I’m sure the last thing you’d probably expect to see me do is waste a blog post talking about some of the cars I’ve owned over the years. But, I’m very nostalgic (as most of you already know) and considering that it’s been more than a quarter century since I really came into my own as a solo driver, I decided to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about two of the first automobiles that got me around on the highways and byways of this land that I love.
After you first receive your official drivers license, one of the coolest things you can do is go used-car shopping with your parents. There are aisles and aisles of horsepower as far as the eye can see, and having a say as to what car you’ll be showing off at school is one of the most important social decisions any new conqueror of the K-turn can have.
My very first car was a gray 1973 Toyota Corona wagon that my Mom purchased for $500 (along with some money I had made from working at McDonalds). It was 1986 and truth be told, I didn’t even care what kind of engine was under the hood. Four? Six? Eight cylinders? None of that nonsense even mattered to me. For all I knew, it could’ve had hamsters running in those wheel thingies for power (and if you must know, sometimes the car really did seem to drive that way).
As new drivers often do, I drove my gray Corona everywhere. Always looking for any excuse or opportunity to take it on some errand, whether up the street or across town. And considering that gasoline was around .89 cents a gallon at the time, it only made sense. Yes sir, once I became legal walking and bicycle riding went the same route as the dinosaur as far as I was concerned.
I still remember the very first day I drove it to school too. With my trusty neighbor Mike riding shotgun, we drove the back roads of Easton in the early morning sunshine. Windows down and the radio blasting Ozzy, we slowly made our way into the upper parking lot of Easton High School.
Once parked, we gathered our brown paper bag covered text books and made our way inside, making sure to give a salute to the poor unfortunates who had just arrived via the dingy, yellow school bus. It was the least I could do to let them know I still cared a bit for their plight.
Sadly, my beloved Corona began to deteriorate over the course of the school year. In December, the headlights just stopped working for no apparent reason. The following March, the right front fender began rusting off and peeling away. Fortunately for me, duct tape was the same color as my car and worked well to hold things together, but rust eventually would become my Corona’s worst enemy. At one point, the passenger side door would not open at all and in order to get in you literally had to pull a “Dukes of Hazzard” and climb through the window.
Shortly before graduation, the poor Toyota was involved in a wreck (would you believe I was turning into on coming traffic and someone just hit me?) Sadly, it was time to say good-bye to my beloved friend.
But that was when fate stepped in.
Because around that same time, my Aunt sold her well maintained 1974 Ford Torino to my brother. Bro had been driving the car for a few months, but started moving on to Mach 1 Mustangs and pick-up trucks. In a true example of brotherly love, he entrusted his beloved Torino into my care.
I was so in love with this car that I even had my picture taken next to it right before I went to attend graduation and get my HS diploma.
This car provided me quality transportation for many months post high school; being my trusty steed on youthful excursions to the mall and spending late nights parked at the Starlite Drive-Inn watching movies.
But one evening, while coming home from the mall with a bunch of friends disaster struck. I remember we were driving on the highway, just a few miles from home when I heard this blaringly loud “pop” and the engine light came on. The car was slowing down rapidly, and it felt as though I had just run over some huge piece of metal. I was fortunate to get the car off of the busy highway and onto the shoulder just as the engine completely shut off and would not re-fire. All of the love I once had for this car immediately turned into rage.
A day later, after the Torino had been towed back to the house, my brother freaked out on me. He just couldn’t understand how his well maintained 14 year old car had suddenly blown up without warning. He did some quick checking of things under the hood and then asked me the one question that to this day I still don’t have a proper answer for:
“WHY DIDN’T YOU EVER CHECK THE OIL??”
Oil? OIL? I had driven the car for months and months and honestly, the thought of checking the oil level had never occurred to me. In my defense though, this was 1988 and you would think technology had developed enough to at the very least have a warning light come on to alert me that the engine was almost out of oil. But it wasn’t meant to be. Not a drop of oil was found in the engine and it had seized; blowing a piston into the crankshaft and destroying it completely. The car was dead.
The formerly “well-maintained” Ford Torino would now sit in silence on the hill outside of our home until I could afford the $300 to put a replacement engine into it. But even with the engine replaced, the Torino never ran quite the same again and, much like it’s predecessor, eventually went to junk car heaven.
I thought of this story again today (in November of 2013) when the “Maintenance” light came on my 2012 Toyota Corolla. Needless to say, I have a 15,000 mile appointment tomorrow morning.
I’m taking no chances.