Chevy LOVE - Part One
It’s been a while since I shared a “sad car story” with you, and to be honest, all my cars are doing well these days, so I will dig up one from the past. I call this: “Chevy Luv.”
In the 1980’s after I got with Coletta and should have developed a greater sense of what NOT to do, I bought (against her advice) a 1973 Chevy Luv pickup. A “compact” version of the real trucks, and one that had been, “rode hard and put away wet” to use a common parlance. It had well over 100,000 miles on it, was pretty rough in and out, but it ran, and I was enamored by the four on the floor zippiness. I bought it off a colleague at school for $500.00. What could I lose? Oh you just wait.
I drove the truck for a year or two, running through the gears quickly taking mountain curves and hills by storm. I was on my way to Morgantown WV, came over a rise and, something serious came about. A loud scraping sound, and complete loss of power. I pulled over to a service station. Diagnosis: Broken timing chain. You know that little bicycle chain that runs off the cam and coordinates the pistons with the distributor delivering the spark and gas to the chambers at the same time, hence “timing chain.” Today they use rubber belts for a simple reason. When the belt snaps, you replace it and hit the road. When the chain breaks, usually under stress and high speeds, it tears up anything in reach. The service station’s estimate to repair, well over my budget. I had it towed to the Chevy Garage in my home town. Their estimate, though high was more reasonable. Of course they included the codicil, “Of course we have to wait until we get into it to give you a firm price.”
Several weeks later they called. My truck was finished and the bill was…$750.00. Keep two things in mind, well three. 1) The service station’s estimate was $400, 2) This was 1980’s when $750 was more like $1200 in today’s money, and 3) the truck wasn’t WORTH $750.
I immediately pointed this out to them and reminded them that they never gave me an estimate. I didn’t sign a contract (work order) and they didn’t give me a written estimate. When things got testy I told the service manager, “Tell you what, you can HAVE the truck, I am certainly not going to pay $750 for a truck that isn’t worth half that.” Not surprisingly they were not amenable to that suggestion. We went round and round for a few more weeks and finally they agreed to split the difference and I paid $375 and drove the Luv out the door.
Summer 1984 we bought a boat and set up a camper on a small campground, the Taylor County Boat Club, where I could park the boat at their marina (on a “finger”), hook up water and electric to the camper (a 1949 Alma), build a 14x 24 foot covered deck, and sit in the shade and drink beer and strawberry daquiri’s. Spent every weekend at the lake, from Friday night to Sunday night with the kids. Despite its advanced age, the Alma had a little living room with a pullout sofa for the kids (Adrian 7, Monica 6), a bedroom with a ¾ full mattress, pocket door, and in between a little kitchen with a working gas stove, sink, and small gas-fired fridge. What we needed was a full size refrigerator to sit outside on the deck for food and cold beverages. Cue the phone call.