Saying Goodbye to Gretel

Sentimental car journey

SG Buckley


Gretel by Wimbledon Common just before the sale

I washed the car and put in premium gas before driving 80 miles to sell her for £250. Note the “her”. Our car isn’t an “it”. Not to us. We’ve had her for 25 years. Her name is Gretel.

Our car still looks great (see photo), has under 93,000 miles and drives beautifully. But we have no choice. London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is expanding and our 1997 car is too old. She’s been branded non-compliant.

Destroying perfectly good cars and having to create new ones doesn’t seem environmentally friendly to me but that’s a story for another day.

I found a good deal on a compliant used car and the dealership promised to auction off Gretel. I couldn’t face scrapping her. The long drive was worth it. It gave me time to reflect on the past 25 years.

Before I left home, I got photos of each of us with the car, including the dog. My family say I’m nuts but they call her Gretel too.

My husband and I bought the car before we married. A used BMW with extremely low mileage. I haggled to get £2,000 off, paying £12,500. It was a huge amount of money for us but a bargain if you average the cost over 25 years.

We didn’t drive her much at first. In London people take public transportation. But with a car we could get out of the city more.

On our first trip to the Lake District my sister-in-law Gillian named her. We wanted something German — in keeping with her heritage — and female. I read once that female cars require fewer repairs than male cars. Go figure.

I was the main driver, for better or for worse. I’m an ok driver but I have a terrible sense of direction.

In the late ’90s when we bought her, we used old fashioned maps, which I found difficult. Reversing directions was particularly challenging. One Christmas my husband put a small toy car that looked like Gretel in my stocking. He called it a “navigational aid”. The idea was that I could run it along the map and turn it around to go home. We called her Gretelina and she’s been in the car ever since.

Gretel was our daughter’s first and only car. We used to strap her in a carseat to rock her to sleep.



SG Buckley

Writer, editor, parent. Former staffer at Quartz, WSJ and Inc. magazine.