Experience D’Orth By Bill Orth
I saw an ad the other day about donating your old car to a charity, so they could sell it for needed cash and the donor would enjoy a tax credit. It’s a good idea that’s been around for some time, and made me think back to when what would be a long-running automotive saga for us began. About 14 years ago, I arrived at work one morning and found a faded maroon ’83 Peugeot 505 in our parking lot. It had two-year-old expired plates and an air of dereliction on it; the keys were in our service night drop box. No one in the shop knew anything about it, so I ignored it and went about other things.
A few hours later, I received a call from one of the wholesalers we did business with. “How’d ya like that Poo-Joe?” was his opening remark. “It’s lovely. What’s it doing here?” I returned, and he replied that it was a gift for us. Well, maybe not exactly a gift. He wanted $200 for it, but that was really for his church, since someone had donated it and he had been charged with turning it into cash…and, actually, could I make out a check to the church for $100 and another one to him for the same amount, to cover his ‘expenses.’ Hmmm.
At the time, we still serviced Peugeots; there were a number of them running around and we occasionally sold used ones, so buying one wasn’t too out of the ordinary. This beauty was already on the wrong side of 100,000 miles, but actually ran very well, its automatic transmission worked fine, the body was completely rust free and the gray velour interior was nice and clean, but it had a dead radio. The paint, however, like maroon always does, had faded to a dull ugliness. Someone had scratched a very rude word into the right rear door in letters four inches high, but in an effort to cover it up, someone else had used the touch-up paint in the glove box to paint over the scratches—so now the word really stood out in bright, fresh, 3-D color. So I wrote a check to the church for $200 and after some whining, the broker gave me the title.
Not long after, my eldest niece turned 16 and her dad asked me to look for a safe, inexpensive, slow car with an automatic transmission. Bingo! We put new tires on the 505, installed a new CD-playing radio, buffed it to within an inch of its life and set her loose. Within a month the dullness returned to the paint, but Erica had a plan. Being artsy and irreverent towards prideful things, she painted a huge sunburst on the flaking roof, a checker board on the toasted hood and various big Dr. Suess characters in bright colors all over the rest of it, including a big Cat-In-The-Hat over the **** on the door.
That Peugeot saw her through high school and was parked with insolence among the other students’ new BMWs, Mustangs and Toyotas at Cherry Creek High. At graduation, her folks replaced the 505 with something newer & nicer from our used inventory and I was faced once again with what to do with it, having allowed $100 for a trade-in value. It sat in the back yard a few months and then the car that Bob, our shop manager, commuted from Colorado Springs with, suffered some terminal failure. We told Bob he could have the Suessmobile, and after a few weeks he decided he liked it. What was not to like? 505s actually had very comfortable seats, good road manners and gave excellent fuel mileage. Bob commuted over 125 miles per day with the car for the next two years, ignoring rude comments about its décor, while everyone else who drove I-25 from the Springs to Denver noted its daily passing. Finally, when the weather began to get colder one fall, the 505 got more and more difficult to get started, so the shop did a compression test on it. Essentially zero pressure in two holes and not much in the others sounded the death knell. Of course, it now had well over 200,000 miles of experience, so we had gotten pretty good service out of the investment. But wait, there’s more!
A fellow named Leon had a little business in Denver at the time, also servicing Peugeots, and he had a customer who needed some rust-free body panels for their faithful 505…so he gave us $100 for it and it proudly drove under its own power to meet the dismantler. Much like Mel Gibson’s character did at the end of Brave Heart. Maybe the Poo-Joe didn’t have a blue face, but it did have a big blue Suess-ish fish painted on one side, and that was close enough.
-- Bill Orth –