to get ourselves into football games, trouble and the occasional cornfield in that thing. The Buick taught us our first beater-lesson: junkers are handy for wrecking.

That's the same wisdom another friend says he and his fraternity brothers used as they spent one evening repeatedly running their clunkers into an old college-couch. The guys wanted to see who could do the most damage. Like a piñata at a toddler's birthday party, those boys bashed the davenport to bits, then promptly set the remains on fire.

Now why would I want to deny my daughter oil-leaking, muffler-dragging, couch-smashing, corn-crunching memories like these? These Chevettes, Regals, Pintos and Pacers, these Fiestas, Escorts and Gremlins are the stuff of our youth. Also, I want her to learn the value of work. She needs to suffer and sweat for that first hunk of junk, just like in days of old. It's the American way.

So when my daughter pesters us again to go looking for a car, I'll take her out alright: out to look for a job. Somewhere close by there's a burger that needs flipped and a solid Buick that needs a home.

Dawn Weber is a Brownsville wife and mother of two pre-teens who commutes daily to Columbus for her full-time job.

Return to top