How many vehicles have you purchased in your lifetime? My first car was a used 1936 Terriplane that cost $640. It was purchased in 1947 and it was difficult to even find a good used one, let alone obtain a new car. New cars were out of my league as they cost too much money and there was a waiting list at each car dealership.
The Terriplane took all of my severance pay from the military and the bonus money from the state. The Terriplane was an all-steel body car and it got about 30 miles to the gallon, but only 50 miles to the quart of oil. Oil was not a problem as my father managed a service station and he saved me good oil that was drained from other cars. I always had a gallon can of oil in the trunk.
Since that time, we have owned a multitude of vehicles: Ford, Mercury, Dodge, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Plymouth, Pontiacs and a Volkswagen Beetle. We also had several pickup trucks and a large van. We love our present Chrysler van, but reviewing the many vehicles we owned, our favorites were a 1949 Mercury (our first new car) and a 1957 black and red Chevrolet station wagon. We liked the 1957 wagon because it was the car we traveled with taking our three sons on many camping trips to our western national forests.
The amazing things that are foremost in my mind about owning and driving vehicles are the outlay of money for new cars and the price of gasoline. Another shock is the cost of any repair and replacement parts. Our American way of life and the construction of our towns and cities demand that we hop into a vehicle and go. Obtaining your driver's license seems to be the youth's mature right, but after you are 70, you worry about keeping it.
Several days ago, a 1955 "Consumer Reports" came into my possession. What interesting reading! It was fun trying to recall the makes and models of vehicles listed in the magazine, but what was interesting was the cover of the magazine.
The photo showed 15 vehicles on some road headed to who knows where. Some of the vehicles were 1930 vintage and a few were ones built after World War II. If you recall, few cars were manufactured from 1942-1945 due to all our energy going to the war effort of WWII. Restoring vintage automobiles can be expensive. Go view Toby Shine's new building on Highway 68 and take a gander at some of the beauties.
"How to Buy a Used Car" was an article that attracted my attention in the "Consumers Reports." We have all bought used cars and even after we drive a new car out of the dealership, it is "used." The value of the car declines after only a short drive? The article put the hammer to the nail when it read, "In short, any used car is a gamble." Used cars are usually sold "as is," meaning, you should reject the seller's approach that says, "This is strictly between us gentlemen." Buying a used car is "caveat emptor" -- let the buyer beware, all the way.
The article warned about buying "convertibles, known as rag tops in the trade" as they were expensive to maintain. Another warning was to stay away from station wagons framed or ornamented with wood.
Remember how the early station wagons had wood sides? Why those early wagons were built with wood has always been a mystery to me. In 1955, you will recall that station wagons were all metal and in great demand with the growing families of the WWII vets.
The article cautioned one to get a clear title and also find out whether the vehicle was insured before you even test-drove it. It also warned buyers to be sure you take your reading glasses along to read the fine print in the contract. The article goes on to say that you should "watch out for hidden charges, excessive fees for insurance, interest rates and the like."
As I read the article I could see that I had really missed the boat in not buying some of those used cars, put them in storage and sold them today. But alas, just paying the bills in 1955 took all the money we had. Below I have a chart showing the price for used cars from 1946 models to 1953. See if you can remember some of them?
Henry J4 1952 model-$425-$525 1953-$750
Willys 1952 model-$825-$975 1953-$995-$1275
Ford V-8 1946-$210-$220 1953-$1350-$1450
Plymouth 1946-$225-$235 1953-$1185-$1285
Nash 1946-$175 1953-$1595-$1675
Studebaker 1946-$175 1953-$1185-$1350
Hudson 6 1946-$150-$165 1953-$1470
Kaiser 1947-$150-$210 1953-$1200-$1425
De Soto 1946-$235-$250 1953-$1650
Packard 6 1946-$225
Lincoln 1946-$150 1953-$2525-$2825
Cadillac 1946-$375-$435 1953-$3350
How about it old timers, do you remember all of those models?
Wow! How prices for car repair have changed over the past 50 years. No longer can a car be fixed with a screw driver, adjustable wrench and a pair of pliers. Very complicated computer-testing machines are now used to pin-point the problems. Most repair-work estimates are done on a computer, which puts out the labor, parts and cost. Our new van informs us if the tires go below a certain number, but where is the spare tire? Thank you AAA and the cell phone.
We have become so dependent on our vehicles that even when the gasoline rises to $3.50 a gallon we still continue to drive. It is costly to own a car with the price of gas, oil, repairs and insurance, but they are a necessity as our lifestyle is dependent on them. The Chrysler van we own today has so many safety features we wonder how we drove and didn't have accidents years ago. It still bugs me to get into this van and have no key for the ignition after having one to start my vehicles for 70 years. Seat belts are a must and if you don't put it on it tells you -- tattle tale.
Cities today are developing public, rapid transit busses and rail. Many people are moving back to the center of cities and even the second story apartments above stores are returning. It is interesting to us "old geezers" to note that it is a return to former times when we rode streetcars, railroads and curb-liners. I recall being in Los Angeles in 1943. We would hitchhike in from Riverside and go any place by streetcar. It fit our army salary as it only cost a dime.
Hindsight tells us that we should have bought up some of those used cars 50 years ago and put them away, but we didn't have money for that. Visit a display of those antique cars, look at the prices and weep. But will the vehicles we have today be antiques 50 years from now? Who knows, only history can tell us.