Sunny drives straight to the heart

Eulogy for a car that served a family long and well.

Oddchester - Steve Lange column sig

Our 1997 Pontiac Sunfire -- the first car we bought new, the car that carried our first baby home from the hospital, the car we loaded up for our first cross-country move -- drove her last mile in late March.

I'm just now able to talk about it.

Sure, she had been relegated to our second car -- the car I drive -- for the past decade. But over those 23 years and 206,984 miles, Sunny carried us to 20-plus states and two provinces, carried all three kids to their first day of kindergarten, carried daughter Hadley to the ER when she was bit by a mouse at a petting zoo.

I lost a lot of blood and knuckle skin working on that car. Replaced water pumps and A/C pumps and fuel pumps. Forced all three kids to learn to change brake pads on that car. Let daughter Emma, 13, practice her Bondo skills on that car.

I may have known Sunny more intimately than I know my own wife, at least in the sense that I have not paid as close attention to — or spent as much time diagnosing and trying to fix — strange sounds coming from Lindy's insides.


In late 2018, Sunny was five miles from clicking over to 200,000.

It was Friday night, and I was leaving a friend’s house. I Mapquested the miles to home, and it read 5.0. I made it home with the top of that fifth zero just starting to peek into the odometer window.

The next morning, the entire family piled into the Sunfire. We hit 200,000 miles before we were out of our cul-de-sac.

If any neighbors happened to see us cheering as we crept slowly down our street, they probably thought OnStar told us we’d just won the lottery.

Then, on March 26 of this year, Sunny was having issues. I drove her to our mechanic.

Our shop emails a Digital Vehicle Inspection Report, which grades items on your automobile into three categories: Good; Requires Future Attention; and Requires Urgent Attention.

When I got the email, I called Lindy over so we could open the report together. I urged her to sit down. I knew things could be that bad.

They were.


Of the 42-point inspection, 16 Required Urgent Attention. Basically, 40 percent of the important workings of the car were no longer working.

We knew it was finally over.

That night, we drove to the auto mechanic parking lot to clean out Sunny. We took the jumper cables, and the blanket, and the emergency tool kit from the trunk.

Pulled the decks of playing cards and the fold-up Frisbee and aspirin packets out of the glove box.

We're usually not sentimental when it comes to physical things.

Before we left, I pulled a flathead screwdriver from that tool kit, and pried off the Sunfire logo.

And came home and hung it in the garage.

Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.


Steve Lange's 1997 Pontiac Sunfire. (Steve Lange)

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