Why I Don't Drive Chevys by John L.  Neel

In 1973, my first wife called me from her job at Edwards Chevy begging me to come to look at a car.  It was the most beautiful car I had seen in a long while, powder blue with a darker blue vinyl top, 350 cubic inches, and automatic transmission, and she was hot to have it.  The dealership gave her a great employee discount and we bought it for, as I remember, $4600.  It was the first car I ever bought.

It was a lemon.  Firstly, it was entirely underpowered and handled like shit.  As soon as the 36,000-mile warranty was up, the transmission started acting up, and I spent entirely too much of my very limited money trying to get it fixed.  I never did.  When the engine started having problems, I traded it for a VW Bug, also a mistake, but that is another story.

The last I saw it, some kid had bought it and jacked it up and put big wide tires in the back as if it was a dragster, pretty silly for a car with way less than 200-hp.

In 1980, after I was out of the Army, after the divorce, and tired of driving a flat-brown, VW Rabbit, the successor to the Bug, I stopped by the Chevy Place in Centerpoint.  On the lot was another piece of eye candy, a new 1981 Camaro Berlinetta, dark metallic blue, white-letter tires, 268 V8, and loaded.  It was a beautiful car and performed much better than the old Camaro.  The 115-hp even seemed to be adequate, I assume because people would stop and stare at the car and I didn't mind going slowly to give them a chance to look.

Kady, who I had met and begun dating a few months before, surely appreciated not having to be seen in the Rabbit; it was a horrible looking little car.  I took it back in the Army with me and all went well for a while.

At 36,001 miles, the antenna stopped going down.  It would cost $200 to fix it, so, since it was in the up position, I decided it wasn't a big deal.  It was just a precursor of bad things to come.

Next, the windows stopped going up and down.  Good thing I had air conditioning.  Then the door handles broke, so closing the door became a perfectly timed dance of pilling from the outside and hoping you didn't catch your fingers.  The paint began to oxidize and fade, rapidly.  The catalytic converter clogged up three times.  On the third, I replaced it with a "test pipe" sold by an unscrupulous salesman at East Lake Auto Parts.  The engine ran better, stronger.  The piping for the emission control system began to rot off the engine.  I removed them and plugged the holes with pipe plugs.  Again, I added horsepower and torque.  While driving down the road one day, the headliner fell on my head.  I ripped it all down, scrapped out all of the rotten foam rubber, and glued a beige fabric up in its place.  It looked better than the original.

This car died a merciful death on Yadkin Road when I was hit from behind with such force that I was pushed into the car in front of me, that car into the next car, and that car in the next.  My car was smashed in front, buckled in the middle, and the trunk was in the back seat.  My driver's seat collapsed in the impact, putting me almost in that back seat.  I was unhurt, but the Berlinetta was totaled.  When the guy's Insurance company contacted me, of course, this car was "my baby, prized possession, a classic, in perfect working order," and they gave me well above Blue Book for it.  I use it as a down payment for the little 1988 Camry Wagon that Kady and I took to England and drove until 1996, one of the best cars I have owned.

So, when you tell me that Chevy is one of the best cars on the road or first in customer satisfaction and that your Camaro is as good as my 130,000 mile, 2005 Mustang, with which I have had zero problems and looks brand new, excuse me if I remain unconvinced.

You'll never see me in another Chevy.

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