Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 19, 2014

Keith Kappes: A dollar down, a dollar a week forever: 1/20/14

Keith Kappes

ASHLAND — What is it about having your own motor vehicle that makes it so important, even a rite of passage, for teenagers?

I was almost through high school when that compulsion overpowered me. I begged and pleaded with my mother to help me buy my own car.

At 17, I knew I was underprivileged because my best buddies had their own wheels. They were cooler than me because they didn’t have to use a four-door family sedan for dating.

One of them had an old Cadillac with impressive power windows and seats. Another had a red Chevy with sharp fins and spinner hubcaps.

A classmate told me about his uncle coming back from the Army with an English Ford. It was a tiny car that didn’t cost much, but it was too small for his growing family.

What he didn’t tell me was it was almost impossible to get parts from England and the car was badly under powered.

 It got great mileage, but gasoline was only 30 cents a gallon in those days. In fact, no one ever talked about fuel economy.

I had the little car for several weeks, but it sat in the driveway most of the time while I waited for a new starter to come from England.

A visitor spotted it one day and offered to trade me a customized light purple Ford coupe that looked good and seemed to run well.

I never thought to ask him why he kept a case of oil in the trunk. I soon realized it leaked more oil than it burned. I had to park it in Granny’s gravel driveway to hide the oil stains.

I finally traded it for a convertible that looked bad but didn’t use any oil.

Winter was coming, and I quickly realized all too soon a shabby ragtop with a bad heater was not too impressive to the ladies.

Luckily, I found someone who knew less about cars than me, so I traded him the convertible for a hardtop that had black primer paint and a cool-sounding muffler.

That car lasted about a year until I broadsided a station wagon in an intersection while driving to college. Both of us walked away, but my car was a pile of junk.

At that point, I opted for one of those special deals for first-time buyers of new cars.

Little did I know then I would be making car payments the rest of my life.

KEITH KAPPES, publisher of The Morehead News, Grayson Journal-Enqurier and Olive Hill Times, can be reached at kkappes@cnhi.com.