- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

In the spring of 1969 Jeanie Hughes graduated from the University of Maryland and immediately found employment with NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.
She was to start work on June 16 but she had no car. That's when her mother, Gertrude, saved the day by loaning her daughter her 1968 Plymouth Satellite two-door hardtop. The car was one day shy of 10 months old the Monday when Mrs. Hughes drove it to her first day on the job.
Her mother, the principal of Seabrook Elementary School in College Park, had purchased the Plymouth because she was uncomfortable in the heat of the summer of 1968. Her 1963 Plymouth Valiant was not air conditioned. On Aug. 17, 1968, she went to Bob Banning Plymouth in Hyattsville and traded her black, hot Valiant for a new air conditioned mist green Satellite.
The new Plymouth came with vinyl trim bench seats, a 318-cubic-inch V-8 engine with a two-barrel carburetor. The well-appointed car also had a torqueflite automatic transmission, a signal-seeking AM radio, power steering, tinted windshield, a heater and deluxe 14-inch wheel covers.
She was allowed $815 on her 5-year-old Valiant and, when the transaction dust had settled, she owned $2,893.88.
Mrs. Hughes soon got a car of her own and her mother continued to drive her Satellite sparingly until 1990 when it needed either a mechanical freshening up or to be replaced. "My mother preferred the Satellite to a new car," Mrs. Hughes explains, "so we arranged to have it restored mechanically."
Her mother continued to enjoy her once more roadworthy Plymouth until her death in 1993.
The 230-horsepower engine is reasonably economical and powerful enough to easily move the 3,070-pound car.
Eventually, Mrs. Hughes inherited the 25-year-old Plymouth. "I like the simplicity," she says. Research shows that 46,539 such models were manufactured in that model year. The two-door hardtop was by far the most popular Satellite model. It rides on a 116-inch wheelbase.
By the winter of 1995 Mrs. Hughes began thinking that mechanically the car was in superb condition and cosmetically it wasn't terrible. Therefore, the decision was made to restore her mother's car.
First things first, however. She had a garage built so the soon-to-be restored car would have a home to come home to.
With the odometer reading 77,090 miles the Plymouth was sent off to be rejuvenated.
The accumulated dings and dents of a quarter century were erased, both bumpers were replated and the rusted out trunk floor pan was replaced. The two-tone green vinyl upholstery was replaced, although Mrs. Hughes adds, "I think I liked the faded original vinyl better." Finally, the same mist green color paint as the original was applied.
By 1996, with the restoration complete, the car was driven home on new radial tires. "It scoots along on the highway," Mrs. Hughes says.
While seated behind the familiar three-spoke steering wheel and the 120 mph speedometer, Mrs. Hughes says she likes the wing vent windows open despite the fact her mother preferred air conditioning.
The like-new Plymouth Satellite now ventures out only on sunny days for purely pleasure, combined with maintenance, drives. "If you don't drive them," Mrs. Hughes' husband, Dave Riddle, says, "you're buying trouble." Year round he tries to drive the Plymouth but during weather such as what the area recently endured, he says, "I start it every three to four weeks."
The odometer now has registered 78,549 miles, or an average of almost 2,250 miles a year.
"On September 30, 1998, my last day working for NASA, I drove the 1968 Plymouth Satellite," Mrs. Hughes says. She is amused by the fact she was driving a car named Satellite to work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
It was the same car she drove on her first day of work 29 years before.

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