Today’s post comes from James White, a good friend and fellow car enthusiast. Take it away, James!
Recently, Scott asked me to describe the worst car I had ever driven. I found, after sitting around in a dumbfounded silence for a few minutes, that I couldn’t pick one off the top of my head. I’ve loved all of my cars, even the ones that gave me all sorts of trouble. They each had personality and spunk, and while I could curse them up one side and down the other for throwing a belt or blowing a water pump gasket (I still have nightmares about that one!), I loved them because they were mine.
Then it occurred to me: The worst car I ever drove wasn’t mine.
The very worst car I ever drove belonged to my mother. She was a postal carrier for a rural area about 30 minutes from where we lived and drove a 90s Jeep Cherokee. Because Jeep wouldn’t (or couldn’t) create the right-hand drive vehicle that she needed to be able to deliver mail effectively, she instead had them remove the entire center console except for the gear shift and drove the thing throughout her entire 93-mile mail route straddling the center console.
She had the entire thing set up so she could use her left food to accelerate and break, her left hand to steer and her right hand to reach out the window to deliver mail.
This car was a nightmare.
As you can imagine, 93 miles a day, 6 days a week on bumpy unpaved dirt roads took its toll on the entire car. We had to deal with sheared-off motor mounts, blown suspension, all sorts of headaches. You name it, we probably had to have it replaced at least once.
When I started driving this car (which shall henceforth be referred to as The Beast), nothing ever worked right.
My morning drive to school was usually punctuated with at least one instance of The Beast stalling out, usually in the middle of an intersection. Most of the time, I could get it started again, but occasionally it would refuse to turn over. I’m pretty sure I made at least a few drivers laugh by jumping out of the car in the middle of an intersection, trying to push it out of traffic and repeatedly kicking the driver’s side front tire when I couldn’t get it to move. Thankfully, a couple of good Samaritans jumped out of their own cars and helped me move it out of the road.
The Beast’s engine used to shake badly when I got above about 50 miles per hour. I didn’t think anything of it usually, because I was almost always driving on residential roads where the speed limit didn’t reach any higher than about 35.
The one time I took The Beast on the interstate, heading to a relative’s house, it started shaking so badly that I started to worry that something was going to break loose. I pulled off the nearest exit, found a gas station and stopped the car, planning on finding a map so I could plot out a route that didn’t involve the interstate.
That was the biggest mistake I could have made. After picking up my map, I tried to restart the car. I heard nothing. No click, no starter spin — nothing. I popped the hood and found that a badly corroded negative battery terminal had snapped off. I was stranded almost an hour from home, with no tools and no idea where the nearest auto parts store was.
One benefit of being stranded, though? It gave me plenty of time to plan my new interstate-free route!
Overall, The Beast served us well, for all the abuse that we put it though, but no one likes getting stranded on the side of the road, especially as a new driver. I’ll probably never own another Jeep, though.
Thanks for the great post, James!