The car that I could fix
We live in a time of specialization and I can no longer repair all the machines I use.
Ryan Blackwell/Public Opinion
Many years ago, I bought a 1953 Chevy sedan, before they were collector’s items but after they were old enough to be inexpensive. I had a new exhaust system installed. While the car was up on the lift, I spotted the broken spring leaf that caused the car to sit low on the right rear. I drove from the muffler shop to a wrecking yard and bought a used leaf for the spring. I blocked up the rear of the car, removed the spring, took it apart, replaced the broken leaf, put it back together, and reinstalled it. The car sat level.
The engine ran noisily. There was so much room under the hood, I could climb into the engine compartment and sit on the fender well to remove the rocker assembly atop the engine. I took the assembly to a machine shop to get it surfaced and polished. I bought and installed new rocker shafts, and I put it all back together. I started the car. The engine ran very quietly.
I had tires put on the car, and it was ready for the road. My total investment was minimal, and I had a car that looked good, drove well, and got about 22 miles per gallon, respectable mileage when gas cost about 35 cents a gallon.
The car I drive now is powered by a transverse V-6 engine. Even so, it gets 35 miles to the gallon on trips. But I cannot reach or even see the rear bank of spark plugs. I’ve given up trying.
We live in a time of specialization. I can no longer repair all the machines I use. I’ll leave my car at a mechanic’s and ask Laura to pick me up in her eight-year-old car, whose engine I can’t even see for all the coverings on it that I don’t know how to remove.
While the mechanic works on my car with his specialized knowledge and specialized tools, I’ll write an essay about my experience with newer cars and with my blue-and-white Chevy. If I sell the essay, I’ll pay for the work on my car and have enough left over for ice cream cones, which Laura and I will eat in the shade as we remember that old Chevy.