Back when I was a kid, my mother drove a red four-door ’89 Saab 900. It had a long hood that led to a nearly vertical windshield, and to me the metal can of a car looked exactly like the front end of an airplane’s fuselage. It didn’t fly when I opened all the doors, and as a car it was a less than perfect machine—one time, my mother was well out of the Bread & Circus parking lot before she realized she was driving off in somebody else’s red Saab 900—but to my brother and me its shape was burned in our minds as what a car looks like.

A few years ago, my brother bought his first car—a two-door ’89 Saab 900—his a sort of gun-metal gray that changes to blues and blacks depending on the season’s sun. He starts it with a screwdriver in the ignition, and the floorboard’s been growing a hole on the driver’s side since last winter. His girlfriend won’t ride in it, and the suspension rumbles so loud that we’ve considered wiring aircraft headsets into the radio so we can better communicate our thoughts on whatever Jonathan Richman song happens to be playing at any moment. It is, evidently, a less than perfect car. But it is the car, and some primordial instinct keeps him pouring cash into keeping his magnificent machine running.