Tag Archives: Cars

Mark Justifies a New Car

So I bought a new car a while back. It’s not a big deal—it’s actually the smallest car Honda imports into America, pardon the pun. But in keeping with my Hiatt-ness, I got the loaded-uped-est version I could find.

I bought a 2016 Honda Fit, sight unseen, having never driven one, on the strength of the reputation of the brand, the dealership and the salesman and the recommendation of friends. Take that, Consumer Reports! The dealership had to trade with a dealer in another city to get it here because with gasoline trending comfortably under $1.70 at the time nobody was interested in a car that got 45 miles per gallon except for me and they had only two on the lot, neither of which I was interested in.

Constant Lurker will remember I was embarked upon a journey to keep a 1995 Honda Accord forever. It had 176,000 miles on it and all of the old timers kept telling me, with a chuckle, it was just getting broken in. It was a simple car with automatic transmission, cruise control, electric windows that pissed me off, electric door locks that the original owner installed that pissed me off and anti-lock brakes that had given up a couple of years ago, reverting to, well, just brakes.

I had always repaired and replaced things with the best I could find. That car received the best tires, best brakes, best battery, the best, the best, the best whenever it went in for service. It was going to be my forever car, after all. And I have no doubt that someone received a wonderful machine.

I guess I got tired of it or lost faith in it or something. I’d recently started a new job and they don’t have a harsh unapproved absence policy but it is pretty strict and the thought of going into an ugly winter season with a car old enough to drink intimidated me a little.

When I first started driving, I made a list of the luxuries I would one day own in a car of my very own. My dream machine would have one of those toaster-oven rear windows, so you don’t have to scrape the frost off of the back. It would have radial tires, for a better ride and handling. It would air conditioning and cruise control and it would have a radio with a digital readout so you could precisely tune in the radio station you wanted.

The Accord had all of those things and I was really happy with it for a long, long time. We drove that car for more than 100,000 miles of our own and never made a car payment, having purchased it with the equity rescued from the wreck of our 1996 Honda Civic. Yeah, we went back a year and up a size after our Civic was totaled.

But I wanted gadgets. I wanted doo-dads. I wanted better mileage and I wanted to be able to leave for my sister’s house or to go on vacation and not have that nagging doubt that something would happen along the way that would mean I’d end up staying in a Motel6 somewhere waiting for parts. And I wanted in-dash navigation to see where I was and how far was left in the journey.

I have friends who drive Honda Fits, a car sold many places in the world as the Honda Jazz (I might re-badge mine, since I love jazz guitar). Now, I really loved the look of the first two generations of the car. Nice, small package. Tight little car. Room for four, or two adults and three kids or two adults and a dog or two adults and a ton of stuff. And of course, excellent mileage. And it looked nice.

The 2001 version was a simple little four-door hatchback that looked great and sported light weight, wonderful mileage, great handling, and a happy personality. Did I mention it looked great? In 2007 they redesigned it and so help me, the only change I can notice is the single crease in the hood became two creases. Still a cute little car with nothing on it that doesn’t need to be there, wonderfully gas mileage and what the magazines call “tossability” in the handling department. My friends raved about theirs, so I decided I had to have one. I could get one by writing a check. It would get great mileage. I could park it just about anywhere and the new ones came with GPS navigation, correct electric windows and door locks and all of the rest of the goodies.

The game was afoot….

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I Want A Car, Damnit!

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted a cool car. And for as long as I can remember, the definition of cool car has shifted (pardon the expression) and changed depending upon what I have seen last.

Photo of Austin-Healey "BugEyed" SpriteOne of my earliest memories is of riding with my Dad in an Austin-Healey BugEyed Sprite. I can remember “helping” Dad work on this little car out in the garage one evening, holding and handing him tools. It was a cool car, no doubt. But Dad sold it when it was modernized with sleek new headlights and roll-up windows and… well, things were never the same after that.

Triumph SpitfireThe first I remember falling in love with was a Triumph Spitfire. There was one on Michigan Avenue in Norfolk and when I would be out riding my bike I always made a point to cruise past. It was so low, and the whole front end lifted up from the windshield like one of those LeMans racers. You could see nearly every mechanical component and work on all of it if you had to (and you had to, given the state of the British car building art in that day).

MGBI considered the MGB for a good long while. It was slightly bigger (safer?) and the originals had that perfect proportion and classic line that just says Sports Car. It seemed like a practical alternative since it had a usable trunk and some room behind the seats to store or carry things like groceries home from the store.

DeLoreanFrom there I had a brief flirtation with Porsche and a few others but I got really hooked on the DeLorean. I loved everything about that car. The man, the story, “The Dream”, the stainless steel and, of course, the gullwing doors.

But again, as I got older and things changed I started shopping for other cars. I began to realize that I needed reliable transportation and not just super-zoomy looks. I’d have to be able to get to work to pay for the damned thing, after all.

So after some painful reconsideration, I scratched the Spitfire off of my list. They weren’t very good Cars when they were new, and that was thirty-five years ago for the last one off of the boat. I know—I worked at Johnny Baxter in Omaha and saw the last ones come in.

Okay, the British were out, except for the DeLorean. The Porsches were out because, well, just because. Likewise the E36 BMW 3-series. I decided maybe I’d look into something more modern, something with airbags and a dealer network.

Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet Corvettes of a certain vintage are available for cheap(ish). I thought that might save me. I never was much for gold chains and open shirts, so I never really thought of myself much as a Corvette Guy. But I’m not getting any younger and I definitely have more yesterdays than tomorrows. Then I discovered why they were so cheap and moved on.

MustangMaybe a Ford Mustang could do the job? Parts and service anywhere. Still have the drop-top for when the weather was at all nice… but no, I never was excited about Mustangs. So why start now? I need a car that invokes some kind of a passion. I want to enjoy spending a little time and money on it, so that I can enjoy it longer and keep it up.

Honda S2000I have always loved Hondas, and have owned several. Honda made a nice oddly-styled little sports car several years back. The advantage here was that I could take it to the terrific local garage that’s been doing my work for years and it came with airbags and air conditioning and all of the built-in dependability one expects from a Honda. But I just was never really excited about these, either.

They also work on Toyotas, and the last generation of the MR-2 MR-2 SpyderSpyder is kind of cool, if totally impractical.

Kathie keeps reminding me that this does not have to be my “forever” car. I could buy an MG and keep it for a year or two and probably not lose a whole lot of money on it when I sell it on to get my… DeLorean. Or Toyota. Or whatever.

In the meantime, the old workhorse Honda Accord we got back in 2001 now has 175,000 miles on it and nearly everything still works. So I guess I don’t have to make a decision right away….

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