It didn't take long before my dad and mom got sick of me asking to borrow the car. He was also tired of stressing over his "baby", the RX7 and the crappy gas mileage. He picked up a very used Honda 600 from Mr. Hurley across the street. It was silver. Either that, or there was no paint left and only primer showing. No. It was silver. Dad also thought it was important for me to know how to drive a stick shift (manual transmission). Ever hear of the Honda 600? No? It was the very first Honda car sold in the U.S. Honda was a successful motorcycle manufacturer when they decided, in 1959, to branch out to cars. The cars did well in Japan, then Europe, then they hit the U.S. where the Vietnam war took away most of their target market. So the Honda 600 never became a popular model. But later the Civic did much better.
I've included a photo of a Honda 600 that is very close to the one I had. Look familiar? Yes indeed! It was a carbon copy of the original mini-Cooper. Those cute little clown cars that are all the rage now, here in the U.S. Honda should bring back the 600. Seriously! I loved that car. It had a 2-cylinder, air cooled engine. Yup, the same engine Honda used on many of their motorcycles. The car didn't have much acceleration power, but once you got it up to speed, that little baby could cook. It also got 46 miles to the gallon. I could fill it up with $3 or less and it would run for a week and a half to two weeks, on average. Awesome. Perfect for a poor high school student working for tips bagging groceries.
My co-workers loved my little clown car. One afternoon a bunch of the guys played a joke on me. They went out, picked up my car, and carried it to another part of the parking lot. (I told you the car was small!) When I got off work later, I went to the spot where I KNEW I had parked and...ha ha. Very funny, guys. Now where the hell is my car?!
I was also in my first auto accident in that little Honda (no, I never counted the spin out on 128 as an "accident". No damage. I didn't hit anyone or anything. So, NO ACCIDENT!) My skills with a stick were coming along nicely. My only shortcoming? Trying to get in gear and move forward without rolling backward when on an incline. The steeper the hill, the harder it was to keep the car from rolling backward before you could get it in gear, let out the clutch and give it the gas without stalling out. Average number of times I would stall before turning beat red from embarrassment? About 8.
I had stepped off the "T" at the McDonalds on Rt. 62 in Bedford. I'd left my car there that morning to catch the bus to school. Why was I riding the bus when I had a car? Grr! My parents didn't trust my driving enough to let me drive myself all the way to school. My Dad and Mom were just tired enough of driving me to the bus stop to let me go to the bus stop on my own, but no further. Fine. I threw my books into the Honda and exited McDonalds via the back. There was a little road that ran behind McDonalds, up a hill where I could take a left and head for home. I just had to get past that hill/stop sign. I took that back way to avoid waiting for a red light at the corner. It was a loooong light. I should have just waited for the light.
I made it up the hill and stopped at the stop sign. The car was sitting on the steep incline and I was praying that no one pulled up behind me before the road was clear so I could roll backward a little in order to get the car moving forward without stalling. No such luck. A delivery van pulled up behind me. VERY CLOSE behind me. Thanks a lot, sh*thead. Not only was he a jerk, he was an impatient jerk. The road just wasn't clearing long enough for my comfort. I tried to go a couple times but started to roll back, so I jumped on the brake. Finally the jerk behind me started honking his horn. Did I mention that there was a house right at the corner that was hard to see around? Yeah. So I waited until it felt clear, put the car in gear, revved the gas and quickly let off the brake and clutch, and the car JUMPED into the intersection. I was just trying to pull forward far enough to see around the house again (all that rolling backward had blocked my view). It wasn't clear and the car went further into the intersection than I had intended. I slammed into the side of a station wagon.
The driver of the station wagon was a VERY pregnant Asian woman. Her mother was in the passenger seat and two of her kids were in the back. I hit her just hard enough that the passenger side door wouldn't open and since she was going at a good clip, her car kept moving forward so the front of my car scrapped all down her side. I couldn't believe how much damage I did. I also couldn't believe how little damage was done to MY car. The front end looked completely undamaged. I didn't even break a headlight. All I did was loose a little bit of my chrome trim, which I handed to the non-English speaking driver of the station wagon in my state of shock. The delivery van? He drove around us and left. Jerk.
I stood there saying I was sorry, but all I could understand from the passengers of the wagon was the elderly mother yelling "Call police! Call police!" No! Don't call the police! I have insurance! During these first couple moments of chaos, a car had pulled up behind me. I hadn't really noticed until I heard a very familiar voice say "What happened?!" Wouldn't you know it. It was my mother. *Groan!* She had my little brother in the car. *Double Groan!!* I was never going to hear the end of this one.
I explained my side, sat on the curb, and then watched her sort things out with the nice policeman who arrived moments later. The policeman sorted things out with the insurance exchange and he blocked traffic for me so I could get my car off the side street and headed for home. What an experience. I avoided hills for quite a while after that.
Just for posterity, here is a run down of all the cars I've owned to date.
- 1969 Honda 600 (Silver)
- 1970 Honda 600 (Mustard) - Dad got this one from a junk yard as a "parts" car, but ended up getting it running again. Just in time to replace the silver one when it's transmission fell out. The mustard one died from coolant system failure (too many holes in the radiator).
