Saturday, November 13, 2010
ELLENSBURG -- Americans love their cars. We love them so much, we dump them on average after just 5-years so we can fall in love all over again with a new one.
There's something wrong with that thinking, according to the man you're about to meet. In fact, if what you're driving is a good car, why get rid of it… ever!
At a time when all of us are pinching pennies, Lee Bates is an engineer with lesson in economics.
Multimedia Watch The Video "It took 2700 hours and four and a half years." Lee Bates is talking about the airplane he built by hand.
For a lot of us, acting on our true passion comes later in life… when time is something we have to spare.
Lee Bates found his.
"What this is is a big airplane model. I just love airplanes."
Lee spent 45 years building airplanes for other people. He was on the original engineering team that rolled out the first Boeing 747 back in 1968.
It was shortly before than that he saw an ad on TV for a Mercury Cougar.
Lee did his research…
"It was rated #1 by Motor Trend magazine in 1967."
…and so he bought one.
Lee; :41 "I wanted to get a car I could keep for the rest of my life."
People say that all the time… they rarely mean it. But car buyers like Lee are very rare.
A lot has changed since Lee bought the car. But this fact has not… Lee's 1967 Mercury Cougar is still his car.
"I drive it everyday for 43 years and it's got 718,000 miles on it."
That's right, Lee Bates' plane can fly him to the west side and back, but his car has taken him a distance equal to a trip from the Earth to the moon and back… then to the moon again.
Not only did Lee Bates have the foresight to try and find a car that he was going to keep for awhile, but he also picked up a few lifetime warranties in the process. For example, over the last 43 years and 718,000 miles Lee has never paid for a battery. He's never paid for a muffler. In fact he's never even paid for a brake pad. And as you can imagine, all of the businesses that have been paying for Lee's parts, don't exactly consider him their best customer.
After 9 free mufflers at one shop, Lee was kindly asked not to come back. For most however, a guarantee is a guarantee and they're happy to honor it. Lee recently got another free power steering control system from this Yakima NAPA auto parts store.
Jesse Montes De Oca works for the local NAPA store.
; "They keep their receipts and they want to make sure that they get it. If it goes bad, they'll get it."
As you've probably guessed already, Lee has every receipt he ever got for a part.
"I'm proud of the fact that I'm a cheapskate. But my wife calls me frugal. Actually I think I'm a cheapskate."
And he wears the title like a crown.
Most people in town know Lee's car. It is a bit of a celebrity here... even if its driver is not.
"These college girls were smiling and I thought well, maybe the old boy still has it. And they come up and say, nice car. So it kinda deflated me."
The car is well cared for, impeccably maintained, and driven everyday. For Lee Bates, this has never been about running up the miles, breaking records or showing off. It's about proving to anyone who will listen, that in the best or worst of economic times, that old car of yours just might have a few hundred thousand extra miles left in it.
"When I die it'll probably be donated to a museum."
Lee Bates says Ford has told him he has set the world record for mileage on a Mercury Cougar… by a couple hundred thousand miles in fact. We crunched a few numbers to put Lee's time with that Cougar in perspective.
Given what he paid for the car, 43 years ago, owning it has cost him about $4 a month. He puts about 16-thousand miles on the car each year. At that rate, lee will have put one million miles on the car if he's still driving it in 17 years.
Posted by Donald Robichaud at 9:59 PM