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I am a senior citizen who remembers the days when...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



I am a senior citizen who remembers the days when cars were distinctive. We
currently own a 1984 Nissan Maxima with 105,000 miles. This car has distinctive
styling -- not the jelly-bean look -- and runs great. I have maintained it
well, and it is clean and tight. However, I am becoming paranoid that something
could be ready to go.

It is worth no more than $3,000, but with cars today going for around $20,000,
I am toying with the idea of fixing it up and keeping it. Am I bonkers if I
have it inspected and spend $1,500 or so to put it in first-class condition? --
Clay

TOM: Not at all, Clay. You may be bonkers to think that an '84 Maxima is
distinctive, but if that's your opinion, your plan for the car makes perfect
sense.

RAY: You may be surprised, however, to find that it often costs more than
$1,500 to get an old car back into first-class condition.

TOM: The first step, as you say, is having it thoroughly inspected. There's a
helpful checklist in the back of our "How to Buy A Great Used Car" pamphlet you
can use as a guide to have the car checked out from stem to stern. Once you
know everything that's wrong with it, you can add up the cost of the repairs
and make a decision. For a copy of the pamphlet, send $3 and a self-addressed,
stamped (55 cents) No. 10 envelope to Used Car, P.O. Box 6429, Riverton, NJ
08077-6420.

RAY: But let's take the worst-case scenario. Let's say it costs $5,000 because
you need a new engine, new transmission, brakes, ball joints and a bunch of
other stuff. That's still a heck of a lot less than the $20,000 you'd spend on
a new car, Clay. And if you're perfectly happy with this car, that's definitely
the way to go.

TOM: And, if you ever get tired of the shape of the car, you can always change
that too. My brother used to have one of those jelly-bean-shaped cars, but he
has driven it into so many things that now it's got a nice, distinctive,
squared-off shape, too.
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