Following the wreck of my Mustang, I had to have something to drive. For awhile that was the Dodge Truck or Mercury Tracer that my wife and I owned, but only after a little over a year, the Tracer broke down and my ex got the truck in the divorce. Left with nothing to drive and a wrecked Mustang, I had to get something.
I first got a 94 Buick LaSabre. This car was a piece of junk, but fit my price range. Really it was only junky because of the repairs and maintenance in required, on the inside it was really nice and it drove great. I got a couple of years out of that car until one day, pulling out of my parents house to get some supplies for my dad at the local Atwoods, I heard a POP that was followed by smoke coming out of the steering wheel that smelled like burning wire. That LaSabre never started again, and I never found what that problem was.
I then drove my Mom’s Kia Sportage for a while. While I don’t think I would seek out that car for myself, I had very few problems with it while I was driving it. Eventually there was a need to loan that car to my oldest brother, that was more pressing than me using it, so I went back to having no car at all. Shortly after that though, I fixed my Dad’s Dodge Truck and I drove that for a while. I loved driving that truck, I loved driving my truck and this one is so much like my old one, but I needed my own vehicle and my dad needed his truck.
It was following a camping trip with one of my best friends that I found out that he was tired of his old Camry. This car isn’t one that could be described as a beauty. It was a white 89 Toyota Camry, so it was 21 years old when I bought it, and it was a piece of work. My friend didn’t really do engine work, so he wasn’t sure about the condition of everything, except for that it had a new battery, the back doors didn’t open, the trunk lock was broken in a locked position, and the driver’s door and hood both had a tendency to unlatch and open at random, but he sold it to me for $50. I couldn’t really turn that down. My dad on me to give back his truck and I could get something that runs for $50. I can do that. I probably put another $100 into the car, fixing locks and getting doors to open and such. Oh, and replacing the driver’s door and hood latches. Well I bought that beauty in the Fall, then in July, middle of July, it busted. It not only died, it throw a rod while I was going over a railroad track. If you added distance shots of a steam engine moving my way and made my doors stick, you would have a scene right out of the movies. Luckily for me we came across a police officer that had just gotten off duty and happened to have everything he needed to safely tow me to my apartment in his truck. Then I later got someone to take it off and sell it for scrap.
In all this time I just kept thinking that if my Mustang was fixed, I wouldn’t have all these issues. Over the 170k miles driving her, combined with my obsession in fixing and maintaining her, I learned to be able to tell an issue before it became a big problem. True, if she throws a rod, there’s not much I can do, but I know I can keep her running better than all these other cars I have been stuck with. Then I found the car I really wanted.
A co-worker came in one day announcing that his grandmother in-law was selling a red 97 Ford Thunderbird. I said I would be interested right away depending on a few things. He took me out to look at the bird, and she was exactly what I have been looking for 5 years at that point. It’s a car that is mechanically identical to my Mustang. Engine, transmission, emissions, mostly exactly the same. Even a lot of the cosmetics are the same. The cars body shape and frame are different, but detail parts and trim are the same. I looked at this car and thought to myself “spare parts.” Even though the Thunderbird is a year older than my Mustang, her parts are a perfect fit. I had to have this car, I saw it as a win win for me. For right now I can drive a car so perfectly close to my Mustang that I can feel right when driving again, but so close to the Mustang, that I have the parts to get her running again when I can afford that body work. So I bought it, and to be honest I treated this bird like spare parts.
The next year things didn’t get better for the new car, when it started to look like I was really going to have a plan to start saving to get the body work done on the Mustang. I had gotten the majority of debts paid off and had some extra cash that I could reallocate into my budget, or I could put it in the Save the Mustang savings account, so I did both putting part to my budget then part to the savings. It was looking like I have a real three-year plan that could work. It was going to require me shaving off on that $7k a little by doing as much work on my own as possible, but I spent $1500 on a car that was full of spare parts, which would reduce those overall repair cost by a lot more than the cost of buying the bird.
Then last spring my doctor asked me to go in for an MRI for back pains I was having that were getting worse, and they found all the issues with all that, and I had to plan for surgery. Over the recovery, when I wasn’t able to work for three months, I ate up all my leave at work, and then all my savings, including Save the Mustang savings, but I had to get the bills paid and I couldn’t work. Following all that I was left with a slew of medical bills that I need to pay now, which now leaves me with a drastically reduced amount that I can put aside to do much of anything else.
Before going surgery that fall, a vent part on the interior of the bird broke. I didn’t even think much about it. I just weighed the cost of going to Ford to get a replacement, or to “borrow” that piece from the Mustang, after all I will be putting it back when fixing up the Mustang, right? This didn’t stop at that though. After my recovery a few things went wrong with the bird, and I did buy one part new, but when I priced a new alternator I just couldn’t afford it. I had to be able to get to work and the bird is what I’m driving. I don’t want to get money from anyone else to get a new one, because I can’t afford a new one myself and I have no clue when I will have money built up again to pay someone back for buying me one, but you know the one on the Mustang still works.
This is where I have really started getting into a position that I wasn’t expecting. Two parts to this really. First part is that I didn’t think about what happens if I need parts I can’t afford before I can afford all the work on the Mustang. I need to keep a car running, but I don’t want the Mustang to be spare parts, and I feel sick to my stomach with every part I take of my girl to fix the bird, but I have to keep the bird going. It’s a position I hate being in. The second part is that I have started really like the bird, even with her problems. She badly needs a paint job, has some interior issues, and some cosmetic flaws, but I have really started getting attached. With all the similarities to my Mustang, it wasn’t hard to get attached to driving a car that reminds me so much of the Mustang, and that I also can assess problems and fix them so easily on a car I am already familiar with because of the Mustang.
I think when the day comes that I need those spare parts, I am not going to be able to easily dismantle my bird for my Mustang. I have considered making my two-year plan to get the Mustang fixed into a three-year plan and fix up both the Mustang and the Bird. I won’t be able to get enough money to completely restore both of them, but I can get them both fixed and running, and get the body repaired on the Mustang, with enough left over to possibly paint them both. At that point I would need a new plan to save up to fix interior parts to get them both restored and looking the best I can make them. I don’t know right now, I guess it depends on a lot of factors. If my sons take an interest in helping with the work, that would go a long what to making the restoration easier. Also, as I approach the third year and see what the condition of my Bird is and how much I have been able to put aside, I will have a better idea of what is realistic about my plans of having both fixed up and ready to start restoring while able to drive them both.