Why does Mr. Shiftlet want to fix Mrs. Crater's automobile?
One of the first things Mr. Shiftlet sees when he comes on Mrs. Crater's property is the "1928 or '29 Ford" automobile in a shed. Later, he tells Mrs. Crater he can fix the car and asks her for money for a new fan belt. Soon enough, he shows up with the belt and some gasoline and has the car running the same afternoon. As his name suggests, Mr. Shiftlet is a drifter. He tells Mrs. Crater that he has traveled extensively, and "visited every foreign land." He shifts from place to place and he most certainly sees the car as a chance to continue his drifting. When Mrs. Crater suggests that a man has everything he would need on her property, including her daughter, Lucynell, Mr. Shiftlet identifies one of his philosophies of life:
"Lady, a man is divided into two parts, body and spirit."—
"A body and a spirit," he repeated. "The body, lady, is like a house: it don't go anywhere; but the spirit, lady, is like a automobile: always on the move, always..."
He agrees to marry Lucynell and, once he has a chance to take the car off the property, dumps the girl at a roadside diner and steals the car along with the money Mrs. Crater had given him. Fixing the car provided Mr. Shiftlet the opportunity to continue his drifting lifestyle. In the last line he is reported to be on his way to Mobile, Alabama.