Is it high time that Cynthia went for that '94 Mustang?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a fairly beat-up 1994 Mustang GT 5.0 convertible. It was made the last year they made the 5.0 in the newer, more curvaceous body style. Through childhood, I was a car girl and a Mustang enthusiast. So when it came time for me to buy my first car out of college in 1995, I could not help but stop to look at the slightly used, hunter-green, beige-topped, leather-interior 5.0 that was on the lot. I fell in love with it at first sight and was totally hooked when the dealer let me take it home for a few days. OK, it had a transmission problem, but it was still under warranty, and just above my price range. So I desperately figured out how, working three jobs, I could afford THIS car ... I found a great transmission guy, who figured out what the other dealer had not, and fixed my boy up. He (the car) was a rock. He was an island. Driving that bad boy was paradise. Still is. Although after years of great times, and many summers and winters in Chicago, I had to sideline him in 2004. After 10 years, he became a little unreliable starting on cold mornings, and the rear window popped away from the convertible top. Anyway, I say "sidelined" because I bought a new Toyota Solara without trading him in.

Since then, I have burdened my boyfriend (now my unsympathetic husband), my parents and several friends by begging for a cozy and dry garage in which to park my baby. I've put new brakes on, kept the oil changed and drove it on occasional summer days when a working top was unnecessary. Driving that car still feels great! My favorite top-down driving CD is always loaded, and he is ready to go whenever I am. So, my dilemma: The Solara is going to be paid off soon. Woo hoo! I see the newly freed-up cash as an opportunity to finally shower my very deserving old buddy with some much-needed TLC and get him back into shape. My husband sees keeping the car and spending any money on it as a complete waste of time and cash. I'm concerned about what will happen to our relationship if I start spending any real cash on fixing up the car. I estimate $3,000-$4,000 would go a long way toward bringing him back to his former glory. New top, fix an oil leak, bang out some dents, new paint -- basically, a day at the spa (something I don't do for myself!).

Am I wrong? Am I having a problem letting go? I mean, when I met my husband, he thought I looked hot in that bad boy with the top down! Do you think he could be jealous? Is he being too frugal? I question my husband's love for me, since he seems unable to understand how important this is to me! I need advice and family counseling that only you guys can offer. Please help. -- Cynthia and her beloved bad-boy Mustang

RAY: Cynthia, one of the keys to a healthy marriage is maintaining a balance between "you guys" as a couple and each one of you as individuals.

TOM: Together, you need to make joint decisions about crucial issues, like where to live, how to raise your children and whether you should get HBO and Showtime, or just HBO.

RAY: But there has to be room in the marriage for each of you to be yourself, too. And we can tell from this letter that this '94 Mustang is part of who you are.

TOM: Right. So, while it's possible for your husband, or even me, to say that it's a piece of junk and a waste of money -- and be correct -- driving this car makes you happy.

RAY: And if your husband is half the man we think he is, he'll realize that your happiness is a bargain at a few thousand bucks.

TOM: Right. It took a house, a car and half my assets (twice) to make MY first two wives happy.

RAY: So, explain to him that you know it's impractical, but it's important to you, and it makes you happy. And if that doesn't work, cut a deal and tell him he can get his Powermatic Model 4224 3-horsepower woodworking lathe for the basement.

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