- 1978 Dodge Colt Hatchback Wagon (faded blue and primer color) - Man, I really hated driving around in these crappy ancient cars, but I couldn't really look a gift horse in the mouth. Crappy used was all my dad was willing to buy for me. I don't remember what was wrong with the wagon. It just died.
- 1986 Dodge Colt E hatchback (white) - My first brand new car! I had to stop living at school and commute in order to get it and eventually I quit school altogether so I could afford to keep it. Only a couple months away from having it paid off (and with a full tank of gas), I was rear-ended by a drunk driver. Car was totaled. I was in shock and said no when the cops asked if I needed an ambulance. I should have gone to the hospital. This is when my back and neck problems started. That full tank of gas still bugs me too. The insurance company's assessed value on the car really sucked too. It was barely enough for a down payment on a new car. Lucky for me I had John around to help me buy my new...
- 1989 Dodge Shadow (dark silver) - The car had some bugs in the beginning, but after 2 or 3 factory recalls, it ran like a champ for many years. I drove that car for almost 10 years. As more and more things started to go wrong, John finally suggested that I get a new car. So it was traded in for a...
- 1998 Ford Contour (fawn) - I've talked about this baby before. Man, I loved this car. It was fully loaded. It was too small for our growing family. So we sold it and I got my...
- 2003 Ford Winstar minivan (silvery tan). And here we are.
I never did get that 1965 Mustang convertible I always coveted. Did anyone notice it in my little car photo montage in my previous driving entry? Yep. That was my dream car.
In retrospect, it's probably a GOOD thing I never got my dream car. I was a total lead foot back in the day. Speed demon. The faster the better. Pedal to the metal! Amazingly, I never got a speeding ticket in my life until I moved to New Jersey. By the time I got my 6th or 7th speeding ticket and was in risk of getting my license suspended, I decided to slow down.
Some of my fondest car related memories:
- Father's Day weekend 1984...my mother made me SWEAR on a stack of bibles that I would be home in time to have Father's Day dinner with my dad. You see, I was invited to spend the weekend with a friend in upstate New York and this was the first time I was given permission to drive there on my own. It was a 3.5 hour drive. I had a BLAST that weekend and over-slept Sunday. I realized I had 2 hours to make a 3.5 hour drive. What did I do? I drove 120 MPH on the Mass Pike and made it home just in time. Wheeee! I swear I should have been a race car driver. I'll never forget the rush I got from going that fast. No hate mail. I know it was stupid. I was a dumb teen. But it was pissah! I am never telling Tyler this story. So shhh!
- I was feeling really depressed over my latest "car"...the crappy blue Colt wagon, when my then boyfriend pointed out the benefits of having all that ROOM in the back. Ahem. Ooooh yeah! Heh heh heh! Tyler will never have a van or station wagon when he is a teen. There will be as little room in his back seat as humanly possible. Ha!
- That same crappy blue Colt hatchback wagon also had a nice roof rack. I was having an argument with a friend of mine and told her she better watch out or she would be getting a ride home strapped to my roof rack. She said "FINE!" So I pulled over and told her to get out. She did. And she climbed up on my roof and made herself comfy. Fine! I sat for a moment yelling at her to get her ass back in the car. She wouldn't. So, I drove off. Very slowly at first. She started yelling for me to go faster, so I did. Nuts, I know, but she rode all the way home on the roof of my car. I'm still amazed we didn't get pulled over. People were waving to her. I felt like I was driving a parade float. That was not the last time she rode up there. Good times.
- Parking with John back when we first started dating. He got a Chevy Celebrity Eurosport with a bench seat just for me. Nothing like steaming up the car windows, eh? *wink*
- Being rear-ended by a drunk driver, being given a false name and insurance info, and being left at the scene when he took off in his truck would be part of my "worst" driving memories; BUT...while being given a lift home by the cop who responded to the call, the cop called in a description of the driver, passenger and truck from the report I gave him. An APB was put out for the vehicle and I heard the cop call it a hit-n-run. Until that moment it hadn't sunk in that I WAS involved in a hit and run. At that exact second I saw the idiot who hit me pass us going in the other direction. I was almost too surprised to react, but I somehow managed to yell "That was him! That was him!" The cop flipped on his lights, pulled a very speedy U-Turn and gave chase. Backup was called in. It was so surreal. Yes, I was in shock.
The truck was surrounded when he pulled into the parking lot of a BAR! Yes, the idiot was probably going to get drunker. The driver wasn't too drunk that he didn't try to change places with his passenger. I could see him sliding the woman over him and into the driver's seat. He must have thought we were all blind or stupid. I got to watch him being given a field sobriety test and put in handcuffs before "my" cop came back to his vehicle to bring me home. It must have been a slow day in Marlboro. I still can't believe that there was 3 cop cars and 1 unmarked car involved in that bust. All for little ole me. It was very satisfying to see the man who hit me put under arrest. Hence the fondness of the memory.
Why did he try to trade places with his passenger? Well, I found out later that the truck was a company vehicle and only the woman was authorized to drive it. The guy was having an affair with her (he was married to someone else). Yes, they were both legally drunk. The company's insurance company covered all damages to my car and they would have paid any medical expenses if I had been smart enough to go to the hospital when I should have. Ah well...I should have sued. Live and learn.
OK. Enough car talk. I am a girl, after all. Surprise! Girls like cars too.