This weekend I bumped through the Valley of the Shadow of Death--you know, New Jersey.
It was time, according to Lothar, my Serbo-Croatian auto-mechanic who lives down in Tom's River, New Jersey, to trade in my 1966 Simca for something newer.
Lothar is the last of world's Simca mechanics and is widely considered--in Simca circles--to be the best. That said, there is only so much you can do with a 51-year-old car that was probably designed to last one-tenth of that time.
So, months ago I said to Lothar, "When you find something to replace her, let me know."
Finally, Lothar had found something, a 1975 Simca 1501 with 57,000 original miles on it, no rust. Lothar promptly fitted the Simca with an old BMW in-line six and a new manual six-speed transmission, as well as a new sound-system.
In other words, the car was better than new. Actually, it was better than it had any right to be.
My wife promptly looked Lothar in his dark Slavic eyes.
"And the heater," she said, "It works."
My wife is nobody's fool. "It works in the winter, too?"
"Especially in the winter," the old man laughed.
We went inside to Lothar's cluttered office in his garage, poured ourselves a cup of motor oil he calls coffee and finalized the signing of some paperwork and the passing over of some money.
On the way out, Lothar pointed to one more feature of the machine.
"She has tires run flat," he said.
"Run flat tires." I clarified, "Good for 50 miles at 50 miles per hour."
He nodded and shook my hand in his giant catcher's mitt-sized grip.
We drove down his long gravel driveway and in short order hit the Jersey Turnpike, where in even shorter order we hit a pothole of the sort that could have entombed the late Jimmy Hoffa.
The right front tire had blown out, but the car wobbled home at 50 mph.
"It's a nice car," my wife admitted.
"We'll get used to I," I temporized.
"We'll get used to everything but the potholes."
And she left me in our garage, changing the flat.