By on April 16, 2012

It’s just a car. That’s what I keep telling myself. It’s my first car. A 1997 Mazda Miata. British Racing Green with tan leather. A rip in one of the seats. Torsen LSD, Bilstein coilovers, a roll bar. Needs a new 02 sensor. Otherwise in great condition. In the last year, it’s needed a new alternator, new brakes. Body is good, paint is only so-so. Someone made me an offer I’d be stupid to refuse. I am usually responsible with my finances. No debt to my name. Rarely carry a balance on my credit card. Roughly a quarter of each paycheque goes into a dedicated savings account. I’d be an idiot not to sell it. My self-control is failing me.

It’s just a car.

That money, plus the money I’ve set aside in savings from my meager auto journalists salary will give me enough for a down payment on a home of my own. No more renting. A chance to get in to Toronto’s booming real estate market before I get priced out by foreign investors buying “escape pods” to flee instability at home. A chance to buy a great place when the market inevitably corrects itself.

It’s just a car.

I can buy an old E30. Or a new(er) Outback. Go rallycrossing, slide around in the dirt, not give a shit where I park it and if it gets dinged. A car I am not afraid to drive in winter. A car I can drive comfortably on the highway. No more buzzing at 4000 RPM. No more getting nearly run off the road by big rigs. “An Outback?” asks my Dad’s friend. “Why? This is a perfect time to own a two-seater.”

It’s just a car.

But it’s my car. My first car. In high school, I decided I wanted a Miata. Cheap, rear-drive, a rag top. A Lotus Elan for someone who can’t turn a wrench. I worked at a game booth at the city fair. I was a carny, for god’s sake. I worked on the loading dock of a store that sold camping supplies, hauling boxes off of a truck on 95 degree days, dodging hoards of rich housewives trying to grab shitty Made In China trinkets for their kids, moving the merchandise up steep flights of stairs for $8.75 an hour. I had a Miata to pay for.

It’s just a car I bought myself, and kept running myself. No help from anyone else.

I started looking in February ’09, and only found a good one in April. The exact one I wanted, with all the options. I withdrew my life savings in $100 bills and ran home from the bank, afraid of getting robbed for the small brown envelope I stuffed in my front pocket. My hand shook when I signed my name on the title. After taxes, registration fees and an oil change I had less than $100 dollars left. I drank Olde English – or nothing at all for the rest of the summer. I didn’t care.

It’s just an old Mazda. 202,000 km on the clock. They made nearly a million of them.

597 Miatas were sent to Canada in 1997. Most of the early ones like mine have been ravaged by rust and neglect. My friends called it a girls car. It’s not. To prove them wrong I took off-ramps at double the posted limit, watched their knuckles go white with terror as the Miata begged for more.  Girls called it cute, and I did the exact same thing, but hoping for more. Every time I hit the middle of third gear, they would all throw their arms in the air and cry out. Once, I finally worked up the courage to hold my crush’s hand, and I looked into her eyes as I slotted the shifter into the next gear. All of a sudden, a gasp from her. I slammed on the brakes just early enough to avoid slamming into the back of a brand new, Brilliant Red S4.

It’s just a car.

The same girl’s house, a year later. She is newly single, I am dating around. Lately, there is undeniable tension between us. I’m driving a bright red 2011 Shelby GT500. Zeppelin blaring. Heel toe downshift as I pull up to her lawn. I am so fucking cool. She’s waiting, long-legged, rosy-cheeked and radiant in a clingy summer dress – wearing a frown. “Ew,” she pouts. “This is so tacky. Where’s the Miata?”

It’s just a car.

I am in denial that this car is a part of my identity. My self-image is not tied to it. But it has become a part of me. Neighbors, friends and relatives ask where it is when they drive by my house. Half the time it sits in a lonely lot while I’m driving a press car. In winter it barely moves, save for a fresh snowfall, when I know there’s no salt on the road. When it’s cold out, the doors nearly freeze shut, and getting them pried open requires a gentle tug that is equal parts finesse and brute strength. The thin sheetmetal and leather interior makes the car absolutely freezing, and with a parka on, there’s little room to maneuver. It is truly miserable to drive a Miata in winter. Until you dip into the gas just a bit too much and suddenly, a quarter turn of opposite lock is required to bring the car back in to line.

It’s just a car.

“Man, this must be ill for hollering at girls.” I tell my friend that I’m hesitant to take my car out, since the car is having trouble starting. But it’s a clear, cool night and Queen St West is full of women in short skirts and high heels. My friend yells at anything with two legs and two X chromosomes, without success. I pull back in to the parking spot, and just out of curiosity, try to start the car again. It’s dead. I almost kill myself trying to reach the trunk mounted battery with the jumper cables. The car gets towed twice. My friend is now a major recording artist who just played at Coachella. He still doesn’t have his license.

It’s just a car.

And there are so many other cars I want to own. An Audi urS4. A Lotus Elise. An air-cooled 911. A GMC Typhoon. A black on black 1991 NSX – to me, the pinnacle of the automobile and an equally nostalgic part of my childhood. Even the current NC Miata. It’s so much better than my car could ever be. I want to own them all. I want my Miata too.

It’s just a car.

I worry that I will forever regret selling the Miata. I tell myself that it’s a lousy highway car, unsafe in a crash, liable to be run off the road by an 18-wheeler, only capable of carrying two, with a small trunk, gutless and underpowered, a chassis too sloppy to be rewarding on the track, profligate with fuel for such a small engine, useless for half the year, uncomfortable with the top down on a sunny day as the sun beats down on my scalp and my back sticks to the poorly designed leather seat, lousy on long drives.

