SURRATT: I wish I still had my aunt’s car

Published 4:00 am Friday, July 8, 2022

I wish I still had my Aunt Helen’s 1968 Chevy Nova.

Aunt Helen was my great-aunt and I bought the car from her in the early ’70s after my mother made her stop driving. It didn’t have air or a radio, but it had a 307 cubic-inch V-8, it was dependable and built like a tank.

I’m reminiscing about that car after a week in which my wife and I dealt with multiple car problems involving our flivvers that cost a lot of money in car rentals and a lot of downtime because both vehicles were in the shop undergoing repairs.

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I guess you could say the basic cause for our current set of problems is the age and mileage of our vehicles that have served us well over 17 years. Both have in excess of 200,000 miles and are nearing the 20-year mark when they will be considered antiques. My truck has just a little over two years remaining before reaching that milestone.

They are paid for and the cost of replacing them seems out of our reach. But then the repair bills to keep them running ain’t cheap either.

It wasn’t always that way.

Before my hair began turning grey and I started fighting the battle of the bulge, I worked on our cars; I bought the auto repair books, got the tools and with the help of my father-in-law learned to fix the problems.

I changed oil, did tune-ups, set the timing (this was all before 1980 when the computers started to fully take over the cars), replaced water pumps, starters, alternators; just about everything but the brakes and transmission. I never could get the hang of fixing brakes and I knew transmissions were out of my league. As Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

That all ended when the cars started becoming too sophisticated and I developed carpal tunnel syndrome and “retired” from the “mechanic business” to let someone else handle the repairs. So far, we’ve been lucky to find good mechanics to work on our cars.

But our faithful stallions are reaching that age where at some point, they may have to be put to pasture. The problem is, I don’t know if I want to put them down. One thing about renting vehicles is you get the chance to ‘test drive” cars you might consider owning and I haven’t found one I like. I’ve driven in pickups and SUVs for so long I can no longer get into a car. The new cars sit so low now that for me to enter one requires me to contort my body into a near painful position to get behind the wheel.

This brings me back to Aunt Helen’s Nova. It didn’t have to rely on a computer to operate, everything on the engine was accessible, it was easy to get in and out of and, as I said, it was dependable.

They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

I wish they still did.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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