Sunday, April 6, 2014

A day in the sun.

Not long ago, after 35 years of living in the city without a car, our name finally cleared the waiting list for the parking lot underneath our apartment house. We were offered a parking space. We decided the planets were aligning and it was time to get a car.

Most of the cars in my building, this being the Upper East Side, are high-end German or Japanese models. You can't spit in the garage without hitting a BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Lexus or Acura. But my wife and I decided to swim against the tide. We'd get something not luxurious, but instead frugal, fun and practical.

I decided, with the help of a friend from New Zealand, to search for a Simca, a car of French manufacture with a reputation for both sportiness and reliability. My friend Terry had had a Simca in his youth and fairly gushed over it. Whether the gushing was from his actual affection for the car or was instead a burst of rosy-hued nostalgia didn't matter to me. I fell in love with the notion of a Simca.

I was fortunate enough to find a 1966 model 1000 in good condition, with only 78,000 original miles on the odometer. It set me back $1100 and transporting it from Concord, NH to a Simca-specialist I located in Toms River, NJ, cost me $1000 more.

The specialist, a small Croatian man who incessantly cracked walnuts one-handed as I spoke to him, said he could have the car running "good as a top," for about $3000. He would have to rebuild pretty much the entire machine, do some light bodywork and some work as well on the threadbare interior.

In all, for a little over $5000, I had what I consider a beautiful and unique automobile.

Today, with sunshine and warm-weather in the forecast, we drove the Simca up to Rye Beach with Whiskey in the back seat and all was well. It shudders a bit when it hits 75, and there were potholes on 87 that could fairly swallow the whole kit and kaboodle, but all was well, we made it there and back without any duress.

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