It’s just a car.

But it’s also a vessel for so many memories. Sneaking out at 2 A.M. to go across town to a girls house. Driving home from a cottage with the roof down, far away from the smog of the city. Looking up and realizing I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen any stars. Shaking off feelings of apprehension and malaise with a girl I loved (but not like that), driving to a hidden spot by the lake with a view of the skyline, and having it all melt away. My Blackberry buzzing in the cupholder with an email from an old neighbor who moved to California. I pull over on a busy arterial road to read it. I thought he was long dead but he’s 93 years old and doing quite well, thank you very much. My first track day. My second track day where I spun for the first time. The roof was down and as I put all four wheels off, grass and dirt flew in to the cabin, landing all over my lap. Screams, laughter, joy, terror, endless parking receipts that trace my movements over the last three years.

It’s not just a car.

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71 Comments on “It’s Not Just A Car – It’s My First Car...”

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Great post.

    I’m just as irrational about my cars.

  • avatar

    I would laugh, but then I remembered hauling boxes of brightly colored toxic Chinese plastic toys in the freezing cold storeroom of a South jersey Bradlees, barely avoiding the homicidal lust of crazed parents fighting over the Red Power Ranger, or the Blue Power Ranger, or whichever friggin’ one Little johnny HAD to have that Christmas, all for $5.15 hour (before mandatory union dues).


    Cause it bought my ’96 T-Bird, Blue-Green with tan leather interior. After all these years I still miss that car and regret selling it (despite the awesome that is the Ranger I traded it in on). If I ever get a multi-car garage, I’m getting my car back. Definitely hang on to what you’ve got, even if it sits in storage while you beat a daily Civic/Focus/Corolla (Civfocolla).

  • avatar

    It’s never just a car.

    My dad sold my first car, a 96 nissan altima 5-speed, when I was a senior in high school, replacing it with a then-new xterra. You would say Iw as a pretty lucky kid. But I never asked for a replacement, I never wanted a replacement. That car was part of my identity, and I loved it. It needed some work, but would have went on driving for a long time. And it was gone.

    When I was graduatign college I was looking at getting out of my ill-advised trip into german iron (VAG in particular), and I actually looked at a 97 5-speed. Just because. I almost picked it up even.

    On to your beautiful NA. Don’t get rid of it. You’ll regret it forever, and it makes an excellent second summer car. I just had the privelage of getting into a 12-year-old, realitively low mile AP1 S2000. My wife said that yes, I can in fact keep this car forever. We paid cash and It will just become a 3rd car, weekend car, track car at some point. That’s good enough for me.

    Your NA should be that. Save a little more and accomplish those things you talked about fiscally. But don’t get rid of the Miata. It’s perfect.

  • avatar

    First car I ever truly loved was my 2004 Golf TDI. To this day I lament letting it go… and even though I could buy it back, the lady I sold it to hasn’t taken care of it for shit. It would likely cost me almost the price of a new car to fix all the things wrong with it now.

    Que En Vogue: “Hold on to your love”

  • avatar

    I have that with my old 83 Civic hatchback as it was THE type of car I wanted, with a stick and it ticked off several other boxes I wanted. It had working AC once I had it recharged, a 5spd stick and was a 2 door (technically, a 3 door) and it was a fun car to drive.

    At the time, it replaced a slow as durt 78 Ford Fairmont that was just not practical and could not handle well at all, thanks to having a largish inline 6, which made it nose heavy. It wasn’t helped by being not very frugal on gas, the Civic was it’s total opposite in every way.

    I set a budget of $3K, got it for $1500, put in $882 bucks or so of work, new clutch, clutch cable, timing belt and water pump and outside of recharging the AC a few months later and adding a new Kenwood high powered cassette deck and 6.50″ 2 way door speakers in, it was very much ready for some fun driving.

    I drove it for 6 years and put something like 70-75K on it and the only reason I got rid of it was it got rear ended, was leaking water inside and had 183K miles or just under and the carburetor was showing signs of wear as the car was becoming stubborn on cold mornings at least some of the time.

    I miss that car, but the Mazda Protege5 I own now comes very close to that old Civic on many levels.

    I also bought my very first car, with a loan no less, a 78 Chevy Nova, paid $2200 for it and it had the 305 V8, a 2 door coupe, working AC, AM/8-track stereo and that was it, outside of power brakes, steering and the column mounted automatic.

    That one, I should’ve checked more thoroughly as it ate its camshaft within my first 2 months or so of ownership. it supposedly had 50K miles on the odo and hailed from Texas, complete with hailstone dents (both cars were bought in Tacoma Washington where I grew up).

    It’s too early to see where/how the Mazda will fit into my life but so far, it’s a fantastic ride.

    BTW, what a wonderful tribute to your first car, well done Sir.

  • avatar

    Great read (personal tastes aside…I don’t have much use for swear words in such writing, as it doesn’t seem to add anything to them, but to each his own. Otherwise, great stuff!)!

    No matter how ratty, we always remember our first car, and usually in a light that is much more favorable than the car really was. Mine was a 1978 Plymouth Arrow GT (my best friend had the 2.6 Fire Arrow..and I was envious). Sure, the hood had a rust spot that went all the way through, and I could put my hand through the rocker panel in the rear all the way to the interior, but with my GF at my side, rowing through the gears of the 5-speed (never mind the burn marks I got from the metal on the knob) life. was. good. I’ve owned about two dozen cars since then, and only one other car has come as close to that feeling (and that was my 74 2002). Thanks for taking us back!

