Farewell My Faithful Steel Steed…
Today I lost an old friend. She may have been made of metal and plastic but when I turned the key, she purred like a big cat. Maybe it was the purring of my beautiful red Pontiac G8GT that first caught my attention – being the cat lady I am (the crazy is implied), but more likely it was the fact that with the big V8 engine I only had to think about passing someone and they were in my rearview mirror. I’m a 62 year old woman, a retired librarian no less (trust me, it’s a stereotype – which usually vanishes at my first 4 letter word) and this sounds like the musings of a 19 year old with his first muscle car crush (yet another stereotype).
This car is just shy of 12 years old and owes me nothing. Although extremely well-maintained, like any other older gal, the exterior was starting to show wear – the paint job dinged with rock chips and the clear coat starting to peel. The interior leather seats were well conformed to my posterior, and bluetooth non-existent. She still has a 6CD player and a radio. She came with her own phone number – free for a year. After the first telemarketer called as I barreled down the highway, I knew I wasn’t going to continue paying for that rather expensive privilege. It also came with free On-Star for a year which made me giggle one day when an operator spoke up in my car unannounced (read small heart attack!) to tell me that they were concerned that my low tire pressure light was on and I was still driving. I had to school this young man from Southern Georgia on what -35°C does to tire pressure and assure him all would be normal within a couple of kms.
I had stopped using this car as my regular mode of transport when we realized our harsh Alberta winters were becoming no match for it’s rear wheel drive. We purchased a Buick enclave (which is a great car, but rather soccer mom-ish) and continued to use the G8 as a fun summer car. Even as I would grumble in spring that the technology was just not up to date, this purring beast quickly made me forget that Apple carplay was not an option.
I was 51 years old when I bought this car. I had no idea she was anything special. I needed a new vehicle and this one was proffered by the car salesman. It looked sporty but fit like a family sedan, large trunk suitable for multiple suitcases or a trip to Costco, and lots of bells and whistles. To be honest while the large engine is what attracted my husband, I really and truly had no idea. My exact comment was “a V8? Doesn’t that use a lot of gas? I don’t want to have a higher gas bill!” to which my husband replied “I’ll pay for the gas!”. If I want to be completely honest, it was the real pretty red that caught my attention..
I had to wait a week to go back and pick up the car and within that time, I learned that I had somehow managed to have done something special – noteworthy, even attention grabbing. Who knew? I told co-workers who were suddenly in awe. “You bought what???” I was tasked with bringing the brochure to work and several male co-workers couldn’t wait for me to drive it into the parking lot. This seemed odd, yet I felt strangely proud. Prior to my purchase, I was likely the least coolest member of the school staff in all ways. I went one step further and announced to a group of grade 8 boys that I had just purchased this new car. It was instant credibility. Suddenly I was no longer the purveyor of textbooks and boring novel studies. I drove a cool car! They started to tell their friends and they would come into the library to ask if it was true. Students would pass it in the parking lot and run in to tell me they liked my car. I was 51 years old and had finally been invited to sit at the cool table! Me who wasn’t allowed to wear jeans or make-up till I left home. Me who was just as invisible in the hallways of high school as I was in the halls of the middle school where I worked. Hair, make-up, and the art of fashion had always eluded me. But suddenly, without forethought, I was the driver of a very cool car – one that became an instant classic when Pontiac shut down production only 2 weeks after my purchase.
Driving it was a dream. Not just in the way she handled. For the first time in a long time (if ever) I was visible! That’s what happens to women of a certain age. We become invisible. I became an older invisible lady before I had ever had the chance to become a young cool lady. And here was my chance – offered unconditionally by a pretty red car with a big engine. Coolness factor achieved at only $40,000 with easy monthly payments. No surgery required. Heads were turned as we drove down the highway, her and I. Men at gas stations were prone to mansplaining the beauty of my car and I would beam. As a photographer, many times my husband and I sit at a market with my photos and 90% of the people assume that he is the photographer. Likewise they would assume this was my husband’s car. But it was not. It was mine. He loved it as much as me and I try not to think about how he might have driven her without me in the passenger seat – but it was all mine and I was cool.
Even as she aged most gracefully, the coolness factor did not diminish – at least for me. Heads were not so easily turned and when they were it was only to mansplain how it was one of the last cars Pontiac produced (Really? Do tell me more…) But I awaited the coming of each spring to put her back on the road, even as my body resisted the low profile and getting in and out became somewhat of a chore.
And then our ride came to a sudden ignominious end. My son, whose even older car was in an extended stay at the mechanic shop, was desperate for a ride to work and, like any good mother, I offered the G8. On Sunday morning I received a text that he had hit a deer in the early still-dark morning on his way to work. He was fine (thank God because it could have turned out way worse), the G8 not so much. I cried. More at the relief that my son was okay but, quite frankly also at the fact my car was badly hurt. The red pool of coolant underneath made me want to yell “someone call 911”! My son did not so much as hit the deer as he ran over one. An oncoming vehicle actually hit the deer, causing it to fall in front of my car too late to avoid. My low profile car was tasked with running over the large animal and the result was ugly. Not so much mechanical damage…she still purrs when started, but certainly cosmetic damage. We had foolishly chosen to reduce insurance coverage to PLPD. While hopeful, hope soon turned to reality when the estimates for repair came in at $6500+. Having a rare car does have its disadvantages when shopping for parts. Then came the secondary costs…would it make sense to replace and paint the front end of the car when the rest of the car would now look shabby? The decision was difficult and hard thought – dare I compare it to removing life support? Perhaps if my husband had not been recently laid off from work for the third time in a year. Perhaps if we were not so close to actual retirement age, the decision would be different.
A salvage yard offered $800. There was no way it was going for junk…she still has life in her yet! I would park it and plant flowers around her first…a shrine to my only brush with coolness. The thought of her parted out and crushed crushed made me physically ill regardless of her ability to save others from the scrap heap. The salvage yard guy contacted his cousin, who already owned a G8 but was interested in a G8GT. He offered $2000 calling my car an entry-level G8 without a sunroof which is akin to calling the USS Enterprise a garbage scow! I reminded him that the V8 has way more power than a sunroof – however, the lady who bought a car because it was a pretty red cannot cast aspersions on a man who rejects the lack of a sunroof.
Knowing that we would not be making repairs to the car, it became imperative that we move it out of the collision compound and bring her back home. She was towed into our yard today. I stood outside on the street in front of my house waiting to flag in the driver. I watched as the flat deck tow truck rounded the corner with my red beauty sitting on it’s back still looking proud. My heart gushed and my eyes filled as she passed by me one last time and I ran to meet them at my back garage. The collision place had washed her all up and removed the hanging debris. Oh, how her red shone again. My heart! Without her bumper she looked a little like a prize fighter offering a toothless grin. It was not unlike a funeral home viewing where the undertaker has done an amazing job and you remark at how life-like old Auntie looks. She came off the flatbed gracefully with only a wee bit of shrieking from a brake pad likely dented in the ordeal. She started up with her characteristic purr and my husband backed her into the driveway after clearing a space in the snow. I sat in the front seat and quietly thanked her for her service. I silently went about gathering her belongings into a cardboard box. She didn’t have much…just a phone cord and a tire gauge. She had stored all the various receipts from over the years…records of oil changes and tire replacements. She had a voracious appetite for rear tires due to my coolness factor demanding that I leave on a green light and watch the other cars in my rearview. A pain my Buick will ever understand.
She played a valuable role in my Aurora chasing. Her trunk effortlessly held my various camera gear and the back seat came down to easily accommodate my extended tripods pushed through from the trunk – as I ran from one viewing point to another I wasn’t bothered with pulling in the legs of the tripod, I just threw them in and took off for the next site. She looked pretty sitting under the dance of the Lady Aurora.
Today we reached out to a friend who does body work thinking he might know someone interested in helping her reclaim her golden years. He had me with his comment “what do you plan to do with that beauty of a car?”. This person feels me. He’s coming later today to have a look and I know he will be looking with the appropriate respect. Whether or not he takes to a good home isn’t important as of this writing, as much as the fact that someone else can look at the damage and still see the beauty. Which, really, isn’t what all of us women of a certain age strive for?