I knew the "Cash-for-Clunkers" program was starting this past weekend, so I took the MullMobile, which is the poster child for clunkers, to be put gently to sleep. Regular Mullsters might remember that I wrote a - to use a word applied to me the other day by the Washington Post's Mary Ann Akers - "snarky" MULLINGS about the Clunker program, which is formerly known as the Car Allowance Rebate System last month (Obama Motors has a Deal for You).
But, as hypocrisy has never been a particular problem for me, I went to see if I could spend a little of Mr. Obama's money.
The MullMobile is a 1999 Land Rover Discovery. Land Rover had been a British firm. When I bought mine it had been purchased by BMW. Then Ford bought Land Rover. Finally they sold it to the Indian car company, Tata.
My Discovery has been through some tough times, none of which were the result of my having taken it on safari. In fact, when I picked it up the salesman was trying to show me how to put it in low gear, and how to take it up and down river banks, and how to scoop lions up in the front brush guard.
I said to the guy - this is true - "When you're talking to a 50-something man from Brooklyn, 'off-road' means … the driveway."
Even at that, over a decade, scratches turn in to dings; dings turn into dents; dents turn into rust spots, and rust spots turn into holes.
On Thursday last week, I cut a corner a little too closely, clipped a street sign with my right outside mirror and the glass broke away from the housing. The cellophane tape I used to keep the mirror in place worked pretty well, but I knew that, with the broken mirror, the camel's back had been broken.
On Saturday morning, I went to bluebook.com to get a sense of what the MullMobile might be worth in a trade. $2,175 - but there was no box to enter the fact that the right outside mirror was being held together with Scotch Tape and all the engine warning lights are on all the time, so I suspected a real trade-in situation might well have resulted in my paying the dealer to take it off my hands.
The way the Cash-for-Clunkers program works is, you are selling your old car for between $3,500 and $4,500. Period. Any dealer and/or manufacturing incentives are on top of the C-f-C money.
You have to buy (or lease) a new car - domestic or import - which gets higher gas mileage than your clunker. As the MullMobile was getting about 12 MPG, buying anything short of a Hummer or a Carnival Cruise Ship was going to meet that test.
For reasons I'm not clear on today, I got it into my head that I wanted a Kia, a theory to which the Mullings Director of Standards & Practices was very opposed. I went down to the Kia dealer on Route 1 in Alexandria which is also the Volvo dealer.
The young man who met me in the showroom didn't know much about Kias and nothing at all about the C-f-C program. I said I was looking for a little more enthusiasm (if not actual knowledge), left, and went to the Ford dealership about three miles from Mullings Central.
I looked at a Fusion, but that was a little too basic. Then I found a gray Ford Focus with just enough bells and whistles to make me read the owner's manual. What with the Ford incentives and the Barack Bucks my out-of-pocket was about $15 k which I put on my Amex card to get the points and I drove home in a car that looks like every rental you've ever had.
So, I unloaded my clunker and got probably four times what it was worth. I got a new car to help the economy. And, I bought it from Ford which is not, as of this writing, a car company owned by the Federal government.
Farewell, MullMobile. Hello … MullFord?