RIP, Illinois “THE 1729” / Indiana “53T3364” / Illinios “5416870” / Illinois “D830176” / California “5TVJ323” / New York “EJM6485”

After fourteen years, my car has finally given up the ghost:

Last view of THE 1729

I know it’s an inanimate object, but I still feel sad. 14 years is a long time. It was my first car, and hugely important to me both economically and emotionally (my parents bought it for me as a gift when I was 24 — thank you, mom and dad!). It enabled me to live independently when I was roaming the Midwest, first working at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, then later in Indiana starting Cyclic Software with Jim Blandy. When I lived for a year in China, Jim leased it and took excellent care of it (even saving all the service receipts; years later I inundated an extended-warranty insurance company’s fax machine with all our receipts, until the guy on the other end literally called back laughing and begging me to please stop, saying that he gave up and that the insurance company would pay for the new repairs). It was with me for nine years in Chicago, handling the winters just fine. In its last three years it drove across the country a few times, and for a brief period was my only home (that’s a long story; I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say that a car like that you don’t junk lightly).

The above photograph is the last one I took of it, at the auto repair shop in Maspeth, Queens. They’ll tow it to its final resting place. But my favorite photograph of it is actually from a trip I wasn’t on. Micah and Stew took it up to Vermont last winter, and in this shot (of Stew pouring salt with help from Iggy) you can see it in its natural habitat:

THE 1729 in its natural habitat

May it rust in peace.


  1. Oh my – this really is the end of an era. As a memorial, I’m going to drive home in the pouring rain, using the windshield wipers only intermittently – just for old time’s sake 🙂

  2. That is really cool “May it rust in peace”, I love that phrase! I started driving for the past 2 years, and again my parents got this car for me, let me see how long I ll hold it 🙂

  3. Saturns are pretty tough little cars. I’ve still drive my ’97 SL1 almost daily, and have logged 144k+ miles in it so far without major incident. (Well, save for that one little rendezvous with the fire hydrant — mine learned about icy Chicago winters the hard way.)

  4. Kate: Niiiiiiiiiice :-).

    Senthil: I hope at least 14 years. Get the extended warranty, though; it always pays…

    CMike: Yeah. I debated about putting in the $3500 or so needed to fix it this time, but I think its “tough little car” days were over. Now it was more like a dinosaur nervously scanning the sky for meteors… Yours might do better though, in a year-round warm climate.

  5. I’m just about to hit 150K on my ’98 SL1, also mostly without major incidents. Just the one time with a bad belt tensioner “up north” but even then it got us back into range of the city for a friend to pick us up and tow the trailer home. (That’s right — I have a light pull-behind trailer for this thing!) Hope mine can make it 14 years. Love not having a car payment. My last big investment decision was $2,000 for repairs/maintenance early last year.

  6. Did you manage to trade it for a government $3500-off-your-next-car voucher or was it not officially a clunker?

  7. I think for that to work you have to actually be buying the new car — both old and new have to qualify. But I’m not going to buy another car while I live in New York. It was already crazy enough keeping this one :-).

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