Here we go with part three of Garrett, the genius, and how not to buy cars. Last week I left off just after buying a Renault 4CV, which went from brand new to ready for the scrap yard in just 3,500 miles. And they were not tough miles. The first 3,300 of them were driven on beautiful four lane highways stretching across the country.

Last week we looked at three out of four old sayings that apply to the duds I’ve bought. Here’s the fourth one:

Saying 4: Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

That saying comes from a philosopher named Santayana. I have quoted the current version of it, which applies to two Japanese made cars.

In 1973, Lolly and I arrived home from England and headed for the town where I attended college. I bought a 1971 Toyota Corona to get there from New London. It’s a good thing I didn’t expect that Toyota to go any farther because when we arrived it was ready to fall apart even though it was only two years old. With just 27,000 miles on it, it kept breaking down.

For once, I exhibited some common sense. I went to a Ford dealer and bought a new 1974 Torino for just a little over $3,000, and relaxed back as I drove something reliable.

So when I graduated from college a year and half later we actually had something to drive to Texas, where I got a good job teaching chemistry and physics, and was doing so well that I bought a nice new Ford Mustang so Lolly could learn to drive on a smaller sized car.

Eight years later, when we moved to Arizona, we brought both cars with us; but when I ran into the mad driving on the freeways between Phoenix, where we had bought a house, and Mesa, where I taught, I let a fast talking car salesman convince me that I needed “something smaller and lighter” for my daily drive — namely a 1984 Mazda pickup.

Stupidly, I ignored what I had learned about Japanese cars in that wreck of a Toyota, there I was with another of what amounted to the same thing: Too light, too underpowered, and too focused on price instead of on quality and reliability.

However, a young woman driver passed me on the freeway in Mesa, and when her left rear tire lost a tread she made a natural error. I’ll never forget what her husband said as I walked back to their car after it had reversed and come at me at 65 miles an hour, ripped off everything on my Mazda from just behind the driver’s side front wheel to the side of our crew cab and left me sitting in the fresh air as my pickup bounced off the guard rail, thereby destroying its other side.

As I leaned in their passenger side window to see if they were unhurt, he looked at me and said, “She hit the f–––ing brake.”

Ah, well. It was a natural mistake.

So the insurance payoff went into a solid 1985 Ford Bronco II. When we retired and moved to Pine in 1998, we traded the Mustang in on a ’98 GMC pickup and gave the ’85 Bronco to one of our sons. It is still running after 35 years, and so is the 2001 Chevy Tracker I bought to replace it.

Saying 5: It’s never too late to learn.

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