26 May 2017

Jury-Rigged: My First Car

My first car was a 1990 Toyota Corolla. I bought it with my own money, I guess. (Like I know that money came out of an account in my name, but I'm not exactly sure how that money got in that account, because it predated me having a job or anything. A lifetime's worth of gifts, I think.) I paid $2,000 for it-- my dad arranged for it to be bought off a coworker, actually a year before I was even eligible for a learner's permit, and so it sat in the yard for a year. This would have been in about the year 2000.

I know the acquisition of one's first car is supposed to be an American milestone, especially for boys, but I can't get very worked up about cars. Plus, at the time, I was terrified of driving, and was perfectly happy for my parents to continue to chauffeur me around.  (They were not perfectly happy to do so. My mom wanted me to get my driver's license more than I did.) Still, being able to stay out until 2am at will is a pretty liberating experience for any teenager, even if your main use of the privilege is to watch Babylon 5 and/or play RPGs until late at night.

The car had a good run. Mostly my memories of it now concern all the things that went wrong with it over the years. And thus my memories of it mostly concern the weird ways my father would figure out to repair it on the cheap.

This is not my car. But it's close.

The car had a sun-roof, which was awesome. The sun-roof was very difficult to get to close in such a way that it would actually seal shut, which was less awesome. So basically I could never open the sun-roof for the entire time I owned the car; in fact, I think it only got opened when friends would just poke the button to find out what it did. For some reason the paint on the sun-roof started rusting faster than the paint on the rest of the car, and my dad gave me a spray can of light blue paint to touch it up. Well, the light blue spray paint was not very close to the light blue of the car, so it resulted in a patchy looking sun-roof still. We dealt with this by just painting the entire sun roof, so it was at least internally consistent, and I drove around with a sun-roof of a different color for the rest of the time I owned that car.

Once a friend and I went downtown to see the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. We parked on a bad side street, and foolishly left a bunch of stuff in the backseat. Someone smashed in one of the little triangle windows in the back. My father cut a piece of plexiglass on his bandsaw, and we fitted it into position. No one was smashing though that again. Despite there being a bunch of stuff in the back, the only thing they took was a bag of Funyuns.

Once a bracket on the bottom of the car that held the exhaust pipe in place rusted through, meaning now the pipe was rattling like crazy. My father didn't have a bracket, but he did have a spring. So he wrapped one end of the spring around the pipe and pulled it tight, latching the other end to a random bit of the undercarriage, the tension on the spring meaning the pipe didn't have room it needed to rattle any more.

Once I ran into a deer while driving at night, and the left headlight was pushed backwards into the car by two inches. Whatever had held it in place was now gone, so my dad cut a two-inch block of wood and wedged it in there to stop it from sliding around.

Once all my coolant leaked out and the engine overheated and all sorts of alarms went off and I drove it all the way home anyway. I was later told that this was not a thing I should have done.

I sold that thing in 2008 for $1000 when I got my first full-time job and thus enough money to afford a newer car. I always wondered what the next owner thought whenever he did repairs and saw what my father had made of it. I presume it's not out there in the world anymore, but who knows, it was made of stern stuff.

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