I’ve never thought of myself as a car guy. But I can relate to the special bond people have with their cars. My early driving years opened up a new world of independence and responsibility I hadn’t experienced before. The cars I drove were more than functional machines. They were friends. Each exuded a unique personality. As an awkward teen trying to forge a path toward adulthood, my equally quirky cars provided a welcoming environment where I could be myself.
First cars should have character. They should have well-used jumper cables and unreachable French fries under the seats. They should have idiosyncrasies and nuance that require some level of explanation when visitors get in. Our vehicle’s flaws only enhance the love we have for our mechanical companions. The quality of the car is inversely proportional to the likelihood of it having a pet name — Rusty, Tank, Lucky, Tinkerbell. Only we can appreciate the beauty beneath the quirks, and suggestions that our cars are anything less than perfect are treated as blasphemy. If a spam phone call offers an extended warranty for our car, we scoff at the notion and jump to defend their honor. We don’t need no stinkin’ warranty, do we Squeaky?!
The first car I drove was an 1987 Dodge Colt. It had no power windows, no power steering, no cruise control. I believe it weighed 138 pounds and could go 0 to 60 eventually, as long as there was a long downhill stretch of road and minimal headwind. It was awesome.
I was gifted a 1980 Honda Accord for my high school graduation. It was two-toned, avocado green and rust, like a refrigerator from 1970 was left out in the rain. Unfortunately, I forgot to check the oil level for a college semester or two, and the car eventually died. This regrettable experience taught me to love and care for my cars in the future.
The coolest car I ever owned was a cardinal-red 1989 Pontiac Sunbird coupe. Its sleek design included a spoiler and mechanical headlights that would pop up when turned on and retract when turned off. However, one of the lights was stuck open. So, during the day, it looked like it was winking at all the other cars passing by. Such a flirt!
My oldest daughter has reached driving age. Her first car is a 2007 Ford Edge, twice handed down from family members. I can see the familiar bond she has with her car. It’s facilitated her first steps into adulthood, driving back and forth to school and activities. She’s adorned her new friend with a fuzzy steering wheel cover and custom crocheted keychain, enhancing the personal connection. The car has a few bumps, bruises and quirks, like the stereo that randomly changes time zones and the not-so-faint smell of spilled milk that can be detected on hot summer days. But to her, it only emits a charm and character meant to be treasured.
Her pet name for the car? “My Love.”