Sleepless Nights and Loves Lost, but Rarely Found

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The title to this entry sounds like it belongs on a romance novel, but from the car-guy perspective it is a love story. My sleepless nights are most likely a product of years of shift work, which leave the body clock confused and sometimes the effort of lying in a dark room only lets the mind run amok. This limbo state allows thoughts to be entertained and dreams that disturb even the lightest level of sleep, and so I wind up here, at the keyboard.

Yesterday was another chapter in frustration with my car as I tore in once again to install the next set of headlight housings. I thought I was finished only to be dismayed when the passenger light stopped working. I discovered a faulty plug on the new unit and I had to pull the front end apart once again. At this point I was livid enough to pummel someone senseless, but what made it worse was feeling angry toward a car I dearly love. See “Engineering for Insanity”

If there is one constant in the realm of the gearhead it’s the repeated lament of the dream car. If you’re young, it’s all about the car you plan to own someday, and if you’re older it’s the wistful memories of the car you wish you still had. When I was young I dreamed about too many different cars to count, but looking back its safe to say I’ve owned my share of nice rides. Yes, there are several I still hold fond memories of, but in the grand scheme the one I own now has a powerful hold on my heart.

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I think I miss my Trans Am because I love a black car and its T-tops made it the first open air machine I’d ever owned. I miss my Roadrunner for its fun factors, the magnificent noises it made, its eye-popping metallic orange paint that couldn’t be ignored (by onlookers or police) and its implied image to a cartoon bird I laughed at with joy in my childhood. (And still do today)

 

Parting company with my Trans Am was forced due to a job layoff, and marked the beginning of a long line of used cars that carried me through the years of raising children. All were adequate in their own way, but many I dreamed I would make-over from top to bottom and keep until I was old and gray, but none of those ever came to pass. Most of that is my own fault, but some is the weakness many of us suffer from, and that is simply that newer cars just keep getting better.

My wife would probably say I am still in the throes of mid-life crisis, and that may be partially true, but at least I feel that progress has been made. I’ll easily concede my first convertible was exactly in that category, but more than that it marked the first time I’d ever owned a second car for myself. Two drop-tops later, I think I have landed on my gemstone, however unlikely that may sound.

I can’t say I ever spent hours dreaming about a Chrysler 200, especially since its really a warmed over version of the 2008 Sebring I owned for several years. But a funny thing happens when you bring an Italian in the kitchen, and suddenly leftovers can become a dish you never expected to taste so good. I must admit to being both impressed and fascinated when I encountered the 200 at the New York Auto Show, but the day I laid eyes on this metallic red ragtop started a yearning I couldn’t ignore. (Another entry “The Sun and the Roadrunner” explains this notion more in-depth.)

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I doubt the Chrysler 200 is on anyone’s sports car wish list, and I openly admit its not a serious sports car by any means, but it does deliver a fun package the likes of which I haven’t owned in years. In its present faux Roadrunner guise, the car draws stares and compliments aplenty, and I find myself admiring it whenever I draw near. The V6 engine delivers as much or more power than many other cars I’ve owned. By comparison, if you owned a 300hp car when I was young, you held the reigns to a mean street machine. The beauty of the 200 is that power doesn’t punish you at the gas pump, and that makes it all the more joyous. Throw in the drop top, a great sound system that also answers the phone, an intoxicating mix of intake and exhaust music, and all the elements I missed from my early days are suddenly right at my fingertips to enjoy. Now if I can just get the bloody headlights to work…

My other throwback loss is a more recent one. At least once in our car-lives we run across the unexpected machine that seems to run forever, and when it finally lays down it’s like losing a best friend. I think you have to go through years of raising kids to gain the appreciation of a sedan, but when one comes along that looks good despite its extra set of doors, and displays a spirited nature to boot, that car can get a hold on you down deep.

I loved the cab-forward style of the Dodge Intrepid from the day it landed in showrooms, but it would be years later before I would finally own one. Even then, it seemed unlikely I was purchasing a landmark vehicle since it was several years old and had 90k miles on the clock. I was recovering from the expenses of divorce at the time, and the car seemed more an economic choice versus a passionate one. Little did I know I was mounting the driver seat of one of the most rock-dependable cars ever to grace my driveway.

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I met my wife via an internet dating site where an unusual glitch put us in contact. I doubt either of us had plans to find someone such a distance apart, but over the next two years the trek between Virginia and New York City became a familiar run. The Intrepid handled this monthly jaunt with comfortable aplomb, and at sometimes shameless speed, so much so it became affectionately known as “The Taxi.”

I have since tried to find another daily steed that would be so dear to my heart, but I’ve found that to be a difficult task. Not for lack of trying, mind you, I have come close on occasion but have yet to discover that same magic mix of beauty, charm, dependability, and fun. Nothing will ever be perfect, but if I could be lucky enough to locate that daily driver that could win me over the way my 200 Roadrunner has done, that would be enchanting.

On the bright side, all those miles to New York and back won me the best woman a man could ask for, so in that respect I couldn’t have done better. Love is a crazy thing, and in honor of my miles to the Big Apple, I wrote a poem you can find here on the blog entitled, “Heart on Wheels.”

– T. August Green

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