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Being old has its own special appeal

It just keeps going. My 15-year-old Toyota 4Runner recently crossed the 340,000-mile threshold and shows no signs of stopping. I realize by writing this it will inevitably die tomorrow.

Some of you out there consider any car with more than 100,000 miles to be “old” or “ready to replace.” Me? I think a car is just getting broken in at that point. You only really get to know a car once it has passed the 100K mark.

That’s when you find out what your car is made of. Any lemon can slog along long enough to see the odometer hit six digits. A decent car might see 150,000. But a good one, the kind you pass down to children, laughs at 200,000 and keeps on rolling.

The 4Runner is not perfect, no car with that many miles is. But it’s been as close to perfect as any vehicle I’ve owned. My son, who is four years from a license, has already claimed it as his. We’ll see. I still plan on being behind the wheel in 2022, and at that point it may have crossed the 400,000-mile mark.

There’s a sense of misplaced pride when someone asks me how many miles it has — as if I am responsible for its longevity. Truth is, I haven’t had to do much to it. A wheel bearing was replaced. A front CV axle was, too. Other than that, I just put gas in it, keep good tires on it and change the oil once in a while.

It turns out, I’m not alone when it comes to high mileage pride. After a little digging on the internet, I discovered clubs for high mileage vehicle owners, and their stories put mine to shame.

There is even a million-mile club, reserved for cars that have hit seven digits and are still on the road. The winner of them all appears to be a 1966 Volvo, which at last count was above 3 million miles. Irvin Gordon bought the car new for $4,150.

Not far behind Gordon is a man from Michigan who has put more than 1 million miles on a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado. A Honda Accord has also crossed the million-mile mark, and a 1996 Dodge truck has hit the number, too. So has a 1989 Saab and an ’83 Lincoln Town Car. I’m sure there are others with the same distinction that didn’t get a party in their honor or their place on a website.

Why do some of these vehicles keep rolling while so many do not? The million-mile club has members from several manufacturers, so it’s not as if one company makes a car that’s far superior to all others. I think it’s the individual driving the car that matters most.

If a car has been on the road for a million miles, the owner has spent his or her fair share of time under the hood — or waiting in the lobby at the repair shop. These people continue to invest in vehicles when the rest of us would cut our losses and move on. Instead of dumping it for a newer model, they just keep sinking cash into it. And they keep driving it. It turns out that doing this is much cheaper than buying a new vehicle every five to six years.

It’s an approach that runs counter to American culture these days. Just about everything is made to be used, abused and thrown out today. We replace things that are not broken. We desire what is new and shiny. We despise things that are old, simply because they are old.

There’s nothing wrong with buying new things; our economy depends on it. But we lose something when we dismiss things that are old for the sake of the new. How many of us have lamented: “They don’t make ’em like they used to.” We could be talking about cars, washing machines or houses.  We long for this fuzzy idea — even if it isn’t 100 percent accurate — of better-made products that lasted a lifetime. We desire things that last, even as we continue to buy things that don’t.

My 4Runner probably won’t see 1 million miles — at least not with me behind the wheel. It would take me another 50 years to hit that number and I don’t think I’ve got 50 years left in me. But maybe some other nostalgic fool will buy it and keep it on the road — or maybe one of my children will keep it running. Maybe they will recognize that this thing once had value and still does. If so, they will understand that being old has its own special kind of appeal; that newer isn’t always better. As someone who gets older every day, I hope more of us begin to understand that.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.