Remember that short time in your life – and I’m talking to those of you that participated in the young love of cars – when you felt as if you needed to take sides in the most ridiculous brand battle of all time? Chevrolet vs. Ford. Remember all of those “hilarious” Ford vs. Chevy jokes from your childhood? Remember how you swore that Chevys were better than Fords, or that Fords were better than Chevys? Anyone who knew anything about cars were forced to choose between Ford or Chevy, like some arbitrary decision about your favorite domestic car maker was going to really change your life in some positive way, like we were going to be rewarded for our devoted support with a brand new car of our choice. And of course, our choice would be Chevrolet. Or Ford. It all depends.

With my friends, at least those of us who collected Micro Machines, Chevy was always the king – the King of Trucks, even – and Ford pulled behind in second, sometimes challenging even for second place with the new kid on the block – Lee Iacocca’s Dodge/Chrysler. For me, the decision was easy: I made my choice because my dad hated Ford. He had one, and it wasn’t any good, and therefore, I was a Chevy kid. Easy as that. Case closed.

Thankfully, this didn’t last long. Eventually, any child not destined to be in love with NASCAR and Super Sprints grows out of the “favorite car maker” phase. They put the long standing fight to rest and resolve themselves to liking some random company – Volkswagen, or Honda, or whoever happens to have the best advertising at the time. You learn to respect reliability, and safety, and cool factor, and the feud between Chevy and Ford is as silly as anything because, well, you wouldn’t be stupid enough to buy a car made in the United States anyway.

There’s a reason this all comes to mind. Our car – our beloved Ford Contour, Kerrie’s college car and our current “beater” – finally decided to make its way towards that big salvage yard in the sky. After years of reliable, yet shaky, service, our secondary car took the steps necessary to becoming a pile of scrap metal.

What happened is this: I noticed Thursday that the air conditioning wasn’t working. I looked at the temperature gauge and noticed that it was in the red. This couldn’t be good.

It wasn’t. After cooling it down, I took it to our garage, where I was told that – surprise! – the head gaskets needed replacing ($1700) or the heads themselves needed to be replaced ($3000!), two options we didn’t necessarily want to take. Let’s put it this way. This 1996 Ford Contour sells for $2900, according to Kelly Blue Book, in excellent conditions. Our Contour? Less than excellent. Not horrible. But definitely not excellent. Oh, and a trade in? Probably only $700-1000, depending on your classification.

In other words, it was going to cost way too much to get way to little back. And to us, that means our car is dead.

It’s actually very sad. This Ford Contour was our only form of transportation from 1997 to 2002, when we moved to Sioux Falls. It took us to Minneapolis, to Madison, to Sioux Falls and back to St. Cloud. It moved my stuff numerous times. It was as part of our family as our dog. That car took us a long way.

Well, not long enough, I guess. 92,000 miles is all. And for that, I am proud to say that I’m not much of a Ford fan. Don’t get me wrong – we’ve gotten a lot of use out of the Contour. But with the problems we had regarding Ford’s customer service a few years ago, and now this – something that probably isn’t even Ford’s fault – I find I’ve come full circle, from hating Fords for the hell of it, with a child’s grasp on the realities of automobile life, to simply being annoyed with the company as a whole.

Now, I’m not delving into pure hate, but I am a little disappointed. We didn’t drive it that hard. We should have gotten more out of this car. It was supposed to last us until our current car loan was finished. It really let us down. I’m disappointed in Ford. I’m disappointed in this Contour.

But really, there’s nothing we can do about it. It was old – over 10 years old – and now we have a chance to upgrade. We need to look back on our time with this car and think of it fondly, with a solitary tear welling up and a sweet violin crescendo playing in the background.

Ford. Found On Road Dead.

My father would be so proud.

This was lovingly handwritten on June 25th, 2006