The community at The Good Men Project has car stories. Lots of them. And we’d like to know your car stories too. Put yours in the comments. Tweet a photo of your favorite car to @goodmenproject on Twitter.
Cars are a shared experience. Owning, loving, maintaining, and losing a car—it’s a part of life.
We’d like to read and share your stories with our community. Here are some of ours.
“Watching the bonfire that had been my car.”
Flames blew out both sides of the hood. It was a bright contrast to the dim headlights that barely lit the dark Arizona desert in front of me. Driving a car while it burns isn’t nearly as exciting as Hollywood makes it out to be.
I’d known about the leaky power steering fluid pump since the day I had traded a day’s wages for the car. Maintenance wasn’t in my vocabulary at the tender age of 18, but on the long walk back from The Petrified Forest, late at night, I had the opportunity to learn. I stood and literally watched the car burn to almost nothing, which took forever, before I started walking. The road remained empty except for me and the bonfire that had been my car, there was no one to help as I watched the victim of my neglect go up in flames, no one to give me a ride to civilization. Lesson learned.
“The car that made me feel like an actual adult.”
In 2007, I bought my first new car. Up to that point, every auto I owned was from the used lot, so this was a big deal. It made me feel like an actual adult. It was a Toyota Yaris, something I knew nothing about. The price was right, however. Only $5,000 more than a used Camry with 100,000 miles on it.
For a compact it was surprisingly roomy. I’m 6’2” and I never felt uncomfortable inside her (She never had a name, but “Her” was the designation that felt right–just a simple gender attachment.) When the sun hit her from behind, the shape of the side mirrors made her shadow look like Shrek’s silhouette. It was odd, and hilarious.
As a comedian who traveled to different venues, I put 212,000 miles on my Yaris in five years. I kept up with the auto maintenance, just like an adult, too—got regular oil changes and tire rotations, every 7,500 miles. I even had the spark plugs changed out once, but that was it. The brakes, timing chain, radiator…. everything else ran like a beast without flaw.
I planned on taking her to 300,000 miles before trading up, but allowing a friend to drive her was my downfall. An errant object in the road led to a smashed front and insurance totaled the car out. I’m currently cheating on Toyota with a Honda Fit, but it’s just not the same. I think once this has been run into the ground, my favors will swing once again to a Yaris.
“A lesson from father to son: Take care of the car so it takes care of you.”
In late 2000 I bought a 2001 black Honda Accord. It had every extra available—you know, a cassette player, intermittent windshield wipers and functioning air conditioning. I drove that car across New Jersey almost every day for the next seven years to my job. I maintained the car by following the recommendations in the user manual. Oil change every 3,000 miles, tires rotated and replaced on time, and I washed it every weekend. The car served me well. The mechanics at Honda would mention what good shape it was in almost every time I brought it in for servicing.
After eight years at the startup I helped get off the ground, we sold the company, and I retired. At the time my oldest son was turning 17 and needed a car. I decided to pass my old love on to him. I brought it in for servicing, and the mechanics said it was pristine. It had 150,000 miles on it. The first week my son had the car he was in a minor accident. The scratches on the back door were painful to me. The car served him well through four years of college in Connecticut—but he did not return the favor. He would come home for visits, and I would look at the car. Dents were popping up. There were piles of laundry, sporting equipment and even some old McNuggets under the seat. My son and I had to have “the talk”—you know, the one about taking care of the car so it can take care of you.
After college, my son got a job in Connecticut. He drove that car for the next two years back and to work much like I had when I first bought it. The Accord died on the side of the NY State Thruway a year ago, seven years after I had passed it on to him. It had 275 thousand miles on it. He donated it for scrap and collected $50 bucks to have a pizza and some beers with his buddies. My son then bought himself a 2015 black Subaru. He recently moved back home, so his car is in our driveway every day. It is amazing how he maintains it. It is a year old and looks perfect inside and out. I guess that old Accord had taught us both some lessons.
