Sakharov (named, as I have named all my cars, for a well-known physicist) was a 1973 Dart Swinger with a 225 slant-6 engine. I loved that car with all my heart, even though I and my husband only had him for about 4 years.
Sakharov started life in Windom, Minnesota. His original owner was a gentleman farmer who worked at the local Toro plant (yes, the lawnmower people) in the winter and farmed in the warmer months. When the gentleman farmer (whose name to this day I still don't know) lost his licence because of poor eyesight, Sakharov was parked in a barn and left there all alone for the next 10 or so years. After the gentleman farmer passed away, his brother put Sakharov up for sale at an estate auction--where he was purchased by a mechanic/car dealer and fixed up a bit. A few hoses were replaced here, some work was done on the transmission there, and the dealer sold it to me and my husband for $500 plus the carcass of Heisenberg--our old 1981 Ford Escort that had coughed out his last breath on a lonely highway outside Butterfield, MN the November before.
The first thing that impressed me about Sakharov was the engine. It ran like a champ! The second thing that impressed me was the power of the car. I felt so...alive, so free in that car. The third thing that impressed me was the solidity of the car. The Dart was built like a Russian Sturmovik fighter plane--sturdy and solid. It was then that I named him for a Russian physicist--Andrei Sakharov, the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb. It seemed only fitting.
Shortly after purchasing Sakharov, my husband and I had some more work done on him to replace a few things that the dealer had missed. Not long after that, Sakharov gained the second part of his name--the Indestructible Dart.
It was a damp morning in June 1995. I was driving down a rain- slicked street in Mankato, Minnesota. I saw the light turn green as I approached the intersection, and I also saw the 92 Ford Taurus run the red light not 15 feet in front of me. I hit the brakes in an attempt to stop before hitting the car, but to no avail. Sakharov hit the Taurus' right rear end, spinning the Taurus around 180 degrees in the intersection. I slowly pulled over to the right-hand side of the one-way street, and the driver of the Taurus and I exchanged insurance information and surveyed the damage. Sakharov looked OK--save for the fact that I couldn't make really tight right turns anymore. The Taurus, however, was in bad shape. It's right rear end was all stove in, and a jagged piece of metal from the frame had punctured the tire.
The driver of the Taurus was OK. I, however, had suffered a sprained knee and had bruises from the seatbelt in the car--had I been in a lesser car (or even Heisenberg!) I probably would not be here today to write this. Sakharov's frame was bent ever-so-slightly to the right--easily straightened. But one thing did change after that day-- my love for the car grew by leaps and bounds. Sakharov had saved my life in that accident, as far as I was concerned, and all I could do in return was love him and treat him like the wonderful car that he was.
The love affair with Sakharov lasted through a move to North Carolina and the next three and a half years. But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And so it did on June 23rd, 1998. I was on my way back from a fundraiser. It was dark. I slowed to about 20 MPH to cross some railroad tracks--unfortunately, whoever put that sign up had neglected to add on "look out for the 1-foot gap between the tracks and the pavement!!" **BAM** Sakharov started wobbling a bit, almost like the shocks had gone. I limped home and parked the car. The following Monday, a mechanic friend of mine came to survey the damage--his comment was "I'm amazed that you made it home alive, Camille." Since Rod was unable to jack the car up, we didn't know the full extent of what had happened. I called for a wrecker this morning and had Sakharov towed to a local automotive shop. Half an hour after that, I received the bad news. Sakharov the Indestructible Dart had brought me home for the last time that night. Hitting the 1-foot gap had caused the frame to separate from the body, snapping control arms and torsion bars on the front end. The axle had also broken. My car--my beautiful-despite-all-the-rust Dart--had effectively been torn apart, and yet he carried me the 20 miles home without complaint when according to the mechanic the wheels should have come off and he should have simply scraped into the ground. Some would say I'm weird for shedding tears over a car--a hunk of metal and vinyl and injection-moulded plastic--but my husband and my friends know that I'm shedding tears over a valued friend who gave so much and asked so little in return.
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