I was a year out of college and price largely dictated the model. In those days, cheap $10,000 cars were not nearly as common as they are today. This one beckoned to me in the dealer's back lot (with the shipping materials intact - I was her first driver since she'd rolled off the truck), and she was a solid car, although she did develop a bad head gasket at the tender age of 2 1/2. Other misadventures included the death of the alternator and a dead battery (although it had survived four Wisconsin winters living outdoors and owed me nothing). It was the 2nd Cavalier in the family (my sister had owned a mid-1980s model).
1996 Chevrolet Cavalier
Adopted from John Erickson Chevrolet - Verona, WI
April, 1996 - June, 2000
When it was time to let the '90 Cav go, price was still a dividing line. I eyed the Dodge Stratus and a couple of Saturn models, but concluded they were too expensive. This Cav was the 2nd model year into the redesign, and came with all kinds of toys not previously available to compact cars - such as cassette, cruise, daytime running lamps, power doors and anti-lock brakes. I was in love with her for a long time, but after a business trip to Springfield, IL, she developed some troubling engine habits that ultimately led me to end her career. Casualties included two factory recalls (air bag sensor reprogramming and powertrain control module replacement) and an inordinate number of door dings, courtesy of my fellow associates at work and thin sheet metal. She was the 3rd Cavalier in the family, and the last new GM vehicle in our driveways (up to this point). Ironically, less than 24 hours after we parted ways I got a letter from Chevrolet informing me that they were granting a special 7-year warranty on the head gasket. Oops.
2000 Dodge Stratus SE
Adopted from Kayser Dodge/Chrysler Center - Stoughton, WI
June, 2000 - Current
The Stratus had been on my short list in 1996, and was really the only vehicle I seriously considered on a list of three possibilities when it was time to trade the '96 Cav. I stalked them for a couple of months (not counting my hanging around the display vehicle at the winter auto show) and made my move when the summer rebates came. Due to three days of hailstorms in the Madison area, I went 10 miles south to Stoughton for the deal. She called me from a mid-row position with one important extra: remote keyless entry. Other toys new to me include power windows and mirrors, an 8-way power driver's seat and CD player with six-speaker system and 3-channel equalizer. It's been a little strange handling a car of this size (compared to the Cavalier, classified as compact vs the mid-size Stratus), but we're getting along just fine. Being my first car to always sleep indoors should help keep us together for years to come. It's the third DaimlerChrysler product in the family since our beloved 1972 Dodge Coronet was traded in 1979 for a new Chevrolet Chevette (now that was a contrast..thank the oil sheiks for that one), the others being my dad's 1996 Chrysler Concorde and the car it succeeded, a 1987 Chrysler LeBaron. It's the first new Dodge in the family since 1972. Since this was written, a 2000 PT Cruiser has joined the family fleet.
See more about her here...
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