“Is a convertible really a sign of a mid-life crisis? Or just the epitome of freedom?”
After 4 kids and 10 years’ worth of minivan driving, my husband bought me a black Sebring convertible. How I loved that car! It was the reward for having had “paid my dues” in so many ways—raised 4 kids, worked corporate jobs, carpooled and almost lived in that minivan. The convertible really was the epitome of freedom.
I took care of that car in ways I had never taken care of a car before. It went in for regular maintenance as often as my kids went to their pediatrician. I remember a time when it did need some major repairs, and they were going to take hours, and I simply set up my computer and cell phone in the waiting area and used the mechanic shop as my office. Clients were a little surprised by the loud noise, but got over it. When my car finally died at the side of the highway at over 200,000 miles, I felt like I had lost a friend. My mechanic, however, continued to service my cars until I moved to the other side of the country.
“The car was older than I was.”
My second car was a 1981 Datsun pickup with 200,000 miles. The car was older than I was. It was my dad’s “find.” I don’t remember where he got it but it was the car he used to teach me to drive a stick shift, I guess he didn’t mind if the gears took a little grinding.
In the summer it would overheat, other times I would have to “push-start it,” which is not a one-man job. Ideally you put the car in second gear, turn the key to “ON”, have a friend push it, then let out the clutch and give it gas. When there are no friends around, you hoped you remembered to park on a bit of an incline so you could get out, give it a push, and let it roll while you hopped in and handled the clutch, gas, and brake. It was a really fun process.
At 5:30 every morning, it took me to the gym I managed. Afternoons and weekends, I used that truck to work my landscaping and odd jobs, hauling gravel and tools. And when I decided to attend massage school, where I learned the trade that I still practice to this day, it took me there in the evenings. Then when it was time to take me home, I’d be dead tired, but I’d crank down the windows and listen to AM radio or a cassette (my only options) and wrestle the steering wheel (no power steering) while shifting the “four on the floor.”
I had it for a few years, kept it clean (even the rust) and always made sure the oil was changed like clockwork. Eventually it was time to donate it. I saw it once sitting in a parking lot, the light beige and rust pattern was unmistakable. That baby went 200,000 miles and I’m sure could go 200,000 more, especially if they keep changing the oil and, of course, remember to park going downhill.
“I thought it was a super-cool car for a girl to drive.”
My first car was a sweet 13 year-old yellow Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. I was only 19 years-old, but very proud to purchase it with the $500 I earned working hard as a cashier at a grocery store in Baltimore. It was a standard, which I thought was super cool for a girl to drive. A few months earlier, my friend Bob had taught me how to drive a stick shift on our way to a camping trip. The hills were the scariest, especially at stop-lights, but I was determined. In spite of its advanced age and over 100,000 miles, I could tell from the way it looked and the way it ran that the car had been beloved by its first owner.
I still do things simply because they are super-cool for a girl to do.
Everyone has a story about a car they loved, a car that had meaning for them, a car they learned from. And the people who take are of those cars are just as beloved. The mechanics who help keep those cars on the road, and fix them when they are down. Universal Technical Institute can help you or anyone you know that loves cars acquire the skills they need to turn a passion into a career. UTI’s training programs are a great way to learn about repair and maintenance for just about every kind of vehicle on the road—foreign, domestic, diesel, marine, motorcycles. They are even the exclusive educational provider for NASCAR! Hands on, practical experience—including hands-on learning about current technology in UTI labs.
UTI has graduated more than 200,000 technicians during its 50 years in business. It’s the place for people who love cars and who want to turn that love into a skill and that skill into a career. With campuses throughout the United States, UTI consistently graduates and places more technicians in the transportation industry than any other school in the country.
If you’re ready to be a hero give Universal Technical Institute a call and learn more about the programs they offer. Or connect with them online at UTI
Please share your own car story in the comments below!
This post was brought to you by Universal Technical Institute. UTI cannot guarantee employment or salary. For information about graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program and other important information, visit www.uti.edu/disclosure. For a program overview, see here.