On a beautiful summer day about a year ago, senior Elise Hussa was ecstatic. The Castleton junior just bought her first car – a boxy 1991 Chrysler Labaron with blue velvet seats – for $700.
While traveling 15 miles and less than 20 minutes to her boyfriend’s house in Sparta, N.J a rock flew up, hit the windshield and cracked it. Then it started to downpour and Hussa realized her windshield wipers didn’t work.
But despite those early hardships, she can’t say enough about her bond with that old car.
“I love my car. Her name is Nancy. It is one of a kind, you don’t see it very often,” Hussa said. “It was a great car for college. If it dies when I graduate, it was only $700. Well worth it.”
To some students at Castleton College, their cars have become a friend, like “Nancy.” To others like freshman Cam Dodge, however, their beat-up cars are just a form of transportation.
Cars can be special for those like Seldon Hill and Corey Alberico. But they can also be a nuisance, like for recent grad Molly DeMellier.
Although Jeeps tend to be gas guzzlers, junior Sara Novenstern said she just loves taking her Jeep, named “Cherry Popper,” out for road trips.
“Poseidon (her fish) joins me, and keeps me company on my drives,” she said “He is a very worldly fish.”
Novenstern, a photographer for The Spartan, also enjoys taking pictures of her Jeep and “doing stupid Jeep things.” “I like puddles, mud, and snow,” she said.
Although she’s not crazy about the cherry red color, the guy who sold her “Cherry Popper” gave the interior a bit of a makeover.
“There is an awesome sound system, so I can play my music, and there are lots of other cool features that I don’t even know about,” she said. “It was a great price with some fancy features. Jeep gang for life.”
Some students are fortunate enough to have hand-me-downs from older siblings or grandparents. Some receive a car as a gift on Christmas, graduation or their “sweet 16.” One student even won his car.
As a senior in high school Seldon Hill mailed in his report card to the Burlington Subaru and Hyundai dealership in exchange for tickets that would go into a raffle for the Drive for Excellence contest.
For every A on a student’s report card, they got two tickets. For every B, they got one.
Out of more than a thousand tickets, Hill’s was chosen and he got a letter in the mail stating that he was a finalist and was given a date to attend the raffle along with 74 other randomly chosen finalists. Hill was given 25 tickets in the raffle and was competing against other finalists, each holding a different number of tickets.
“I held my strip of tickets up and as each number was revealed my winning ticket was the last ticket to the right, the end,” he said.
He won, and shortly after getting his 2013 Subaru Impreza, he started improving it. He added a JVC head unit stereo with a 1000-watt Kenwood amplifier and a 12-inch Kenwood subwoofer. A red LED under glow light system in the interior was the next upgrade and four black Rally Armor mud flaps were next.
“My car is special to me, knowing that four years of working hard in school got me this car,” Hill said.
Corey Alberico also has a 2013 Subaru Impreza, but his came from working for a construction company doing demolition projects in Massachusetts for $14 an hour a minimum of 40 hours a week.
Alberico started out driving a 2006 Chevy Avalanche, but after a couple years of an empty wallet thanks to the 30-gallon gas tank, it was time for a vehicle with better gas mileage.
Alberico has since installed an access port, a rally innovation light bar kit, Hella brand lights, Rally Armor mud flaps, Hella brand super tone horns, a SPT exhaust system, and an Invidia down pipe.
Alberico’s Subaru can easily be recognized by the giant “Subieflow” sticker pasted on its front windshield.
“I love my car, especially because it goes fast,” said Alberico. “But it is special to me. It is all-wheel drive, which makes for excitement in the snow because it makes doughnuts much for fun.”
But new cars on campus are pretty rare.
Freshman Cam Dodge bought his 2000 Honda Civic off of Craigslist for $2,000 his junior year of high school.
“It’s all right. I dirty it up and trash it sometimes, but it gets me places. We have a love/hate relationship,” Dodge said.
The back bumper is held on by eight zip ties, and the air conditioning doesn’t work, so summers can be a struggle. It is also easily recognizable by the massive dent in the driver side door.
Last summer, Dodge was driving through his small town in Northern Vermont when a cow pasture fence broke and one cow escaped. While driving cautiously through the herd of cows that ran loose, one cow came too close to Dodge’s car and kicked the driver side door, leaving the hefty dent.
At the end of last semester, senior Molly DeMellier said she was looking to sell her car after graduation in December. “Chevy” the Chevy was given to her during senior year of high school after her sister refused to drive the “Purple People Eater,” as DeMellier calls it. The 2006 two-door Chevy Cobalt, she said, is getting to the end of its life.
The “Purple People Eater” or “Chevy” was well known at the Norwich, N.Y. high school where the school color was purple.
“We were the purple tornados. I owned purple pride Friday,” she said.
“I wish it was a different color, with more doors. There are no power locks or power windows,” DeMellier said. “But I definitely have a strong left arm from rolling the window down so much.”
DeMellier has had quite a few adventures with “Chevy.”
Last winter, she discovered her battery was in the trunk. After her car died, she spent two hours on a cold winter’s night with the tow truck guy. “The tow guy of course wouldn’t listen to the 21-year-old girl suggesting we check the trunk.”
But knowing where the battery was would later come in handy. DeMellier would frequently have to retrieve the jumper pack from Public Safety and jump her car every time she wanted to drive.
“I would jump my car, then run my errands and jump it again. After digging around in my trunk and jumping my car in the Shaw’s parking lot in Fair Haven, I received a lot of strange looks,” she said with a laugh.
A strange cricket noise recently began to add to the personality of the car, DeMellier said. “I drive around with Jiminy Cricket now.”
DeMellier said she had a good run with her car, but she’s ready to see it go as she heads off to graduate school in New York to trade her license with a subway pass.
“I can’t wait,” DeMellier said. “Subways aren’t purple.”