I come from a car family. My father is a car guy, his father was a car guy, and I’m pretty sure ol’ great gramps who hit his head going down to the cellar every day that he lived was a car guy.
Suffice it to say, I have lately realized that I, too, am a car guy.
I guess I should have suspected when my choice vehicle as a 16 year old was not the average 2 or 4 door sedan. I did not dream of a Lexus or even a car with electric windows and cup holders. No, no. My dream little car was my first car. My little Suzie car.
She was first purchased by my uncle in 1977. He was at the Air Force Academy, gearing up for his senior year. He and a bunch of other cadets decided to try and work a deal with the Toyota dealerships in Colorado Springs and Denver to see about getting the Air Force cadet dream car of the era…1977 Toyota Celica GT.
All the guys got them, my uncle lovingly referred to her as “the zoomie car”, and she accompanied him throughout Colorado and later on up to Alaska ending up in Kansas. My aunt was not nearly in love with the car as my uncle was…and the car definitely didn’t seem to love her as much as *she* loved my uncle. During this time, I turned 16. My mother and I took a trip to Kansas before my 16th birthday, and then had a lovely roadtrip where I got to learn about the overheating nuances of the car I started calling “Suzie” on that trip.
See, there’s a Disney cartoon from way back about a little car. She was a great little car, fell into disrepair, and then one day…nearly dead in the junkyard…some little gearhead car kid sees her for what she could be and chops her top and pimps her out and makes her a whole little car again.
I turn 16. I love the little car, she’s fun to drive, she sits just right…and one day in February 1997 (or was it March?) I get into an accident. I require stitches, she requires much more. It was sad seeing her all crunched in the driveway. I kept a few key bits off of her, and was really sad when words were being tossed around involving junking her…she saved my little life by crashing just right, should I not do the same?
When offered either a newer model something-popular-and-economical-of-the-day, or waiting and trying to fix up the Suze, I pick Suzie. I understand it will be a long time before I drive her again, but my 16 year old brain wants my little car back.
Paint is picked out (custom mixed “Kaci Blue”), parts are stripped, “Frank” the parts car is found and after much time (six years?) FrankenSuzie is born. She’s a lovely blue. She drives like a dream. I tried very hard to get her road-worthy when my uncle’s 25th reunion at the Air Force Academy rolls around. Not quite ready for the drive from Az to Co, but I bring pictures for my uncle to pull out proudly from his shirt pocket, bragging almost as proudly as those showing off photographs of children and grandchildren.
Anyway, I should have realized then that I was a car guy, but it was only these last couple of months that I truly appreciate what I am in this regard. I know she’s not always the most practical thing. Though her engine runs like a champ at over 200,000 miles, her electrical system isn’t quite what it used to be. I have changed the alternator more times than I care to admit. I have learned the joys of vapor lock. I know the subtle difference between not starting due to battery/electrical/charging problems and I also now know what to do if the linkage from the car suddenly comes unattached. I can push start my car when the starter is on the brink. I accept that I have no cup holders, a hood release that only works with a pair of vice grips, and the fact that the bottle that once held windshield washer fluid is a thing of the past.
I smile when I figure out how to make my car start again after cursing and carrying on.
I smile when someone sees me filling her up with gas and asks “what is that?!”
I smile more when people see my car and wax on about always wishing they could have had a Celica GT.
I smile even harder when I choose to go to Jiffy Lube or some such establishment and the boys try to girl me when I roll up…until the realize they have no idea how the hood opens up.
I flutter around my car when it is being worked on by these same boys because I do not trust that they will get the proper “slam” on the hood when all done to get the latching mechanism to sit right.
I proudly know what engine is in my car (20R).
I love it when she is clean and shiny.
All of this blog to say, “Guess what, I’m a car guy”…and I’m entering my car in a “Japanese Classic Car” show this October. I’m on the waiting list, but hopefully I’ll get in! My very first car show…with people that understand my somewhat insane love for my little blue car.
Here’s to you, Suzie Q