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t remember my first ride very favorably. 1997 Dodge Dakota. I learned the hard way, never buy first model year… NEVER. NEVER!!! Had a LOUD squeaky clutch and steering wheel (which never got fixed, even after numerous warranty visits), and the cassette player would play at varying speeds and sometimes eat tapes.

      I didn’t regret letting it go.

  • avatar

    Kudos for starting out with a roadster.

    I can thing of at least 100 different makes and models that would suck as a first car. Mine was a 53 Chrysler Windsor – it sucked.

    There was nothing cool about driving a 53 Windsor in 1969.

  • avatar

    My first car? No. I don’t miss it, as there was little of it left when I bought it for 75 bucks in August, 1968. What was it? A 1952 Chevy DeLuxe 2 door sedan.

    I only miss two cars in my life: My beloved 1964 Chevy Impala SS convertible and my 1972 Chevy Nova. The rest? Not as much. Perhaps our 1984 Chrysler E-Class.

    When you are young, you generally don’t have the financial resources to keep any big-ticket items that you replace it with, so you have to let it go.

    In your case, I’ll save our Granite Gray 2007 MX5 Sport 5-speed for you to buy when we decide to sell it. So far, it has 25k miles, so not all is lost! (EDIT): It is garage-kept, too!

    • 0 avatar

      Zackman, a very kind and gracious offer. Don’t forget me. Whether I end up selling the NA or not, an NC is a car that I’d like to own in the future.

    • 0 avatar

      NAs are special. I have a 90. I recently got the Miata I thought I wanted, an 04 Mazdaspeed. Plan was to sell the NA but I still have it and the Mazdaspeed is long gone. It was faster and handled better but it just didn’t have the ability to make a trip to the grocery store fun like my 90 does. That and the 6 speed is garbage compared to the 5 speed.

  • avatar

    It is time for a change.

    Consider what you wrote a eulogy. Now bury it.

    You know those guys who end up driving around in a car they wanted when they were in high school? They still listen to the music they listened to back then? They still wear the same style of clothes? They still have the same hairstyle? They still have the same of facial hair?

    Don’t be one of those guys. They don’t age well.

    You are not your things. Life isn’t when you are born. It is how you live everyday. So, if you find yourself stuck with something like a car, music, a style, or a way of life – you aren’t living anymore. Instead you are in a rut. Life is not about being comfortable. Life is about experiencing the newest, latest, hottest, funnest, craziest and worse you can. Pursuing happiness is the key, when you stop pursuing, you are dead.

    Get off the reservation and live. What it is that the Miata has, you always had. You will still have it in another set of wheels.

    The Miata gave you good memories, but it will not give you new ones. Get out there and make new ones.

    It is just a car.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s some odd logic here, especially with the music analogy.

      Would you also say Nikki Minaj is better than The Police?

      Is The Wanted better than Counting Crows?

      This isn’t some generational music preference. There is music performed and written by talented people that stand up over time versus cotton candy entertainment designed to appeal to, and I’ll say it nicely, a younger audience.

      We still read Mark Twain for a reason.

      • 0 avatar

        No one is recommending that he get rid of the Miata for a Little Tyke Cozy Coupe.

        Mark Twain is read for historical purposes, not contemporary literature. The Police packed it up about two decades ago. The Counting Crows were popular back about a decade and a half ago.

        Since that time, life has moved on. If you want to drop out and reminisce, feel free. But don’t recommend doing that for people who would like a future – or even a present.

        Don’t ignore 2012 with memories of 1882, 1982 or 1996.

    • 0 avatar

      “those guys” certainly don’t age well. And if hanging onto the Miata would be about hanging onto everything else from youth, for the sake of comfort, Vanilla Dude is right. But I’m not sure that keeping the Miata is necessarily in that class. You gotta judge for yourself. Certainly, in Amy’s case, hanging onto the Morris was as special as my neighbors Louie and Barbara Osborn, a pair who even in their 70s and/or 80s, after around 40 years of marriage, still looked into each others’ eyes like a pair of teenagers who had just met last week.

      Here’s Amy’s story”

    • 0 avatar
      PJ McCombs

      ‘You are not your things.’

      True. But you aren’t the new things you replace your old things with, either, and buying a new car doesn’t mean you’re pursuing a personal renaissance.

      It is just a car–a good one–and the next one would be ‘just a car’ too.

  • avatar

    When I bought a ’92 Miata four years ago I thought I’d have it forever! It was pristine condition, nicely modified with racing suspension, LSD, supercharger, etc. Some of my best driving memories were made during the following two years.

    Then, life’s circumstances changed, and I decided I’d sell it if someone was willing to give me my asking price. I constantly heard other people’s voices in my head: “I used to own a Miata. I wish I still had that car.” I was afraid I would regret it. Especially since it wasn’t costing me much of anything to own it. I had other cars for other seasons. But I could put that money to better use so I did it. This is my second summer without her. Do I miss her? Sure, on some days. But I don’t regret selling her. She served me well and I’ll always have those great drives to look back on…and many more to come in current and future cars.

