Rolling Back The Odometer

I told in an earlier story about working during my senior year of high school at an Auto Dealership. I was in the Distributive Education Program, allowing me to spend the afternoon actually working on a job where I made money, instead of sitting in a classroom wasting my time. At least that’s the way it felt.

For my job I moved cars around from place to place, cleaned up cars, took out the trash and vacuumed the floors in the offices. I did pretty much anything that was needed to be done. I even drove cars around town to keep the battery charged up.

My most important job was rolling back odometers. That was a common practice in those days. If a car was traded for and the miles were too high, it was worth a lot more if the miles were lower. So when directed, I’d pull the car around back, tear the dash apart, roll the odometer back few thousand miles and put it all back together. An hour or two could add a few hundred dollars on some cars, less on others. Just about all car dealers did it. It wasn’t even against the law.

In another story I told about buying Madeline a new 72 Dodge Demon. (That was a real learning experience – I need to tell you that story one day)

In those days the typical manufacturers warranty was One Year or 12,000 miles. I didn’t take but a few months to reach 12,000 miles. Gasoline was less than $.50 per gallon, so driving was something we seldom even thought about. We hit the road often.

We were living in Oakhill in a rented mobile home. I came in one afternoon and Madeline told me I needed to look at her car. The alternator light was on. I checked it and it appeared that we needed a new alternator. I looked at the miles, it was a few hundred miles over 12,000. An alternator was going to cost over a hundred dollars. We weren’t just rolling in extra cash. We had rent, a car payment and fire alarms to pay for. (The fire alarms are a whole other story, that I need to tell you one day)

I hadn’t rolled back an odometer since my high school days. Within a few minutes I had the dash torn apart and had the speedometer panel out and parts scattered out all over the dining room table. I was fully capable of multi-tasking, even before that word had been invented, I think. I was watching the 6:00 o’clock newscast while meticulously taking the panel apart.

The lead story on the news that night was the passing of a new law in the state of Texas. The penalty for rolling back odometers was going to be a harsh fine and possible jail time. I looked at Madeline and she was already looking at me.

That was enough of an omen for me to put the dash back together and go buy an alternator. I retired from the odometer rollback business that night.

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