I have an emotional attachment to a Volvo 244.
People look at me askance when I say that. They could probably understand it if my love object was something modern and shiny and cost a year’s wages, but my Volvo is 34 years old, with peeling paintwork and rust holes you can put your fist in. Half the people I work with are younger than that. And, let’s face it, Volvos are not sexy. They’re more likely to be associated with slow drivers in pork pie hats than with anything desirable and exciting.
But I don’t care. I love my car.
We have other cars. Like most people outside of a city, we’re reliant on them for transport, and we felt that a 34 year old Volvo was probably not reliable enough for rural living. So we have a 4×4 and a work ute as well. But if my partner says to me, “Which car are you going to take?” the answer is usually the same: “I’ll take Lord Volvomort.” And as it happens, he IS the most reliable, and certainly costs the least to maintain.
He came to us from a friend who was going into hospital, and wouldn’t be able to drive when he came out. So I bought Lord Volvomort as a favor really, for $300, which was a fair price for a banger. Somehow he passed the Safety Certificate (I’m still not exactly sure how). I figured I’d drive him until the rego ran out in six months, or until he spluttered to a halt by the side of the road, whichever came first. Four years later, he’s still going. Best $300 I ever spent.
Lord Volvomort has peeling gold paint, stained velour seats, a sunroof, and electric windows. Not bad for 1980, eh? The sunroof handle falls off roughly every fourth use, and the driver’s seat has springs sticking out of it. I put a towel over it to avoid ripping my pants. The engine is fading, and we need a good head of speed at the bottom to chug over the hill coming up to the house. I sympathize; my days of hill sprints are over as well. The head gasket is shot but glued together sufficiently with something murky from a bottle. The power steering pump is also rooted, but a dose of something viscous and pink along with a weekly top of power steering fluid keeps it going. There’s a mysterious rattle under the dash, and an indicator that works sporadically for no apparent reason. I reverse him 300m up a dirt track because he can’t do tight turns without losing the entire contents of the power steering reservoir onto the driveway. Lord VVM has 348,000 km on the clock, but the real mileage is considerably more, as the odometer ground to a halt nearly 3 years ago.
For 2 years, he was my daily commuter car, 50km up the highway to work and 50km back. Now, he’s having an easier life, doing only 60km a day. He needs some simultaneous left-foot braking and right foot revving to keep him going when it’s cold, but once going, Lord VVM reaches cruising altitude on the highway and keeps at the 110km speed limit all the way. Well, all the way apart from the hilly bits.
I love my car. I love his rattly operation successfully drowned out by his rather good stereo. I love how he handles. He’s smooth to drive, hugs the road beautifully and he takes the corners better than the 4wd, which wallows like a yacht in a gale, or the ute which, unless laden, hops in the rear like a bronco. Lord VVM and I have had our Top Gear moments on that hill road, a few Star in a Reasonably Priced Car commentaries – although I’ve eased up a bit since I nearly ended up in the creek at the S bend a couple of times trying to find out exactly how fast I could take the curve.
I let shopping trolleys nudge his battered sides. His cavernous boot doubles as a storage unit for the rear sears for the 4wd. I can see the brilliant night sky through his sunroof, or have the sun on my face.
There’s a shiny patch on his steering wheel, as every time I drive him, I rub my thumb over it, a little caress. A small appreciative sign: hey, you’re still here and I’m still here with you. Most people laugh at him, or even sneer. My last boss refused to ride in him. Lord Volvomort and I don’t mind. Sometimes – not very often – I meet people who understand. A plumber I met recently told me about his Volvo – a full 10 years younger than mine, but just as loved. And there’s someone reading this right now—you know who you are—who misses her old 244. Getting roadkill home with an SUV just isn’t as easy.
You’re probably expecting me to make comparisons at this point. Maybe a joke about how my partner should trade both Lord VVM and I for younger models with better bodywork. Or something stirring about never giving up, and the joys of age and experience.