  • avatar

    I’m righ there with you. I have a 92 Mazda MX-3 GS. Bought it 9 years ago as a commuter car to save miles on my “real” car. I dream of fixing this car up and have spend tons of $$ toward that goal, yet it is still nowhere done. Everyone who looks at is surprised it runs, which it does, just not that well. No logic to keeping it, yet I can’t bring myself to sell it.

    Maybe it’s Mazdas. Hmmm

  • avatar

    Keep It! I sold a car I loved for practical reasons. I still regret it. Turns out it became quite a collectable.
    If I had to do it over I would have kept it stored until I could return for it. Sometimes you have to follow your gut, (or heart).

  • avatar

    Hang on tightly, but let go lightly.

    I sold my 2001 two years ago, as baby’s arrival was imminent. Have never really looked back. I will replace the car-as-toy one day, but I’m looking forward to trying something different.

  • avatar

    I’d be surprised ever to see Miatas at Barrett-Jackson, but unmolested NAs are going UP in value, making them affordable investment cars. When you inevitably want one again (and no, the NC nor even the NB could ever measure up), you’ll pay more.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape


    Naturally, I’ve got a similar first car story, but I’ll omit all the parts that you covered better.

    The first car is always the wrong car for the job. Mine was the wrong car for bouncing along the rutted, washboarded, horribly undermaintained forest roads of the pacific northwest. It was even more wrong in the winter on these roads, trying to plow through 8″ of disgusting wet snow with 5″ of ground clearance. Often I would get stuck and have to reverse, and notice bits of my car left behind, stark against the white background when I managed to break free.

    It was the wrong car, too, for caning around the mountain highways that took me to and from these roads. Wrong wheel drive, wrong suspension, wrong tires, too much stuff in the trunk.

    If was even the wrong car to learn to work on, with its willful German complexity and horrendous electronics.

    But looking back, ever single day, every single mile, it was the right car.

  • avatar

    It’s just a car. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t get attached enough to them so that they will affect life changing events. Upward and onward. You can get one later on. You know the right thing to do is to buy a home. So do it and don’t look back. Would it be nice to have both? Absolutely.

    As much as I love cars though, I don’t get attached to them. There will be others. In the realm of important things, they are way down on the list for me.

  • avatar

    I miss my ’85 300ZX now…

    Great read.

  • avatar

    Not just a car.

    Mistake #1 – selling my auto 2dr 82 VW rabbit. Only needed paint (redone in VW Windsor Blue), lowering kit and euro bumpers. Great little ride and too much fun for what I paid for it, including restoration costs. Best was eating Neons for breakfast off the line with a drop from neutral to drive. Sold it for a profit. Saw it posted on Kijiji in 2010 for $500 rotting in backyard. Was tempted….

    Potential Mistake #2 – selling my current ride, dark blue manual 2003 Protege5 with only 83,000KM on clock. Yes, I am the original owner, but I don’t drive much up here in the middle of Canada, but at least it hasn’t succumb to the Mazda rust issues…..yet. Just the odd link-end every 2 years. Again, way too much fun and practical to let go.

    Is there such thing as an offer too good to refuse?

    • 0 avatar

      My 110k mile Protege5 IS rusting, but I also fear there won’t ever be a car quite like it again. So my current plan is to keep repairing the rust. A smarter plan might be to sell it and buy another with fewer miles and without any rust. I’d have to pay a little more, but perhaps less than it will cost to keep this one up. Especially if the strut towers rust through.

      So I guess I’m more attached to the Protege5 than to my particular Protege5.

      Those of you who sold a car you were attached to, only to buy another like it. Was your attachment to the second car the same?

  • avatar

    I turn 30 this year. Just had my second kid.

    Last year we swapped our WRXagon for a Mazda5 (6MT!), and even that was a concession over a minibarge. I sold my ’67 Ford Battlewagon. My perfectly built ’00 Wrangler is for sale because it doesn’t get used and we don’t all fit in it. I gave away my LeMons car.

    These are the concessions that life as a grown up husband, father and homeowner have demanded of me. When the act of juggling your fun car(s) and your life makes both worse and causes more stress than enjoyment, it’s time.

    A good offer, vague interest in driving something else, or the mild inconvenience posed by a car that’s slightly impractical are not good reasons to part with it.

    When it’s time, you’ll know.

  • avatar

    No way, do not sell it.

    I bought my first Miata last June. Its a red ’99 base with 60k miles. I LOVE this car, probably more than any other car I have ever had up to now. I dont think there will ever not be a Miata in my stable of cars.

    I just redid the cooling system (all new hoses, Koyo 37mm Aluminum Rad), and I am in the process of doing the 01 Header swap to ditch the cali emissions. I have a set of FM Springs to go on my Bilsteins. I cannot wait to get back on the road.

    Dont sell it.

  • avatar

    Very nice indeed! I owned a Miata once and also loved it. However, if my first car had been that Miata I probably would not be alive today to tell the tale.

  • avatar

    Having poured too much money into cars I loved I can only say you need to get it out of your system somehow. There are worse cars to waste money on, don’t sweat it.

  • avatar

    Great writing, and if you needed any more proof why you shouldn’t sell the Miata, read it again yourself. Some people never make that kind of connection with thier first cars, those are the people who tell you they sold it and never looked back. I can tell you are different. You WILL regret it, no doubt. No, it isn’t going to change your life significantly either way, but neither will the money you get for it now. And 10 yrs from now you will look back and kick yourself for selling it for whatever small amount sounds like a lot to you at this moment.

    My first car was an 81 VW Scirocco. I should have never sold it. It is nearly impossible to find a good one today, and mine was great.

