In Pieces In Antwerp

What happened was, the Engineer looked upon his motor vehicle, and beheld that it was a beater. The Red Rover has withstood two owners and twenty years of commuter driving, and I gave it a glow-up a few Christmases back to the tune of three new hubcaps and a side mirror with an intact frame, but the inside door panel threatens to come off every time you pull it shut, the gas cap hatch won’t stay hatched, the rear bumper hangs at a casual angle and the engine light keeps coming on for no reason anyone can determine. Oh, and the aircon doesn’t work. Even before climate change DC was pretty much intolerable in summer without aircon.

This was how we met Vinny Malatesta.

Fun fact: the Malatesta were a powerful condottiere family in the 1500’s, and somehow the name still makes me think of being received in the back room of a restaurant by someone who expects you to bow your head over his hand, but Our Cousin Vinny was really an ordinary unprepossessing salesman in the Cooper dealership down the road a piece.

It was kind of a Goldilocks thing. The Engineer has had his heart set on an electric car ever since it became apparent the Rover was quietly decaying. We tried out a Chevy Bolt, which rode as smoothly as a monorail and had bags of room in the back but no place to put your arms down the midline. I mean if he shifted gears his elbow was in my lap. The Nissan Leaf felt like bumping over ruts in a wooden-wheeled cart, cost the earth, and exposed us to the kind of sales people who suck up to you and tell you how special you are and that you deserve the best and, well, we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Vinny handed us the keys and called me Mrs. Engineer. Oh well.

It was just right. On the down side, you only get 110 miles to a charge, but then it’s a poot-around-town car. Also, theoretically there is a back seat but it’s really only usable by toddlers or amputees.

Fuck it. It’s fun. Moon roof, snazzy body options, and sensible toggle vs. touch screen controls (who the hell wants to take their eyes off the road to look at a touchscreen?). The Engineer has never bought a NEW new car, and went nuts picking out options, meaning this baby had to be built from scratch, to order.

Vinny sent an e-mail a few weeks later. The car was in production, basically in pieces in a factory in Antwerp. Who knew.

Guys showed up one morning in a couple of ramshackle station wagons and began banging around in the utility room and noisily digging next to the driveway, pausing every couple of hours to run to the hardware store (“they switched teams on this job at the last minute and we need some parts”). By the end of the day (“it’s usually quicker than this”) a rather elegant little parking-meter-like dingus was in place, connected to a new 240V circuit in my breaker box by a cable run through the duct chase in the cellar::

Then a few weeks later it was going through customs.

A few days ago it arrived at the Port of Baltimore, and is presumably having the floor mats and custom “tentacle” wheel covers put on (I told you he went nuts). Next week.

2 thoughts on “In Pieces In Antwerp

  1. How cool. I had to buy a new-to-me car in April when my beater ’99 Subaru Forester burned up its engine. The temperature gauge never budged–who knew that it only registers if the sensor is actually in water (it’s located at the top of the engine)?! So now I have a fancy 2014 Subaru Outback, one of the few with 6-speed transmission (Subaru discontinued standard transmission in its 2 larger vehicles in 2015). All this background to set up that I’d really hoped to buy a few more thousand miles on the old car until there was a chance to get a Tesla, an EV that I’ve been salivating over. Of course part of the deal would be winning the lottery, but still a girl can dream…. Enjoy your new wheels; EVs have tremendous torque, which makes them very peppy and far too much fun to drive.

    • I really considered an Outback at one point. They’re rugged safe cars. The Engineer was keen on Teslas for a while, but after signing up for mail from the website and getting two years of “buy our self-driving software package now at a discount, we will roll it out in six months” he got a little testy about their product support. Anyway, that Cooper is hella zippy.

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