Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dunbar: At Home

Most people are not excited about owning a 20 year old car, but I am not "most people". I kind of enjoy cars of the recent past; usually bone simple, comfy and deliciously covered in fake wood, stripes and vinyl. In real terms, a 20 year old car is in that gray middle ground; too old to be current but not old enough to qualify for antique. Some of Dunbar the Buick's older siblings are considered antiques, they being the introductory 1982 models introduced in late 1981. But a car as ubiquitous as a 1990's Buick Century is not a sure shot for antique collectability. Of course some said the same about the Edsel or the 57 Chevrolet at one time.

I look upon 20 year old daily driver cars as survivors; some lovingly cared for, some benignly neglected, all lucky. Dunbar fits all three categories.

All of Dunbar's past owners have cared for him well with regular maintenance, kept clean and not raced or abused. My aunt bought Dunbar used in January 1996 from the Buick dealer in Clinton, IL with 66, 431 miles. As of today (after a quick run in the rain to check) Dunbar has clocked 76,452 miles. So in a bit less than 14 years, Dunbar has traveled just 10,021 miles. Most cars do that in a year. Thus Dunbar was one that was cared for and lucky to have been owned by older adults who drove him gently and sparingly.

Sadly as she got older, my aunt could not care for Dunbar as much. I did not see it, but I guess when she gave the car to my uncle a few years ago, Dunbar looked like hell. As was common of cars of that era, sun, snow and chemicals ate away at the clearcoat that made the paint appear so wet and shiny. He ran ok, just looked like a clunker. One notch in the benign neglect category.

My uncle, being a prim and proper English type gentleman, could not be seen in such a mess, especially at the Country Club. You see, Dunbar had now been relegated to golf duty. As some men buy old wagons and cars as "fishing cars", my uncle used Dunbar solely to go to the golf course and back. Again a bit of luck.

A new paint job was in order, so Howard scouted around for some bids on a paint job. One shop told him $800. Seeking a second bid, Howard took it somewhere else where they told him "I can do it for four". They got the job. Four THOUSAND dollars later (yes, $4,000 not $400), Dunbar looks fabulous. Howard learned a lesson as well, he told me. "From now on, I will be sure to ask "four what'?" Once again Dunbar gets another point in the "Lucky" column. Instead of an overspray of the existing paint, the old paint was removed, the car sanded, primed, two coats of correct color lacquer applied, a final shot of clearcoat and then restoration of the factory applied pin stripes. Probably a better paint job than when new.

Since arriving in Kansas City, Dunbar now has another lease on life; new tires and new brakes were just installed and some new hoses and such are in his future. I bought a cover to protect that $4,000 paint job from those wintry, salty days and the searing rays of hot summer sun. Just as important, Dunbar has someone who appreciates that he is a survivor. He may get to run on the road a bit more than in the past few years as I plan on taking him back to Illinois for Thanksgiving. But for the most part he goes back and forth just here in Midtown, not venturing too far from the Palace.

Dunbar, the 1990 Buick Century Limited, one of 35,248 made, hopefully will continue his string of luck for a long time to come.

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