  • avatar

    You need to sell that thing so that you can remember it fondly while driving something nicer/different. I think everyone probably looks back on their first car with rose colored glasses. I still remember my 91 corolla with a warm fuzzy feeling, but its only because that car was my first taste of any kind of freedom (go where I like, when I like? Sounds good!)

    I should also add that your lady-friends reaction to the Shelby has made me start questioning my aspiration to have a ridiculous american muscle car in the near future…

    • 0 avatar

      The Shelby, and most muscle cars, are dude magnets without equal. Girls think they’re just a symbol of overwrought masculinity. One female friend of mine described my Miata as “the prom queen” and the Shelby as “the cheerleader that gets pregnant.”

      • 0 avatar

        Great analogy LOL… and I suppose thats exactly why my wife hates Miatas but loves Shelby Mustangs. That cheerleader is usually much more fun than the prom queen…

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    “And there are so many other cars I want to own. An Audi urS4. A Lotus Elise. An air-cooled 911. A GMC Typhoon. A black on black 1991 NSX – to me, the pinnacle of the automobile and an equally nostalgic part of my childhood.”

    You have great tastes in cars. Being bitten by the car bug thanks to my Dad I recognized at a very young age I had expensive tastes in cars and to own them I would need to have a decent income. After many years of getting into good schools, obtaining advanced degrees, staying happily single (no alimony), happily no kids, happily no tuition for kids and decent job promotions and great job security at 46 I’m now at the age where I can afford the “good stuff”. In lieu of the 2 ‘duddy’ cars I currently own (one of which I really like and a Toyota no less!), I’ve got that new car itch I get every 2 years or 25,000 miles (which ever come first, hehe) and pondering a 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 (It might be nice to own at least one American car in a lifetime), a 2013 Audi S4 (had a 2007 and to date, my favorite car) or a 2013 TT RS4 (too secretarial you think?). Ah, the choices in life…….choose wisely.

  • avatar

    Nice story, well told. I was thinking the same thoughts as you regarding the impracticality of my ride. I bought it with very low miles, sight unseen 400 miles away, almost 5 years ago on Ebay. I had intended to keep it as a second car. Then my commuter car croaked. And my job disappeared and my commute to my new job increase by half. But over the past two years I have been so seduced by the driving experience that I’ve learned that even with its shortcomings as a commuter I can’t keep it in the garage to only drive it on the weekends. Friday, it was looking pretty ragged as I hadn’t washed it in a year (garage at night, covered parking during the day) spent Saturday washing (the super light alloy wheels were almost black), Sunday waxing. It looked so good, the thought crossed my mind to post it on a Miata enthusiast sight and see if I could get a stupidly high price for it. But it has that palm-sized dent on the right front fender and too many small scratches and door dings. I talked myself into and out of selling it with n 3 minutes of just looking at its newly waxed liquid Laguna Blue paint. To sell it now, would be wrong.

    • 0 avatar

      Laguna Blue on an NA? Gorgeous, and supposedly one of the rarest Miata colors, and even more so if you have the tan leather or the R package …

      I’m working to (re)start a Laguna Blue registry following the death of the original maintainer. Will be putting out the word on, so look out for it.

      • 0 avatar

        You know your Miata’s. Mine is an ’94 R package. It is far from my first car but it is easily the best I’ve ever owned. I believe that only 1500 or so Laguna Blue Miata’s were built in Hiroshima for MY ’94 and ’95. Mine has the matching hard top. And there’s a pretty weird/amazing story on how I came across that top. The resurrected registry you’re planning is a great idea.

  • avatar

    My first car was a 1947 Chevy Fleetline 2-door sedan, the kind with three chrome strips on the fenders. As though it wasn’t already hard enough to see through the slit-like windows, it had a sun visor over the windshield. My father bought it for me when he got tired of my commuting in his Packard to my summer job at a pea-viner. It had shiny black paint, and our goose loved to peck at his reflected image on the door and quarter panel. It needed front shocks and a clutch. It got sold when I went back to college, and I didn’t really miss it. The next summer I got a 1935 Dodge DU 4-door sedan, and enjoyed it a lot more than I ever had the Chevrolet. I learned early that newer cars aren’t always better than older ones – sometimes they’re just newer.

  • avatar

    You get it.

    Never owned a Miata, nothing but land yachts for me thus far (Panther Love, baby!), but this hits home for my long-lost first.

    Great read.

  • avatar

    Great post. Anyone with a decent first car, or even just good memories from a bad first car, can relate. My 1995 BRG Miata (current car) is minute-to-minute the funnest car I’ve owned.

    Out of curiosity, how many people are buying “escape pods” and where are they investing from? I’ve had this thought myself, except my funds hover around “cheap-ish sushi dinner.”

    • 0 avatar

      BRIC Countries, the Middle East, Russia. Anywhere that there is wealth and instability. I don’t want to sound like one of those “damn furriners” types but low interest rates and lots of supply have led to a bubble, fueled also by Torontonians afraid of being priced out of the market. I’m hoping that in a year or so, $250,000 will buy a lot more than a 400 square foot shoebox.

      • 0 avatar

        Ah. I was thinking more people from the USA might be shopping there. But maybe I’m too paranoid.

      • 0 avatar

        I would do the opposite. Invest the money somewhere really safe and wait for the housing market to crash (again). I am with the ‘this is going to be a double dip crash; croud.

        And did you let you crush go again? Or did you keep here this time?

