A Bushel of Lemons


Unbelievable but true stories of cars we have owned

Note: This blog post is taken—and modified from-- an essay written by one of our daughters while in college. I added a few things but kept much of it as the original. I hope you enjoy her sense of humor as much as her professor did.

Owning unique automobiles goes back to the early days of my parents’ marriage. They started out living on a shoestring budget, and that led to some unusual modes of transportation.

One of their first “lemons” was an Oldsmobile Toronado, nicknamed “The Tornado” by the man who sold it to them. That should have been an omen.

Actually “The Tornado” worked fine with the exception of one thing. The horn stuck when the steering wheel was turned a certain way. It didn’t present much of a problem until the day they decided to sell the car. Mom drove it to the newspaper office for a picture and while the photographer was snapping photos, the horn stuck. We children slunk down in our seats, embarrassed to be seen with Mom, who was laughing hysterically.

And then there was the Chevette which Dad purchased for just $50 because he felt sorry for the immigrant who needed money. Its color was unique: hot pink base, covered with blue spray paint. We couldn’t help wondering how many 79-cent cans of spray paint the former owner used.

It was fortunate we lived on a hillside while we owned the Chevette. That little rust bucket provided hours of entertainment for us children as we hopped in and let it coast downhill. The floorboards were rusted out in places, which was a good thing, since we had to drag our feet to get it to stop.

Finally we sold the pathetic little car to an optimistic teen for just $50. It was hard to wait until he left to start jumping up and down and throwing our hats in the air.

Through the years we managed to have two Oldsmobile Cieras. Both shared the same quirk. We all knew that if we cruised along and the radio gave out, someone was supposed to reach over and give the dash a good hard whack. One day we passed a man driving a Ciera, looked over and saw he was banging on his dash too. We knew he didn’t need anger management classes.

Time fails to tell of the minivan which disintegrated gradually. The sliding door fell off in my sister’s hands. After that we had to enter and exit by using the driver’s side front door. The handle on the passenger side had been destroyed by a very strong friend, and our resourceful dad replaced it with a piece of wire and electrical tape. Our large family got stared at a lot in parking lots.

My teenage brother carried on the fine family tradition by owning an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme which had been destined for the junkyard by a friend and salvaged by our dad. The girls in our family named it “The Blue Bomb” for obvious reasons. It smoked a lot. And the horn stuck when the wheel was turned in a certain position.

One day we were stopped at a traffic light in our small town, waiting for a pedestrian to cross the street in front of us. As that moment my sister remarked, “Wouldn’t it be funny if the horn would go off,” –and it did! The last time we saw the poor pedestrian she was sprinting down the street at full tilt.

Whenever I see a fine, new car traveling smoothly down the highway I feel a bit sorry for the owners. As a family who happened to own lemons, we think it’s a pity those folks are missing so much.

How about you? Have you owned any “lemons?" We’d love to hear from you in the comment box below.