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Jim Briggs

Jim Briggs is a Dispatch-Argus guest columnist.

I was recently asked this question by a friend, “If you could go back in time and bring back a car you owned, what car would it be?”

There was no question in my mind; it would be the 1971 Chevy Nova we brought brand new. We don’t get a lot of do-overs in life. In golf, you can get a mulligan. If you play Trivia, you can buy mulligans, but life itself gives you very few mulligans.

We had gotten married in September of 1971. We had a 1969 Buick Opal, two doors. It was a small car. It served us well, but we needed something bigger.

We had purchased a house and bought furniture together. I really didn’t care what dining room set we bought, or what color the couch was. It was up to Corinne. However, when we decided to purchase a new car, now I cared.

We went up to Warren Chevrolet to look at cars. My dad had always been a General Motors man, so if it was good enough for dad, it was good enough for me.

Now, I was a rookie at buying a car. If I knew then what I know now, I would have haggled with the salesperson. I have become a pretty good haggler through the years. I have told my kids, “Never buy anything when you have to, especially a car. Always be prepared to walk away or say the word 'no'.” However, this is poor advice when your roof is leaking.

A salesman came out of the building as we drove up. He introduced himself, and then we introduced ourselves: "Hi, we are Mr. & Mrs. Rookie At Buying A Car."

We begin our walk around the lot. Then I saw it, the Chevy Nova. I would learn later it was called Cottonwood Green. I stopped in front of this thing of beauty. It was love at first sight.

And then it called my name: “Jim.” I turned toward Corinne, but before I could say anything, all she said was,  “Let’s keep looking.”

I could not move. It was as if my feet were stuck in concrete. Finally, I moved only because she looked interested in another car and not my beloved Nova.

No, please, not a station wagon. Say it ain’t so? I again looked at the Nova. “I’ll be right back; please don’t go anywhere.”

I do not remember what happened next, but all I could recall is that we were once again in front of that beautiful Cottonwood Green 1971 Chevy Nova, two-door, with her 350-cubic-inch engine.

The salesperson was now giving us a dark green vinyl top. It’s beauty was to be enhanced. Before we could say anything else, we were signing the papers, just $2,800, and she was mine ... ours.

Little did I know in seven years I would trade my beautiful Nova for a 1978 Ford Fairmont station wagon, and I would pay over $4,000 for it. My heart was broken. My Nova was now history.

After the Ford Fairmont, it would be a minivan, which would cost as much as our first house. I would have dreams about the Nova. I have often wondered where she was. Is she being loved today?

In 1971, gas was 44 cents, postage 8 cents, bread was 25 cents, and a new Nova cost $2,800.

In 2019, gas is $2.79, postage 55 cents, average cost of a loaf of bread about $2, and if I had kept my 1971 Nova, it would be worth $40,000 or more. I think I need a tissue. A 1969 Buick Opal is not worth anything close to $40,000.

All I need now is a mulligan, a DeLorean, a flux capacitor, and a parking lot where I can reach 88 miles per hour.* Does anyone have Dr. Emmett Brown’s phone number? 1971, here I come!

* When Corinne read my ramblings, she asked me who Doc Brown is. When I told her that he is from the movie "Back to the Future" and the sequels, she asked me if I thought everyone else would know this. If they read this column and this footnote, I believe they will.

Jim Briggs is retired from the U.S. Postal Service. He and his wife, Corine, have lived in East Moline for 47 years.

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