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Derek, I can identify with my own recent (involuntary) Miata selling experience.

    I bought a 1997 Miata new. Actually I got a 3 year lease on it, as a second “toy” car. It was a base model, no options, because I figured it would be a toy and I would get rid of when the lease was up.

    I loved it so much I bought the car off lease. Two months ago, just short of 15 years of ownership, I totaled it, putting it into a guardrail on a wet day. The damage wasn’t that great but it doesn’t take much to total a 15 year old car.

    The wreck forced my hand obviously, but I had been considering replacing it on and off during the 15 years. I was getting older, it was getting smaller, things like raising and lowering the roof from the driver’s seat and getting in and out were getting harder. But it was such a fun, simple and reliable little car I couldn’t get rid of it, and couldn’t justify the cost of a new one to overcome the annoyances it had. My only regret on it was not ponying up for the top-end model, if I’d known I’d keep it for 15 years I would have spent the bucks on the top of the line.

    I replaced it with a new ’12 PRHT GT model. Exactly what I wanted, the dealer had to go a few states away to find it how I wanted it. Absolute top of the line, every option except of course automatic transmission. I figured if I keep this one as long I won’t miss the few $K spent now making it more comfortable and useful for many years.

    I love the new one. It’s better in so many ways. But I do miss the simplicity of the old one. The new one is heavier and doesn’t handle quite as well in the twisties, IMO. Maybe I just need more time to get used to it, since I had the other one so long I knew exactly what it could do, and I’m still learning on this one. But OTOH it’s more comfortable and powerful, my wife with a bad back can get in & out of it, it has an even better transmission than the original one(which I didn’t believe was possible), and I no longer have to strain my back and shoulders to raise and lower the top at stoplights.

    Honestly I’m 50-50 between missing the old one and wishing I’d made this change sooner.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s funny you say that. Twice I’ve had the opportunity to drive them back to back. The NA feels more visceral, yes, but when you drive the NC, you realize how far that car has come and what an extraordinary car the NC is. Anyone who says the NA is a better car (and there are many) is a liar. And if the NC doesn’t handle well enough, FatCat Motorsport can work their magic on a set of Bilsteins and make it all right. I have their suspension products on my NA, and I will not own a Miata without installing their stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        My new NC has Bilsteins. They are part of the factory suspension package that it has. IMO the difference in handling that I notice is because of more weight, and lower profile tires (45s instead of IIRC 65s on my NA). Maybe I just need to get used to how lower profile tires feel. They seem more “skittery” to me.

      • 0 avatar

        My NA w/R package also has Bilsteins, nothing new there. I also have driven the NC. “Better” depends on what about the Miata experience interests you, what you think is most valuable, or most singular, even rare. What with the general unrelenting bloat heaped on every new and succeeding generation of vehicles of every type the NA’s lightweight, nimble character gets more unique every day. Mazda has even said they’ll try to move back to the NA’s characteristics in the next generation.
        No liar, here. The NA is certainly “different” than the NC and for me “different” is “better.”

        • 0 avatar

          The NA is certainlight lightweight and nimble, but the car is full of cowl shake and the chassis feels soft and malleable after 17 years of use. It all comes alive on track. The NC feels more substantial and solid, even if it’s a bit heavier. I can deal with that. Really looking forward to the ND.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Regarding the “girls car” meme with Miatas. I almost never see females driving them, especially NA and NB models. Almost always middle aged dudes like myself. The car that (to my surprise) is a total girls car is the BMW 3-series. They are almost all driven by women around here. Plus I know 4 women who own one, and only 1 man.

    Also wanted to comment on your tan top. My ’97 Miata was Montego Blue and had a black interior and a black top. Hated all that black, especially when baking in the sun at a stoplight with the top down. I replaced the black top with a tan one about 2 years before I wrecked it. Shoulda done it sooner. Might have started doing something about the seats if I still had it. Your model is what I should have bought back in 97.

  • avatar

    In the last six months, I sold both my first car and my dream car. I’m very much the sentimental type and I’ve spent entirely too many waking hours thinking about cars for longer than I can remember. But they’re just cars.

    Do I miss them? Of course, just like I miss the other three cars I’ve gotten rid of in the decade I’ve had my now been a licensed driver. Each one carried memories, both good and bad, of the of where I was in life while I owned them. The memories don’t die when you hand over the title, though.

    In a way, I feel the same way about ex-girlfriends and family/friends that have passed. You miss them and part of you longs for their return. But you can’t go back and even if you could it would never be the same. Life is always changing. It’s fine to reminisce about your past, but you can’t remain stuck in it.

    That said, don’t sell the car unless you really want/need to. If you do, embrace your decision and move on. Yeah, I miss a couple of my cars, but I don’t regret selling them. Life’s too short and too precious. It really is just a car.

  • avatar

    Enjoy the future, but never ignore the past. Once you become attached to something it no longer is “just a car”…it is a rolling time machine. VanillaDude is right in that you should never obsess so much over that past that you ignore the future. But don’t be so fast to dismiss what made you happy for so long. I still own my first car. Do I drive it frequently? No. Often it is in the way and a minor expense. But sometimes there is nothing that can make me feel better than getting in, closing the door, putting on some period correct music and soak in the experience. Never forget that today’s good times will be tomorrow’s great memory, so you can’t live your life constantly in the past. But never dismiss the significance of those great times past. They are what made you be the person you are today.

  • avatar

    Just sold my first car a few days ago…..

