It is amazing how quickly the miles pile up on the old odometer. You drive your new car off the dealer’s lot, and before you know it, there’s 40,000 miles on the clock and you can’t remember driving that far. On the other hand…
There are many cases of old cars being used so sparingly that they are barely broken in even thought they are many decades old. Some of these amazing, low-mileage cars and trucks were simply not used very much. Some where used for a while and put into storage before the odometer got much of a workout. Others, like my Rambler Marlin, were daily drivers that got taken off the road when parts got hard to find. Between my daily driver 2011 Chevy Aveo, and my collector car ’65 Marlin, we have two ends of the mileage spectrum.
The Aveo has carted me to work every day for coming up on two years straight. That’s 80 miles every day, five days a week until recently, when it went down to four days a week. So about a month before its second birthday, my little metallic black traveling companion has, as the picture accompanying this article shows, has racked up 40,000 miles…that’s an average in excess of 20,000 miles a year. We really don’t use it for much else, so the vast majority of those miles are just drives to the office. Extrapolating the mileage figures over the course of the next few years, the Aveo will have well over 100,000 miles on it long before it’s paid for. Figures.
The Marlin, as near as I can tell, was a daily driver for a while but it couldn’t have been a long ride to work. Its first owner lived in the town where the dealer was that he bought the car from and doesn’t appear to have gone far from home with it. After that, I can’t say with any degree of certainty what the car went through as far as its use…but it didn’t get used much. It was purchased new in the summer of 1965 and by the time I found it sitting by the railroad tracks in Raritan, New Jersey, it had only covered 71,000 miles. That is a paltry 1,480 miles for every one of its 48 years of life. Sadly, prior to my buying it, the car had not been quite as treasured as it is now so it looks like it has more miles on it than it truly does but that is another story for another day.
Sometimes the numbers on the odometer don’t seem to matter much. My mom had a brand new Jaguar in 1968 that couldn’t seem to get through 100 miles without needing some kind of repair and barely two years into its tenure, and with very few miles on it, it was sent packing. On the other hand, my 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee ran up an astronomical 361,000 miles before it was destroyed by a careless driver making a right turn from the center lane…and it still ran perfectly even after the accident.
I am guilty of putting a lot of miles on a number of my cars and trucks. Another Grand Cherokee of mine, a ’97 this time, zoomed up to 171,000 miles before gas prices forced a change in my daily driver. Its replacement, a 2008 Pontiac G5 rocketed up to 15,000 miles in four months thanks to an insanely long commute. My beloved ’82 Jeep took a second engine to make it to Nearly 200,000 miles, but it still ran like a Swiss watch when I traded it in. My first car, a 1973 Pontiac Ventura, was purchased with 60,000 miles on it in July of 1980 and before it rusted to pieces in 1988, it had accumulated over 200,000 miles and had the distinction of having traveled farther at triple-digit speeds than any two other cars I owned.
My beautiful bride’s cars seem to keep the miles off as well as mine seem to pile them on. It’s taken her two months to put 1,000 miles on her new daily driver 2012 Jeep Compass. At that rate, we might be able to pay it off before we have to worry about it getting too worn out to rely upon. Even her vintage car has managed to keep the odometer looking young. Her 1976 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon hasn’t cleared the 80,000-mile mark yet, averaging something like 2,100 miles over the course of 37 years of punishing the pavement with its 5,100 pounds of curb weight.
While old cars with very low mileage are a prized curiosity in the collector car hobby, there is something about an old car that has seen a lot of use and is still here to tell the tale that I appreciate. Where has it been? What did the people who owned it do when they got where they were going in it? Were they miles of smiles? Did the car have to take them to places they didn’t want to go? How much history rolled under its wheels?
Those little numbers click off more than just miles to your next oil change. They tell your cars life story. How’s the story going so far?