I didn't go out shopping for a Vega. It found me. When I was a sixteen-year-old sprout with visions of automobile futures, I went in search of a Plymouth Arrow. I knew I was going to buy a used car. I just wasn't clear on how used that car was going to be. I mowed a lot of lawns to raise the nearly one thousand dollars that I intended to spend on the car of my dreams. After a brief flirtation with the idea of owning a Chevy van, with Star Wars graphics painted on the side, I landed on this idea of an Arrow.
Why? Because it was the name of Oblio's dog. From Harry Nilsson's animated classic "The Point." Also because I became aware of the price differential between a Chevy van and any "small car" I might be able to afford. It was 1978, and the gas crisis of just a few years back weighed heavily on my mind, as did the gas crisis I was about to face. That is to say that paying for my own gas was going to be a crisis.
As it turned out, there wasn't a used Plymouth Arrow anywhere on the lot. At least not one that I could afford. That's when my eye and mind began to wander. It didn't help that I was a teenager standing on a used car lot with his father who was no help at all when it came to salesmen who really desperately did not want me to drive away with my father. "What do we have to do to get you into this baby today?" That sort of thing.
All they really had to do was meet my price point. The car I bought, the 1972 Vega hatchback, was eight hundred and eighty dollars. That meant I had a little more than a hundred dollars left over for tax, licensing and the aforementioned gas. I tried to kid myself into believing that I was getting a Camaro. Same great styling from the same great company: Chevrolet. I was not getting a Camaro. I was not getting a Chevy van. Nor was I getting a Plymouth Arrow. I bought the car that I could afford.
I bring this up because I keep having conversations with my son that start like this: "Hey dad, I'm thinking about using some of that money in my Bumblebee account to buy a car." The account is called that because long ago he decided that he might like to buy himself a yellow Chevy Camaro just like the one they used in Transformers: The Movie.
"You've got about four hundred dollars in there." I know that he has no real designs on a Camaro at this point.
"Yeah, a friend and I are thinking about buying this four hundred dollar car and fixing it up." I understand he has plans. I also understand that he will eventually own the car that he can afford. And the one that his mother and I can afford to have him driving around the highways and byways of California. What we all can afford.