Ford Focus LX – The Drive’s Daily Mileage Champion

How many of you would willingly take a cheap rental vehicle and drive it over 380,000 miles. This owner made it happen.

bySteven Lang| PUBLISHED Mar 2, 2017 10:07 AM
Ford Focus LX – The Drive’s Daily Mileage Champion

Whatever happened to uncluttered and uncomplicated lives?

Gary Smalley had grown tired of the way of the world back in 2003. 

Hate wasn't even the right word for it. He loathed our greed driven society and everything it had become. 

America had become a disturbingly ugly place. The Iraq War. Talk radio, SUVs.  The constant and chronic complaining of right-wing and left-wing politicians and other idiots who seemingly could admit to no wrong, but yet could offer no right.  Gary was done with it. He just wanted to teach band and orchestra to high school students, give those young and beautiful souls an enduring love of music,  and leave the world to its own devices. 

He decided to simplify his life, car first. The 1989 Mercury Grand Marquis he paid $1500 for three years ago was already drooling out fluids, and the car had suffered a series of ill timed repairs. Gary wanted a simple car that was new-ish. A nice, plain, unpretentious small car that could do the job of commuting to the local high school and his little house near the freeway.

So in late 2003, Gary signed on a $10,500 dotted line and bought himself a base model 2001 Ford Focus with 33,677 miles. It was still under a factory warranty, and the local rental car place took pride in attracting a conservative ridership through the crafty use of small town advertising. 

It was as his wife called it, "a good cheap buy for a great cheap guy". The Focus was bare bones, but immaculate. The radio scarfed up Gary's copious collection of cassette tapes, and the roll 'em up windows gave Gary one less concern about something breaking and costing him a small fortune. 

The day he parked the Focus on his driveway, Gary looked at all the splotch marks the Mercury had slobbered on to the pavement and he decided to do something about it. He rented a pressure washer and took back his driveway. The next day he waxed up the Focus while listening to Cartalk.  A show that would define Gary's ownership experience for the next 14 years.

Gary eventually became in charge of devising the core curriculum for the county's band and orchestra classes. However Gary was not much of a pencil pusher. He decided to take an unusual tact when it came to devising what he called, "the boring standards for the beautiful standards". Gary visited every music teacher in his county at least once a year and brainstormed the standards with them. This way, not only would there be ownership, but a relationship that would eventually allow Gary to devise new classes and opportunities for those teachers.

The band and orchestra curriculum slowly gave birth to jazz, guitar, and Gary's favorite music of all, blues. The Focus kept on rolling up the piles. Thanks in great part to one of Gary's former students, Doug Mayer, who decided to open up his own repair shop right down the road from Gary.

What you see here is a testament to ordinary people and ordinary things living up to their potential, Gary Smalley and his 423,476 mile Ford Focus LX.