Loving a frumpy car — and proud of it
When two old-ish people buy a new car, they fall into one of two camps.
Camp One: Let’s buy something zingy and silly, to prove that blood is still coursing through our veins.
Camp Two: Let’s buy something dowdy and reliable, a bit like us.
Eleven years ago, my wife and I did not have to ponder for very long. We chose Camp Two.
Thus was born our Bu. The Chevrolet people call it a Malibu, but I have shortened it to its final syllable, because it’s so…family.
It has weathered grape juice spills and a nasty gash in one door produced by Yours Truly, when he tried to park in a too-tight space.
It still runs just fine. It never turns any heads. It cannot hope to jackrabbit away from any red lights.
We will keep it till death do us part. Our Bu is our boo.
And it is a monument to the value of research.
When we were shopping, my wife Googled “Car Least Likely To Be Stolen In United States.” You can guess which make and model turned up. We signed on the dotted line less than a day later.
So, our Bu was the practical pick from the first second. Also, cheaper to insure (for the reason she discovered). And cheaper to operate (its four-cylinder engine doesn’t slurp gas like a Charger or a Mustang).
And absolutely bereft of sex appeal.
Once, in a parking lot, when the attendant retrieved our Bu, he asked how quickly it accelerated from zero to 60. “Takes about a week,” I told him. I wasn’t exaggerating that much.
Of course, this being the 21st Century, Chevrolet had to gussy up our Bu to make it seem exciting, even when it clearly wasn’t. Therefore, we don’t own a light brown Chevrolet Malibu. We own a Malibu that’s “champagne brown.”
I have never quaffed a flute of brown champagne, and I never expect to. But I quibble. Our brown Bu conceals dings and dents much more comfortably than some candy-apple red speed machine.
Speaking of speed…
Three years ago, there was a daylight bank robbery at a branch near where we live. The scenario was familiar. Guy demands money from teller. She complies. He flees in a getaway car.
A Chevrolet Malibu!
For years, I have endured disdain about the Bu from my friends and my children. But that day, as I emailed them the getaway-car news, with the heading “Ah Ha!,” I felt atop the world.
Bu Worship has even extended to out-of-town trips.
A few years ago, I landed at some airport and rented a car. I could have chosen any of about 30 makes, but I chose a Malibu.
Later that day, during a phone call with our son, I told him what I had done. A brief pause on the line, and then: “What’s wrong with you?”
I explained that I knew where the windshield wiper switch was without thinking about it. But not for the first time and not for the last, The Old Man was awarded the door prize for stodginess.
Two years ago, as the pandemic landed, the Bu was well on its way to being worth next-to-nothing in resale. Just for kicks, I asked a salesman-friend to give me an idea of what it might fetch at the age of nine.
You know how friends sometimes wait a beat, so they can decide how to give you bad news wrapped in cotton?
This guy was all cotton: “Well, Bob, if you can get a thousand dollars, I’d be surprised.”
Ah, but today? The car market has turned upside down. Because new cars are hard to come by, the used car market has surged.
I haven’t called my pal recently, but I suspect that the Bu might actually be worth quite a bit now.
But sell it? The vehicle where I can click on a radio station button without looking because I’ve done it so many times? Whose baritone horn I would recognize anywhere?
No, the Bu has parents who love it, who check the oil regularly, who keep the trunk as clean as a whistle.
If a car reflects the age of its owners, the Bu is right up there, as we are. It still starts on cold mornings — vroom, like clockwork. Just like us. For many more years. We hope.
Bob Levey is a national award-winning columnist.