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LET NOTHING COME BETWEEN YOUR MAN, HIS DREAM MACHINE

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Dear Tom and Ray:

I'd be interested in knowing your opinions and remarks about the new 1991 Chevrolet Caprice. I need your reply in a hurry, because my husband is really enthusiastic about it. Thanks! - GertrudeRAY: Well, Gertrude, we've been holding onto your letter for about two months, waiting for Chevrolet to send us a new Caprice to test drive. We're still waiting. We're assuming that either they're selling like wildfire and Chevy can't afford to spare one, or they're still miffed at my brother for practicing his crash-dummy skills with that nice red Lumina they sent us last fall.

TOM: Anyway, I have a feeling we'd be too late for you no matter how quickly we responded. I can almost see you now, writing to us with one hand while wrestling the checkbook away from your husband with the other. He's HOT to buy one of these new Caprices, isn't he, Gertrude? He's got his mind made up, and we learned a long time ago that there's nothing anyone can do to get between a man and his dream car.

RAY: So let's make the best of the situation. You test the Caprice for us. After you get it, write to us and tell us what you think. And if you wouldn't mind, take a ride in a Geo Storm, a Geo Prizm and a four-door Blazer while you're at the dealership - we're still waiting for Chevy to send us those, too.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I own a 1987 Mercury Cougar. I bought it used and have always felt that it needed new shocks. Recently, I read in Consumer Reports that the suspension on this year and model rates below average. Is there anything I can do to give it a better ride? - Laura

TOM: Well, first of all, Laura, when Consumer Reports gives ratings like "above average" or "below average," it's referring to the repair record of the suspension, not necessarily the quality of the ride.

RAY: You don't tell us what's wrong with the ride, so we're going to assume that you mean the handling is too sloshy.

TOM: Oh, there's goes my brother again with a highly technical automotive term: sloshy!

RAY: Well, what I mean is that the car bounces and leans too much. If that's the case, you may very well need new shocks. If they've never been changed, it's probably time. Take the car to a mechanic you trust and ask him to test the shocks. If they're shot (another technical term), four new ones could make a world of difference.

TOM: New shocks will not only make you more comfortable, Laura, they'll make you safer, too. The primary purpose of shock absorbers is to keep the tires firmly pressed against the road. If your shocks are worn out, the tires can bounce too much when you go over bumps. If your tires are in the air when they should be on the road, it can spell disaster when you suddenly need to swerve or make an emergency stop (you know, for a yard sale or something).

RAY: So, Laura, it's time to stop being a cheapskate. If you thought this Cougar needed shocks from the day you bought it, what are you waiting for? Bounce and slosh down to your mechanic today and get the ball rolling.

Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack Talk Cars c/o King Features Syndicate, 235 East 45th Street, New York, N.Y. 10017.