I think I’ve made it pretty clear here that I prefer bicycles to cars. Nevertheless, this post is on my new-to-me car, and why I like it. Here it is:
Sorry, it’s a little hard to see. It’s behind the 10 red containers and two cardboard boxes of frozen meat that it transported to Loaves & Fishes, the weekly food pantry distribution that I often work at. Two of the regular volunteers also appear in the photo–great guys!
The car itself is a 2010 Honda Fit, which replaces the Y2K Bug (2000 VW New Beetle).
I do not generally even like cars, but I love this one. To understand why, you need a little history. I should note that almost none of the photos below show the actual cars I owned, but they’re as close as I could get.
The very first car I ever owned was a 1977 Audi Fox given to Spouse and myself in 1989 by my sister-in-law. It was a wonderful car, and the first FWD vehicle I’d ever driven, having spent the period since moving out of my parent’s house ten years earlier entirely carless. But we were moving from Chicago to Schenectady, where bus service was poor, and we had a child. So we got this car. It was fun, easy to repair, and many things didn’t work (including the gas gauge and one of the passenger doors. It had acquired a dingy gray cast to its white paint, so one night, after seeing the first Batman reboot, I named it the Ratmobile. I considered (but never followed through on) getting a length of tan garden hose to coil up on the trunk lid:
The Ratmobile was our trusted transport for a few years, but when child #2 was en route, we figured we needed another door. We had (ISTRC) $12,000 to spend. We visited various dealers, but nothing grabbed us. We knew we didn’t want a station wagon or van. And then we wandered into Mohawk Honda and saw this:
This was a 1991 Honda Civic station wagon, the last year they made it. It was called a wagon, but it looked…different. You sat upright, and looking out, could not see the hood. You could take off the rear headrests and fold the seat down and put amazing things in the back. We kept this car for 15 years, crossing the country multiple times with children 1,2, and 3. The last time we did it, I bought a trailer mirror (because we got the base model without a right-hand mirror or AC) so I could navigate with the back packed full. This was, and is, my Platonic ideal of an automobile. It seemed so techno, so advanced after the Ratmobile that we named it “HAL.” Child #1 picked out the color–brown, instead of white or gray.
But then Child 4 came along, and even HAL was not going to cut it. We kept HAL, but supplemented it around 1995-6 with a 1989 (or so) Plymouth Voyager. I got the ad off a noteboard at work (real paper–remember those?). The seller was named Nixon C___–he had been born in the Philippines, where it was apparently not uncommon to name children after visiting dignitaries. Poor Nixon! The Voyager never really had a name that I recall, but it was blue, and made multiple trips up and down Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah:
When we moved to Wisconsin in 1999, the Voyager was on its last-ish legs. We replaced it in 2001 (if memory serves) with a very fancy late-’90s Grand Voyager:
This was the largest car we had ever owned. In addition to all the seating (Child 4 had arrived in 1999), it could carry scads of stuff in the ‘wayback. The engine was large and had a surprising amount of oomph (in the mid-00’s, we would discover that Child 2 had managed to exceed 100 MPH in it (admittedly, downhill, and that’s another story). I don’t recall that ours had a name, and it was a “sable” color between brown and gray. HAL Continued to abide…for a time.
HAL finally died around 2005. A hard life had rusted everything that it could, and the final straw was that after the clutch pivot broke away from the firewall, the radiator cracked. I was massively into cycling then, year ’round in Wisconsin, and so we donated HAL’s corpse to NPR (again, IIRC) and made due with just the Grand Voyager. Then.
In 1997, I decided to go to law school, and Spouse decided that she would need to be the provider. So she got a job teaching at a small school in Minnesota, and bought a small car to make her commute possible. The 2007 Hyundai Accent, (sport package):
Neither of us had ever liked automatic transmissions, and this was Spouse’s chance to get back to shifting. Unfortunately, it was equipped with low-profile tires (“sport package”) that tended to be easily damaged. Eventually, the alloy wheels also suffered. We ultimately replaced these with smaller steelies and tires with more sidewall, and all has been well since. The photo above accurately captures the fiery red of her car.
Not long after Chld 2 proved that the Grand Voyager could break 100 MPH, a check during an oil change showed that the front towers were almost completely rusted through. Since Child 2 would only drive an automatic, Spouse made an executive decision and purchased Darth. Darth was a black Taurus Wagon with tan leather interior, only a couple of years old:
Darth was luxurious. It was heavy. And it was s. l. o. w. Connecticut Route 15 has virtually no on-ramps, so you have to be able to accelerate up to speed very quickly, or you’ll get honked at and possibly killed. You know how they say some cars are no slouch? Darth was a slouch. Zero to sixty felt like about 20 minutes. And the weight was murder. One day, the law school was closed due to a storm, but my partner and I had to work on a case. I made it over, but on the way home, hit some black ice layered with powder snow, spun, and hit a tree, smashing the nose. After two months in the shop, Darth had acquired a used nose, painted blue, and was thence known as Blue Tooth. Insurance paid. A couple of years later, Spouse was driving Darth while her car was in the shop and another driver ran a red and smashed BT’s front end to the tune of $3,000.
My spouse was philosophical. She told me she knew that I’d always hated that car, and that we should try doing something else with the money. We sold the remains at a bargain and I got a 10- or 11-year old 2000 VW New Beetle in Cyber Green (“George” or “The Y2k Bug”):
George was my move back to a manual, and the color demanded lots of bumper stickers. George had many problems (not the least of which was mold) but accelerated far better than Darth/BT had ever done. Alas, even with the rear seats down, interior storage was poor. But George endured for four years, bits and pieces falling off here and there. I told Spouse that when my law degree started paying off, I was going to get something better…
And it didn’t. For years. And then it did. And I got Tardis:
That is the actual beast, a 2010 Honda Fit named for its color and the idea that it’s bigger on the inside. The Y2K Bug went to student for a very good price, and I bought Tardis from a family that was moving to Germany. It’s not perfect, but it’s very good, and (as you can see from the very first picture in this post) carries a lot of stuff. It has the same wheelbase as HAL did, and the same length, and while the layout is slightly different, it’s as close to that Platonic ideal as I think you can buy today. It has AC and CD-ROM and MP3 players, but it’s a manual transmission, and I like it a lot. It drives like a go-cart, it can accelerate onto ROute 15, and with the seats down, not only can it hold 10+ containers of frozen meat.
It can hold a bicycle. Fenders and all.