It survived roadtrips to Alabama, Alberta and New Mexico. It saw its front end go flying in Guelph, felt the crunch of two vehicles behind it in Burlington, and an unknown assailant give it a good bump in a parking lot in Boston. It survived a tree crushing its hood as a Halloween trick in North Toronto, a wrong way trek down a steep hill in Montreal, and a cow giving it the evil eye in Pennsylvania Dutch country. It crossed the mighty Mississippi, observed the skyline of Manhattan, took in the beauty of Banff, and dodged dangerous drivers in Scarborough. It even served as a bed when every motel in Montana seemed to be full.
But after a decade of service and almost 245,000 km of travelling, it’s time to say goodbye to my ’01 Chevrolet Cavalier. For a vehicle I think the National Post once said any proud male should be embarrassed to drive, it gave me little reason to shudder. Sporty and stylin’ it wasn’t; dependable survivor it was.
In a sense, I had a close attachment to this car because it was effectively Dad’s final gift. It was fitting, since we had imagined roadtrips for the two of us that weren’t to be (though I have managed to do some of those we discussed, like Cooperstown or Memphis). When he passed away, we received a generous insurance settlement, which allowed Mom, Amy and I to purchase new vehicles. The car I had at the time, a ’94 Cavalier, was approaching 250,000 km and starting to show signs of senility (the locks were becoming finicky). The only extra feature I specifically requested was a cassette player for all of my mix tapes, which received little use after I discovered the wonders of downloaded MP3s. Gradually the car collected clutter—a glove box stuffed with music, a trunk lined with newspapers after the combination of a slushy mass of Cherry Coke accidentally left in it during a cold snap and a case of diet black cherry Jones Soda that couldn’t take the heat on a trip back from A’burg (thinnest can walls I’ve ever seen), assorted snow-cleaning equipment, jugs of emergency washer fluid, etc.
Family and friends marvelled at its ability to continue running despite all of the mishaps it encountered. It even outlived the dealership it was purchased from (Golden Mile), which had been in business for decades. It was tempting to think it might operate forever, but a recent series of problems made finding a replacement a priority. The tipping point was a fussy starter that left me hurling obscenities while it decided not to cooperate with the rest of the vehicle when I attempted to depart the T&T at Steeles and Middlefield. A roving CAA van and a tow truck driver failed in their negotiations with the starter, so it was towed to Leaside for further consultation. After checking it into the garage, I held onto my key for a sec to remove the day’s purchases. On a whim, I put the key into the ignition. The engine turned. Grrrr…had I waited another hour in Scarborough, I would have had $37 more to plunk down elsewhere.
After consultation with Sarah’s father, a replacement for the venerable vehicle was found. Introducing my new set of wheels, ready to take on whatever parts of North America it will encounter. I already feel more confident driving than during the last days of the Cavalier—recent jitters suffered while driving down 400-series highways weren’t there during the new car’s baptismal drive last weekend.
Yeah, I know, same colour. At least I won't have trouble finiding it in parking lots.
Gavin also has a few memories of the car and its ability to survive just about anything (the “nearly identical vehicle” is Amy’s ’01 Cavalier):
I would call the car by name, but I’m not aware it ever was given one.Photos taken March 6, 2010. - JB, GT
Here was a car that was built for life on this planet. It came from a dealership with a dated name, which I found amusing. Looking back, I suppose I found many aspects of the life of this car to be amusing. When I say amusing, I don’t mean the term in a bad way. The amusement came from the various situations this car found itself in, and the various injuries it suffered along the road of life.
Here was a car that made frequent road trips, improvisational trips, and much roaming around, on various city streets, in various cities, throughout various parts of North America. 245,000 kilometres worth and more. This distance wasn’t without a little bit of damage, and the occasional breakdown here and there, but nothing ridiculously expensive, or extensively marooning. I was not part of many of these trips, but inspected much (minor) damage through the years, fixed minor damage here and there myself, the most amusing of which would be the removal of a fairly large tree branch, which somehow found a new home, completely lodged under the car. I’ve seen dents, accident damage, and have heard stories of what this car has been through, and still lived. It lived relatively economically, considering these particular vehicles generally have a moderate reliability rating at best.
Currently sitting in the driveway, there’s a nearly identical vehicle, with considerably less distance on it. If I lived closer to Jamie, or had the time, I would love to help his vehicle live on a little longer. It would live on longer by becoming a parts supply house, thus ensuring that (at least in part) this vehicle spent a little more time on, and a little more time exploring this planet; or any planet having an Oxygen-Nitrogen atmosphere, and a reasonable supply of petroleum distillate.