My first car was a 1988 four door Honda Civic DX, in brown, with rusty leaf springs and a faulty gas pump. I loved that car.
I can’t say it was the first car I loved, my mom’s 1990 Ford Taurus is the first care I really loved, especially all the fancy buttons on the steering wheel and on the radio. It made me feel like I was in a space ship. My Civic had none of that stuff, even though it was already halfway into the first decade of the new millennium by the time I was driving it, my civic didn’t even have single button on the steering wheel other than the horn. The radio’s tape deck was broken and it could only pick up stations below the 100s for some reason. The driver’s seat had a tear int it and it exposed the metal frame underneath which burned my butt more than once in those scorching hot El Paso Texas summers(I later covered that with duct tape). My Civic was only one year younger than I was but it had already traveled more than eighty thousand miles, I hadn’t even visited the east coast. I can’t even begin to imagine how many revolutions that adds up to of its tiny thirteen inch wheels, or just how hard those 92 horses under the hood had to work to have achieved that and STILL carry me every day from the lower valley of my city to the university on the foothills of the mountains. My Civic was not fancy, it was not trendy, but it did its job every day without complaining. It was as durable and hearty as they come, scrappy, refusing to go down without a fight and still willing to have fun even after a long day.
My Civic was the ideal first car for anyone to have, but especially true for me because it taught me that cars can be fun and charming for characteristics that a Ferrari can never have. Like I said before the first car I genuinely loved was a high tech experiment by Ford in which they were trying to revolutionize the way Americans interacted with their car. My second great love was the Dodge Viper, which was a mad man’s idea of a fun time with an engine and would kill anyone who dared step too hard on the gas pedal. This was my idea of what cars should be before I drove my Civic and found that there is also joy in a simple frame, and in things that just WORK. It was shaped like efficiently organised rectangles, the trunk sticking it out perfectly parallel to the ground. Sitting inside of it you felt like you were centimeters off the ground, but the view was excellent in every direction the tiny A pillars making sure there was no such thing as a blind spot. The driving position was great, in fact I didn’t know how great until I got into a Dodge Avenger that was more than 20 years newer and found that I couldn’t drive for more than two hours before being in discomfort. Even though it was made for Japanese bodies it handled my 5'11 Mexican frame perfectly. The car was light, and responsive. The turning radius was crazy, even in a one lane road I could make a U turn. I changed the oil twice in my car. I had it for almost 4 years, and drove it on average 25 miles each week day. Twice. In four years. This car already had over 80k miles and it never complained about that. I didn’t even know what transmission fluid was, or brake fluid, looking back at that now I’m sure it needed some. I never even got a brake inspection. It never overheated even though I put coolant in it just once. My mom’s Taurus had so many electric failures that I remember the windows going crazy once as it overheated, and I can’t even think of what would happen to the 20 pistons in a Dodge Viper if it never gets an oil change.
About two years into my ownership of it the only big mechanical issue I ever had it with showed up. For some reason, whenever I would turn it off it wouldn’t like to be turned back on right away. At first I had to wait about 20 seconds between when I turned it off and it would allow me to start it again. Then it was about 1 minute…then 2 minutes……5…..10….eventually I couldn’t stop the car without waiting 30 minutes before it would turn on. It got to the point where I would gauge whether going somewhere or meeting someone was really worth being there at least thirty minutes, it made me value my time more and realize who my real friends were. Whenever I wanted a slurpee or hot cheetos I would just leave the car running dash into the 7 eleven and hop back in. Eventually the fuel pump just died, it happened during a date, exiting the restaurant. Even then my Civic was looking out for me. It gave me so much warning, months of it, that when the failure finally happened I wasn’t surprised and didn’t explode into a rage. Instead I calmly asked my date to sit on the driver’s side and steer, while I got out and pushed the tiny boxy thing into the parking lot. This made me look not only like a strong manly man but like someone who handles adversity in stride. It made me look like what I could be not what I was.
That car was with me in arguably the most formative years of my life, when I was working harder than I’ve ever worked, learning more than I’ve ever learned and growing more than ever and it let me do just that. It never asked anything of me. It never demanded attention. It was there to carry me home and provide some stability and comfort in the midst of chaos. I can’t remember exactly why we sold it, but what I do remember is that it went to a family on the other side of the border in Juarez and that even in 2012 it was still running strong.
I love that car.