Last week I mentioned all the cars I have owned, including a few that were genuine duds. The question today is: Did I learn from my mistakes?

I think we can best answer that by quoting four common sayings.

Saying 1 — What you see is what you get.

This commonly spoken bit of wisdom has been around since the 1940s when I often heard it used by American advertisers to describe products. Basically, what it means is that you should look at what you are buying and make a reasonable judgment of it. Then, if you see something and buy it, what you get is what you saw. As far as the ’48 Dodge I bought is concerned, I saw a piece of worn out junk on sale for $50, bought it, and got exactly what I had seen — a piece of junk which quickly fell apart.

Saying 2 — You get what you pay for.

What this means is, “It is inevitable that the less you pay for something, the lower its quality will be.” In 1957 I went looking for a car for which I could pay cash as a two-stripe airman. I saw a ’50 Plymouth, which fitted that goal, so I bought it. Well, $50 may have bought me a car I could pay cash for, but that didn’t mean that it was a car that would run right. Luckily, before it fell apart I traded it in on a car that I could afford to make payments on, a ’53 Chrysler in great shape.

Saying 3 — A fool and his money are soon parted.

That old saying was coined 460 years old by a poet named Thomas Tusser who wrote, “A foole and his money be soone at debate: which after with sorow repents him too late.”

I traded my faithful Chrysler in on a French built tin can called a Renault 4CV so that I would have a small car that would fit the lousy dirt roads in Japan. However, I overlooked the fact that a small cheap tin can is a small cheap tin can.

That Renault 4CV was intended to meet the needs of a Europe, which had been impoverished by World War II. Everything about it was a compromise, and French compromising had created a disaster on wheels. Sure! Brand new, it was dirt cheap, but when you buy something brand new you ought to make sure that it will stay that way — at least for a few years.

That piece of junk was full of foolish compromises tied to built-in obsolescence. It was so underpowered it couldn’t even maintain the highway 40 mph under — limit on a freeway when on a hill. Result? In just making the easy 3,300-mile drive to California, where I shipped it to Japan, I used up over 90% of all the mileage it ever gave me.

I drove that thing just 200 miles in Japan, and shipped it to Karachi when I was transferred there. However, if the Air Force hadn’t issued a Jeep to me so that I could do my job, I’d have been stranded, because that crappy Renault was a piece of junk. I sold it to the government of Pakistan, with just 3,500 miles on it, for $357 when Lolly and I transferred; and I was glad to get it!

Wisdom 4 — Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

More about Garrett, the great car buying genius next week.

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