I don’t know what’s happened to Detroit.

All the years of my youth and adulthood I’ve been driving cars American automakers have been putting out and loving to drive them. That the leaders of such a quintessentially American industry has had to resort to begging at the feet of the most unpopular Congress in American history for a financial bailout is unspeakably sad.

That the UAW refused to make wage and benefit concessions with negotiators Thursday night is even sadder. Whether or not President Bush agrees to use bank bailout funds to aid the carmakers, after January 20th 2009, the new Democrat regime will. The American automobile industry will never be the same which is the saddest prospect of all of our economic woes.

The day I turned sixteen I got my drivers license and talked my dad into letting me drive one of his old cars. All of his cars were American made. The first car I drove into its very grave was an old white Ford station wagon. I commuted in it to college one summer for summer school.

It was pretty old at the time and just about on its last legs but it took me through the summer. It broke down once on me and luckily it was near a turn off to a Stuckey’s and my sister was with me. There was an auto mechanic working next to the Stuckey’s store so we were able to get it repaired while we waited and luckily, it only cost me forty five dollars. The alternator had gone out. I remember that fact because it cost me a weeks’ pay to fix the car. I was working part time at a grocery store that summer on evenings and weekends.

I think my brother and sister had their turns with that old car too.

While I was in college I drove a 1962 Buick Skylark two door coupe. It was a sweet car and I loved it. I dated my husband for one year before he went to West Point and during that time I remember that winter getting a call from him one snowy day to pick him up. He had lost his drivers license for six months because he had been caught racing in his Corvette. It was snowing and he wanted to come over to see me. I got in my sweet Skylark and took to the icy, snowy roads and drove over to his house to get him. On the way over I found him walking along the road. It was the first time I drove him in that car. Romantic memories seem to be entangled with these cars.

When my husband and I were married he had a 1974 Audi LS 100. He had bought it while a cadet at West Point and had special ordered it to come with air conditioning. German made autos didn’t come with air conditioning back then and the car kept over heating. It gave Bob fits and he only kept it a year.

Meanwhile I had a 1973 Ford Maverick. I loved that car. I had to give it up when we got orders to move to Germany in 1977.

When we lived in Germany we bought used American cars. They were very popular overseas and Americans could sell them easily after they shipped them over from the states. Back then there weren’t as many restrictions against buying German cars and shipping them back to the states and many American service people liked to buy old Mercedes to ship home.

That’s pretty difficult to do now.

When we moved home we bought my husband’s Mom’s old Oldsmobile which was a pretty elegant car. Later on, for a second car, we bought a Volkswagon Van which I would later regret since I was the one who had to drive it. It was a standard shift vehicle which was okay but the van always smelled of gasoline, was not air conditioned and for some reason the heater didn’t seem to work in the winter but it did in the summer.

I hated that van.

When we traded it in for an extended version, Chrysler Van I was thrilled. We had three children and being a military family, we were always on the go. By this time we were moving every one to two years so we spent a lot of time in that van. We kept it for ten years. Our Chrysler Van gave us ten solid years and 210,000 miles of safety, travel and fun. It never once broke down or gave us any trouble. We took the van from Indianapolis to Virginia to Panama to New York.

When our son was a senior in high school he would sometimes drive himself and his sisters to school in that van through the snow in upstate New York. You could almost say the old van had so much experience it drove him.

It was a sad day when we had to say goodbye to the van. I believe it was my favorite vehicle of all.

Our next vehicle was a pretty audacious choice but fun. We bought another van, a Chrysler Dodge extended conversion van with a tv/vcr combination. We still had many miles to travel and our kids really enjoyed watching movies on our long trips. We kept the van until 1997 when we traded it in for a mini-van, one which would become another world traveler van and big favorite, a Chevy Venture.

This mini van would go to Germany with us and I would take it all over Europe, throughout Germany, Austria and France. I lived in Heidelberg and taught first grade in a DoDDs elementary school in Stuttgart, Germany and commuted down the autobahn everyday in the minivan.

My husband was interested in buying another car while we were in Germany but I was cool to the idea because I really liked the Venture and preferred to drive cars as long as they could be driven. We kept the Venture for six years, then I gave it to my parents. They are still driving it.

Next up was a Chevrolet Trailblazer. I loved that car. I would still have it but I needed to economize with our daughter in law school. She needed a new car and so I was able to trade her old Chevy and my Trailblazer in for two Chevy Aveos for under the price of the monthly payment of my Trailblazer.

Two weeks after I bought my Chevy Aveo I was hit from behind on Interstate and the car really proved what the manufacturers have claimed about the cars’ safety rating. I had some neck pain but the car had minimal damage. One scratch the size of my little finger nail on the bumper was all that I could find. I took the car in to the insurance adjusters to be sure and they issued a check for three hundred dollars to fix the paint job. After two and a half years I am still happy with the Aveo.

We never considered buying foreign cars, being happy with American made products. Besides, the Hondas, the Toyotas and the Mitsubishis were all pretty pricey and much smaller than a family of five needed. Americans should have the right to make their own choices when it comes to the vehicles they choose to buy and it is time that Congress get the message that we are tired of their interference, red tape, rules and regulations, and green standards, that have worked along with the UAW to kill the American Car Industry.

My husband has also preferred American made cars, he likes economy cars now but when he graduated from high school his father bought him a 1969 gold Corvette Stingray.

It’s hard to imagine a world without cars like that.