Never thump a free watermelon 

Riding with the Plumber:

Never thump a free watermelon

Motorhead discovered this intriguing letter from Atlanta, Ga., in a long-overlooked pile of correspondence while cruising, with the Plumber, through South Dakota. We were on the road in Buffeo the Wonder Dolphin doing a photographic study of abandoned automotive repair garages.

Immersed in the scenery and car repair lore, we felt there was nothing better than driving into the sun through Sturgis at 7 o'clock on Sunday morning. We saw the sometimes motorcycle-infested town as it really is: mellow.

But I felt an urgency when I realized that this letter should have been answered long ago. I smoothed the letter flat on my clipboard, and read it aloud to the Plumber as he drove that ribbon of highway:

Dear Motoguru,

I am the proud supporter of a 16-year-old with a brand new driver's permit. (In Georgia you get a permit at 16 and if you don't do too many nasty things you get a real driver's license at 17.) Being the doting parents his mother and I are, we agreed to buy the car if he buys the insurance.

Along comes one of the guys I work with who is now the possessor of a 1995 Mazda RX-7 (with the twin turbo and luggage space for three 8-1/2 X 11 sheets of paper) AND a 1986 Nissan 300ZX with 186,000 miles AND he wants to GIVE it to me for FREE!

A little background before we go any further. He has replaced the transmission, radiator, battery, water pump, thermostat, all the hoses, tires, and brakes within the last 18 months. Most of the time the above parts failed him on the road and I was the one who picked him up and dropped him off while the car was being fixed.

My dilemma: If I say "Thanks" and take the car, what else can go wrong with it? And since you're much further up the moto mountain and have a far clearer view, is it worth taking on this car or thanking him for the thought and letting it go by?

Help! Is this too good to be true?

Anxiously awaiting your reply,

The Plumber, who is accustomed to driving beaters with hundreds of thousands of miles on them, guffawed in his inimitable style and said, "Hey, tell him to take the car, and to never thump on a free watermelon."

Motorhead was in-clined to agree. It seems as though the Nissan has been nursed through its nickel-and-dime phase, and is probably ready to settle in to some long term smooth operation. Although there are few things that Motorhead can foresee going wrong in the near future, a minor failure here or there most likely will not add up to the price of a single new car payment.

The Plumber and I agree; snag the car and tell your son that with safe driving habits and prudent money management, the sky's the limit.

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