Confession: I’m a second-hand car person and have been my entire life. I have owned six vehicles, none brand new. I’m fine with that.
I purchased my first car when I was in my 20s, living in beautiful Victoria. I had a job in TV and needed wheels.
I fell for the car right away. It was, as advertised, a four-door 1966 Volvo 122S, dark blue, “in immaculate condition.” Hilariously, the seller, who had already traded up, seemed reluctant to let it go. I had to audition and promise to change the oil regularly before he accepted my low-ball offer of $2,000. He was chuffed it was my first car. He liked that I offered cash.
I loved that Volvo. It was classy from the shape of its fenders to the inside roominess and leather seats. Opening the door felt like entering a plush hotel lobby. I welcomed the stick shift and the way the car handled. I remember driving it down the ramp and onto the Pender Island ferry for the first time, feeling all grown up.
I routinely drove to Clover Point to stare at the ocean. Then, there was a delightful Sunday afternoon when I chauffeured my aunt’s friend Ravi Shankar and his tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha up the scenic Malahat (getting back in time for them to watch Star Trek before dinner).
Two years later, someone offered $2,500 for my car. I was moving to Toronto. Like the previous owner, I sold it reluctantly. I made $500 profit.
My first big city car was smaller, a cream-coloured Renault 5, purchased because it was French. It lasted two winters, road salt eating though the muffler like snack food.
I was employed in the media but averse to debt, so I continued my pattern of buying “used”: a Toyota Tercel, a Honda Civic …
By now, you’ve realized I don’t remember cars by their horsepower or driving dynamics or even their years, but for their personalities and adventures shared.
I recall my Civic mostly because of an embarrassing incident involving a mind-blowing author.
I was working on a nightly TV talk show. One evening, during a winter storm, we failed to find a taxi for our guest. I offered a ride back to his hotel.
Somehow, a tousled Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five; Breakfast of Champions) managed to fold his 6-foot-2 frame into the passenger seat of my Honda. He graciously offered to scrape ice off the windshield, but I declined. We discovered my battery was dying. I tried to resuscitate it and flooded the engine. Kurt (Mr. Vonnegut), calm and amiable, suggested we wait a while, no problem. It was freezing. Perhaps we smoked cigarettes to stay warm. I don’t remember the banter as we stared at snowflakes. Nothing, to my later regret, befitting a wannabe writer stuck in a car with a literary giant. All my brain cells were dedicated to willing that engine to start and, miracle, it finally did.
My next was a powder-blue Subaru, a trouper of a car, for which I paid $6000. That was followed by a 1997 Toyota Rav4, a jeep-light, and my favourite, because I could sit up high and actually see the road. I paid $11,000 for the Rav and we spent 16 years together. It had just reached 122,000 kilometres when it was mortally wounded by a driver trying to parallel park.
My current car, the one that spoke to me after a hasty search, is a 2014 Kia Soul. I liked its boxy style and iridescent green colour. The price was $8,500. Factoring in the settlement from my insurance, I paid $3,500 out of pocket for the newer vehicle – albeit, with 190,000 km on the odometer.
Which brings me to an interesting statistic. The lifetime grand total cost of my cars comes to $30,000, a fact I shared with my auto-addicted nephew in a recent e-mail. Is there such thing as e-fainting? He did that.
Shawn is a car connoisseur who lives in Ottawa and drives a sporty black Subaru WRX. He’s purchased three dream cars in his much shorter lifetime, not one costing less than $30,000.
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