Monday, August 23, 2004

The Many Cars of Keith Pille


1. 1978 Dodge Warlock pickup
Period of use:
December 1990- early 1991
Comments: customized for racing on the dirt tracks of rural Oklahoma; idled at 35 mph, requiring constant use of the brakes while driving. Famous throughout Blair, Nebraska for glasspack mufflers which allowed the truck to be heard over a mile away and for gas mileage below 10 mpg. Lacked rearview mirrors of any sort.
Eventual fate: sold due to constant mechanical problems of varying magnitude, shortly before a massive systemwide collapse left it looking like Sheriff Buford T. Justice's car at the end of Smokey and the Bandit.

2. 1982 AMC Spirit
Period of Use:
early 1991- March 1993
Comments: one of the curiously large “compacts” of the early 80s. Much-beloved and far more reliable than the truck, although hardly free of mechanical trouble (most memorably the driveshaft falling out on a drive to Omaha). At one point my father installed a dashboard 8-track, against which I railed vigorously.
Eventual fate: retired from service after chunk of transmission housing broke off and fell into clutch assembly.

3. 1982 Plymouth Reliant K Car
Period of Use:
about two weeks in June of 1993
Comments: low-power, low-style banana-yellow piece of shit. Officially owned by my grandmother, but I was the only one who ever drove it. Sucked in every way a car could possibly suck. Lack of stereo prompted me to keep large boom box in back seat (suddenly that 8-track player didn't seem so bad), although this really didn’t accomplish much and only saw actual use during a very brief (2 days) phase of listening to The Cure.
Eventual fate: blew head gasket on freeway; that was pretty much it.

4. 1978 Dodge Magnum
Period of use:
September 1993- some time in 1994
Comments: enormous 70s beast. Very similar to truck for gas mileage and noise (several times, I triggered nearby car alarms by starting the motor). On the positive side, could seat 7 comfortably. At least one prof at the University of Minnesota, Morris refused to let me drive to a field trip because he did not want his students in danger. For the record, I feel I must protest that this car only looked dangerous.
Eventual fate: to be honest, I’m not sure. I just stopped having it.

5. 1984 Buick Regal
Period of use:
Some moment fairly early in 1994- December 1996 (That long? Holy God...)
Comments: similar to but slightly better than the K Car. Notorious on Morris campus for being “the car that still moved even though all of the warning lights were on.” Had a tape deck, which was a plus; but the eject mechanism was faulty, requiring me to jimmy tapes out with edge of a key. I still have a bunch of cassette tapes with nasty key scars.
Eventual fate: slow, messy mechanical death, which included an attempt to replace the engine; afterwards, the car sounded like a bizarre flying contraption from a B movie. At one point, the Regal would only move in reverse, which did not stop my uncle Lyle from attempting to use it (this, by the way, was after Lyle made the front page of the Blair, Nebraska newspaper for having his previous car burst into flames on the side of the road; classy transportation runs in my family).

6. 1990 Ford Escort
Period of Use:
December 1996- December 1997
Comments: first car to enter my possession with an ounce of life left in it. Was a fine car for 3 months or so during my senior year. During this honeymoon period, certain friends actually complained that, lacking problems, it just wasn’t a Keith car. The Escort obliged by developing an oil leak which ruined a computer unit, causing the engine to kick out unexpectedly for up to five seconds and then roar back to life at frightening RPMs. Very unnerving, particularly on the freeway; this added a bit of spice to my introduction to Twin Cities commuting.
Eventual fate: growing certainty that engine-hiccups were going to lead to my death led me to use the Escort as a trade-in (estimates for repairing the hiccup problem came to far more than the car's actual value). On the final trip to the Saturn dealership, the Escort hiccupped into a brief coma, but was eventually revived by spraying an entire can of starter fluid into the air filter. It performed one last act of loyalty by running like a champ when the woman at the Saturn dealership took it out for a spin to determine its trade-in value.

7. 1996 Saturn SL
Period of Use:
December 1997- present
Comments: chosen, in a sad commentary on my priorities, out of a peer group of 30 used Saturns because of the 12-disc changer mounted in the trunk. I must say that this car’s stereo is the finest sound reproduction unit I’ve ever heard. There is no better venue in which to hear a CD. Car has been refreshingly solid and reliable, although years of city parking have produced numerous scrapes on fenders and the driver's seat is now a very icky gray color.
Eventual fate: still running strong just shy of 115,000 miles. The CD player now arbitrarily refuses to play about half of the discs put into it, but will usually come around if sworn at with enough ferocity. There is a small hole in the muffler and the plastic hanging down underneath the front bumper is a little torn up, but I expect it’ll be a while before I manage to drive this one into the ground.

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