Monday, July 20, 2009

Leif & the 2002 Black Dodge Stratus Coupe - February 2003 to December 2005

While Leif and Nikko were at Fort Drum, they also owned a used white sports car that Nikko drove, and later Leif did manage to find and purchase another used RX-7, which was what he had when he came back from the Army in May 2001. He drove it until it "died." That is, it wasn't drivable and would have required more expensive repairs than were feasible. Leif didn't have the money to either fix it or purchase a new, or even used, car. He was in his senior year at KSU and living on his GI Bill stipend and the small amount he earned as a school crossing guard. He sold the RX-7 to a father and son who were looking for a project car they could work on together. I think he got about $600 for it.

Leif needed a car and would soon need one to get to and from another job. He was looking into trying to get a loan and finance purchasing one. We had inherited some money from Peter W's mother and we decided that rather than have Leif go further into debt (he still owed us a lot of money and was still paying off debts he also incurred while in the army), we would loan him the money to buy a car, with some limitations on what we would be willing to pay for. Leif was very appreciative and went car shopping at all the dealers in Manhattan. When he had some ideas of things he might like, we went to see them with him.

The one we all liked best was a new 2002 black Dodge Stratus Coupe. It was a very stylish car and seemed to fit Leif well. That was when Peter W. went into his best bargaining mode. He was so good at it that he had Leif really fooled that he if he didn't get the price he proposed, he was going to either go elsewhere or get something used and cheaper. However, he managed to get exactly the deal he wanted and we left the lot with the car for $19,999 including taxes and registration. Leif looked great in that car.

While he was proud of having his first new car and liked the looks of it as well as the cushy interior, he said he missed the handling and rear wheel drive of the RX-7 and still vowed that someday he would have an RX-8.

When Leif moved to Florida in March 2005, he drove the Stratus to Florida in a caravan with us and parked it in our garage. He only had the Stratus for less than three years and hadn't really even begun to pay us back much on it when he had an accident on his way to a date in Tampa. He called me from the scene. I was in Kansas at the time and about to get on a plane in a day or two to head for Florida for Christmas. I think the accident was on December 23, 2005. Luckily, he wasn't badly injured, but he did have some whiplash injury from it and his neck continued to bother him the rest of his life.

As I remember, the accident happened because another car swerved into his lane just as he was coming to a traffic light. To avoid getting hit, he hit the accelerator and shot into the intersection, but instead managed to hit another car. Since he had gone through a red light, he got a citation for that and it raised his insurance. He struggled with high insurance rates all of his adult life due to the accidents he had.

I didn't see the damage to the car, but it was totaled. He hadn't even had it long enough to pay for it and it was gone.

The photos of the car were taken by him in 2005 in Florida. The one of him by the car I took of him in front of 210 N. 9th Street in Manhattan, Kansas the spring of 2003. Since we made the loan to him as one of his graduation presents, I've included a photo of him after the Commencement ceremony at KSU on May 18, 2003, with Peter W. and me. The top photo is a self portrait of him in March 2003.

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