Road & Track. Evo. Top Gear, The Grand Tour, all of them. Carl has no use for these “buff books” and “enthusiast shows.” He has no love for the self-professed journalists and how they sling seven-figure McLarens and Ferraris and Porsches around race tracks in countries he’ll never visit.
Carl knows all of them are out of touch. They trade in an elitist fantasy of a world that will always be out of his reach. Their business is the marketing of a dream, nothing more. And he hates what it all implies: why should the love of speed belong only to the spoiled millionaires?
No. Above all things, Carl is a realist. He doesn’t lust after that fantasy, doesn’t care about the chase for the best lap times around Monza and the Nürburgring; he knows what he likes and he likes what he knows.
And for him, that’s his prized 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier.
There’s a lot of Cavaliers in Carl’s town. Some of them litter front lawns in front of double-wides, while others limp around in various states of disrepair. Things have been hard here since the Walter Mondale face mask plant closed. People have been saying that since Carl was a kid, implying something fleeting and temporary about all of it. Carl often wonders when the hard times slipped into just being the way things are.
But Carl takes pride in his Cavalier. He keeps it running right, doesn’t care what the critics and message board commenters—or his asshole cousin Tim who owns a Plymouth Neon—all say about his car. To him, it’s a fine car, and more than that, it’s his.
Forget the supercar kids, the track day cowboys, the Instagram heroes—Carl, this gift guide is for you and for the Pontiac Sunfire owners. Everyone deserves a joyful holiday, even the J-body owners.
What kind of person pays to get their oil changed or have their transmission serviced? Not Carl. Nobody touches his Cavalier but him. He knows every inch of it, and a lot of that is thanks to his trusty Haynes shop manual.
Everyone who wrenches needs a good manual, even in the age of YouTube videos and forums.
The Cavalier and its Pontiac twin were basic, affordable small sedans. Were they as good as the competition from, say, Honda or Toyota? Almost certainly not. But taking pride in a vehicle made in America, basic as it is, still has value.
That basic nature of the Cavalier doesn’t mean Carl doesn’t enjoy some of the finer things in life. He installed a keyless entry system a while back to make getting in and out a little quicker. And if he loses the fob, it’s a cheap and easy replacement.
Detroit Axle - Brand New All (4) Front & Rear Complete Strut & Spring Assembly - 1999-2005 Chevrolet Cavalier & Sunfire
“I told you my Neon was better, you pussy,” Tim screamed at Carl one night, his breath soaked with the smell of vodka, after launching the Cavalier off the overpass and blowing all four struts. “Could’a took that jump just fine.”
There was more to their argument than Tim’s consistent failure to grasp the meaning of the term “designated driver.” There was Christine, and her complicated feelings for both men, and how that increasingly drove a wedge between them. Carl and Tim had known each other their whole lives, but for Carl, seeing the two of them together—especially when Tim would crawl deep into a bottle and give in to his baser instincts—was heart-rending. But no matter how complicated things got, Christine was with Tim, and there was nothing Carl could do to fix that.
Fortunately, Carl could fix his struts, thanks to the fine people of Detroit Axle.
Carl never quite figured out who it was, the son of a bitch who took a baseball bat to his Cavalier back in ‘05. Maybe it was one of those guys from two towns over, the ones who never let go of a grudge after losing the state championship to Carl’s team in extra innings. Maybe it was a jilted lover who mistook it for someone else’s car.
Carl used to wish he could’ve caught that person in the act, but as he’s gotten older he’s come to realize that sometimes things just happen and all we can do is deal with them as best we can.
Luckily, the replacement mirror wasn’t an expensive fix, which is more than you can say about a lot of things.
“Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy you a ‘99 Cavalier—and that’s close enough.” Carl found that online one day and had to buy it. Truer words, he thought, had never been written on any t-shirt anywhere.
He once wore it out to a bar with Tim to watch the UFCU title fight and got made fun of mercilessly, until Christine told him to shut up. Carl wants to buy her one too, just to annoy Tim, or so he says, but the real reason is how much he clings to that inside joke between the two of them.
There’s no fancy story here. Carl just likes to keep the inside of his car cool in the summer, and this does the job just fine, even though the preview picture is clearly not a Cavalier. Someone at Amazon should fix that, Carl thinks.
Tim absolutely fucked up this time, Carl thought. Not only did he take the Cavalier without permission—they call that stealing, Carl was quick to remind him—he got nailed by the State Police doing 105 mph on the turnpike with a couple of 8-balls stashed under the fender assembly.
Carl spent months fighting with the Staties to get his Cavalier out of impound. Civil asset forfeiture, turns out, can be a real motherfucker, even though Carl repeatedly told the cops that it was his car and not Tim’s. Didn’t matter.
But even though Tim got sentenced to five years upstate (minus time served for good behavior), and even though he got Carl’s car involved in a complicated drug smuggling case, Carl believes in forgiveness.
Plus things are looking up these days. With Tim gone, Christine’s been coming over to see Carl more often, and she’s even helped him fix up the Cavalier a few times. He’ll keep it going forever, if he can.