1987 Cutlass Ciera: Grandma Sweater, Meet Grandma Car

When we first moved to Swank County in 1999, I drove a grey, spotless, 1987 Cutlass Ciera.  The ‘grandma car,’ as we called it, was actually bought from my grandma in 1991.  When she owned it, every night that car slept in her garage.  The car was washed regularly, the inside smelled like new and it only had 3600 miles when I took possession. 

Although it wasn’t my first car, (that was a candy-apple-red mustang that I had for one month–deserves it’s own whole story), or my second, ( a rusty, brown, Chevy S10 pick-up) or my third (a Ford Escort, blue station wagon) or my fourth (a Buick Century–you might be catching on to something here…), it was  my first respectable grown-up looking car.  That is to say four doors, no dents, no car payments.

The grandma car and I had many an adventure, I drove her back and forth across the country twice.  She carried my husband and I off the day we were married.  Together, man, woman and car, we headed off to a new life and a new country with all my belongings heaped inside. In fact it might not be the big 10 tickets, but the car, that my husband married me for.  

The grandma car also brought my first child home from the hospital.  She moved back from Canada to the states with us in a moving van.

She gave us nary a problem.  She never was in the shop.  She was roomy, she was comfy, she was…the car no one wanted to park next to in the school parking lot.  That’s when I noticed for the first time what was going on around me in this new, swank place that I lived…

Yes, as I came out of my mom-in-a-new-location-fog, I clasped my one year old toddler to my hip and looked around the school parking lot.  Mercedes, Lexus, BMW, Volvo, but no Oldsmobiles. Certainly not any 12 year old-mobiles of any kind. It was like a scene from the movies.  Fresh from the land of salt and snow and American cars, I was surrounded by the upscale, expensive and new.

I rebelled and refused to see the grandma car in the eyes of my Swank County-ites.  I stayed loyal.  I drove her with pride.  I didn’t park close to cars that made her look like less of an automobile–the grandma car was swank in her own heyday and in her own special way.

However, the State Department of Motor Vehicles felt differently.  They said in order to keep driving the grandma car in Swank, she needed to pass the Smog Test.  I took the old lady to the local garage, and they looked at my title and my Ontario license plates and said she was a “special case” and needed to go see a “special” smog station.

The “special smog station” didn’t quite know what to do with her.  It was becoming a huge hassle, so my husband and I decided it was time to trade her in.  It was a sad day, we left her behind in the rain.  No one at the dealership could believe she only had 130,000 miles on her odometer.  They said the trade in check was in the mail.

Three months later, no check.  We called the dealership.  “Oh, that’s your car.  The check’s in the mail.”  No check.  Called the dealership, they asked me if we wanted the car back.  No, I had a new car.  I wanted my check.  “You could sell it yourself for more money than the check we owe you.”  No.  I want my lousy $300 trade in check.

One day, I came home from grocery shopping and the grandma car was in my drive way.  She was missing all four hubcaps, had empty bottles and food wrappers littering her once velvety, stain free seats.  I found only one key in my mailbox–the ignition key.  I WAS FURIOUS!  She had been RAPED!

I called the used car manager and was very American.  I talked lawyers and lawsuits.  He begrudgingly said I could bring the car back, but I had to drive it there.  I was fuming mad.  I asked what had happened to my car.  Apparently, they had the same problems we had passing the smog test and she was used for whatever sitting out in the lot.

The next day, the doors of that dealership closed.  To this day, I wonder where the old lady is.  Did she find love and happiness?  Did someone take her under their wing?  From time to time I see a grey cutlass and I wonder if it’s her.  It’s like she’s never really gone if I didn’t see her compacted into a square of metal.  She has a legend of her own, the Legend of the Grandma Car.

I’m feeling nostalgic.  Folks, give your grandma car driving friends and your grandma sweater wearing friends a hug.  Encourage them to hold their heads high.  That is why you love them, don’t give them a hard time, just give them respect.  Everyone loves me more now that I have a mini van–but I will always drive the grandma car in my heart.  Even though I never got the trade-in check, it was a privilege just to know her.



  1. midwin
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Are you trying to make me cry at work? I’d like to think grandma car left this world in a blaze of glory — maybe taking in the sights Thelma & Louise style — or accepting her trophy at a county fair demolition derby. Wherever she is, she was one tough mother.

  2. Mermaid
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    No tears, midwin, you know the spirit of the grandma car–she is just keeping the legend alive out there for us all, she will never be defeated. Maybe she’s even in car heaven smiling down with the Merky car. 🙂

  3. Posted July 8, 2008 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I really wish you still drove that car. I would adore seeing a family in our school parking lot drive a buick with pride. Long live granny mobiles, even in swank county!!!!!!!

  4. Mermaid
    Posted July 10, 2008 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Hey Baby, I drive the dented Honda Odyssey with pride. I’ve had many say, “Isn’t it time for you to get a new car?”

    The dents are not even mostly my fault. Keep an eye out, you might glimpse the Grandma Car cruising down the highway someday 🙂

    Anyone up for taking a field trip to get the grandma sweater?

  5. yzzerdd
    Posted October 6, 2008 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Greay story! I myself just bought a grandma car last month. A 1987 Cutlass Ciera Brougham. Funny, it is grey, too. 4 door, as well. Who knows, maybe it used to be yours?

    Great interior, thats for sure. I love the comfort of the soft cushiony seats. I live in WV, and still, most of the cars here are new! But yes, I hold my head high in the sky when I talk about my baby, and I park right up front in stores so that the whole world knows that I drive…a grandma car.


  6. Mermaid
    Posted October 7, 2008 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Ahhhhh, Jack if you indeed have the grandma car I know she has a good, respectful home. Take care of that lady, she’s a dying breed.


  7. Mermaid
    Posted October 7, 2008 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    P.S. Plus I can sleep a little easier knowing she might be out there somewhere in a good home 🙂

  8. yzzerdd
    Posted October 21, 2008 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Hey, I write about the Cutlass all the time on my blog, you should check it out– yzzerdd.wordpress.com
    I keep pics and such of my Cutlass on there, and updates about her.


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