    It was a 1999 C280 Sport, black on black with all the options. Just fast enough to make it feel like a sports sedan, just slow enough to prevent me from getting into trouble. Immaculate interior, but rust problems on the outside. Had it for three years, but the rust combined with the beating it took as a typical first car meant that fixing it would cost more than the car was worth. The engine, tranny, and radio worked great- almost every other electrical component had gone to crap. I didn’t really want to do it, but the time was now to depart.

    Sold it to some yokel contractor who said he’d fix it up, gave me a thousand bucks for it. It was emotional cleaning it out knowing that I’d be sending it to certain doom, but the time had come to move on. All good things come to an end some day. Had one last drive with it, blared old rock with the windows down and drove really fast just like the high school days, and I was satisfied.

    I got a vintage, almost mint condition 84 Seville to replace it, and just drove it today. One couldn’t find a more different type of car, but it’s likely that I’ll end up loving it even more. The ride’s so smooth and the V8 so refined, it’s like having a luxurious couch take you anywhere you want. And best of all, mine’s the only one in the area. It’s gonna be with me for a long, long, long time.

    I guess the moral is this: enjoy your cars to the fullest, because someday you may have to part ways and it might not always be your choice. Keep the Miata, because if you sell it you surely will never see it again. If anything, pass it down to your kids so they’ll get to experience a little of what made you happy in life back then. At the same time, though, always look for the next great automotive opportunity!

  • avatar

    Considering you own the Miata outright…what’s wrong with keeping it and getting another car anyways? Unless you’re really hard up for parking/storage space which would be a bummer. Dropping it down to bare bones insurance and throwing a cover over it for half the year could keep the cost down. Driving it infrequently, but regularly enough to keep it working well, should extend the life it has left quite a ways. The value of the car to a prospective buyer probably won’t exceed the emotional value that the car represents to you. And if it finally blows something too expensive to justify fixing then take off your hat, say goodbye, and let it go.

    When I was 16 in 1996 and got my driver’s license I made an old car my ride for $300. A really old car. A 1966 Dodge Coronet “Deluxe” sedan in a faded, primer-splotched minty green with cancer on the quarter panels, the A-block poly head 318 V8 with a two barrel carb, single exhaust, 727 Torqueflite, and power steering. It was grumpy to cold start in warm weather and a million times worse in wintertime. The brakes were horrible, the suspension wallowed and heaved over any directional change or pavement bump, and it only had lap belts in the front so backseat passengers would slide around on the mile-wide bench seat going around corners. Or smashed against one side of the car if sent around a corner with the inside wheel howling and the V8 roaring through its single pipe when a friend would reach a foot over the transmission hump and stomp his foot down over mine on the accelerator.

    There are times when I wish I could have kept it, but the fantasy wouldn’t keep up with reality. I can only hope whoever bought it fourteen years ago didn’t put it in a demolition derby. Even if it did end up smashed to pieces somewhere in Idaho or stripped for parts and abandoned in a field, at least I’ll always have those memories and foolish hijinx. Of that car, and the eleven others that followed it…

  • avatar

    Don’t sell it. Some cars are just keepers. I’ve had my Triumph Spitfire for nearly 18 years through thick and thin. I will NEVER sell it, they can bury me in it someday. If I lost my job and had to sell off all the rest, I would daily-drive the Spitfire as a last resort, even in the winter. And if you think a Miata is cold in the winter, try an actual British car with a top that is only an approximation and whose heater consists of a hamster huffing though a straw. And the hamster is cold too!

    While as a homeowner I understand the appeal (3700sq/ft garage for the win), now is probably a lousy time to be young and tied to real estate. The current world order seems to reward mobility. My free advise, probably worth exactly what I am charging for it.

  • avatar

    I miss my Miata too. Driving at all times of the day or night with the top down, the 10-CD changer in the trunk playing endlessly.

    Driving home from a 12-hour workday that Miata actually made me feel a little bit less like it was a work day. If I could have only worked 8-hour days, that car might have made me feel as though I were on vacation.

    I have thought many times of buying another Miata; good used ones can be had for around $15,000 and another 10% of that will put on a new top, a new set of tires, and might almost pay for a new timing belt and all new belts and hoses, too. And there you have it, a great and fun little car good for another several years of service.

  • avatar
    PJ McCombs

    Your car looks like an amalgam of the two Miatas I’ve owned: ’95 M-Edition (the maroon/tan top one) with a bar and some suspension bits, and a green base ’99. It’s even an average of the model years!

    The first one got totaled. I sold the second one when we moved overseas.

    Never wanted to get rid of either of them. I looked forward to going to work because of the drive, and wished my commute were longer on the way home.

    Had a few cars in between them, and don’t really miss those. And when I owned the Miatas, I test-drove several alternatives thinking they might be better (S2000s, Fox-body Mustangs, just about every FWD sport-compact made between 2002-2010), but none felt as ‘right’.

    Some cars are just special. You’re a car blogger–it’s not like you’ll miss out on driving other stuff to come home to a car you like. As for the finances, I’ve seen several car-guy buddies sell a favourite they had all set up to their liking, then buy up several ‘maybe as good’s, dumping cash into them to get them up to scratch, and then selling them for a net loss when they got bored a few months later.

  • avatar

    I share part of the sentimentality of car ownership, for once i ride and drive on every citroen make up to the BX bar the SM and the DS. ( grandpa owns the sales n repair shop )

    And its true that nothing come close to the way a citroen “floats” over the road surface.

