Notorious Clunkers Driving on Their Last Leg

Penn Manor’s parking lot is littered with loads of junky cars.  But they aren’t waiting for a tow truck, students and faculty are driving them away every day.

In a recent USA Today article, Tom Webb, an economist for Manheim Consulting, said used car prices have risen about 5 percent in the last year because there is more demand for cheaper cars with the faltering economy.

The cluttery mess in the back of Zach Rayha's car is part of his junky car appearance. Photo by Brian Dunne

These days it may be harder for a driver, especially a teen, to acquire a quality used car, with the economy struggling and used car prices soaring.

So if you can’t get a good used car, some aren’t too proud to drive a junky one.

Steve Hess, a physics teacher at Penn Manor, is one of many who regularly park their junky car in Penn Manor’s parking lot.

Hess drives an “economically friendly” 26-year-old Volkswagen Rabbit diesel with a staggering 358,000 miles.

Hess’ Rabbit may have been red at one point, but the years have faded it to orange, which could be a good thing because it hides most of the rust.

As if it doesn’t look bad enough, in the four years he’s had the car, it’s been through its fair share of mishaps.

It seems to have a little problem in the gear department.

The Rabbit has held up lines of traffic up hills while Hess struggled to get it out of second gear, leaving a trail of black smog and some angry fellow motorists.

And other more serious incidents.

“I was driving and made a quick turn and alls I saw in my mirror was a F-350 bumper as I three-sixtied into a ditch,” recalled Hess.  “I looked at the man driving and he was an Amish man with a totaled truck and alls I had was a dent in my bumper.”

But he’s planning on keeping it for a few more years calling the car, jokingly, a “chick magnet.”

He certainly isn’t the only one with a crappy car.

Zach Rayha, a student at Penn Manor and a player on the school baseball team, drives a slightly girly junker. His 1998 Nissan Sentra is a light blue.

“The color of my car is a very light, faded baby blue. It reminds me of a newborn baby boy,” said Rayha.

When describing the interior of his car, Rayha said “The interior of my car smells like wet baseball cleats, and dried up sweaty T-shirts.”

His older brother literally wrecked any chance of driving the newer Camry the family once had.

“My brother was driving on a rainy day like today, and attempted to drift while driving through the curvy part of Cottage Avenue, he proceeded to total the vehicle and wound up paying for what I drive now,” Rayha said.

Tim Dueble received his car thanks to his parents generosity.

Every day he drives to school in his 1987 Honda Accord. The car, which has been in the family longer then he has, it has over 220,000 miles.

Dueble’s first summer with his car was a dreaded one, he spent the whole summer singing to himself, with no radio in his car. He said it got pretty boring.

Alicia Burns, who got her first car from her grandma, has had her fair share of troubles with her first junker.  Her car, a 1991 white 98 Oldsmobile is temporarily out of service.

“About a week ago I was driving down 741, and my car just shut down, it was really embarrassing,” Burns said.

“I don’t know exactly what was wrong with my car, but it’s fixed now,” Burns said excitedly.

By Brian Dunne

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