I am one of those people who washes their car before trading it in. Although I know full well that your VIN is much more important to a dealer than opting for the barrage of bubblegum-scented foam at the local car wash, I still do it every time. For me, washing the vehicle prior to trading isn't about aesthetics or perceived value, it's merely my way of saying "thank you." I am not going to rant on about the emotional benefits of washing a car prior to trading in, but a do want to pay homage to my fiancee's much loved Ford Focus.
Although I had only known "Claude" (my name for her car, which she was unaware of... until now) for a little over three years, her plucky, 2000 Ford Focus SE won me over from day one. Equipped with only the standard features that came as part of the SE equipment group, this car was straightforward in it's operation, but without feeling too spartan. Although it was equipped with an automatic and slightly choked by California emissions, it was apparent that all 110 horses were still showing up for work, even after 15 years of continued service.
Considering its age and lack of regular maintenance (until I came into it's life), the little Focus held up well. From safely delivering my girlfriend and her twin from LA to Chicago, to surviving regular bouts through Indiana, and being able to handle Chicago winters like a frisky snow fox, Claude became a friend. When it came time to perform a tune-up or replace the rear wheel bearing, I couldn't resist getting dirty and turning the wrenches myself. I liked to believe that Claude was my pet project and my responsibility to keep running. I never felt obligated to spend time under the saucy Zetec motor, but rather; I felt honored.
Unfortunately, the past few months have been hard on Claude. The exhausted front bearings were beginning to speak up, the suspension was letting the body down, the transmission showed early signs of reluctant shifting, and several engine gaskets were weeping from age. It was a sad reality, but as the cost of repairs began to exceed the actual value of the vehicle, it was time to make a tough decision. With much apprehension and weeks of debating, we mutually agreed that it was time to move on to another vehicle and let Claude be put to rest in a dealer's back row.
I would like to say that having "moved on" from over 30 vehicles over the years, I have become a bit pragmatic to the whole business of trading in a vehicle... but I haven't. I still feel a bit mournful knowing that I will never see my "buddy" again, and also knowing that I will now be spending a lot of intimate time with someone else. Although Claude was not my personal vehicle, it was a vehicle to which I had formed a personal attachment. Even though we decided to welcome home a lovely black Mazda 2 to keep my "Sybil" company, I will still miss seeing the friend that I helped nurse back to life and who in exchange, delivered a loved one home safely each day. Rest in peace dear Claude, you might be gone, but the oil stains remain.
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