Lights, Camera... and a Car Donation Story!

Every car has a story to tell -- but, some have Hollywood aspirations!

Here's a donation story we simply had to share. Andy Norton's Honda Accord has led a few lives. It was a test car for
Consumer Reports, had a brush with TV's The People’s Court, served as an animal rescue mobile...had a grand finale funding Car Talk and All Things Considered on WPSU!

Check out the full story, below. As far as we’re concerned, this could be a box office hit.

Andy, thanks for supporting your local NPR station!

Catherine “Frau Blücher” Fenollosa
Vehicle Donation Storyteller


Andy, we want to know: who got to pick out the new car: you, Bella, Bennett or Jennifer?

Dear Car Talk Vehicle Donation Folks,

My wife, Jennifer, and I bought our 1998 Honda Accord EX in June of that year from my then-employer, Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports. The car began its journey some nine months earlier as a test vehicle for the magazine, and in that role completed a regimen that included measures of acceleration, braking, cornering, fuel economy, road manners, and a bumper’s ability to withstand slow-speed bashes by a hydraulic ram. Our Accord did very well in these trials: It was the runner-up – to VW’s Passat – of four family sedans rated in the February 1998 issue of the magazine, which also included reviews of pet food and roses, and an exposé on head lice.

That wasn’t the Accord’s last time in the spotlight, however. Consumer Reports borrowed it several months later for its tests of child car seats, and in 2000, after I left Consumers Union and Jennifer and I moved to central Pennsylvania, it earned us invitations from Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown and whoever followed Judge Wapner to the bench at The People’s Court.

That fall, while Jennifer was visiting a friend in Columbus, Ohio, and the Accord was parked serenely on a residential street, a college kid’s errant football pass smashed its windshield. When the kid refused to pay for its replacement, we threatened to take him to court. The public-record filing of that threat caught the attention of those shows’ producers, who practically begged us to skewer the kid in their faux courtrooms. We declined and the kid eventually ponied up, no doubt launching a career as a claims adjuster.

After that, we and the Accord settled into life here in State College, joined by our now 10-year-old son, Bennett, and Bella, our rescue dog of indeterminate age. By the time we donated the Accord through Car Talk’s Vehicle Donation Program in August, it had logged more than 208,000 miles, gone through five sets of tires, half a dozen air filters, three batteries, at least 40 oil changes, and the aforementioned windshield. Its weathered Mystic Blue Pearl finish bore the scuffs and dings of many more wayward passes and pitches, and most of the cabin and dashboard lights were out – save for the insistent “Check Engine” near the speedometer. That shone ominously, but without apparent reason, since 2006.

Andy: This explains the claw marks on the shifter. Bella's a chauffeur, too?

Still, it was a hard decision to part with our Accord, even when its floor turned to swamp with every precipitation event, and its leaky seals stippled our driveway with oil. (It was, after all, the car that brought baby Bennett home from the hospital and the mutt-ish Bella home from the shelter.) We’re heartened, though, that she’s going out as she came in, performing a public good, and we’re grateful to NPR and Car Talk for converting her creaking old frame into funds that will ensure she lives on through programming on our local public-radio station, WPSU.

Listening to shows like Car Talk, A Prairie Home Companion, All Things Considered and others, and knowing our donation helps WPSU to continue its great programming, will keep the Accord in our thoughts long after the oil stains fade and my shoes dry out.

Andy, Jennifer, Bennett and Bella (the dog) Norton
State College, PA

What's your car's story? If you're donating your car through the Car Talk Vehicle Donation Program, email us!