Dear Tom and Ray:
About a year and a half ago, my dad bought a white '92 Volvo station wagon off Craigslist for $500. I'm turning 16 next spring, and he expects it to be my car. He thinks it's fantastic because it was so cheap, but the car is older than I am, and it's a piece of junk. We went over a speed bump once, and the fan for the air conditioner fell out of the bottom. And I hate to be picky, but it's pretty embarrassing to ride in. I was hoping that you might have a good excuse as to why I shouldn't have to drive it, because my dad loves your show. Thanks so much.
Tom: Gee, Emily, I feel terrible about this. Just awful!
Ray: Yeah. Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of car we recommend that parents buy for their teenagers. Your father probably got the idea from hearing us talk about it. It's safe, it's slow and it's ugly -- the perfect car for a teen!
Tom: Right. It's ugly and embarrassing, so you won't drive it unless you have to. Parts are falling off of it, so you won't be tempted to stray far from home. And it's a tank, so if you do make a mistake (which many teenagers do), you'll have a better chance of surviving it.
Ray: So I'm afraid we're not going to be much help here, Emily.
Tom: Wait. I've got it. Emily, next time you're in the car with your dad, look toward the back and say, "Those back seats fold down, right, Dad?" And when your dad says: "Sure they do. Why?" You say, "Well, with the seats folded down, I bet there's plenty of room for two people to lie down back there." He'll have you in a '92 Volvo sedan by Monday, Emily!
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk Web site.)