Sunday, October 16, 2005

At least we got a car...

When you think raw horsepower, the smell of exhausted fuel, and the sweet purr of a high performance engine, you think, naturally, of a 1990 Nissan Stanza. And friends, so do we - which is why we purchased one for $600. Now it may seem ironic that the registration on the car plus a tank of gas is worth 20% of its total value, but that's because you don't know anything about fine vintage autos.

But lets take a look at how this once in a lifetime deal came to pass. We spent several days scouring the classifieds, driving through parking lots, and asking locals just to find the perfect vehicle for the perfect price. Along the way we had several funny and sobering experiences. At one juncture we called a guy about a car parked on the side of a major road, and when we went to look at it realized that there was about a 10% chance that the car was not stolen and that the most likely outcome of our visit was us being robbed or kidnapped. "Robert", who had about 15 cars "for sale" didn't meet us as he promised, but instead sent his associate - who had drawn skin and sunken eyes and was working on what might have been his fifth beer of the evening. They tried to lure us into some sort of weird gated area, but Katy has the instincts of a coyote and led us away from there in a hurry.

At another juncture we met a lady named Nancy at a mall parking lot to see her station wagon with 177k miles that she wanted $2,000 for. She was a stout woman with dark skin and a wide jaw - the kind who you could imagine cleaning a carburetor while berthing her sixth child. So her first statement, er, question was, "so do you want to go cruisin'?" We were kind of taken off guard and said that we would be fine just test driving it in the parking lot. By the time we had finished speaking she had already started the car and told us to get in, we were riding with her...So we did. Only one of the back doors could open from the outside, and the front was full of trash and hardware, so we both entered in the rear driver's side for her to chauffeur us in the wagon. Upon our attempt to close the door once inside, the whole panel came off in Kristian's hand. Literally he was just sitting there holding the blue door panel in his hand, staring at the bare frame and wiring, looking back and forth from it to crazy Nancy up front. She really tried hard to play it off, but did announce her slight embarrassment at the situation. Devising a quick solution, she handed Kristian a huge bolt from her hardware box in the front (which she said she took from her workplace, a doctor's office?) and encouraged him to go ahead and reattach it. But the bolt was HUGE, and there was no way it was fitting on that door without the use of some pneumatic tools or a torch or she got out, closed the door, and we were off. As we pulled out onto the main road, she announced that this car could hall a** up a mountain! Katy was doing her best to stifle laughter as Kristian vacillated between sheer astonishment and mild amusement. After about a five minute bumpy ride in the wagon of death, and excusing herself for what a mess the car was (she would have cleaned it if she knew we were calling), she informed us of an incredible piece of information that we would have never picked up on with our untrained eye, a piece of information that almost convinced us to not only buy it, but pay double what she was asking - she told us, "this car is luxurious if you want to know the truth!" And there it was, we weren't actually riding in an old busted station wagon with cracked dash and panels, stained upholstery, and an unidentifiable odor - but in a luxurious automobile! We finally acquiesced as to the ability of the car to dominate mountains and told her we had been duly impressed with this high performance machine, and kindly asked her to take us back (we were several miles from our original parking lot at this point...and becoming increasingly frightened).

Needless to say, we passed on that gem - but came to rest with the Stanza (which, incidentally, we spotted as she drove us around town). Its name conveys a certain poetic quality, as does the severe shaking when you put it in gear! Drive is more reminiscent of Keats, while the heavier shaking of Reverse brings to mind the lyrical nature of Whitman. I think that you will see from the picture, noting the thin layer of red dust that came with the car, the lack of superfluous paneling and switch covers, that there is no pretense in this car. What you see is what you get, and what you get is a nervous ride which causes you to pray for your life for the entire journey. This car is about utility, plain and simple. No frills like "air conditioning" and "properly operating windows" - just a hardly in tact gear box and only slightly rusted axles - just the way God intended it.

So come on down, and if you do, be assured that you will have a chance to ride in the Stanza, which we have called our "flour baby" because of its (what was once) white color and frail and fragile nature. Its sensitive, and so are we, which is why it is a perfect match.

[Note that the red dirt trim and broken window control panel doesn't come standard on this car, but we her throw those extras in for free]

Sorry if you feel ashamed of your ride now,
Kristian and Katy

[Though it lacks some of the more common ammeneties, it came with this free turtle decal!!]