In Southern California it’s challenging when your car gets “sick,” like my Mustang this week. She’s coughing and the engine won’t start. At least we now have subways, which is a fairly new addition to the LA traffic scene. I’m lucky I do my creative work at home.

I recall the days I really had some car challenges back in the 1980s when I couldn’t afford an expensive car.  Remember Yugos, the cheap little car phenomenon from Serbia? It was an 80s hit with an initial price of $3990 and modeled after a Fiat. Almost 142,000 cars were sold between 1985 and 1991. Because of its unreliability, Car Talk named it the worst car of the millennium!

Tiny Yugo - Mine was Blue

Jason Vuic, a professor at Bridgewater College in Virginia has written a book about the Yugo craze and mentions a few hilarious jokes. “What’s included in every Yugo owner’s manual? A bus schedule.” And, “What do you call a Yugo with brakes? Customized.” Like my Datsun a few years before, Yugos were small enough to walk when needed!

In 1997, a Manhattan School of Visual Arts professor, Kevin O’Callaghan, put an ad in the paper asking for Yugos that were either dead or alive. He ended up buying 39 Yugos for $3,600 and had his students make functional art from them. The exhibit toured the country.

In an amusing synchronicity, my Aunt Rosie and cousin Ray Scott, got to experience riding in the Yugo. My kids and I drove to Ray Scott’s Navy training graduation in San Diego. To celebrate afterwards, I piled five people in that tiny car to drive to an oceanside restaurant. (Note: Ray Scott decided the Navy wasn’t for him and became a country western singer: look him up!).

Not long afterward, I had my Yugo’s oil changed before a long trip in afternoon traffic from the San Fernando Valley south to Orange County on the 405, one of the busiest freeways in So Cal. Within a week, little Yugo decided to give out at the top of a freeway off-ramp. I was thankful I was close to home, and it wasn’t on the freeway at rush hour. As I’d done before, I pushed her out of the way and called AAA.

Her prognosis was grim: there was no oil in the engine and it was entirely “kaput,” as they say in German. I couldn’t fathom what had happened but concluded a local quick lube place had had a malfunction in oil replacement. I went to small claims court and took along a friend of  my daughter Heidi’s, who had had his own gas station at one time. He made an excellent witness.

I won $1,000 but the lube place owner wasn’t happy with the decision and called me to say he wanted to appeal it. I didn’t have to pretend my anguish and told him right away that I was single and financially strapped. Graciously, he conceded and sent the check immediately.

Getting a new engine was not the ideal solution I had hoped for. My Yugo’s aging pains got worse and she had an early demise. Little did I know she might have ended up a piece of metal sculpture.  My luck was changing by that time. My brother had a used BMW (he had bought it new and she was well pampered) and he gave her to me when he got a new car. Nothing quite like German engineering. She lived with me until she’d clocked over 220,000 miles; she was still very driveable.

When I inherited some money, my fortunes turned very positive. I could actually buy a new car for the first time. I sold Ms BMW to my friend, Pat, who loves to provide good homes for used cars. My best car friend now is my Bondi Beach blue Mustang, and I bought her brand new. With low mileage for her age, she’s still running strong despite the scratches from parking (Heidi says she looks like she’s participated in a demolition derby). I continue to like the good old American Ford. I’m sure her current problems can be easily solved. Below: the reason I like Fords–my dad’s ’53 Ford in Tripoli.

My birthday falls in the Chinese Year of the Horse, and I felt a Mustang would bring me luck. She proved it when she was younger and parked on the street. A distracted fellow on his cell phone plowed into her rear end, and my wonderful blue steed was pretty squashed. Since she had very few miles on her, she got revamped completely and has run mostly without a hitch ever since. I wish I could say the same about myself!



Victoria Giraud   

 Author of Kindle Books for sale in the near future:                                                            

Melaynie’s Masquerade

16th century historical fiction – Disguised as a cabin

boy, Melaynie Morgan ships off with Francis Drake

to the Caribbean in search of Spanish treasure


Mama Liked Army Men

A Tale of Two Fathers

The perils of military life

Shores of Tripoli

Memories of Libya in the 1950s

Personal history


Weird Dates & Strange Mates

Non-fiction with names changed to

Protect the innocent or not…




One Comment

  1. Ruthann says:

    I love this one. Thanks for sharing. I don’t drive now. However, I experienced a few cars also. My first was a ’69 Jaguar XKE! What a ride. My husband bought it for me as a wedding present. However, he then decided I wasn’t responsible enough to drive it “sanely” and sold it to a young lt. for next to nothing. What a lucky young man. And then, came the Plymouth Fury III. It was like driving in the livingroom!!! I loved that car and kept it until it didn’t go anymore. Next was the lemon of all car a cream colored Plymouth slant six. It just never wanted to go. It broke down each time I entered the freeway. So… one day I walked away from it and never looked back. Oh, and then, there was the Chevolet Camero IROC. What a car. I had so much fun in it that when it was time to get another car, I ordered another. The second took 90 days to arrive and was totaled by a man in a Mercedes high on coke who nearly killed me and my husband. Even the wrecker couldn’t tell what the car was! And lastly, I bought a brand new Chrysler Fifth Avenue (black) a little girls dream come true. That was the car I was driving when a man drove across traffic to total my car and break my back in three places. I haven’t driven since 2002. My son takes me wherever I want to go. He has a Subaru — I love it! It feels good to ride in and is really quick.
    Again thanks for sharing. I love your blogs.

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