The Marine View Driver: Cruising with the 1986 Chevy Nova


In which the author learns the fine art of beating the insurance company.

by Mike Smith

I’ve been avoiding writing about the car thefts we’ve been fortunate to have bestowed upon us. The details of these tales are long and arduous.

But the results have been nothing short of miraculous in our eyes. You see, most of the cars we’ve ever owned have been stolen… yet every time they have been stolen, we’ve made out like bandits. I chalk it up to having good insurance with reputable companies, but I also think that Divine Providence has had mercy on my poor stupid automotive soul.

4We bought the Chevy Nova from a guy in our church for $2,000. He was living in Japan so he let us pay him $200 a month… just so he would get regular mail.

The car had been in some sort of fender bender wherein the original owner, our friend, had to have the hood repainted. The shop did not do a good job and the hood had an orange-peel look to it. Not a deal breaker for us by any means.

We enjoyed this little car. It was the first real modern little car we’d owned, and it gave us very little trouble the whole time we owned it.  When we first got it I remember parking it in the grocery store parking lot with the key locked inside and the engine running. It was that quiet.

Oh, and did I mention it had AIR CONDITIONING? First time ever for us. We were enchanted.

This car had a bit of a nine-lives career. I will tell you of a couple of her near-death experiences.

41AXb2FtS0LEarly one morning I was waiting to have coffee with a friend. I used to sit in the parking lot and compare how many people came through the doors of the local Starbucks and the smoothie shop next door. (It was about a 20-to-1 ratio, by the way.) While I was sitting in the car, minding everyone else’s business, some guy in a sky-high 4×4 backed up and hit the front of my car. And do you know what? His bumper was so tall that all it did was scrape and dent the orange-peelish hood. So we got that repaired for free. So the first incident with this car was an improvement.

Then my father died in 2002. The Chevy Nova was stolen while we were away from home attending his funeral.

The theft was interesting in that the perps obviously knew we were going to be gone for a while. When we arrived home from the funeral, all that was left of our things were in the middle of the living room in little piles. Much like someone had been sorting everything before taking what they wanted. It was like being robbed by a volunteer from the clothing bank. Even weirder, the piles were stuffed under the chairs and tables in the living room so as to be out of the way.

Hint to the police: look for criminals that are experts in Feng Shui.

H2750We ended up losing all of our daughters’ CD collections and CD players (almost all Christian music, so probably not a lot of street value), some of their clothes, three computers, two French horns, a guitar (for which I had traded a rifle a few months prior—whew! dodged a bullet that time), my collection of Hallmark classic car models, and various knick-knacks and things.

All of this was then put into the back of our little blue Nova and driven right out of the garage. Never to be seen again.

We almost retrieved one of the French horns as we called around to the local pawn shops. One said he had gotten a French horn in but by the time we went to check it out, it had been sold. Hmmm. I guess rare, professional-quality French horns move pretty fast in the pawn circuit. Good to know if I ever need to sell another $10,000 French horn.

Our daughters listed the CDs and clothes they lost and were reimbursed for replacement value. Kayla took her money and bought a Bose wave radio and found her copies of the CDs she wanted at the swap meet. She is great with money to this day. This Dad was proud.

One day several months later we found the car about 1000 feet from our house. It had been hidden in the parking lot of an apartment complex but was not visible from the street. But, if you were sitting up high in a bus…

Our daughter Kayla went by the apartment in the bus on her way to school one day. When she came home she said that she had seen our car.  I walked over and confirmed that it was ours.  It was hardly driven. Er… I should say, not driven far. But it was driven hard. It always smoked a bit after this.

We called the insurance company and they gave us permission to drive it home.

The math worked like this. We paid $2000 for this car when we first bought it. The hood was orange-peeled due to a prior poor paint job. Someone backed into me with their truck and bent only the hood. The hood was replaced and the entire front end was painted to match, paid for by our insurance company. When it was initially stolen, the insurance company had paid us $2300.00 replacement value. After we found it, the insurance company let us buy it back for $1000.00. A couple of years later our daughter wrecked the car and the insurance company gave us $1600.00 for the car. All in a day’s work, I’d say.

There is more to the knock-about life of this little car. But this is a highlight. We loved that little car. Ka-ching!


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