‘A rolling piece of art’
EAGLE COUNTY – Eddi Degner considers himself the “king of wrecked cars.”Degner’s favorite car’s a blue 1993 Ford Aspire that Gypsum Autobody & Frame, the shop where he works, rescued from a river. The owners didn’t want it, and he fixed it up for himself, he said.”Someone stole it from me and rolled it off a cliff,” Degner said. “But I got it towed out of there, put Plexiglas on the side and a regular windshield on the front, but first I had to bang it out with a sledgehammer.”Degner recently sold the Aspire for $100.”It ran fine, and it was great on gas, but every panel on the car was dented,” Degner said. “It was like a rolling piece of art.”
Eagle county residents seem to hang onto their old cars as long as possible, fixing them if they can and driving them until they die. When Duncan Allen of Edwards goes “off-roading,” he sees a lot of these beat-up, old cars “decked out with new parts,” he said.”People just don’t want to detach from them … after a while, they feel like family,” Allen said.Jim Mason of West Vail still drives his dad’s 1984 Chevrolet truck – named “Hudson” – as a way to remember his father, who died in a car accident, Mason said.”It’s sentimentality,” Mason said. “My dad wouldn’t want me to get rid of the truck.”It seems Laurie Hardmeyer of Eagle-Vail rarely gets rid of her beat-up, old cars. A 1976 Toyota Landcruiser sits in her driveway alongside a 1997 Dodge Caravan with 215,000 miles on it. Neither works. Her son’s 1981 Toyota truck runs but has “a bunch of problems,” she said. Her husband plans to fix the Landcruiser, Hardmeyer said.When Gypsum resident Paul Moses’s 1972 Chevrolet Blazer broke, he was also planning on fixing it, but he let it sit for two or three years until it was “basically a shed on wheels,” he said. He now drives a 1995 Dodge pickup.”It’s funny, after the Blazer, the pickup feels like a Cadillac,” Moses said.
Nathaly Garcia of Avon tried to super glue and duct tape her inside car door handle to keep it from falling off, but it didn’t work. Her brother, who now drives the car, has to roll the window down to close the driver’s side door.”That car was my mom’s, then my brother’s, then it was passed to me, then back to my brother,” Garcia said. “You pretty much pass those kind of cars on.”Ralph Green of Edwards never did any work on his 1989 Cavalier station wagon. When he bought it for $300, a PlayStation and 12 games were included in the sale.The car was in bad shape to start with. Green didn’t even use a key to start it – he just turned the ignition with his fingers, he said. When the brakes went out, he ditched the car in West Vail. It stayed there for more than a year before construction workers had it towed.”I let the car get bad,” Green said. “It was at a time when I couldn’t afford to fix it. It wasn’t the best thing to do.”One of the totaled cars Degner drove was a Toyota Tercel that he called “Zippy.” When Degner got a “new” totaled car from the shop, he gave the Tercel to his boss, whose daughter drove it until she sold it with over 300, 000 miles on it. Degner and his wife still see the Tercel on the road, he said. It now has a gold hood and gold fenders.
“That car will never die,” Degner said.Nikki Katz can be reached until Jan. 13 at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado