Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Best Car Ever

No, it was not my first car.  My first car was quite interesting though.  I was sixteen years old when I bought my first car.  I didn't even have my driver's license yet.  I had saved the money from my fast food job to buy myself a car.  I bought a 1971 Chevy Caprice for $300.  This car was so rusted out that during the course of my relatively brief ownership it slowly self-destructed.  The first attempt at suicide was before I could even drive it!  My mother had driven me down to the local park (where I hung out with my hoodlum friends) in my car.  Soon, my friends and I noticed a commotion at the park entrance; police cars, a fire truck... and in the midst of it, MY car!  Seems when mom went over the speed bump, the entire gas tank fell off!  Actually, I think the car had leprosy because after the gas tank thing (which I got fixed), over the course of its miserable life as my car, it lost its muffler in a similar fashion; the radiator developed so many holes that it leaked like a sieve, requiring me to carry around gallon jugs of water in the trunk (and leading to my only bit of automotive knowledge: if you don't have water in the radiator the heater wont work); and the fuel pump also lost its will to live.  After the fuel pump incident I sold the car for scrap metal for $50.

No, my BEST car was the first new car I owned.  Phill and I got it in my second year of law school.  I believe my dad helped with the down payment.  (You see until after graduating law school and becoming a lawyer, I never had much money.  When I started my job as a lawyer in 1992 at $35,000 a year I thought it was a fortune!  It was more than Phill had ever made and more than I thought I would ever earn as a salary). 

The car was a 1990 Mitsubishi Mirage.  Four doors.  Red.  Standard.   I drove it for two years for the 150 mile round-trip commute to law school and then for another six years for the 116 mile round-trip commute to my job (for the first six years that I worked at my job I lived in a different town).  I drove it from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania at least twice, once by myself.  And I know I drove it on some other cross-country trips. 

It had 314,000 miles on it when I sold it.  These facts, truly unbelievable, but absolutely true, tell you what kind of car this little beastie was: The first spark plug change came at 65,000 miles.  The first TIRE change came after 80,000 miles; the original tires were Yokohama's and the tread was still legal when we got new ones!  The clutch (remember it was a standard) NEVER went out in the course of my ownership of the car (even though I was known to engage in down-shifting when driving in town).  The only serious trouble it ever had was the water pump went out and had to be replaced.

And that little car was a sure-footed as a mountain goat when it came to snow and ice!  I don't know that I recall it ever sliding on the ice, even though I drove it through a few blizzards in the course of all those commutes.  I never felt safer or more in control in any car I drove.

One year, when the car was really up there in its mileage, my then bosses decided that instead of giving me a raise that year they would lease me a car.  Once or twice I had driven one or another of them to lunch in it and they worried that it was not going to last long.  Their concerns were unwarranted.  It was just a little car with a little engine and turning on the air-conditioning in traffic would make the little thing shake some, but it was fine.

Now don't get the idea these bosses were just great guys!  I mean, I do think they are great guys, but they had some ulterior motives too.  They insisted that I get the car from a particular local dealership whose business they were trying to court.  I told the guys that they could not lease me a car because I drove too many miles for a lease to make sense (I was still commuting at the time).  They pooh-poohed that notion until they investigated it themselves and learned I was right.  I also told them that my car was fine and I would rather have a raise.  But no, it was a car or nothing.

So they bought me a car, a Toyota Celica, standard, black.  Sporty little car!  Very cute.  But it wasn't my Mitsu.  I further exasperated my bosses by insisting that they calculate the benefit to me of the purchase of the car (they didn't give me title until it was fully paid for some years later) and deduct from my paycheck the taxes that would be due on that "income" to me.  That little episode probably firmly implanted in their minds the notion that I was completely insane but could always be trusted to be honest. 

A few years after I became the full owner of the Toyota I had some difficulty when I was down-shifting on a tricky curve out on one rural highway...after all those years driving a stick shift, I couldn't find my gear and almost stalled!  I decided then that it was time for me to own an automatic and I bought the Nissan Altima that got totaled last year by the hit and run driver. 

My owning my first automatic transmission car ever was a story in itself!  You see, with a standard you CANNOT walk off and leave the car running; it will die when you take your foot off the clutch.  Not the case with an automatic... And that Altima ran very quietly.  At least three times I left my car running in a parking lot for a very long time!  Once while I did my grocery shopping, once while I was at the doctor's office and once for the entire morning while I was at the office!  On each occasion I didn't realize what I had done until I was heading back to my car and couldn't find my keys.  I truly am the absent-minded professor type!

But no car has ever been the car my little red Mitsu was.  I loved that car.  I wish I still had it.  I'm sure it would still be running.  And we bought it largely because we liked the size and convenient location of the ashtray!  LOL!

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