Old Cars; Less thrilling, but run great

Janet Lopez of Grand Junction drives an old Datsun pickup to save money

High gas prices don’t bother Jesse Barger.

His four-door, 1977 Chevrolet Impala slurps great gulps of unleaded down with every push of the pedal.

“I found that car and just fell in love with it,” he says despite the peeled brown paint that is now mostly gray primer with rust bleeding out. “I ended up getting it for $400.”

A steal with more than 200,000 miles on the odometer, torn seats and a rotting undercarriage, it’s gluttonous V-8 engine gets horrible gas mileage, but that’s OK, Barger said. It gets him to work and didn’t cost an arm and a leg to get behind the wheel.

Driving outdated heaps is not exactly a fad these days, but for some it’s a way to stay mobile: Pay little on the front end and sacrifice modern styling — and modern gas mileage — in order to get around.

Not everyone’s daily clunker is a thirsty pig at the pump.

“I like old things, and it gets pretty good gas mileage,” said Janette Lopez of her faded, rust-red 1979 Datsun King Cab pickup. “It don’t look the prettiest, but hey.”

When she bought the truck it had 75,000 miles on the engine and the original tires on the rims. It burns a little oil and leaves a few drips in the driveway, but for less than a grand, Lopez is not looking to impress.

“I want to save money,” she said.

Keeping his vehicle maintained, with regular oil and air filter changes, keeps Bo Cox cruising in his 1993 Toyota pickup.

“I can get just as good gas mileage as a new one if I take care of it,” Cox said.

With one fill-up the Toyota can get more than a few times around the block before thirsting for more petrol, he said.

It’s worth it to him to keep the pickup going and take the ribbing from co-workers and friends about having the ugliest truck around, especially since he bought it for $500.

Bob Raidd has got Cox beat by two bills. He loves his faded gray 1984 Delta 88.

“This one cost me $300,” Raidd said. “It runs great.”

Since buying it from a local church a few years back, he has had to replace the battery and a fan belt. That’s it.

Roy Brown swears by his 1988 Chrysler New Yorker, with the shocks worn out in the back so it rides high in the nose.

“I can’t afford a new one. Besides, they aren’t worth the money anyway,” Brown said.

The New Yorker is his daily driver, but it is also great for the weekend getaway, he said.

Then there are those who drive their aging beauties out of teen lust.

Austin Martinez, 18, one day recently couldn’t get his 1991 Volkswagen Jetta to turn over so he could drive his grandmother home from the grocery store.

“I think it’s the fuel pump,” he said, slightly dejected.

Someone finger-scribbled, “Please Wash Me,” in the dust on his hood. Meanwhile, the side molding is peeling, the rear end is mashed in, and Grandma wanted to go home.

Despite all this, “It’s a pretty sweet car,” Martinez said.


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