An open letter to Isaac S. Yoder

Congratulations Isaac!

So you’re off to college soon and you’ve just bought your first car – a classic Saab 900 Convertible. And in classic black, too. I didn’t see your previous entry on the subject so I’m not sure if it’s a turbo or not, but I have seen enough of the back-and-forth between you and your father in the Wall Street Journal to feel pretty sure that this has not been one of those rush of blood decisions.

900 & Hirsch 4.jpg

Note: not the actual car.

You come across as understandably excited and your Dad comes across as understandably wary. Cars do cost money to own and operate, and if you try hard enough I’m sure you could construct a robust intellectual argument for not having one….but….

There’s so much enjoyment to be gained.

They say that youth is wasted on the young; that young folk don’t have the sense to enjoy the blessings of youthful energy and exuberance. I’m old enough to know there’s an element of truth to that, but at 39, I’m not so old that I don’t remember the incredible freedom and great times that your first (or second, or third) car can bring.

A car can be seen by some as an appliance. You use a toaster to toast your bread and a washing machine to clean your clothes. You use a drill to make holes in wood and you use a car to get from A to B.

Sure, there are a lot of cars that function best when viewed in that regard and there are a lot of people who only ever look at a car that way.

I’m not sure how you look at cars, but you’ve definitely purchased a car that was made to be enjoyed rather than just used.

Every generation looks at the one that comes after it and feels they’re lucky to be born when they were. You’re 20-something years younger than me and when I was your age, “iPhone” was the start of a poorly constructed sentence. Music was exchanged between people via mix tapes recorded off the radio and a hard drive involved a dirt road and faulty suspension.

I got my first car at age 18 and here in Australia, that meant my price range covered late 1970s Fords, Holdens (think GM) and if you were feeling rather unAustralian, various Japanese cars. I went for a Holden Gemini, which had a 1600cc Isuzu motor, was baby blue with a brown vinyl interior and about as un-cool as you can get.

Somehow I still had a ball in that car.

Six months later I wrote it off (into a tree) and got the car I wanted all along – a Holden Torana. A real Aussie car. I had a ball in that car, too, until I wore it out via a combination of drag races with friends and a lack of maintenance. Next was another Gemini, in banana yellow. I had a football jammed between the backreast of the driver’s seat and the base of the rear seat, which kept my driver’s seat upright.

In their own way, these three cars were absolutely terrible but they gave me the time of my life in my late teens and early 20s. I drove those cars to places I’d barely dare to drive now without a full service, three days provisions and an emergency beacon, but back then all I thought about was turning the key and getting there.

Isaac, if you could time travel and see all the things you’ve got ahead of you with college, friends, the laa-dieeeeees and just life in general for the next few years then it’d probably make your eyes pop.

And you’re going to have the best companion one could possibly ask for in all of this – a Saab 900 Convertible. I really hope you’re a car guy, because you’ve bought one of the most distinctive and individual cars that money can buy. And you got it for a dollar!
Put the top down on every clear day that you can. Especially in winter. Just make sure your heater works and you’ll be fine. You’re in your late teens and you’re driving one of the most adaptable and classy convertibles that money can buy.

Forget the guy who ribs you in the hall about having a car only old professors drive. That guy’s a green-eyed monster when you’re not looking who can only wish he had the sort of retro-cool that you bought for a single greenback.

Get on first name terms with your local Saab specialist mechanic. It won’t get your work done any cheaper, but it will get it done right the first time. Buy him a six pack every Christmas.

Your Dad’s a cautious and wise man and it’ll pay to heed his advice over the long run. But your Dad also let his guard slip enough in the WSJ article to show that he knows what a great piece of history you’ve bought as well. Look after it and it will look after you.
Pack that car with the right music and the right people and it will take you to places that aren’t on the map. Places that don’t exist until you and your friends go there because those places are created by your shared experience. The right people and the right atmosphere turn dots on a map into memories, images, smells and sounds that last forever – and there’s no better way to get there than in a car with a personality like the one you’ve just bought.

The Holden Gemini was a terrible little car, but I still smile whenever I see one because I remember all those early morning, two hour drives to the beach. I remember the friends I carried in it, the places we went, the things we did and almost every ticket I got doing it all.

Those memories are great. I can only imagine how much better they’d be if they’d involved a Saab 900 Convertible.

Enjoy it, my friend. If it costs you a little, try not to get too caught up in looking at those costs as money lost. Think of it as an investment in your future memories.
You’re going to love it!


Thanks to Per for the heads up, this morning.

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