Some imprints last forever. Your first bank account. Your first cola. My parents’ car was a strong imprint for me. We had GM cars since the dawn of life it seemed. So my compass was frozen on GM: Chevy, Buick, Oldsmobile, even the Vega!
Our first big car in my family of four was an Olds Ciera wagon: the Cutlass Cruiser. We bought it 1986, and loved it so much, we bought another, just like it, in 1990.
Recalling the day, I walked in to our local Cadillac Olds dealer, pointed out our car to the sales rep, and said, “Just give me another, like that one.”
Within the day, I drove a new Cutlass Cruiser off the lot. Pretty much the same color, had the same cool rear-facing third bench seat the kids loved. The only upgrades: Electronic Fuel Injection had replaced the carburetor, and air conditioning and FM radio.
I kept the hand crank windows just in case we drove off a bridge into water and couldn’t get the doors opened.
When people asked why I liked the Cruiser so much, I had a bunch of responses, but always described how I could get a 4×8′ sheet of plywood in the back window without opening the rear door.
So the day came along when I decided to get a new wagon, and I returned to the dealer, walked in, pointed out my Olds to the sales rep, and I said, “Just give me another, like that one.”
The guy looked at me like I had just wandered in from the woods.
“You’re kidding, right? No wagons here. Not anywhere.” A bit of a smirk, “Oh wait, maybe you can get a Volvo, or a Saturn.”
I was stunned. I had been in the woods, asleep for at least 7 years during which time “station wagons” had been driven (haha) to extinction by GM.
“How about a Hummer?”
I walked out in a daze.
Knowing I couldn’t let the Cruiser go, I chose instead to get it painted. I could live with it if at least it looked new.
In 2007, I wrote GM a note about my car, filling in the owner’s survey. I was 17 years late.
They wrote back: “It was especially interesting to hear your Oldsmobile has traveled 229,318 miles…” I was pleased to get the response, and also from a real person. I read on, “we would be remiss, however, not to suggest that you look closely at our new Cutlass at your local dealership..”
Alas, unbeknownst to GM, the last Cutlass had rolled off the line in 1999.
Fast forward, the Cruiser became my commute car, and I tacked on the miles.
Incredibly, it never ground to a halt. With the occasional makeover on wheels, alternators, batteries, brakes, suspension and mufflers, the Olds just kept on rolling.
How? By regular, faithful tune-ups.
Every 3,000 miles I drove in to JiffyLube and let them soothe the Olds’ jangled commuted nerves. That’s where they knew my name, too. Pretty cool!
Lo and behold, in March 2011, I notched 300,000 miles.
Jiffy Lube (Shell Corp) blessed me with a year’s free oil changes, and a PR push that got me radio interviews and some pub in the local news.
Is there a lesson here? Several. First off, stick with the one who brought you to the dance. I still drive my Olds wagon. And I hold a torch for General Motors. Who knows, the Cutlass may return.
Second, seek out faithful, loyal customers and celebrate them. I always take my cars to Jiffy Lube.
Third, never smirk at a potential sales inquiry. I have never purchased another car from the dealer who said, “no” in so few words.
That is the view from the rear-facing seat.