What do you do when your $1000 car needs a $1000 repair? I have owned my 2006 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor since January of 2011, when I bought the decommissioned cruiser, formerly owned by the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, at a local auto auction. A full-size, rear-wheel drive, 250-horsepower family sedan with an attitude, my Crown Vic has been my baby for six years now. That’s officially the longest I have owned a vehicle in all my life. A habitual buyer and seller of cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs, I never expected to hold on to a piece of surplus government property for so long.

Travis Naughton

My Vicky is a bit nicer than the average cop car of its day. It’s equipped with cruise control, a cloth back seat, (as opposed to the vinyl most cruisers used for transporting criminals have), and a solid paint color rather than the gaudy black and white some municipalities favor. Of course I wasn’t satisfied with just those few appointments that the car came with. Over the years I’ve added tinted windows, beefier tires, and an obnoxiously loud stereo system, too. She looks good, sounds good, and runs good. Yes, I love my baby.

But after spending thousands of dollars on repairs to the suspension, brakes, safety-restraint system, and fuel system, I am now faced with yet another costly fix—replacing the entire instrument cluster. I bought the car 40,000 miles ago for $5000, and with this repair, and all of the previous repairs and upgrades I have made, I will have twice that amount invested in the eleven year-old beast. And yet it will still only be worth about a grand. Maybe $1500 with the stereo.

I thought about trying to sell the old girl, but the lack of functioning gauges would likely hurt my chances of finding a buyer. I considered trading her in on something newer and nicer, but buying a multi-thousand dollar vehicle just to unload a one-thousand dollar vehicle with one minor issue didn’t seem like a very smart idea. After a great deal of deliberation, I’ve decided to bite the bullet, have the repair work done, and drive the car until one of us dies. Probably.

There I go again making sensible choices. I’ve really been on a roll lately. Eating right, exercising regularly, abstaining from intoxicants, and making sound financial decisions. What’s that you say? Travis Naughton is using his head for a change? Say it isn’t so!

I will admit that because of the changes I’ve been making, I’m feeling better about myself than I have in years. While happiness is its own reward, I nevertheless feel the irresistible urge to treat myself for being such a good boy lately. Buying a ’57 Chevy (while still employing Vicky as a daily driver) would not be terribly sensible I suppose, but I just can’t seem to suppress the desire to own such a plaything. Maybe if I lower my standards some, I could buy a classic that’s a bit more affordable than a fully restored Bel Air. Or maybe I’ll just throw a little more money at Vicky.

I could swap out the tired interior of my utilitarian Police Interceptor for a set of luxurious leather seats from a civilian model. A headliner devoid of empty holes where police equipment was once mounted and a new carpet to replace the one stained by the unhappy accused murderers and thieves taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies would be nice, too. Surely those indulgences would not be considered entirely frivolous.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to depend on another not entirely frivolous indulgence—my smartphone. Not only is it a convenient way to shop online for classic cars and auto parts, it’s also a great tool for telling how fast I’m driving thanks to the free speedometer app I downloaded the other day. If it could tell me how much gas I have left in the tank or how hot my engine is running or if my battery is charging or if my car’s low on oil or how many RPMs the motor is turning, then I wouldn’t have to spend a thousand dollars on my thousand-dollar car.

But then what would I have to complain/write about? Tune in next week to find out…