I was headed to grad school in the mid 1980's and needed a cheap and (hopefully) reliable little car. I ended up buying a VW Dasher (I think it was a 75) from a friend of my parents who would buy cars, restore/repair them, then sell them. The Dasher was $200 and ugly as original sin, but the seller swore that the engine and tires were good and the issues were just superficial. Turns out that was a bit optimistic.

So, driving down I-95 in a rural part of the south, one of the tires blows out very dramatically. We end up crossing from the slow lane, through the fast lane, across half of the grass median, bouncing over the concrete drainage thing in the bottom, up across the other half of the grass median, now we’re spinning, went across the two lanes on the other side and slide arse first into a gully on the other side. The two tires on the passenger side (including the one that blew out) were now bent under the car. I spent three days and a good bit of money getting the car fixed and invested in four new tires.

During my first semester, I noticed something funny about the seats. The foam seemed to be decomposing from inside the seats. Pretty soon, I was sitting on metal and seat cover. I called the seller and he said, oh yeah, right. Turns out that the car had been stolen, taken for a joy ride, and left abandoned with the windows down by the salt water section of a large bay during a particularly rainy time. The seats had gotten soaked, but had dried out and not smelled too bad. Sorry about the foam falling apart. So, I put in seat pads (like the kind you see on kitchen or dining room chairs) which worked ok, but on a long drive my butt and back still got sore.

Then the air conditioner broke and the fan was unreliable. Yes, I was in school in the South. Where it’s hot and humid most of the year. I can’t express how much I sweated in that car. Then, over time, almost every part of that car short of the transmission broke one after the other. I made it through grad school by making friends with an old man who owned a junk yard. He started picking up VW parts specifically in anticipation of my needing them. One day, just out of the blue, the knob/joint into which the stick shift (this was a manual transmission car) fits just fell off. On a Sunday at about 7pm in the deep South when no repair places are open. I had to drive all the way home in first gear. One time, my car just coasted to a stop on an interstate. Turns out that my alternator fell out of position. Two nuts and bolts failed out of the blue. Just weird, random failures of various parts. It drove me crazy.

Finally, after two years, I had had enough. I couldn’t afford a new car but managed to find an actual reliable used car that I then drove for almost ten years with no problems.