It Might Be A Quarter Life Crisis, Just A Stirring In My Soul

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
it might be a quarter life crisis just a stirring in my soul

The 2014 Chicago Auto Show marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the Mazda MX-5. In that time, the Miata has cemented itself as the preeminent sports car for a generation of driving enthusiasts. Roughly a million of them have been produced. Having already written an encomium to my first car – a 1997 Miata – I am reluctant to go down that road again, not least because I have a habit of tearing up when I read it or see pictures of my old car. But I’m going to anyways.

When I wrote that essay, I was struggling with whether to sell the Miata or not. Eventually, I did sell it to someone I knew, who promised to do what I was unable to do: garage it in the winter, wax it in the summer and approach it with a level of gratitude and appreciation that I frequently find myself constitutionally incapable of possessing.

Many of you will remember that I foolishly bought a shitty Volvo wagon in the mistaken belief that I could get away with having a trouble free beater. Eventually, I sold it and cut my losses after it nearly got me killed. A short time later, I bought another Miata, a 2003 Shinsen version that was owned by an older gentleman who no longer wanted to get in and out of the car every day.

My new Miata is qualitatively better in every way. It is newer, faster, sharper and did not suffer through 15 Canadian winters (it lived in Florida most of its life). But it does not have that modern day Elan look, the smell of hairspray and cracked leather, the atomized experiences of youth and misadventures contained in its metal flesh.

It was not the car that I was in during one evening drive, with the sun setting and the crackling Pioneer head unit tuned to the spotty classic rock station. I felt a boundless sense of optimism, the feeling that I could be anyone or do anything, no matter how foolish it may seem in hindsight. I wondered if life would ever get any better than that particular moment. I’m not sure it has.

Most of all, I feel an ominous sense of loss, not just for my first car, but for my own innocence. Selling the Miata was the first time I attempted to put a dollar value on what a friend of mine described as a “4-wheeled rolling time capsule”. I sold the green Miata shortly before I broke up with my first girlfriend, and on one of my last drives with the car, we had a particularly awkward date.

I loved her very much, and she loved me, but her mercurial disposition and extreme introversion made even basic interaction a challenging and unpredictable undertaking. That night we shared dinner in near silence, and I felt frustrated and fed up with the situation. But I still remember us getting in the car, the rumble of the stainless steel exhaust, the “clomp” of the vinyl top folding down and the chilly night time air blowing around us. Suddenly, the mood lightened, and her stern expression gave way to laughing and giggling and her palm resting on mine as I rowed through the gears on the way home.

I will never forget the day I sold my car, the hours before when I picked up its hardtop from the storage unit, and had my brother take some final photographs with me standing next to it, just like I will never forget the eerie sense of dread and deja vu I felt on the drive over to her house on the night I broke up with her. It bore an uncanny resemblance to how I felt on my last drive in the green Miata on the way to the new owner’s house. By the summer’s end, two of the most important anchors in my life were gone.

When I missed her most, I would think of moments like these, rather than the extended silences, the impossible communication and the impatient, ever-so-contemptuous way that she’d speak to me. The longing for her is gone, but I miss those memories, and I miss my old car. Now, I’m dating someone new, someone as opposite from her as one can be. I am very happy. I have a new Miata too, but I am not quite as content with the car. I imagine that my feelings towards my new Miata are akin to what someone who has lost a parent feels towards whoever the surviving parent takes up with afterwards. You may harbor great affection for them, but it does little to extinguish the feelings of love and loss that still linger.

Even so, I am thankful every time I get back into it, now matter how rapid or opulent the prior week’s press car may be. I am grateful to own a car with a real cable throttle, a low belt line and a responsive chassis. Every now and then, I think of getting a new car, but I will not sell mine. I will hold on tight and not let go until the last possible second. I will not make the same mistake twice.

Here’s to the next 25 years.

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2 of 35 comments
  • RHD RHD on Feb 13, 2014

    We've all had that impatient, contemptuous girlfriend with the "mercurial disposition and extreme introversion"... (what a precise description!) They are best as exes, and do not make good wives. Those that own or have owned a Miata have experienced a joy in driving that few other cars can provide, and those who haven't, have really missed out. Anyone who is dismissive of a MX-5 has either never driven one, or, like the psychotic ex-girlfriend, is beyond help.

  • Japanese Buick Japanese Buick on Feb 15, 2014

    Allow me to put another spin on your Miata nostalgia. I had a 96 that I bought new and kept forever. Like until it was totaled by my carelessness on a wet on ramp in 2012. Had it almost 16 years. It was great but the last couple of years I had been thinking it was time to replace it. The airbag light was illuminated and it was on its second soft top. But the biggest "problem" was that I was 15 years older than when I bought it and it was getting more uncomfortable to get in and out and to put the top up from inside. After it was totaled I got more for it than I could have sold it for (didn't have to explain an airbag light to the insurer). After dallying with The idea of buying a Mini I replaced it with a '12 PRHT model. My main thought is that I wish I had done it a few years earlier. Yeah the new Miata is heavier and not as simple and tossable but the proof is in the pudding: I've been driving it 50% more miles a year than I ever drove its predecessor. Yes it's a second car to my 98 LS400 but it's much more livable than the NA so gets chosen more often. It may be slightly less fun per mile but its improved usability means more miles which means more fun overall. So don't look back. Maybe you got out of the NA at exactly the right time, before it started showing the warts mine showed me after over a decade of ownership.

  • Statikboy Those tires are the Wrong Size.
  • Mustangfast I had an 06 V6 and loved that car. 230k trouble free miles until I sold it. I remember they were criticized for being too small vs competitors but as a single guy it was the right size for me. I recall the 2.3 didn’t have a reputation for reliability, unlike the V6 and I4. I think it likely didn’t take off due to the manual-only spec, price tag, and power vs the V6 engine and the way it delivered that power. It was always fun to see the difference between these and normal ones, since these were made in Japan whereas all others were flat rock
  • VoGhost Earth is healing.
  • ToolGuy "Having our 4th baby and decided a camper van is a better use of our resources than my tuner."Seller is in the midst of some interesting life choices.Bonus: Here are the individuals responsible for doing the work on this vehicle.
  • MaintenanceCosts Previous owner playing engineer by randomly substituting a bunch of components, then finding out. No thanks.