“The Other Woman” In My Life
I bought a new car this year, which is not usually remarkable, except that there’s a story behind this purchase.
The 41-year-old car is a 1972 Volvo 1800E, one of 39,414 manufactured between 1961 and 1972. With a production number of 39,304, it was one of the last ones to roll off the Swedish assembly line on June 8, 1972. Only 110 followed.
The car was designed as a grand touring (GT) two-passenger sports car to compete with the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Thunderbird. There are very few of them left after all these years with many being shipped back to Sweden and Germany. You rarely see one on the road.
I was a young deputy district attorney in 1977 and also taught criminal law classes at the local community college. My old car was giving me trouble and I decided to replace it. I was earning enough money to pretty much purchase any thing I wanted, and I drove a series of popular cars including Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and the Corvette (which I had earlier admired).
Among all these cars, the one that most attracted my attention was the Volvo 1800E, which had been driven by the actor Roger Moore in the popular British television series, “The Saint.” Moore, if you recall, went on to replace Sean Connery as James Bond in 1972.
I purchased a used 1971 model and began to refurbish it. The engine was overhauled and the car was repainted from mustard yellow to a dark burgundy. The interior was converted from black leather seats to tan leather with dark blue inlay and blue carpeting.
Shortly thereafter, my 14-year-old son, Steven, came to live with me. He loved the car and would ask to wash it so he could drive it a short distance. He later returned to live with his mother in Northern California and I continued to drive the car on a daily basis as I traveled from court to court in the Los Angeles traffic practicing criminal and public-interest trial law.
Following my work in the “Holocaust Denial” case, I took a year off and retreated from public contact. On my son’s 18th birthday, I drove the 1800 to Northern California, woke Steve up and handed him the keys to the car. It was perhaps one of the best things I ever did to bond with my son.
Steve drove the car until he joined the Army. Unfortunately, while he was in Germany, Cathy, his sister (my daughter) sold the car. I have finally forgiven her, but Steve says that redemption is not on the horizon.
Several years ago, he obtained a 1964 1800S and commenced to restore the car. He had experience in doing so because he had recently completed an El Camino. Steve took me for a ride when I visited him in Chico. He had a ways to go, but it was fun going for a demonstration ride with him.
When my wife, Helen, retired four years ago we sold her car because she was primarily driving it from one side of the street to the other to avoid street-sweeping tickets. We’ve done well as a one-car family until recently when Helen began to get busy working on her art classes at Long Beach State and decided to go to grad school. From time-to-time, I found myself stranded at home and decided we should consider getting a second car.
Since the second car would only be driven around town, we considered getting an all-electric vehicle; however, they are very expensive. Next, I thought about getting an old 1800 like the one Steve is working on and converting it to all electric. Then, I discovered that the cost of conversion could run as high as $15,000.
Finally, one day, I thought “why not just get an 1800 that is in good condition to drive around town?” The ideas was born, but not shared with Helen, who is the Chief Financial Officer of the family.
One evening while having dinner a couple of months ago, she asked, “Since I am spending so much time and money going to school, what can we do to make you happy?” After a moment of reflection, I answered that I would like to get another 1800.
Helen’s response was one of surprise in that she believes such purchases are frivolous. With time, she came around. We agreed upon a budget and the search was on.
There are very few 1800s left on the road and the choice was either to buy an inexpensive one and restore it or buy a restored one using the full budget.
I drove several, including one in Arizona, and began to feel that they were just too old and not worth the money. I wanted a light blue car and found that my first impulse would have been to repaint the ones that otherwise appeared satisfactory.
Then, one morning at about 3:30, I happened to check the websites I’ve been following and found one in Central California that only had 32,644 miles and was light blue. I contacted the owner and essentially bought the car without seeing it.
I flew to Sacramento the next morning. Brent, the seller, picked me up at the airport and drove me to his home in Fairfield where he introduced me to the car. It was love at first sight and everything I’d hoped for. I gave him a certified check and he signed the pink slip.
I drove the car, very slowly in the right lane, 450 miles back to Long Beach and have begun to plan the few things I want to do to complete the car.
Helen has taken to calling the car “The Other Woman” and I, for the first time in many years, have a hobby. She also calls it “The Gold Digger.”
We had to renegotiate whether the use tax was included in the budget, and she finally agreed that it didn’t even though she was “not thrilled.” Since then, I prevailed upon her to authorize a new paint job and a new interior. Here’s a video of the process: