Home » You Got To Know When To Hold ‘Em, Know When To Fold ‘Em: Comment Of The Yesterday

You Got To Know When To Hold ‘Em, Know When To Fold ‘Em: Comment Of The Yesterday


For many of us, cars are far more than transportation appliances. Our cars dutifully serve our families for decades, making memories along the way. Your car can be more than just a vehicle; it can end up loving it just as much as your own skin and blood. That’s why it hurts so much when it’s time to let that car go. Sometimes, sending your ride off to the junkyard in the sky is the best decision.

On Friday, a lot of you read the first article by Andrea Petersen, a wonderful service advisor in the Pacific Northwest. Her story was a different take that we hear about often. We all know how it feels to let a beloved car go. You’ve gone to school in that car, you got to learn how to wrench with that car; maybe you’ve even taken several family trips. We don’t often hear what it’s like for the service advisors who sometimes see these cars right before they end up at a junkyard in your town.

Andrea’s story really does remind you of the sort of work that a therapist or a doctor does, but the patient is instead a vehicle. Her story really hit hard for today’s COTD winner DDRDAN (okay, this comment is a few days old, but I’ve been out!):

Fuck, this hits deep.

My dad’s “finally made it” car was a well-optioned V6 Camry. For 12 years growing up, that car took me to every day of school, every sports match, every family event. It became mine when I got my license. I asked my junior prom date out by popping out of its trunk.

I graduated high school and the Camry passed to my older brother. It got him through almost a decade of medical training and two cross-country moves. About a year after he began practicing medicine, the starter finally gave out one morning while he was on call. A decade of multiple daily drives to a hospital don’t do kind things to a starter motor. He bought a more doctor-grade ride, left the Camry on the curb where it was parked, and handed me the title.

We replaced the starter together right there on the street corner where it had died. It was probably missing 3 quarts of oil, but that Toyota 1MZ-FE V6 sounded and felt brilliant. Good as new, more than two decades and one trip to the moon since my dad bought it. Good in my soul.

So as many Autopians do, I fell in love with my new shitbox. Dirty, underserviced fluids became fresh synthetic ones. I gave myself a week of hand cramps replacing the thermostat, but the working cabin heat was worth it. I shelled out for a complete set of front suspension parts and kept them stored in the trunk, ready for a long weekend to get it done.

That weekend never arrived.

One morning a year ago, I get a call from local police saying my car is impounded after having been found abandoned up the street from my place at 5am. Attempted theft. I show up to the impound lot thinking I have some wires to splice and maybe a key cylinder to replace. Instead, I find all the electronics completely gutted. I got the car towed to my trusty local shop.

The next day, I get the same call that the author routinely makes: $600 just to fully tally all the electrical damage, and countless thousands of repairs after that. I did the logical thing and sold it off to a scrap yard.

Handing off the keys and title to the tow truck driver was one of the worst feelings of my adult life, for reasons that don’t make logical sense, and never will. I just stood outside the shop and cried watching the tow truck pull away.

At its end of life, that Camry was worth less than most kitchen appliances. But we don’t shed tears when the compressor on the refrigerator gives out for good.

We make illogical purchasing decisions, dedicate time and blood to cold metal that has been manufactured on the scale of millions, and drool over weird trims of mundane cars. And it’s awesome.

Thanks for the reminder of why cars kick ass.

I feel you, DDRDAN. In 2008, my parents bought a 2003 GMC Envoy XL.

2003 Envoy
Mercedes Streeter

It already had over 100,000 miles on it, but my parents were proud of the SUV. Its chrome shined bright and the charcoal gray paint still sparkled after a good wash. That SUV served my family well for 12 years. Along the way, my family faced challenges. Just a year into ownership, the engine grenaded. We loved it so much that we replaced the engine. The air suspension failed a year later. We converted the suspension to coils, hoping to future-proof the SUV.

A decade and perhaps dozens of high-dollar problems later, and it found itself sitting in the driveway of a foreclosed house. It sat for so long that weeds growing from the cracks of the driveway went through the spokes in the long-tarnished wheels. Apparently, it was sitting full of mold due to a leaky sunroof that allowed water to fry the electrical system. If that wasn’t bad enough, it had a gas tank so rusty that the fuel just leaked out. I wanted to save it, but I just wasn’t in a place to do it. Like the Kenny Rogers song ‘The Gambler’ goes, you got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.

Hug your cars tightly tonight, you lovely readers.

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12 Responses

  1. Relatable stories are what makes Autopian so great. My folks had a late 70s Corolla wagon that eventually became the entire family’s extra car. At least 5 of us drove that vehicle for various stretches of time. For a while it was my daily driver; home, community college, work, bar. One day on the way to school, after ignoring an oil leak for way too long, it threw a rod. Within 2 days my buddy and I swapped in a junkyard engine, took a test drive with the hood off, buttoned it up and headed out on a 1200 mile road trip. We christened it the “Cabonna” and for the next twenty’s years or so drove that thing everywhere. When my dad called to say it’s time had come, it felt like the dog had died.

  2. Interesting article,I am a car guy through a d through, and while I certainly cared about the cars I owned I never got that emotional at the time of the sale. Why? A number of reasons, mostly I had had my fun with them, I was probably buying something else with the proceeds I was excited about, and there was likely a repair or issue with the car I ultimately decided I didn’t want to deal with.

