In the midst of a rainy morning in 1983, I inadvertently misjudged a curve on a slick entrance ramp to a freeway near downtown Fort Worth and slid to the right. I bounced off the passenger-side concrete barrier then caromed directly across and hit the driver side. When I got out to inspect the damage, all four corner panels were severely damaged. I was able to drive it a few miles to my father’s furniture store. His reaction upon seeing it: I’m glad you’re ok.
Unfortunately, the insurance company totaled that loaded 1978 Olds Cutlass my parents had given me three years earlier. (We’re talking 8-track, AM-FM stereo, bucket seats, power windows and power locks loaded.)
I needed new wheels and after a few days went with my dad to the local Toyota dealer and purchased a new white Celica GT hatchback with a rear window louver. Since I didn’t know how to shift a manual transmission, my father drove us home. The next morning – having had 10 minutes of shifting lessons from dad – I left for the 30-mile drive to Dallas… and ended up stalling several times trying to get into first gear on a small hill near my office. It was embarrassing, although I don’t recall anyone honking or having road rage because of my ineptitude.
Reflecting on my 23-year-old self’s decision to spend $13,000 on a new car when my salary was a whopping $18,000 per year, I’m surprised by my decision. I wasn’t trying to keep up with my friends – none of them had new wheels – and I’m not a car guy. I just liked that Toyota and decided to get it.
Last month, my son bought his first new automobile. I helped him navigate the nuances of car shopping… and our day together brought back great memories of an enjoyable experience with my father. Perhaps some 35 years from now, he might get to have a similar outing with his son.