    Now grandpa had died long time ago and i cant even see one citroen on the street since citroen has pulled itself away from my country.

    The last citroen ( AK400 )in our lot has to be scrapped as no one knows how to fix them and the body has completely disintegrated.

    It was a tough call to make coz that’s the car we all grew up with.

    But in the end, it has to go, no one knows how to fix it nor if it is fix, it would be legal to be brought on the road.

    I recall great many things in my past and most may never repeat itself again.

    This is true for everything in this life, nothing last forever, things breaks, people dies and even our memories will fall apart one day.

    All in all make your decision wisely, if you have to sell it, then may it be, if u can afford to keep it, make sure it doesn’t lower your life quality.

    There is a time for everything, i think that what makes it even sweeter.

  • avatar

    Broke into the old apartment
    This is where we used to live
    Broken glass, broke and hungry
    Broken hearts and broken bones
    This is where we used to live

    Why did you paint the walls?
    Why did you clean the floor?
    Why did you plaster over the hole I punched in the door?
    This is where we used to live

    Why did you keep the mousetrap?
    Why did you keep the dishrack?
    these things used to be mine
    I guess they still are, I want them back

    Broke into the old apartment
    Forty-two stairs from the street
    Crooked landing, crooked landlord
    Narrow laneway filled with crooks
    This is where we used to live

    Why did they pave the lawn?
    why did they change the locks?
    Why did I have to break it, I only came here to talk
    This is where we used to live

    How is the neighbor downstairs?
    How is her temper this year?
    I turned up your TV and stomped on the floor just for fun
    I know we don’t live here anymore
    We bought an old house on the Danforth
    She loves me and her body keeps me warm
    I’m happy here
    But this is where we used to live

    Broke into the old apartment
    Tore the phone out of the wall
    Only memories, fading memories
    Blending into dull tableaux

    I want them back
    This is where we use to live
    I want them back
    This is where we use to live
    I want them back
    This is where we use to live
    I want them back

  • avatar

    My first significant car was a 1994 Civic DX coupe. Base model, 5 speed. I loved everything about that car. I spent so much time working the 610 loop of Houston, going to Westhimer looking for races and just generally cruising. I eventually installed a small supercharger on the original motor, which made for amusing races against the Mustangs that were out at the time. I made every automotive mistake with that car and it didn’t mind. Always forgiving, always understanding.

    That car took me to college. To a lot of firsts. My first love. I remember going to see her in Dallas multiple times, about 3 hours away. There was nothing better than hurrying to my car after classes on a Friday, cell phone buzzing as I slid into the seat, popped in a CD and went for first gear. Whenever I see a coupe like the one I had, I still see a Sarah Conner-esque image in my head of her in the passenger seat, aviator sunglasses on, wind tossing her hair, and the reflection of a Texas sunset on her lenses.

  • avatar

    You will regret selling it forever if you do. Been there done that. Got the stupid N’ sad tshirt to prove it. Never ever sell something you have that much mental and physical energy and emotional investment tied up in. Keep saving and buy a house if you feel the need. But keep the miata. I’m not remotely a fan of them but you don’t write and feel like that about a simple appliance that you can discard without leaving scars. Being responsible is a wonderful thing but enjoying your life is just as important if not more so. Fix the car up as you have the funds to do so if it needs some work since you already maintain it yourself. Something that brings you that much joy will be forever missed if you let it leave your life and all your memories of it will be tainted with “I should have never sold my miata.”

  • avatar

    Man, I for one, enjoyed this story. Brought back many memories of my first car. My first was a 05 forenza. She was jet black, had a nice gloss that made her look like a damn near new car when waxed, and only 108,000ish miles on the clock when I bought her. Wasn’t nothing wrong with her except for the airbag light. College started back, I plummeted with “friends” that was around now because of the car. Then dark days approached when my rice rocket desires began to overwhelm me, I sold her and took that money and bought a 98 Honda prelude sh. Sold my forenza to a so called friend of mines that went m.I.a as soon as I signed over the title.not a day had gone by since the day I sold it that I’ve gotten over what I did and that’s been two months.and recently I was t-boned and now my car needs a new passenger door and quarter panel.all I know is when I get my refund check this semester, I’m buying my forenza back. But dude, do not sell that miata, unless its broken beyond repair.

  • avatar

    This is so well written , no wonder I always click to read your bylines .

    Swapping a Miata for a house is a good thing , go for it .

    I always enjoy reading about those long lost first rides .


  • avatar

    Hello. I am writing from a distant land called India. Different lifestyle, habits & so on. However, similar sentiments when it comes to the 1st car.

    I bought my very 1st car which is a 2nd hand small hatch back in 2004, my first job pay cheque. She has been with me since and seen through all rough weathers in my personal life. Stood strong.

    Now, Its time to bid adieu. Selling her off tomorrow to scrap. I am sad.Very much. I love her and every time I look at her eyes (head lamps) I can see her begging me not to let go.But she is absolutely in frail health. Engine has rusted. All doors jammed. Chasis etc in very bad condition. And repairing her would cost me a mammoth. But I must tell you, she looks beautiful.

    I have 2 other cars now & I realize that everything one day has to go (including me). No point of holding her back when she ‘needs’ to go, like every other being. But yes, I will be sad. Pretty much for a very long time or rather full of guilt that I didn’t hold on to her.

    But I guess that is how it is. Everything that comes, it has to go too.

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