My first car was a brand new, candy apple red Toyota Tercel with a cute spoiler on it and a hawk sticker on the side. I got it in 1997. I loved that car. It was called the Toyota Tercel Red Hawk edition. There were only about 5,000 of them made and my dad bought me one. I was 15 years old. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 19 years old. What happened to the car? Well, it sat in the driveway for a very long time. My parents would drive it around here and there but for the most part it still sat in the driveway. I drove the car until I was 23 and when I moved out, my dad took the car away. To this day, my parents still have that car. Guess what? It just sits there–in the garage.
My dad is a car salesman. He used to sell Toyotas. Now he sells Cadillacs. Well…I should say he hopes to sell a Cadillac! Anyway, he drives a demo car most of the time so the Tercel sits…a lot.
When a car sits a lot and rarely gets driven, it will often develop quirks. The Tercel only had one quirk that I remember, but that’s because I didn’t drive it for very long. It had what Pete and I termed “aqua brakes”. I’ll never forget taking a friend up to Chicago to watch a ballroom dance competition and then going salsa dancing afterwards. She’d never ridden in my car before. When I hit the brakes to stop quickly, she looked at me in shock and said, “What is that sound?” It literally sounded like I was stopping my car underwater. There was a lot moisture that had built up over time in the brakes. Even when I got new brakes, the sound was still there!
When my parents demanded the car back, I had to find a replacement car. I went to Carmax and purchased the successor to the Toyota Tercel, which was the Toyota Echo. Neither of these cars are made anymore. Just as the Echo was the replacement for the Tercel, the Echo was eventually replaced by the Toyota Yaris. My dad was working at Toyota at the time. I remember both of my parents being upset with me because I didn’t buy a new car from my dad. My mom told me, “Your dad could’ve gotten you a great deal. I can’t believe you didn’t buy a car from your dad.” Would you want to buy a car from someone who took your car away? Yeah…I didn’t think so.
Apparently parents have quirks just like cars do!
Ahhhhhhh…the Toyota Echo. I took so much crap for that car. This is the most bare bones, basic car that is meant to get you from point A to point B. It did it’s job. It got great gas mileage to boot. And it was reliable as hell. I do love Toyota for their reliability. I will never drive an American car because of the lack of reliability.
The Echo was a small car that looks like it was driven between 2 tall city buildings and got smashed on both sides. If you buy it in silver, people might tell you that it looks like you own a UFO. That’s what happened to me. Another name that car earned was “the clown car.” It was so tiny that it looked like you could stuff a million (or close to that) clowns in the car and drive around town!
When I first got the car, it had a tape player that was installed in it. It was a 2001 model and Toyota installed tape players and radios in their lower end cars. So at Carmax I purchased a spiffy MP3 player/CD player combo. One day I was driving along listening to music and my cell phone rang. I had to answer it so I started to turn the volume down while I was driving over some bumpy railroad tracks, and the volume button on my CD player got permanently smashed in. For four years after that, I drove that car with an infernal, incessant beeping. Whatever damage I did caused the CD player to beep at you when I would drive over a bump, curb, pothole, railroad track, whatever. It would start with long, slow beeps—”BEEP…BEEP”—and then it would proceed in to several quick beeps—”beep beep beep beep beep”. At first this was annoying as hell, but eventually I got used to it.
Here’s the funniest quirk about the Echo. I don’t know if the car did this before I got it, but there was a problem with the fan belt and something do with the A/C and heating system in the car. When I would accelerate from a stopped position, if I was running the A/C or heat, the car would squeal like a nearly dead cat screeching and clawing its way down a chalkboard in it’s last moments of life. Do you know how much fun that is to have everyone start looking around thinking, “Holy crap, what is that horrid sound!” And it was LOUD! REALLY LOUD! I got to the point where I had a system worked out. When I saw that I was going to have to stop the car and I had the fan running, I would take my right hand off of the wheel, reach over and quickly turn off the fan, meanwhile sitting there praying that the car didn’t squeal. When I was ready to accelerate, I would do so, count to 5 and then turn on the squeal. This did make warming up my car on a cold winter morning not-so-fun for my poor neighbors. Yep…the car squealed!
In the springtime Brooks, my favorite running shoe company, visited Fleet Feet, the running store I was doing my half and eventually full marathon training at. Brooks’s tag line is “Run Happy” and they were giving out stickers. I took one and put it on the back of my 10 year old silver, 130,000 mile Echo. Shortly thereafter, one of the wheel covers fell off of the car and it made it look a little ghetto. About a week after the wheel cover fell off, I was driving down I80/94 and a semi-truck tire tread flew off of a truck, bounced off of my car and smashed the paint. I took those as bad omens and decided to get rid of the car.
I now drive a Toyota Corolla. It’s the perfect car for me. It’s a nice sized car. I like the color. I like the factory installed sound system and I love that it doesn’t beep or squeal at me. It’s the first car I ever bought for myself brand new. I know it’ll develop it’s quirks down the road, but for right now I’m still basking in the newness of it.
About a week after I traded in the Echo for the Corolla, I went into Toyota to pick up my title work and was looking for my Echo for one last visit. It wasn’t there. I asked a salesman what happened to it. He said they had sold it to a father who was buying his kid their first car. It makes me happy to know that somewhere out there my little silver Echo is still “running happy” for someone!