“1988-1992 Toyota Corolla (AE95R) XL station wagon 03” by OSX – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
Perhaps the love of driving ran through my veins even before I could recognize it.
At six years old, my mom’s friend let me captain her vehicle. Not sure why, or where the sentiment came from, but as she controlled the brake and throttle – I steered the car – I couldn’t help but think, “Only 10 more years until I can drive!”
I was hooked.
With each passing year, the gap between my license and I narrowed. When my mom traded in the family’s Mazda MPV and Miata (it was a sad day), we came out of the Toyota dealership with a 1991 Corolla. Not just any Corolla. This was a Corolla station wagon. Red. With a black spoiler. At the time, my nine year-old mentality fixated onto its less than stylish looks. There was zero sex appeal. And it wasn’t cool. I was hoping for a Hummer H1 or Toyota Land Cruiser. No such luck.
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Nevertheless, over the next 15+ years, Rosy the Red Beast, or Beast as we called her, was the most dependable and reliable vehicle the family owned. Sure she needed routine maintenance, but she refused to quit. She helped train two teenage drivers on her 5-speed manual transmission and the clutch only needed to be replaced once. How’s that for solid engineering?
We braved winter storms with her four-wheel drive system and had a centre differential lock when we needed it. She endured some body damage over the years as both my brother and I had had some unforgiving encounters with various concrete structures. What teenager didn’t?! That said, she motored along happily. Rusty bits and all.
Many hours were spent in her road-tripping to the US and throughout British Columbia and Alberta. Even ski trips up to Whistler with five people and all the gear didn’t faze her. She was a great sport through it all. And I still miss her dearly.
I remember learning how to drive stick in a church parking lot with her. The dance between clutch, throttle and gear selection was initially overwhelming, but getting her going smoothly was a small victory. Then learning hill starts and not stalling proved another monumental occasion. I’d liken her to a Golden Retriever; energetic, loveable and a great companion to have through life’s struggles and accomplishments.
When Beast was passed down to me, it wasn’t the coolest car in my high school parking lot. My friend got a brand New Beetle. I was jealous. But even if the option was given to me back then, I would have stayed loyal to Beast.
Besides, I loved her quirks.
The tape deck happily swallowed the conversion to allow me to play my discman through the sub par stereo system. After someone tried to break into her, the locking mechanism on the driver’s side door became unhinged so it was near impossible to open that door from the outside. Even having to enter from the passenger’s side didn’t put me off. Or at least for a few months until I could pay to get her fixed.
Well, it’s been almost three decades since the day I first got the taste of driving.
Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to drive cars with ten times the power, functioning door locks, great stereo systems and ones that make me smile uncontrollably. But you never forget your first.
When it was time for her to go the way of the world, I couldn’t be there. It was a little too emotional for me. Her shiny red coat had oxidized and was more matte than anything. Mother Nature had taken a toll on her body with rust prevailing. Even in her dilapidated state, the once unattractive outlook I had about her turned into beauty.
She was driven to the scrap yard and replaced with a Honda Accord. To this day, I hope she’s happy in automotive heaven! And that she has her shiny exterior back, along with a set of turbochargers, a great audio system and an amazing exhaust to boot.
Wheels.ca will take a journey back in time and ask our writers to tell us about their first cars and the memories that likely shaped who they are today. We will feature a new story every Thursday. #TBT.
We would also love to hear your first car experiences. Share them here firstname.lastname@example.org and Wheels.ca will publish the best ones. Links to previous stories below