    The best time of ownership for me is always the honeymoon period, getting to know the new car, fixing and cleaning the easy stuff, enjoying the fruits of the efforts.

    I have stronger nostalgic feelings now, after the fact, for those early days, and the time and stage of my life that I owned a particular vehicle than I did at the time I let the car go.

  3. ’91 GMC Suburban for me. I loved that crazy truck that I had practically zero use case for. Every year, my phone shows me the picture of my wife and I crying as it is hauled out of our lives for the last time. Stupid phone!

  4. Cars are things we put stuff into, kids, furniture, groceries, time, effort, money, and in many cases blood sweat and tears….memories are what makes a car special, whether it is the first one or the one that got away.

    I think that’s what I like about autopian.com, it is a place to lament lost loves and new arrivals, to bond over 90w and brake fluid and ferrous oxide.

  5. Just sold my late wife’s Venza last week. No big deal. But her 09 Scion xB will not ever be sold. She loved that thing and was once clocked by the cops doing 96 mph on I-10. Some good things and memories last forever.

    1. There’s something about those xB’s that grow on you. We bought one for my wife after her car was t-boned a couple year’s ago as a “it’s cheap and reliable” temporary car. After about a year, it really grew on me and now I’ve inherited it as my daily. They aren’t exciting, just really good at what they’re meant to do; haul people and stuff fairly comfortably.

  6. For us nutcases, saying goodbye to a car can be like losing the family dog. As a kid I cried when the tow truck (struggled) to haul off our ’74 Country Squire, when we had to turn over the title of our ’75 Civic to the scrap yard, and when I learned 365k miles was all our ’87 Taurus wagon could muster. Now as an adult I’m in the midst of mentally preparing to say goodbye (not to scrap, but to sell) to my ’14 Fusion 6-speed, the first brand new car I bought, the car that took me on numerous road trips, the car in which I brought my kids home from the hospital. It’s going to be tough, but I’m trying to stay positive.

    Now, if I’m ever faced with the prospect of scrapping my beloved manual transmission/manual transfer case 2002 Ranger FX4 Off-Road (a contender for Holy Grail of Rangers), totally different story. Tears, fetal position, whole nine yards.

  7. I’m in the process of putting my mom’s 1997 Subaru Outback back on the road. She bought it new in ’97 & she loved this car. Drove it all over the country. A few years ago when she was 89 we finally talked her into giving up driving. She ended up giving the car to my (then 22 YO) daughter. Every time I talked to my mom she would ask, “How’s the Subaru?” I would tell it was awesome & her grand daughter loved it. Made my mom happy.
    My daughter loves the car too. Besides preferring older cars with fewer bells & whistles, my daughter loves it because it had been her grandmother’s car. She also kinda likes the attention she gets from the Subaru fanboys on her cool old Subie.
    Well, it got stolen in October of last year & of course the thieves smashed the crap out of it. The front suspension was completely folded under (they ran it into a curb at a pretty good clip). Smashed lower control arms, bent steering tie rods, wrecked half shafts, one broken wheel, slightly bent frame … & lots more. Lots of cosmetic damage inside & out too.
    Anyway, I’m going to the trouble of putting it back together for a few reasons. One is that it’s just gonna be cheaper to repair it than to buy a replacement. More importantly though, it was my mom’s car & she really cared about it. & now it’s my daughter’s car & she loves it too. Kinda hard to explain maybe, but this car has become important to me too, even though I’m nowhere close to being particular about Subarus in general.

  8. The first car I ever bought was a 2004 Saab 9-3 in March of 2021 with only 70k miles. It was such a wonderful car to drive, comfortable and quick, and I was excited to spend time with it for as long as I possibly could. Unfortunately, only three months into ownership, a minor 15 mph accident caused enough damage for insurance to total the car as soon as it arrived at the body shop. I was gutted to hear this news, as I did not have enough money at the time to feasibly afford the repair and then have money left over to continue on afterwards. I’ll never forget how special I felt as a high schooler owning that car, and I’ve promised myself that when I finally have enough money to support a car from a defunct brand, I will buy the nicest Saab I can find and cherish it for as long as I can.

  9. I’ve told many this over the years. But we are losing this gut feeling as cars become merely vacuum-packed transporting pods.

    Cars are one of the few machines that historically hit all five senses from both outside and inside the vehicle.

    1) We see it. Duh. Looks cool on outside and the interior. More importantly we can see the world moving from inside.
    2) We hear it. Less now if non-combustion engine limited to electric whine. But still tire and wind sounds. Noise is part of the experience.
    3) We feel it. Steel or fabric landau/convertible outside. Many types of interior touch sensations including seats and various ambient temperatures.
    4) We smell it. Plasticky, leather, engine related smells or the many outdoor smells when driving.
    5) We taste it. Well not often. But we can taste stuff if working underneath it. But nearly all of us will at some point eat or drink something while driving/riding in the car.

    Each experience imprints on our brain over time. No home appliance or computer generated image does this.

    Sometimes certain cars become grafted into our brains because the let them in.

  10. My first new car was a VW Type 3 fastback, I kind of bonded with it for seven years, until I was making enough to afford my grail. A 1978 Porsche 911SC. But, after I joined the USAF, and my finances dropped badly, I couldn’t afford the payments anymore. That broke my heart. Especially after my dad and I road tripped in it to my first duty station together. Cars can get under your skin, yeah.

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