20 June, 2011

Parting ways with an old friend

Last summer I felt as though I never got to work in The Garage because of my summer class. I was rarely in town and got abbreviated Garage visits whenever I was. I was hoping that this summer would be different, and boy was I right. So much has happened since my last post that it's going to be difficult to get things caught up in order.

First off, the reason my blogs have been few and far between is not like last summer where I didn't have news to report. Instead it's because of all that I've been doing, the swiftness with which things have been happening, and a death in the family. There were days recently where I spent six or more hours up there working, and that actually felt great (and tiring). The reason for these days in particular was because my family and I decided to sell my Pontiac. This was a hard decision given my history with it (it being my first ever car that was solely mine, the summer I painted the whole thing from bare metal and primer, the first Small Town Adventure spent in it, etc.), but it was the right decision after getting the TT. The car had served me extremely well, and it was time to let someone else enjoy it. We didn't need another car sitting around, and because of my parents' preferences for all-wheel drive cars, they don't really have a need for a designated snow car (a fate that had already befallen the 1987 Oldsmobile Eighty Eight).

Before we could sell it, though, there was work to be done. So for those fervent few days I was toiling over the Grand Prix tending to its pealing paint and its encroaching rust. The first part of the procedure involved scrubbing the roughest spots of rust off of the underside of the car in front of the rear tires. This was very tricky in places because it was almost rusted through, but between multiple applications of naval jelly and a very rough sanding block, I had it mostly smoothed off. Using a plastic matrix I made patches with body filler to negate the holes in the sheet metal. Through applications of more filler and tons of sanding I smoothed out the rust spots and primed them so that they looked just like the body.

After this (spent squatting on the floor, lying on old blankets and listening to the Oldies), my mom helped me go around the car and knock off peeling bits of paint before painting over them with some touch-up spray paint my dad bought from Napa. It took him a while to find it, but thankfully Napa was able to get a match. Unfortunately when we painted it on it was visibly darker than the regular Silvermist Metallic the car needed. I took it back to Napa only to hear them say "Well it's 'cause you brushed it on and it's spray paint."

I knew that could contribute a little bit given its metallic nature, but it shouldn't be that dark. So we took it back and I taped up the areas we'd done and sprayed the paint on myself. It looked better when it was drying, but when the tackiness had gone, it was still visibly much darker than the paint around it. I suppose this was a little better than the rust and peeling paint it had, but I still wasn't too thrilled with the result. Nonetheless, my dad said that I needed to drive it to his place of work the next day to show it to a coworker.

So early that morning I headed there and showed it to a dad's coworker and her husband. He took it for a quick drive while I talked to Janet Mae, his wife. She said that they had never owned a car with a big trunk before, nor had they ever had a roomy backseat. When her husband returned, he commented how he had asked his wife when she first proposed the car to him "if [the trunk] was big enough to put a deer in." It definitely was, and it sounded like the Pontiac would be a big step up from the 1989 Cavalier he bought for $100 134,000 miles ago. He said he'd only ever put oil in it once, which worried me (Janet Mae assured me she puts the oil in for him), but this car was going to be their main family car, so I knew they would take wonderful care of it.

In the end they decided to take it, but not for a few days, so it was my job to finish cleaning the
car before they assumed ownership. It was a little bit sad to clean it up and put wax on my paint job from a couple of summers ago. I took the small paper crane from the dash that had been given to me nearly five years ago. I took my water blade from under the seat and my CDs from the player and glove compartment. By the time I was done, my silver Pontiac was clean and fresh, yet it retained its personality and the touches I had given to it over the years. It was my car. I had painted it. I had replaced the brakes myself. I had replaced the headlights myself. I had done a slew of things to this car over the years, but unfortunately it was the multitude of things we've needed the shop to do that ultimately pushed us to selling it. We had spent two or three times what the car was worth just due to major repairs (heads, transmission, pumps, belts, balancers, etc.), and at that point my father said enough was enough. I can't blame him I suppose.

I drove the car to my dad's workplace amidst a long line of tractors on the freeway that inevitably made me late (much to my father's dismay, as is expected from a 35-year engineer). I took the plates off in the parking lot, grabbed my car mat and tools and said goodbye to my car. My dad's grumbles at my lateness disappeared as he got in the waiting car to take us both home, so hurriedly I had to bid my Pontiac adieu. I knew the moment was going to be sad anyway, but to be rushed in parting ways with an old friend seemed unexpected. Perhaps the quickness of it all helped, but with a pat on the roof and a few softly spoken words, I was off.

I kept my eyes on the car from the Audi's window until it disappeared behind unkempt, rusty automobiles of faceless and nameless factory workers I will never meet. Just like that, she was gone. I can still imagine how the paint feels when I run my hand across it, and I still recall the texture of the steering wheel's leather. My dad has given me updates now and then, and it sounds like they are excited to have the car. I do hope they enjoy it and love it like I did.

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