Toyota is one of the largest manufacturers of cars in the world. It’s not a surprise, especially if you have travelled out of the US. They are everywhere. I have only owned three Toyotas; a coma-inducing silver Camry DX, and two MKII Supras.
Despite my lack of ownership, I have spent a sizeable portion of my career abusing Toyotas. Maybe it is latent Nissan loyalty surfacing as abuse, Dad was a Datsun salesman before I was born and continued in one form or another until I graduated from High School. To Toyota’s credit, they have taken it all without complaint.
A notable case was an innocent preppy green and gold Land Cruiser. An aircraft electrical malfunction resulted in an unscheduled stop in Boise Idaho and gave us a week to kill. A ladies NCAA tourney had snatched up all the econoboxes, so the unsuspecting agency offered up the keys to a new 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser. I grabbed them, signed the contract and was out of there faster than a Taylor Swift romance.
Opposite the runway of Boise Airport is McGowan Field, a multi-branch National Guard Center. Just across the road from McGowan Field, was a tank driving course.
My crew mate Randy and I established a goal of coating the roof of the Landcruiser with mud. While that seems simple, the rooster tails required for this take a lot of effort to generate, and it has to be done sideways. Luckily it had recently rained and the black soil responded well to throttle.
For the next hour the Landcruiser tolerated powerslides, Rockfords, doughnuts and even a little air time. We only got stuck once…ok, three times but managed to free the barge with minimum fuss. Inside, my partner in crime and I laughed manically in complete luxury. The heated leather seats were wide and comfortable, but offered no lateral support. The stereo was excellent, and it was eerily quiet, save for our cackling. After a time, our sides hurt from laughing and the course offered no further challenges. We opened the windows and sat on the door sills to see if we met our goal. The roof was covered, mission accomplished.
We plodded the now soil-colored SUV from the proving grounds and onto West McGowen Rd. As we proceeded back to the base entrance, two Chevy Luminas in USAF Security Forces livery emerged from the base, lights flashing and in a hurry. They passed us, nosedived and executed a “you are soooo busted” 180 in unison. We pulled over.
As the Technical Sergeant approached, I could actually hear his Lieutenant screaming over the radio on his belt. It seemed the “El Tee” wanted us to be locked in a room, so he could throw away the room. The Tech Sergeant was much more accommodating and clearly impressed with the level of filth we had caked onto the mall-rated SUV.
“Where were you coming from sir?” As if he didn’t know, he had been dispatched because of us.
I pointed to the field.
“You can’t drive there, that’s government property. That’s trespassing.” I mentioned there were no signs, warnings or fences of any nature to indicate such restrictions, and that I was in fact, a government employee.
“Why were you out there doing that?” He inquired.
“It’s a rental.” I replied. He smiled.
That answer with a genuine lack of attitude seemed to satisfy him. Over the radio he assured his LT that we had been dealt with in a most stern manner. The paperwork reflected that he had, but it was an administrative slap on the wrist. He also pointed to a ridgeline in the distance and said if I really wanted to go off-roading, that’s where the real trails were. As he handed me the ticket, he was grinning. He added a “Now drive carefully sir.”
The owner of that car wash should have put his child through a semester of DeVry with the quarters I spent cleaning the Land Cruiser. Save for the windows that required some additional attention (we had put them down while covered in grime), it was all done via hose to avoid scratching the finish with the brush. It took twice as long take it off as it had to put it there, but the SUV was returned in pristine condition.
Which is better than the Chrysler Intrepid in Atlanta a few years later…but that is another story.
W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. That Philosophy degree of his landed him on the infamous AWACS, the Frisbee of freedom. As a result he has driven a lot of rented cars, if you bought this one, rest assured the abuse was nothing beyond the mechanical limits of the vehicle.