There are literally miles of songs about cars out there

There are literally miles of songs about cars out there. Some of my favorites are “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, “G.T.O.” by Ronny and the Daytonas, and “Little Deuce Coupe” by the Beach Boys.

If we had written a song about our own car, “Ol’ Betsy Blue” as we called her, the lyrics might have gone something like, “My love for you’s no flash in a pan me keeping you ‘round ‘til you’re an old tin can.” But we didn’t compose a song about Ol’ Betsy because our lyrics could never have matched Commander Cody’s, “Son you’re gunna drive me to drinkin’ drivin’ that hot rod Lincoln.”

While not inspired to write music about her, we like many, can tell stories about our car. And why not? We had Ol’ Betsy almost as long as our kids lived with us … and drove her longer than any of our family dogs breathed. We spent untold hours with her driving up and down the East Coast of the United States and to Ohio and back many times.

Volkswagen called her back three times for safety recalls. There were at least two district court cases of which we were informed involving lawsuits with her kind. We ignored the legal notices, figuring no law to pursue, Ol’ Betsy (for us at least) was true blue. There’s another song lyric in there some place.

When purchased new in August 2000, Betsy cost her original owner $33,519.04. When we purchased Betsy from a mechanic in New Bern with 20,000-some miles on her 19 months later in March 2002, we paid less than half of her new purchase cost. We got a good price for her partly because her depreciation didn’t factor into our costs.

But she didn’t act depreciated. We almost hit a drunken lady riding a bicycle on a dark road one night. Were it not for Ol’ Betsy’s nimble performance, we might have killed that woman instead of merely grazing her bike and permanently scratching Betsy’s left side. Betsy rightly earned her age mark that night.

Except for being a German immigrant, Ol’ Betsy Blue was a southern car, a modest 2000 four-cylinder gasoline turbo sedan. Like the fine, southern lady she was, she was polite but when needed, she could get up and go. She was purchased new in Wilmington. The original dealer invoice said her color was “indigo,” but for us she was simply a beautiful blue. Her sun roof was open whenever it wasn’t raining or too cold, which was most of the time given our fine weather in eastern North Carolina, the place she called her home for 16 years.

We loved that car. And it showed. We drove her for almost 15 years. Only late last year did we finally part ways, donating her to the American Kidney Foundation. She had almost a quarter of million miles (242,152 to be exact) on her when she was towed out of our driveway this past Dec. 30.

I badly wanted to cross that 250,000 mile mark with her, but it was time to say goodbye to Ol’ Betsy before hitting that milestone. We gave her up because she was burning engine coolant. I had to keep several gallon jugs of antifreeze in her trunk to top off her radiator every 50 to 75 miles or so.

“Popular Mechanics” estimates that for the first 25,000 miles, the average car costs $1,400 to maintain. “Unsurprisingly” they say, “costs rise significantly up to the 100,000 mile mark, but taper off soon after. This is because maintenance costs simply top out and consumable parts are replaced.” From 175,000 to 200,000 miles, they estimate average maintenance costs at $5,000.

Ol’ Betsy did better than average. We saved every one of her maintenance receipts. You may think it a bit “OCD” of me, but in researching this column, I spent an hour adding up those costs. Not counting gas, oil, and insurance, Betsy cost us $13,800.97 to keep her, a couple thousand under what we originally paid for her or $920 a year average during her life with us. Or, round figures if my ciphering is correct, about $1,500 (average) maintenance costs for every 25,000 miles we drove her.

She was worth every penny. The way I figure it, Ol’ Betsy Blue lived a good southern life, gave up herself for us, and ended her life helping others. Though no hot rod Lincoln, she lived worthy a song being sung about her. Not a bad way to get up and go.

Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at