Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Old Car

Some of you in the blog neighborhood have started sharing photos and stories about your first car, so here I am to join in. I don't have any pictures, but I can describe it to you.

After several months of marriage, Husband and I were in need of a second car but couldn't afford one. Along came a helpful couple who were gracious enough to give us one, a 1978 Datsun B210. It was a tiny car with two doors and a hatchback. The back seat could have held a loaf of bread but not much more, and the whole thing smelled a bit like a dirty garage.

Husband drove the car we had bought ourselves because it was a stick shift, and I only drive automatics. That meant the Datsun was mine, my very own first car. It was brown, and all the finish had warn off, so the thing became known as The Turd Car. I loved The Turd Car. It didn't have power steering, but I could handle it because it was so small. It didn't take much upper body strength to maneuver it around corners.

Those old cars needed tune ups periodically or they began to shake. But the Turd Car didn't just shake. It did a jig at every stop light. More often than not, it would just die out. We lived in New Jersey then, a state where traffic was and still is a wild race through packed highways and no mercy for hesitant drivers or cars in need of attention. When the Turd was past due for a tune up, it wasn't uncommon for it to die in the middle of a road way like Route 4 with traffic at a stand still. I would restart my poor car ten times in ten minutes during rush the the dark of night.

Once on the open road, I could drive freely and keep up with the speed limit, but one day while I was headed home, the speedometer dropped to zero, and we realized the previous owner had disconnected the thing at one time when he was trying to sell it. Even though the practice is illegal, he did that so the car wouldn't appear to have as many miles on it as it did. When we confronted him, he couldn't verify how many miles the Turd actually had on its engine, but the thing was a real machine. As long as it saw a mechanic regularly, it just kept going regardless of the weather—hot, cold, snow, rain—it didn't matter to the Turd.

Near the end of its life with us, we were racing around town looking for a friend who was supposed to meet us at a park where we were jointly hosting a picnic for dozens and dozens of people. Exasperated at not being able to find this person, Husband got out of the car and slammed the door, forgetting the window was rolled down. The glass inside the door shattered into a million tiny pieces, and I had to drive it with the equivalent of a giant baby rattle in the door for a few weeks. That seemed appropriate as I was very pregnant and about to give the car up for a larger one that would not be a potential death trap for a baby in a car seat.

The Turd found a new home with a college student who replaced the window and kept the poor thing running until she passed it on to someone else. I wouldn't be surprised if my first car were still on the road, sputtering and smelling and looking a little tired.


dive said...

Hoorah for the Turd!

What a great story, Robyn! It sounds like that cute little Datsun had a whole lot of character.

Rich said...

I remember the Datsun name. As a matter of fact, I had an old Datsun Pick up truck. I remember the B210 and I know exactly how your brown car looked because they all looked that way after a few years.

PF said...

Never had a car called The Turd, but I might in the future..haha!

Earlene Harps said...

I must say you had quite an adventure with your car. Vintage cars are different from a typical used car. It has special needs that should be addressed, especially if you are buying or selling one. One critical part is the engine of the vehicle. A seller must ensure his buyer that the engine is properly maintained. Make the best with what you have to get the best price for your car. Clean up the car, do some restoration if needed, and take it the mechanic for a tune up.

Erwin Calverley said...

Amazing! The Turd has proven its durability not just to you guys, but also to the college student who also got to own this amazing thing as well. ;] Hmm. She seemed to take good care of the car since she repaired all the damaged parts as soon as she got it. With its durability, I also think there’s a huge possibility that it is still functioning well, and can still drive on long and busy roads. =)

Erwin Calverley

Danille Folson said...

Fascinating story, my friend! Datsun really is an automobile you can really rely on. Its torque and durability is certainly remarkable. We are in the delivery business, and we used to have a Datsun truck as part of our fleet. I know for sure that whoever owns your Turd now is really lucky, and will make good use of that automobile.