Friday, July 11, 2014

First Cars and The Gil Test

My Boys' First Car | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My boys' first car had
wood paneling AND a sunroof!
When my boys were toddlers, they padded around the house in a blue toy car. Carrying their favorite stuffed animals in the open-air trunk, they made their way up and down hallways and in and out of rooms in a plastic box on casters. That vehicle took up space in our home for a decade. It began as our oldest son’s ride and was eventually passed down to his brothers. 

By the time our youngest inherited the plastic car, it was a little wobbly and one of the doors was misaligned. It had stickers and crayon markings on the body. One of the wheel rods was slightly bent. But it always got the boys from the playroom to the kitchen when they were hungry. 

Saving up for the toy car meant switching to generic paper towels, clipping a few coupons and forgoing restaurants for a few weeks. There were two color choices—pink and blue. While the pink one was nice, the blue matched their toys, clothes and eyes. 

When they were not allowed to travel past the stop sign at the end of the road, my boys were content with bicycles and skateboards as their preferred modes of transportation. We had to do a bit more penny-pinching to afford their all-terrain vehicles. And by all-terrain, I mean our backyard, neighbors’ driveways, vacant lots, the ball fields adjacent to our neighborhood and the cul-de-sac.

Eventually, they wanted to be able to get to places like school, work and their own apartments on their own. Our oldest was the first to transition to car ownership. His first car was blue. He loved that car. But then our mechanic saw it.
The Gil Test | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Gil Goldstein, co-owner of
G&G Automotive,
gives the prospective car
a thorough look-see.

When your mechanic pulls you aside to inform you your child is driving around in a death trap, he tends to break the news in a stern, serious manner, especially if he is a close family friend. Our oldest now drives a white, newer model car with an airbag.

When our middle child was ready to get to his apartment in Raleigh without bumming a ride from family or friends, we waited another year. Unfortunately, passing down his brother's car was not an option like it was when the boys were five. 

First, we had to find something in our modest price range. Then, it had to pass the “Do you really think I want to be seen driving that?” test. When we found vehicles that passed our first two criteria, they still had to pass the final, most difficult test of all—The Gil Test.

Our mechanic, Gil, and his associates, would have to look over the vehicle. They would have to open doors and pop the hood. They would have to put it on a lift, pull out the flashlight and touch things. And, if after every aspect was thoroughly checked out, Gil gave it a thumbs up, we could move on to negotiation and purchase.

The first car we brought by for The Gil Test failed miserably. It was red, sporty and, in its prime, fuel efficient. However, it had dry-rotted tires, no oil and an engine that was nearly ready to give up its fight against years of abuse. Having learned from that experience, as Gil made sure we saw and understood what he saw and knew, we became more discriminating in our search. Two other cars, while affordable and nice looking, were not worthy of The Gil Test.

But then we happened upon a well-kept sedan. It was sporty, but conservative. It did not sound like it was going to fall apart in a strong wind during the test drive. Gil found a few things that needed tinkering, but for our price range, it was in relatively good shape.

His First Car | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Nearly two decades after his brother
drove him around in the blue plastic car,
he finally has a ride of his own.
Armed with Gil’s detailed information about the car’s history and condition based on his under-hood sleuthing, we returned to the car lot to haggle. My son waited outside, not yet willing to believe he might have something to drive home. A few minutes later, I stepped out to get insurance information out of the glove compartment. I winked as I whispered, “You have a car.”

Not since my dad has there been a test so strict and tough as to make me feel confident enough to purchase a metal box in which a child of mine would whiz up and down the highways of life at 70 miles per hour. I miss the blue plastic car. I miss my dad. But I am so very grateful we have Gil and his beautiful wife Rosie riding beside us on this journey through life.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at)
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  1. We recently drove our car to California and back to North Carolina. Before we went on the trip we took the car to Gil. He found a few things that would have become problems on the trip and we had those fixed. Our car ran well and without any incidents throughout our 6200 mile trek up and down steep mountains and across deserts.

  2. You are very lucky you have a person you can trust when it comes to car troubleshooting. It reminds me of my wife and I when we go on longer trips I take the car to my brother in law who looks at it with a microscope to ensure that everything is in tip top shape and we are good.

    Cedrick @ Viva Chrysler Dodge Jeep