Friday, June 20, 2014

Paradise Lost: the 1972 Buick Estate Wagon

When I was a Sophomore in College, I ran out of money. After a couple of quarters bumming rides from the dorm roomies to work and hitching back and such, it became obvious and painfully clear that what I needed was a car, if I was going to make enough money to stay in the dorms and in school.

In college, this mode of transportation is often referred to by it's formal technical latin name as, "All you need Bruce, is to just get yourself a cheap piece of shit to get you around town."

This is circa 1982. AD. Back then not only did we not have the internet, we did not even have the paper version of auto-trader. We used to go to the local newspaper, which is sort of like Google. Or the News section of Google, except printed on paper. And then you would get it delivered to your home every day. Well your driveway, anyway. So when you finished reading today's news, you had to go to sleep, and wait until tomorrow to read tomorrow's news. I know, it sounds insane.

In the back of each newspaper was a section called "the classifieds", where real honest to god actual people not looking for dates or escorting, would advertise what they wanted to sell. Just like eBay! In those days you would "Win the Bid" by calling faster than anyone else.

I saw an ad for a 1972 Buick estate Wagon for $400 and called. The price being perfect regardless of whatever the "Piece of Shit" I was going to buy next, I asked Todd to give me what I promised would quite likely be the last ride he would ever have to give me, to the address in the ad. Here's what I saw.
The 1972 Buick Estate wagon is one of the dying or possibly now completely dead breed of American automobile that hearkens the very last gasps of the free to dirt cheap price of gas, so affordable it was cheaper than water.
An interior so spaciously comfortable and large it had 13 full sized seats. No, like FULL SIZE. Believe me I filled each seat each weekend with everyone in the dorm I could fit, in order to pay them back for the rides they had given me. I think I paid back everyone I ever owed with just two rides. I believe a few dormies, still owe me a ride. 

What I loved most and miss the most today is the single bench front seat. I think we have given up a lot of intimacy and personal touch by putting the armrest in, and I don't think we've gotten all that much utility out of it. although I am sure teenagers still tingle when they accidentally touch each other's hands as they go to connect their iPhones to the Aux line-in.

Another feature I loved was the clamshell drop hatch, and window roll up. You could either roll up the back window and drop whatever you wanted in the back, or if you needed to could drop the hatch completely into the floor and roll up the window, all at the touch of a faded chrome rocker switch, located next to the big pull out light switch, up front on the dash. Where light switches are supposed to be.

As I stated, I bought the car as is for $400 in 1982. I am not willing to talk about the gas mileage because for this car that is socio-culturally irrelevant. Suffice it to say I put approximately $1600 worth of gas in it over the next 2 years as I drove it back and forth to work, and paid back roomies, and before I graduated, sold it for exactly $400 to a fellow college student.

I often wonder what the heyday of the car must have been like, with 15 cent a gallon gas and National Park family road trips filled with Wonder Bread Miracle Whip Bologna sandwiches and the newest sensation, liter bottles of Pepsi!
Chevrolet version of the Buick Estate Wagon.

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