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Paul Donates His 1983 Toyota Tercel

Paul Ranelli

Minnesota Public Radio

1983 Toyota Tercel

Car Talk: Why did you decide to donate your car to Minnesota Public Radio?

Paul: It was time to retire the car. It still worked and we knew that we would not get much money from a private buyer. We realized we'd have more fun with the donation, too! We are regular listeners, especially to Minnesota Public Radio's classical station. And, I want to meet Susan Stamberg!

Car Talk: We've got bad news. We can't help you there. Susan doesn't talk to us anymore after we drove the show she used to host, "Weekend Edition Sunday," right into the ditch. That was back in our early days.

Paul: I understand. At least we still have you guys, Scott Simon, "Prairie Home Companion," "Fresh Air," and "The Story."

Car Talk: Tell us a little bit about your family.

Paul: Well, I'm a college professor. I like photography and I'm a sports fan. My wife Carla is a freelance medical editor and project director who likes cooking, walking, and rollerblading.

Car Talk: How long was this car in your family?

Paul: Carla brought the car into the marriage, 27 years ago now. It's only got 97,000 miles on it. It looked like a cream puff for years... right up until we moved to Minnesota in 2003. The road salt took its toll.

The car has moved with us from Washington, DC to Bethesda, Maryland to Madison, Wisconsin, Philadelphia, Gainesville, Laramie -- even Duluth, Minnesota.

The first time I tried to learn to drive the car with its manual transmission, Carla tried to teach me. We had, shall we say, different learning styles. I wanted to stay married, so I put off learning.

Car Talk: So you cancelled the lessons to save your marriage? Good move!

Paul: But then our other car, a Honda Accord, 1982, was sandwiched in an accident. I was driving with one child in the back. The car was totaled, but there were no injuries, thankfully. As a result, though, I had to learn to drive the Toyota. A work buddy did the lessons for me. There was a lot less stress!

Car Talk: What will you miss about the Tercel?

Paul: Having no car payment! We replaced it with a Honda CRV with four-wheel drive. We need that four-wheel-drive traction in Duluth. The CRV even has front-seat warmers! The Toyota, on the other hand, wasn't so good in the cold. It used to frost more on the inside than the outside.

I'll also miss the light-hearted razzing from my work colleagues about the car not reflecting my college professor status. What will they razzme about now?

Car Talk: Us, we bet -- now that you've been outed as a fan of Car Talk! Tell us, what won't you miss about the car?

Paul:Well, I won't miss the fear that the car was about to totally collapse on us. We joked that some day the car would come "unglued" by a pothole and we'd be left in the road holding a steering wheel. My wife did not like me to take the Tercel out on the interstate to the Twin Cities, three hours away. I guess I can't blame her because a few times until it was fixed the car lights would dim and it would stall "in flight" on the interstate. I certainly won't miss climbing in and out of the back seat, either.

Car Talk: How was the donation process?

Paul: Seamless. I filled out the donation form online, sent in the title, then got an email saying a tow company would call in a few days. I wasn't home to bid a final farewell, but Carla was, and she had a good laugh.

Car Talk: Glad to hear that the process was both seamless and hilarious! What happened?

Paul: She brought out the keys, thinking that they'd be needed, but Mr. Pickov Antowov told her to just throw them on the front seat. She turned the key the wrong way when opening the door and said, "You'd think by now I'd know how to open the door." Mr. Pickov Antowov did not crack a smile. She then asked if she needed to sign anything. "No," Mr. Antowov says, "As long as you already sent in the title. You'll never see this car on the road again." Carla was surprised, "Oh, that's too bad. It's such a nice little car." Stone-faced Antowov replied with no verbal response.

Car Talk: I think every tow truck driver goes through rigorous charm school training -- also known as time spent up the river! If we can promise you an encore from Pickov Antowov, will you give us the CRV?

Paul: Actually, the next car in line is our 2001 Honda Odyssey, which just turned 200,000 mile and is still going strong. How about this: We'll donate it when Tom and Ray do the voices for Cars VI.

Car Talk: You're on! Thanks for your time, Paul.

Paul:You're welcome. Thanks for making it easy to support Minnesota Public Radio. Anything for hosts Cathy Wurzer and Steve Staruch, and for Tim Burr, NPR's tree surgeon.

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