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AS LONG AS YOU HAVE PRIZE CAR, TAKE IT FOR AN OCCASIONAL SPIN

Dear Tom and Ray: I have recently acquired one of my favorite cars, a 1977 Cutlass Supreme. This car has 17,000 actual miles, has always been kept in a garage, and needless to say, is in perfect condition. It is currently appraised at $5,000. My question is, will the value of this car significantly increase enough to justify storage/ non-use of the car, or should I just use it (it's truly a pleasure) and not worry how the mileage will reduce its value. - Jim

TOM: You should drive it, Jim. I don't believe in saving stuff. You could spend years carefully protecting it and nursing it in your darkened garage, and then you could die without ever having enjoyed it. How happy would you be then?

RAY: He wouldn't be happy. He'd be dead!

TOM: You say that this car is a pleasure to drive and you obviously think it's one of the greatest cars ever built. Well, since you are one of a very limited number of people on the planet who feel that way, it may never be worth as much in monetary terms as it is to you when you're behind the wheel with that smug grin on your face.

RAY: Besides, the car will probably be in better shape if you do drive it and don't let parts seize up and dry out. So if you're really planning to keep it in "collectible" condition on the hope that it will increase in value, then drive it judiciously, and leave it home when it snows, or when my brother is on the roads. But I wouldn't just let it sit in the garage, Jim. Get out there and live it up.

Dear Tom and Ray: I have been taking my '78 VW Scirocco to those instant-oil-change places for years. Maybe that's why I have 126,000 miles on it and it still runs great. Lately, these instant-oil-change places have increased the number of services they offer. They now check your air filter, transmission fluid, etc. Every time I bring my car to this one place, they show me a drop of black colored liquid (it looks and feels like engine oil) which they tell me is my transmission fluid. They say it's black and dirty because it hasn't been changed in a while and ought to be (for about $20). Should I change my transmission fluid? And if so, how often? - Malcolm

RAY: I think you should change it, Malcolm. And if it were my car, I'd change it every 30,000 miles or so.

TOM: Manufacturers recommend a variety of intervals, ranging from 30,000 miles to never (actually, the recommendation is "never or when the transmission dies, whichever comes first"). But if you want to keep your car forever, you should change the transmission fluid regularly.

RAY: There are two good reasons to change it. First, all oils simply break down over time.

Second, during the life of the car, little fragments of the transmission get broken off due to wear and tear. And it's good to get them out of there so they don't float around and cause damage to other parts of the transmission.

TOM: What will be interesting is to see what happens AFTER you change it. The next time you go to that oil-change place, will they still come over with a drop of black colored liquid and tell you your transmission fluid needs to be changed?

RAY: If they do, we'll know this is all a ruse, and that black oily stuff didn't come from your car but actually from the juice bar at the health-food store down the street.