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Doug Clark: Gas, oil, air: check. Exorcist: Not yet

I’ll be first to concede that I have the understanding of a frozen pot pie when it comes to automobile maintenance or the vagaries of the infernal combustion engine.

I’ve never installed a spark plug, a Rotary cap or even a muffler bearing.

Despite these limitations, however, I feel completely confident in making the following diagnosis about Big Maroon – the beater 1990 Lincoln Town Car that I use only as a snow car during winter.

Thing’s demon possessed.

I noticed this supernatural phenomenon while weaving my way through the South Hill potholes in the Friday rain.

Whenever I’d signal to make a left turn, Big Maroon’s windshield wipers would suddenly freeze at the 12 o’clock position like the hands of a stagecoach hold-up victim.

Right turns, however, didn’t affect the wipers at all.

“That’s strange,” I muttered.

I didn’t consider summoning a priest until I rolled down the front passenger window to let in some fresh air.

I pushed the button. Not only did the window roll down but the seat beneath me began to vibrate like Linda Blair’s bed in “The Exorcist.”


Nothing else makes sense.

Not that my expectations for Big Maroon were ever high.

I paid my pal, Joe, just 500 bucks for it a few years ago.

He was thinking about using it for Cash for Clunkers, but I steered him to the Clunkers for Clark program by convincing him that Big Maroon fulfilled all my snow car needs.

Namely, it was …

• Dirt-cheap.

• Still running.

• Came with a barely used set of high-grade snow tires.

See, owning a snow car isn’t about a shiny paint job or that new car smell.

A snow car is all about disposability.

Say I accidentally slide down an icy Freya hill and crash into someone’s living room.

No big whoop.

I’ve only wrecked a $500 car with more scars and mileage than Marlo Thomas.

My lovely wife, Sherry, thinks the whole snow car idea is nuts.

She also considers it nuts that I own two other cars – a 1967 Vista Guzzler and a 1987 Jaguar XJ6 – that have to be put away during the winter.

“If you sold all three of those old things you could buy one nice new car,” she says.

If I had a dime for every time she’s told me this, well, I’m pretty sure I could buy two or three more old cars at least.

I should count my blessings that Big Maroon is operational at all, I suppose.

When I beached it in my mother’s driveway at the end of last winter it was running like an unbalanced washing machine.

I figured a relaxing timeout would do it some good.

You know, like a treatment for overstressed stockbrokers and burned-out cops.

A trained auto technician would probably argue with this approach. But not wanting to spend any money on my cheap snow car, I have adopted a spiritual view:

Give it enough time and it just might heal itself.

Which, oddly enough, seems to be the case.

Once I recharged the battery and filled all the near-flat tires, I was delighted to discover that Big Maroon fired right up and seems to be running smoother than before.

Except for these bizarre new affectations, that is.

But I have already come up with a plan for how to deal with them.

First off, I’m preplanning all my driving routes so I’ll only have to make right turns.

And the weird window seat vibrations?

That actually felt rather pleasant. In fact, every now and then I just might roll down the window just for fun.

A massage can be a great way to help relieve the stress that comes with owning a snow car.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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