Miss Meta’s Buick

The author’s pristine 1964 LeSabre has never seen rain in its 45
years. A new set of tires is one of the few things on the car that
has changed since the day it left the showroom.  

Miss Meta was widowed in 1945 without children and remained a very independent woman throughout her life. Before her husband died, she worked at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee Wis., working her way up to head cashier in the “English Room” before becoming its head bookkeeper by the end of her career.

Nearing retirement after almost 30 years at the Pfister Hotel, she decided to purchase a new Buick. On June 25, 1964, she bought a stunning Desert Beige LeSabre four-door hardtop from Lou Ehlers Buick. The LeSabre carried a window sticker price of $3,864.64 prior to the “authorized discount.”

Since Meta rode a bus from her apartment to work, the Buick was not used, except for the very occasional trip to her new home being built in Plymouth, Wis. After her retirement, the Buick moved to Meta’s garage at her new house.

The years went by, and in 1979, my family had Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle’s home just down the street from Meta. After dinner, my aunt made a plate of food and asked if I would take it to the elderly neighbor lady, and, knowing about her Buick, I jumped at the chance. It was not until 1980 that Meta allowed me in to look at the car. When I finally did see it, the car was covered in blankets and had approximately 9,000 miles on the odometer. When I told Meta that she sure kept the Buick nicely washed and polished, she replied that it had only been washed twice in 16 years and had never ever been in the rain.

Meta died the following year, and it took some time to settle her estate. Meta’s nephew, Jim, eventually inherited the Buick, and on Nov. 14, 1984, the title was put in his name. By this time, I was old enough to drive and was keenly aware of the Buick, which I wanted to own someday, so I approached Jim to see if the car was for sale. Jim was polite and always willing to show me the Buick, but he didn’t want to sell it. It sat in his garage while his daily car sat outside.

As the years past by, I made it an annual event to see Jim and ask the same question about the Buick’s availability. Unfortunately, the answer was also the same. Jim rarely drove the car, taking it only to an Elkhart Lake golf course about once a summer. Several summers ago, Jim asked if I wanted to drive the Buick, and of course, I said “Yes.” It was like driving a brand-new car. On our drive, I watched the odometer turn to 12,500 miles.

The following year, he told me of a flat tire on the Buick, and that the spare finally came out of the trunk for the first time. Shortly after that, new tires were installed and the original spare went back into the trunk.

In 2007, I didn’t see Jim for our annual visit. When I returned in 2008, he met me at the door and asked, “Where were you last year?” Again, we made small talk, but this year, the conversation was different. Jim told me he had hit a milestone age and he needed to buy a riding lawn mower. He joked that his car could sit out in the driveway, but didn’t think the mower should, so he finally offered to sell me the car.

We negotiated a price and a deal was struck. We talked about how fussy his Aunt Meta had been, and Jim said no one had ever sat in the LeSabre’s backseat until he got the car. I told him of my first meeting with Meta and how she explained the car had never been in the rain. Jim said he had never let the car see rain, either. It’s probably the only 45-year-old car around that has never seen rain. The miles are accurate and the care genuine.

Before leaving, I asked Jim, “What do we do next year?” He laughed and we shook hands on Sept. 27, 2008, and I proudly backed my new Buick onto the street, noting the mileage of 13,790. On the way home, the Buick made one of the longest trips of its lifetime, from Plymouth to Oshkosh, Wis., (about 50 miles) and performed flawlessly. It remains a true joy to drive.

Charles E. Marousek will be displaying his LeSabre at the Buick Club of America’s Heartland Regional in Appleton, Wis., Aug. 13-15, 2009. Learn more about the Buick club at www.buickclub.org.

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