Dydia Delyser, who divides her time between California and Louisiana, is not the shy, retiring type. She proves that as often as she can by getting behind the wheel of her 1924 Nash touring car—when the weather is right, that is. Without side windows, occupants truly experience the weather.
“It makes the most mundane of errands into a pleasure,” says Delyser, an LSU geography professor.
She loves driving it to campus. “Every day is a parade,” she says. “Everybody waves, and they all want a wave back. They like when I honk the horn, because it has one of those ‘ooo-gah, ooo-gah’ horns.”
Her “everyday driver” is a 1985 Volvo she inherited from her late mother. Despite pleas from her mechanic, Delyser won’t part with that car. “It only has 150,000 miles; that’s still very fresh for a Volvo,” she says.
The Energizer Ronnie
Ronnie Smith knows how to care for a car. See him on I-10 between here and New Orleans, and you’d think his 1993 Nissan 300ZX was not long out of the showroom. You’d be wrong—almost 600,000 miles wrong.
“I tend to buy something of quality and take care of it,” Smith says. He has a close relationship with his long-time mechanic.
Smith racks up the miles on his daily commute to New Orleans, where he works for the LSU Health Sciences Center. He confesses he has had the car up to 140 miles per hour, but these days he tops out at 75 mph on his commute. “I stay away from tickets,” Smith says. Speeding tickets can make insurance expensive or even impossible, he says. “They don’t like to insure these cars.”
He bought this car to replace a nearly identical 300ZX (with the same engine) that was—by his standards—just broken in, with 320,000 miles before it was totaled. He scoured the country before finding the right replacement at a South Carolina dealership. He closed the deal over the phone in 1994 while driving his son to college in Colorado.
Don David is committed to his wife. And her car.
When Don met Peggy in 1960, the gorgeous blonde drove an equally gorgeous 1958 Chevrolet Impala convertible. In turquoise. When the relationship grew serious, Peggy’s father sold the car. “I guess he thought if he got rid of the car, he’d get rid of me.” David says. “It didn’t work.”
The couple had several “cool” cars over the decades, but Peggy pined for that Impala. “Every now and then, she’d dream of the steering wheel—the way it felt in her hands,” David says.
Last year he decided to end her suffering (and his too) when he found a near twin to her late, lamented Impala on eBay. (This one’s a hard top. Peggy doesn’t like convertibles anymore.) David bought, shipped and hid that hunk of Detroit iron until he could surprise Peggy with it at a small car show in November.
David played it cool as the couple worked through the lines of cars. When Peggy exulted at the sight of the turquoise Impala, David handed her the keys.
The car, which underwent some serious work before the car show, is back in the couple’s garage as David finishes the restoration, including a new paint job in authentic turquoise. “I love my wife, and I love that car.”
Anyone who sees Suzanne Turner skating around town in her smart fortwo will know that she values the environment but doesn’t think much of parking lots.
“I’m a landscape architect, and I hate parking lots because of how much space they take up,” Turner says.
Her miniature car—so small it makes a Mini Cooper look like an SUV—is perfect for someone who lives and works downtown, Turner says. “They make so much sense.”
Except for highway driving. “I never take it on the interstate,” she says. Turner and her husband own a normal-sized car for longer trips.
What kind of gas mileage does her smart car get? “I don’t know. I’ve never filled it up,” Turner says. “I don’t know how.”
Turner’s daughter, a horse trainer, borrows the smart car frequently and does the tank filling. “She puts it in the back of her horse trailer and takes it to horse shows,” where she uses it to run errands and commute to motels, Turner says.
A couple of years ago, Kristina Murphy decided she wanted a better, smoother ride—something that reflected her many accomplishments in life.
“I’d been driving Mercedes most of my adult life, and I thought maybe I’ll move up a notch,” Murphy says. She is a musician and music educator and holds several patents on a program for teaching music.
Murphy looked longingly at the top-of-the-line Mercedes, the Maybach, but the $400,000 to $500,000 sticker price for a new one was far more than she wanted to spend.
Murphy settled on a two-door Bentley GT Continental (new models list in the $180,000s). She recently found a 2004 model online. The car turned out to be exactly what she was looking for. “It’s like sitting in a La-Z-Boy. It doesn’t feel like you’re driving,” she says.
She also loves the attention–even stares–the car attracts. “I wanted something different. Not something everybody else has.”
Donald Bell loves his 1996 Nissan Pathfinder. He looks good in it.
“It’s a guy’s truck,” he says. “The outside looks way better than the inside.”
The SUV is big enough for fun. “It can carry me and my dog or a whole mess of my friends anywhere I want,” he says. “For an SUV, it’s not that bad on gas.”
The Pathfinder, despite almost 300,000 miles, has been dependable for Bell—much more dependable than the Mitsubishi Galant that preceded it. “It was beaten up and falling apart. The front bumper was held on by zip ties and bungee cords.”
Bell plans to have his Pathfinder on the road well past 300,000 miles. “I’m obsessive about oil changes and maintenance,” he says.
LSU English professor Rick Moreland likes to enjoy the scenery, avoid the traffic and even say hello to folks on his commute to LSU. So he rides a bike. He’s been a bicycle commuter for about 30 years.
Moreland’s two-mile “drive” to work takes 12-15 minutes, and he’ll bike it in the rain or the cold. “I have the right equipment,” he says. These days, you can find him aboard a purple-and-gold Fuji Team road bike he bought about 10 years ago when he was competing in triathlons.
About five years ago, Moreland had the only accident in his bike-commuting career when a driver hit him on a particularly dicey stretch of State Street. He was left with minor injuries. “I’m aware of being a safe rider, and with more bikes on the road these days, I feel safer,” Moreland says.
LSU has made great strides in making campus more bike-friendly, he adds. “You can see that by all the bike racks they are adding.”
He notes two more advantages to riding rather than driving to work. No hassling with the traffic-control gates, and a parking spot that’s impossible to beat: a bike rack at the front door to the English building.
Cavalier about appearances
A look at Sue Lincoln’s 1995 Chevrolet Cavalier tells you that she’s frugal and “not overly concerned with appearances.” That look won’t tell you what color the car used to be: “some sort of champagne,” Lincoln says.
The peeling clear coat and clunky looks are part of the charm for Lincoln.
The price was even more attractive. “It belonged to a little old lady from DeRidder. All it cost me was a new battery,” she says, plus a new set of tires a couple of weeks later.
Lincoln and her daughter love Renaissance festivals, and this car is dependable enough to carry them to those festivals and—with four doors and a cavernous trunk—all the camping gear and elaborate costumes they’ll ever need.