No. 3 in A Series
CARS & THE COLUMNISTS
THE SAGA OF A TRUE FAMILY CAR
That's Our Andy behind the wheel of the durable BIG RED
He's the Murcia 'son' who
frequently needs repairs
By ANDY MURCIA
He was born in 1992, the same year as our son, Andrew.
My wife, Ann, and I were going to be parents after a long, childless marriage. We looked around and observed that most of the other Moms and Dads were driving kids in SUVs. We spoke to Anns girlfriend, Gail Stephens, back in Dayton, Ohio. Gail knew everything about cars. We soon knew exactly what we wanted.
We just had to have a GMC Suburban that had three rows of seats and lots of room for our sons future golf clubs and other sports equipment. We wanted a bright red Suburban so it would look like a big red fire engine to our infant son, Andrew Boy. We wanted him to grow up knowing that Big Red was the same age as he and would hold many special memories of his youth. We hoped they would become great friends, but they were more like brothers. Red was big and Andrew Boy felt well protected in him while riding Californias dangerous freeways.
We shopped all the dealers around Los Angeles but none had a red GMC. We put the word out to our friends about this. Soon the phone rang and it was our friend Gail Stephens in Dayton. Gail had found a red GMC and could make a terrific deal for it. We gave her the okay and she bought it and took the red Suburban to her ranch. We reimbursed her and I flew in to Dayton on a red eye.
Gail picked me up at the airport and drove me to her ranch to see the car. There he was, looking exactly like I pictured him. He was all shiny new and sat up high and proud-like. Man, was I excited! I hugged Gail, hugged Red and off we went for the trip home to Los Angeles. I drove all night and day, pulling over only to sleep in his reclining, comfortable chairs. I didnt check into a motel because I feared some car thief might steal Red.
I arrived home and Ann carried baby Andrew out to see his new friend Red. Ann said, Hes sooo big and thats when Red became known as Big Red. We all hopped in Big Red and went for a short first ride as a happy family. We knew immediately that we were all meant for each other.
Big Red took us everywhere! He carried little Andrews baby crib, toys and all his supplies to every movie location where Mama Ann worked. When movie production started moving north to Canada, off we went. Driving to Toronto or Vancouver was no big deal for Big Red. What a pleasure it was to ride in him. We had the best of family times with him and before long Big Red was not just a vehicle to transport us to places, but was a real member of our family!
We hardly ever called him by his official name of GMC Suburban. He was just our Big Red. When we celebrated Andrews 13 birthdays, I remembered they also were Big Reds birthdays. I usually get him an early oil change or at least a wax job.
I almost traded Big Red in several times after he broke down, but our son Andrew snapped me out of it and reminded me how much we love him. Ever since, my son looks at me like Im a bad father if I even mention trading-in Big Red ever again. Because I knew it would break his heart I never did trade him. Time after time I pay repair bills to the GMC dealer to repair him.
Sadly, as I write this column Red is in again for repairs. This time it looks like it might be curtains for him. Its not just his fuel pump and the $454 to replace it. Its more serious than that. Big Red has transmission and maybe rear end trouble too. The dealership service writer says it might cost as much as $6,000 to fix him up and even then we wont know if his illness has spread into his other very old parts, too.
I checked the blue book and they say someone like Big Red could only be worth $3,000 in top form. He has 160,000 miles on him now. May God, and my son, forgive me, but it might be time. I mean I always had a new car when I was a younger man. Im getting too old now to be stuck on the side of a freeway waiting for the tow truck like yesterday when Red broke down again.
I had to have him taken to the dealer again. Red looked very sad as the hook truck arrived, I went to his aid though. I said no hook! Get a flat bed truck to put him on and take him to the nearest dealership gently.
I called Ann. She came in her car that I named White Star (because its a Yukon XL and its all white). Ann and I followed Red as he rode high on top of that flatbed truck down the Ventura freeway. Red looked proud even though he had to be carried like that. Thank God Andrew was golfing and didnt have to see Red looking so helpless up there. His wheels were not moving. He had chains on him that held him on top of the flatbed truck.
I felt so sad for him because I knew the possibilities of what his problems might be. I looked at Ann as I drove and she said dont get me started or Ill cry. We rode silently along behind that truck just staring at Big Red, it was getting deathly quiet as we approached the dealership. The truck driver almost made the wrong turn into the new car part of the GMC dealership, I can only imagine how Big Red felt looking down on all those new models, raring to go, and here he was--totally unable to even roll. I quickly directed the truck driver to the service department and they gently let Big Red off the flatbed.
The service writer started looking him over and writing things down. His face looked grim. I knew it was going to be bad news. He said hed have to call me later at home to give me the full extent of Reds diagnosis.
I left with Ann in White Star and we picked up our son Andrew and came home. I had to tell Andrew that Big Red was in for repairs. He asked me if it was time? I said I just dont know yet.
Later that night I received a phone call from the service writer who said, Big Red needs a new fuel pump just to get his engine running so the transmission doctor (mechanic) can look at him in the morning. I am now awaiting those findings.
As we all wait here at home, we cant help but talk about some of our best memories of Big Red and where we were when they occurred. Were trying our best to keep our spirits up and not think of what the worst could be. Son Andrew stayed busy today by going golfing with his buddies and Ann and I worked in the office and around the house. Every time our phone rang we knew it might be the service writer with bad news. Ann said we have to keep positive thoughts in our heads and not get down. Its not easy when youve come to love something like it was a member of your family.
I wanted to call Gail and tell her but no sense in getting her upset, at least not until I know more about Big Reds condition. I know Gail understands more than anyone does how we all feel about Big Red here. Gail is sensitive to this matter because I know she has heartfelt feelings about her own vehicles.
The phone just rang. Its the service writer guy. Good news, bad news situation. Bad news is that Big Reds transmission is shot, but $2,495.00 plus the fuel pump cost, and a couple of other items, that will total out at $3,200.00 will fix him up. The good news is that his rear-end is okay and does not need replacing!
Hey, I know thats a lot of money, but when it comes to a family member, who could deny Big Red these bucks to make him well? None of us could.
Big Red will be all better in a few days and Ill go pick him up. I know the dealer will have him all washed and shiny for me. Ill proudly drive home and I cant wait to see the faces of Ann and Andrew when I pull up the driveway.
Ill call ahead and have Ann bring Andrew Boy outside as I get to our corner, just like I did when Big Red was brand new. Theyll pile in and well head to the only drive-in restaurant left, Bobs Big Boy, over in Burbank. Big Red can visit with many other beloved vehicles that gather there. Big Red always liked going there because he was not the oldest guy parked. Many people bring their much older, classic cars to be admired.
I cant wait to go into my rap with other car owners about Big Red having 160,000 miles and still looking good. Big Red, Andrew Boy, Ann and me will all be together again. A happy family reunited with a member we thought we would lose.
Oh, sure, Ann might shed a few tears but, hey, thats Ann and besides they will be tears of joy for her other son has come home. Andrew will have his big brother, Big Red, back As for me, Ill be behind Big Reds wheel with my heart thumping almost as loud as that little hole in his muffler.
Dont you just love stories that have a happy ending? We do.
©2005 by Andy Murcia. The caricature of Andy Murcia is ©2003 by Jim Hummel. The photo of Andy and Big Red is the author's property. All rights reserved. This column first posted Aug. 29, 2005.
TO READ OTHERS IN THE SERIES, CLICK ON THE COLUMNS BELOW: Joanne Engelhardt's MY LIFE AS A CAR Chuck McFadden's FIRST CARS ARE FOREVER
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