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Buick Runs--and Runs--in Her Family

November 19, 1998

"Instead of being born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I was born with a Buick in the driveway," says Margie Smith, 75, whose father rose from Buick mechanic to Buick dealer in the late '20s and early '30s.

For Smith, whose father and then her brother ran Smith Buick Sales & Service in Durand, Mich., for more than 40 years, the General Motors marque has always been akin to a family coat of arms.

So it would seem almost inevitable that the Newport Beach resident would stick with Buick when it came time to buy a new car during a visit to Michigan in 1965. Her choice, a Skylark, is still part of her life, 33 years and nearly 340,000 miles after she saw it roll off a trailer and into the family's dealership after the short trek from the Buick plant in Flint, Mich.

And we're not stretching the family angle here. Smith gave her car a party for its 30th birthday in August 1995--catered, no less, with 75 guests on hand--and is already looking ahead to No. 35 in 2000. She also feted the Skylark when it reached 200,000 and 300,000 miles.

The coupe was once Smith's daily driver on her 95-mile round trip between home and Citrus College in Glendora, where she taught physical education and health until 1983. She racked up a fair chunk of the car's lifetime mileage during a meandering 17,000-mile cross-country trip, 21-foot travel trailer in tow, in 1968.

Smith's Skylark boasts its original power plant and has had no major engine work, she says. It has had two paint jobs, sports new upholstery and "parts-wise is still authentic," she says. The Skylark has also acquired a new black roof since its 30th birthday snapshot (shown above).

Besides throwing it the occasional party, how has Smith babied the car through so many years and miles? Try the by-now de rigueur TLC regimen of oil and lube every 3,000 to 5,000 miles--certainly one sure way to keep a car and its engine on speaking terms for more than three decades. There are other cars these days in Smith's household, but she still makes sure to get the Skylark out on the road at least once a week to keep it in running order.

Dad would be proud to know that Smith's loyalty extends not just to Buick and his choice of engine lubricant--Smith Buick was a Pennzoil-only kind of place, and Pennzoil sends a rep to the Skylark's birthday bashes, she says--but to choice of auto shop as well. The Skylark has known no mechanics other than those at Mesa Automotive, a multi-generation family business, in Costa Mesa.

But getting back to that other family enterprise in Durand: "Since it was the family business," Smith says, her Buick "has tremendous nostalgic value."

"It'll go with me to the grave,' she quips, "though I won't be buried with it."

* Your Car Here

Tender Loving Car features Southern California vehicles--daily drivers rather than show or collector cars--that have been kept in great shape by their owners. You may nominate yourself and your car, truck or motorcycle for this feature by sending a color photo of the vehicle, along with a brief description (200 words or less), how long you've owned it, what you do to keep it in great shape and how you use it: Daily commuting? Weekend outings? Only on Friday night dates? Write to Highway 1, Business Section, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053.

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