Margaret Dunning, at 102, still changes her own oil

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Changing oil

Some people can't be bothered to change their own oil, but 102-year-old Margaret Dunning has been doing it for longer than most people will live. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Margaret Dunning, a 102-year-old retiree and philanthropist from Michigan, is an extraordinary woman. Not only does she do her own car repair, she’s managed to keep a 1930 Packard Roadster running since 1949.

Margaret Dunning puts a lot of people to shame

How many people don’t do their own car repair or maintenance? Most of it is pretty easy. If you can use a screw driver, you can do most car repair, to be honest. Most of the difficulty is covered under  “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.”

Still, a fair number of people have never labored under their own hoods or even changed their own tires. Some people might cop to being “busy” or some kind of excuse involving their children, but it’s all weak. Besides, holding the flashlight builds character.

Excuses become even weaker when confronted with the example of Margaret Dunning. Dunning, according to Today, 102 years of age, still does a fair bit her own car maintenance and through her diligent turns of the wrench, has kept a 1930 Packard 740 Roadster in good running order after having the car  restored. In 1949. One imagines auto loans in Michigan were probably pretty reasonable back then.

Gigantic gearhead

Margaret Dunning grew up on a farm on the outskirts of Detroit, receiving her driver’s license at the age of 12. Her first car was a Ford Model T and Henry Ford happened to be one of her neighbors.

Dunning, according to a 2011 article in the New York Times, still changes her oil, though she relies  on a small team of people for heavier work. Her Packard 740, part of Packard’s Custom Eight line from that era, is just one of her stable of classics; she also has  a 1931 Ford Model A, a 1966 Cadillac DeVille and a 1975 Cadillac El Dorado convertible and a 2003 Cadillac DeVille as a daily driver.

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The pride of her collection, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, is the Packard, which had to be reupholstered at least four times and given 22 coats of lacquer by hand in its restoration. Further bragging rights of holding the keys to the first car to get a perfect score from the Classic Car Club of America. She had a long and successful career in banking and finance, donating millions to various philanthropies and founding the town library in Plymouth, Mich., where she resides. She’s even got her own page on Wikipedia.

More people doing it these days

It’s not as if Margaret Dunning is alone in changing her own oil. MSN reported earlier this year that a survey by Kelton Research, polling people on behalf of auto parts firm Honeywell, found 51 percent of respondents were doing bare-minimum maintenance, like oil changes on their car. Perhaps there is hope for the future.


NBC News

New York Times

Akron Beacon Journal

Margaret Dunning on Wikipedia:


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