The purpose of this post is not to debate the merits of Cash for Clunkers (remember: politics-free zone, please) but to give us an opportunity to reminisce about the Clunkers we have all loved or hated over the years. Most of us are passionate about our cars. We name them. We talk to them. We bond with them. We decorate them. We claim them as dependents on our tax returns. And then inevitable day comes and we have to either sell them or kill them, like CBS had to do with Dan Rather.
So today I’m going to share with you the memories of the clunkers that have come and gone throughout my life. I’m sure most of you have some fond memories of certain cars in your past as well, so please post a comment to share the joy with the rest of us. Here are my stories:
1982 Toyota Celica Supra
Year Adopted: 1991
Nickname: The Thunderbolt
My first car. I inherited her as a 16-year-old and I will love The Thunderbolt for the rest of my life. Though it was 10+ years old, the ‘Bolt was in good condition and lightning fast. It had a fifth gear that we called “The Police Gear” that could be used to outrun the fuzz like dropping the Millennium Falcon into hyperspace. Two passengers could squeeze uncomfortably into the back seat and I used to drive three of my high school basketball teammates to our games. We would crank L.L. Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” and look as intimidating as four tall, skinny, white, tattoo-less Mormon Priests could as we rolled to our basketball games.
The ‘Bolt gave me freedom. Freedom to go places. Freedom to hang out at my friends’ houses. Freedom to just drive aimlessly while listening to Depeche Mode as I sorted out the drama and angst of youth. I love The Thunderbolt. May she rest in peace.
1994 Jeep Wrangler
Year Adopted: 1996
Nickname: The Chick Magnet
My brother is fourteen months younger than I am and we shared The Thunderbolt in high school. As soon as I left for Ricks College my folks sold the ‘Bolt and bought a new, beautiful black Jeep Wrangler. Naturally I was livid at the injustice as I trudged to my classes on foot at Ricks while imagining my little bro picking up chicks in his new Wrangler. But when I returned home from my mission my little bro was still preaching in Bolivia, so I had the Wrangler all to myself for a year.
My favorite memory in the Wrangler happened two weeks after returning home from my mission. It was a warm summer day and the top and doors were off the Jeep. I was drinking a milkshake and listening to Smashing Pumpkins as the wind rushed through my hair. In a sudden moment of clarity I said to myself, “Dude! I’m HOME from my MISSION!” I left the post-missionary nerd mode behind as I cruised down 35th South, oogling at all of the girls who were no longer off limits. But no matter how fondly I remember my year with the Wrangler, I always felt like her heart belonged to my little brother, almost like I was dating a girl he had previously dumped or something.
1991 Geo Prism
Year Adopted: 1997
The NMW and I were married in 1997 and she brought the Prism into our marriage. I also wanted seven pigs, three sheep and twelve head of cattle as part of the marriage arrangement, but my in-laws weren’t cool with that. I never really bonded with the Prism, but the NMW and I bonded with each other as we drove it repeatedly from Provo to her home in Winslow, AZ. We drove the Prism for the first two years of our marriage – car payment free - until the transmission seized on I-15 just past point of the mountain. I only have vague memories of the Prism, like Cheech and Chong probably remember the eighties.
1997 Kia Sephia
Year Adopted: 1999
The Kia is important in my auto history because it was the first car I ever purchased and was responsible for paying off. The NMW and I were recently married and still living the student life, so the $110/month payment seemed like a billion dollars at the time. The Kia was cheap and under warranty so we bought it. The bad omens started almost immediately as our mailbox was inundated with recall notices for issues with the brakes, windshield wipers, CV boots, and the need to exercise demonic spirits that possessed the transmission. We drove the Kia for six years while living in constant fear that it would one day spontaneously burst into a ball of flames and kill us all. I never liked or trusted that car, and it hated me too.
1985 Ford Escort
Nickname: The Poop-Scort
Year Adopted: 1999
Back when we were partying like it was 1999 – because it was 1999 – the NMW and I only had the Kia to get to important places in Provo/Orem like school, work, church, Movies 8 and the Nickelcade. The opportunity of buying a co-worker’s old but running Ford Escort for $1,000 cash was impossible to refuse, like trying to bypass an $.89 chicken burrito at Taco Bell. The Escort was old but had fewer than 100,000 miles with a nice interior. While the battery mysteriously died more frequently than Itchy and/or Scratchy, the ‘Scort got me around town for four solid years.
My favorite ‘Scort memory happened while I was interning in Las Vegas during summer break of my MBA classes in 2002. I was trying desperately to impress the General Manager of our business unit so I could get a job after graduating. My chance to shine happened one day when the GM had to take an emergency flight and asked if I could take him to the airport – in my car. At this point the driver’s side door no longer opened and the A/C was broken, which is a only a minor inconvenience in Las Vegas in July when the temperature reaches 184 degrees on a cool day. As the GM followed me to my car I opened the passenger door, slid my 6’6” body across the gear shift, rolled down the windows, and pretended that nothing was out of the ordinary as we roasted all the way to the airport. In an unrelated story, I was not hired to work for that business unit after I graduated. The ‘Scort was a great investment and it pained me to see her go to that giant scrap heap in the sky.
2002 Honda AccordNickname: Sally
Year Adopted: 2004
Yes, I drive a car named Sally. The kids named her after the Porsche in Cars because they are both silver. The NMW and I met Sally back when she was the display vehicle with a ridiculously low price to attract customers who could then be baited-and-switched to a fancier model. You see, Sally has no power windows, no power doors, no alarm, and an engine consisting of a hamster jogging rather lazily in a crank wheel. The salesman was shocked – shocked! – that somebody was actually cheap enough (we prefer frugal, practical, and/or provident living-ish) to buy the base model. But Sally was affordable and easier to pay off than a Bolivian prison guard. Five years and 125,000 miles later, Sally just keeps chugging along problem-free, never breaking down. I hope I’m still driving Sally five years from now.
So those are the stories of my clunkers. I'd like to hear yours, so please post away. While getting some cash for these four-wheeled important parts of our lives would probably be nice, I'm happy just holding on to the memories for now.
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