“These wheel bushings need to be replaced. This is the brake line – it’s rusted. This is the fuel tank clamp…” My mechanic, Rick, pointed his flashlight at multiple areas on the underside of the car, all of them in various stages of corrosion.
As we stepped to the side and the hoist slowly lowered, Rick turned to me, his expression neutral. “I think it’s time for you to go car shopping.”
My eyes welled up.
The news was not entirely unexpected. My husband and I had bought the car, a Saturn L200, brand-new in 2001. Back then, my husband already owned a Saturn from his single-guy days: a sporty two-door coupe in fire-engine red. As a newly married couple, though, we needed something that would be more practical and family-friendly down the road. We chose a silver four-door sedan, and my husband insisted on adding a spoiler for visual appeal.
We were living in a crummy apartment at the time, and I recall being overwhelmed by a purchase of this magnitude. My husband assured me that this was a good long-term investment and that we’d have the car for many years.
He was right. Over the course of 18 years and 270,000 kilometres, the Saturn played a part in many vivid experiences. It took me to my first real job and my first client meeting, which required a one-hour drive down a major six-lane highway. When I arrived, my hands were shaking from gripping the wheel so hard.
When I was pregnant with our first child, we diligently installed the car seat using a locking clip (this was before LATCH anchors) and practiced buckling in a plush doll. When our newborn son was finally released from the hospital after a tough first week in intensive care, we brought him home in the Saturn, with me sitting alongside him in the backseat.
My dream of having a family to fill our “family car” came true, as our second son was born in 2010 (ironically, the year that General Motors closed down all the Saturn dealerships). We were always diligent about oil changes and routine maintenance, and the Saturn kept rolling along. It took us to parent-and-tot swim classes, t-ball games, and many family road trips. It was reliable. It kept us safe. It was never even in an accident.
Now, it was time to choose the right vehicle for the next chapter in our lives. My husband and I agreed that we needed something roomy enough to accommodate our two growing boys. Rick recommended a few brands, including Honda, who had an end-of-year pricing promotion in effect. I started calling around to determine if the base model of the 2018 Honda CR-V was available anywhere. Every dealership I called answered with a resounding “no,” since last year’s stock was dwindling rapidly.
I was on the verge of giving up as I dialed the number of Listowel Honda, a small-town dealership about 45 minutes away. Due to a mix-up at reception, my call accidentally went directly to the dealership’s General Manager. It is unusual for a random customer to bypass both the sales rep and the sales manager, so the gentleman who answered seemed a bit perplexed to be receiving my call. Still, he introduced himself as Terry and politely asked what I was looking for.
I was so wrung out by this point that I started to spill my guts. “Well, Terry, we have this 2001 Saturn as our family car, and unfortunately the mechanic says that it’s on its last legs, and…”
“A Saturn?” Terry asked suddenly. “Where did you buy it from?”
“Um… Kitchener Saturn,” I responded, confused.
There was a pause. “I was the Sales Manager at Kitchener Saturn in 2001.”
I rifled through the folders and papers spread out in front of me, locating the Saturn file and digging out the bill of sale. “Is your last name Dean?” I asked. “There’s a signature here that says Terry Dean.”
“Yes, that’s me,” he said. “Why don’t you come in for a test drive?”
That’s exactly what we did. We visited the dealership, re-introduced ourselves to Terry and reminisced about the experience of buying from Saturn, which really did live up to its slogan: “A different kind of company. A different kind of car.” After his 10 years at Saturn, Terry worked for several different dealerships, including Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, before coming to Listowel Honda less than a year ago.
With Terry’s help, we purchased a beautiful white CR-V, with the Saturn as a trade-in. While inspecting the Saturn, Terry removed the owner’s manual from the glove compartment and found his 2001 business card (still in mint condition) tucked in the front cover. Turns out the car was part sedan, part time capsule.
Typically, vehicle purchases are impersonal transactions, often involving artful negotiation tactics and even gamesmanship. This experience had none of that. It was a cosmic coincidence and a full-circle moment for my beloved car.
I’m still getting used to seeing the Honda parked in our garage. As with the Saturn, we intend to drive it for as long as we can. Initially, I found the CR-V’s rugged exterior and high-tech interior a little intimidating. As I drove it on a snowy day, its all-wheel drive gripped the road with an assertiveness that the Saturn never had. It made me realize that our new vehicle is smarter and more confident—and, 18 years later, so am I.