September 15, 1977
“Bruno, come on, hurry up!”
“I can’t find my glasses!”
“Are they on your head again?”
The rummaging noises upstairs paused, the interval of silence declaring loud and clear to Anke, long used to this situation, what happened. Rummaging yielded to a door closing, shortly followed by a barrage of footfalls on the stairs as Bruno, now properly bespectacled, hastened outside.
“I think you’ll make a fine academic after all. You’ve already got the absentmindedness!” She teased aloud, at the same time wondering quietly if she should also point out his mismatched socks.
“Oh hush,” he replied with a sheepish grin. “It all depends on the results of the Abitur that are to arrive any day now…”
“Come now, you know you aced that thing. The paperwork is little more than a formality at this point.” They walked down the driveway to the idling Waldersee, from which emerged Magda and Stefan as they saw their children approach. With the fluidity of nine years of doing so, they reached for the seat recline latches, swinging them forward for Anke and Bruno to pile into the back.
“Will Oma and Opa meet us there?”
Putting the car in gear, Stefan replied, “Unfortunately not. Oma isn’t feeling well, and Opa might’ve come on his own but when I spoke to him some hours ago, he couldn’t remember where he put his keys.”
Anke poked her brother to accompany the remark, “Something runs in the family, eh?”
“…but he added that if it’s a particularly interesting show, to call or come pick him up.”
“Just as well,” Magda chimed in, not breaking her distant stare into the large field they were passing. “The last time I drove with him, he not only forgot where his keys were, he forgot where he was on several occasions. And I don’t mean where he was driving, I mean the fact that he was in a car at all, and behind the wheel at that.”
Stefan looked slightly peeved for a moment, then let out a small sigh. “Unfortunately, it’s true. He’s still quite active and mobile - unlike my Mutti, poor thing - but leaving him to manage his own transportation seems with every year a worse and worse idea. Fortunately, I’ve talked to him about this and he’s as aware as he can be, and doesn’t seem too offended.”
“On the contrary, I get the distinct impression he enjoys being chauffeured.”
“That’s because it’s you doing the chauffeuring, dear. Not just that he’s fond of you, but that you have a way of handling a car that discerning passengers never fail to appreciate.”
“And I don’t mind at all. I just wish I could help the two of them, but between his height and her arthritis, the back seat just doesn’t work; I can only take one at a time unless I drive theirs. It’s just fine for you two, though, yes?” She turned around towards Bruno - who was staring out the window, lost in thought and muttering numbers - and Anke - whose eyes silently smiled back and forth between Bruno and her mother. “Quite alright,” she eventually said.
Magda went on, “This design of the seats fully between the wheelwells is brilliant, but there’s only so much overgrown Viking descendant that can possibly be stuffed into a 2.5m wheelbase, nevermind the matter of rear doors.”
“Ah, you’ve been thinking about its replacement again?”
“Well, it’s only a matter of time before Bruno’s diploma and other documents are sorted out, and we’ve already promised him the Lancier once he goes off to university. The Kaffee…”
“Is mine, yes?” Anke stated as much as inquired.
“Again, I’m not sure you need it living in Frankfurt, or want to deal with its maintenance, but that promise we’ll also keep, of course. Anyway, yes, the timing is lining up for a replacement. That is indeed half the reason for going to this show. Of course, I get a lot of previews and insider knowledge, but there’s still much to be said for all the exhibits in one place, polished and presentable.”
“With me and Bruno having our own wheels, will you get some firebreathing two-seat midlife-crisis-mobile?” Anke joked.
Her joviality, combined with the subject of the question, elicited the excitement in Magda’s reply, even as she shook her head.
“Not a pure sports car, no. Not to be the only car for a couple of 40-somethings. And now that we’re talking about Oma and Opa, I think we’ll be driving them around more, so not only do we need four seats and four doors, but plenty of legroom as well.”
Stefan asked, “Just for the sake of argument, couldn’t they keep their Hörch and we drive them around in that?”
“I guess… that would work, just rather inconvenient. Also, the occasion does occur that I’ve got an interviewee or someone else for a passenger or two, and wish for a way to drive them around that doesn’t involve minor contortions. For a truly special two-seater, forgoing this might be worth it, but doubtful.”
“And what else are we after, again?”
"The Waldersee’s been excellent all around, especially to live with, between its versatility and reliability. The new car should be a general upgrade, and significantly downgrade nothing major while improving overall. We can afford more intensive maintenance and a bit more downtime; below Stellar there’s room for Good to Great. Otherwise, if it does compromise something, it should more than compensate elsewhere. We won’t compromise overall usability, though - this shall be a tool first, a toy second. In particular, cargo room for roadtrips is a must, though it doesn’t have to be quite this generous.
As far as the ride, we don’t want anything too extreme. It shouldn’t knock out our teeth fillings, nor put us to sleep. For the same or a bit less Fahrvergnügen, it should be a lot more comfortable. Or for the same or a bit less comfort, a lot sportier. But ideally, both would improve.
Then, under the hood - call me spoiled if you will, but I’ve gotten used to the Lancier’s power, and meanwhile more and more competition is catching up. I want to see fewer receding taillights on the Autobahn, and to be more comfortable cruising at higher speeds, not just getting there. More efficient, too. The same power would be ok - barely - if the aerodynamics, weight, and efficiency make up for it. Conversely, we could stomach paying the same for fuel if the power is that much greater. But ideally, same as the ride - a meaningful gain in both.
I’ve also come to appreciate Laufkultur more and more over the years. The motor can’t be just a sledgehammer; it needs to hit heavy, for sure, but just the right amount of hard, not too much. For that matter, the same goes for the looks.
Speaking of which, the front of the hood: I’d like not just a good bit more Macht, but for it to look the part - something with more Überholprestige."
“Are you just counting on a decade’s worth of technological progress to make the upgrades happen?”
"Partly that, and partly a higher budget. For that matter, considering where I am professionally, it also should look like it commands and justifies a premium. "
“Well, once we narrow down our choices, we’ll sit down and run some numbers on immediate and long-term costs before an ultimate decision. Between the house paid off, the kids launching their own lives, my recent raises, the previous promotion, and the rumors of another, the budget feels quite healthy - I’d say $42k is a good benchmark, though for the right car that can of course stretch. A price tag beginning in 5, though… had better be attached to something truly extraordinary.”
“Maybe we’ll see something like that today?”
“Or this week. The show is massive this year; there’s no way we’ll see it all in one or even two days. Anyway, I expect there’ll be much sorting of wheat from chaff, but it’s about the most productive field there is, so to speak, and certainly the likeliest place to find a worthy successor.”
The Lancier gave Magda a taste for speed, while continuing career success has increased her means to indulge it. It’s time to find a worthy successor - a proper Autobahn machine that remains a reasonable daily driver. The kids are semi-moved out, have their own transportation, but for several reasons, four spacious seats are a medium-strong want; anything less needs to really make up for it elsewhere. We’re looking for either medium sportiness and high comfort, or the other way around - no racecars, no Quaalude dispensers. $42k expected, $50k is a stretch. Should be good at high speed cruising, not just racing. Economy matters some. Needs to look - politely - like you’d best get out of its way, and needs to be able to demonstrate why.