July 9, 2012 at 11:56 AM ET
While buying a new car is a status symbol for many folks, Irvin Gordon takes pride in keeping his old jalopy going. And going … and going.
The Bay Shore, N.Y., retiree expects to hit 3 million miles in his 1966 Volvo P1800S sometime next year. He’s already driven it enough to make 1,200 trips around the globe at the Equator. And he has held a solid lock on the Guinness Book of World Records since 2002 when an entry for High Mileage Vehicle was created for him after passing the 1.6 million mile mark.
“It’s just a car I enjoy driving,” the 72-year-old former teacher told The Associated Press.
Before his retirement Irvin clocked 125 miles a day commuting. But he is an inveterate road-tripper. Before his divorce he would routinely pack up the family and head off to Canada, the Midwest, Texas. Even today, divorced and with his children grown, he continues to pile on the mile traveling alone.
"I have had coffee in every state," said Gordon. "I am my own travel channel."
Irvin said it took him 21 years to reach the first million miles, another 15 to get to 2 million. Now, however, he’s driving more than ever, an estimated 85,000 to 100,000 miles annually as a retiree.
Ironically, he loves to go visit auto shows. But he’s looking, not buying. He said he has no interest in retiring the old Volvo – as a 93-year-old Florida woman did earlier this year when her 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente was put to pasture with 576,000 miles on it.
Actually, Rachel Veitch said she would have kept driving “my lovely chariot,” which is still in fine working order but admitted reaching the point where she was considered legally blind.
"I have taken it in stride," she told a TV news reporter. "I don't have cancer, I don't have Lou Gehrig's disease. I am lucky." The car brought her plenty of notoriety before handing over the keys, including an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2010.
His own health good and still 21 years younger than Veitch it’s anyone’s guess how many more miles Irvin Gordon might keep going. The Long Island man bought the car new on June 30, 1966 for just $4,150 – back then a full year’s salary. He skipped the optional air conditioning but forked over an extra $10 for the new AM/FM radio.
As you might expect, Gordon is rather exacting when it comes to keeping the car running. He does regular oil changes and tune-ups. He still has the original engine – although it has been rebuilt twice. And he doesn’t let anyone else drive the car.
“I have a feeling I’ll be dead long before the car,” he said.
Volvo hasn’t missed the chance to promote the fact that Gordon’s ’66 wagon is still on the road. He has become something of a brand ambassador appearing on behalf of the Swedish maker at a number of auto shows and other events over the years. Driving to them in the old Volvo, of course.
According to industry data, motorists are keeping their cars running longer than ever, reflecting factors such as the weak economy as well as improvements in vehicle quality and reliability. But at 11 years and perhaps 150,000 miles for the average vehicle, Irvin Gordon’s Volvo is anything but typical.
Yet, while his 3 million miles may be a record he is not entirely unique. The Guinness Book has recognized other reliable steeds, including a 27-year-old Land Cruiser owned by Emil and Liliana Schmid which has so far clocked about 650,000 kilometers, or 413,654 miles, as of May, earning it records for the longest travel journey and the most countries visited in a single car -- 172.
The Swiss couple note that over the years they have worn out 138 spark plugs, 54 shock absorbers, 31 batteries and 22 air filters. They’ve also suffered 166 flat tires.
They debated whether to replace the Land Cruiser – once, when it broke down in Borneo – but after finding a mechanic they kept on going.
And as for Irvin Gordon? Might he eventually find the desire, if not the need, to trade in?
“Why would I want to get rid of it?” he says, when asked. “Kind of like a good woman.” Which raises questions about Gordon’s divorce – but says plenty about the Volvo.
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