QOTD: Many Happy Returns?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

I can’t quite remember what it was that jogged my brain the other night, but whatever it was, it conjured up a wholesome yet frustrating memory. A memory of a person and a car from my childhood.

The person was my oldest friend’s mother — one of the kindest women I’ve ever known, matched easily by the daughter she clearly raised right. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. As for the car, it was a blue, mid-’80s Toyota Tercel 5-door. For me, that car is just a memory, and a somewhat annoying one at that, but for the owner — my friend’s mother — it was the first of many.

Toyota. They’re like the mob; easy to get in, awfully hard to leave. And that’s the way it was with my friend’s mother, who never again owned a car from any other brand.

My Tercel memory hails from the earliest years of the ’90s. In that long-ago time, the seemingly indestructible hatchback worked hard, with the tiny blue ship often loaded to the gunwales with humanity and camping equipment. Tasked with pulling all of that cargo was a 63-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-banger mated to a three-speed automatic.

To say this vehicle was slow would be an understatement. It was painfully, glacially slow. To a child whose parents drove American V6s and V8s, reaching highway speeds in this thing under full load was an altogether new experience. Pin the throttle on a hill with a full backseat and cargo area and the engine would recite the Lord’s Prayer. I’m surprised it didn’t shoot a grappling hook from beneath the front bumper in a bid to pull itself up the incline.

But it stickered low, sipped gas, and ran forever, just like every Tercel that came after. Know of a last-generation Tercel coupe in good condition? I’m interested.

My friend’s mom’s love affair with Toyota continued for the rest of her Earthly life; Corolla was the go-to for years afterwards, but when she sadly passed away from cancer several years ago, a Matrix had made its home in her driveway. Of anyone I’ve ever known, her devotion to a single brand was most steadfast.

Plenty of people have a short list of automakers they avoid (usually stemming from personal experience), but in her case, there was only one true love. Only one brand to trust. Have you every known anyone like this — someone with only one entry on their shopping list? What was the brand, and how long did it go on for?

[Image: Toyota]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • DrivenToMadness DrivenToMadness on May 22, 2020

    I had an 86 Tercel, a 3-door hatchback, in exactly the same color as the one in the picture foreground. It was my car through college and even the first year of my professional life. Because there’s no “dynamics” to speak of, before I learned to wrench on cars I thought it was a RWD car because of its longitudinal engine. I splurged and bought a TRD leather shift knob (from the dealer—where else—before internet shopping?) for its 4spd manual and did my best to emulate the fast shifting I saw in “Days of Thunder”, imagining the driving pleasure when one day I could actually afford a fast car that wouldn’t struggle to climb up the Grapevine near Los Angeles. I don’t think I’m loyal to any particular brand; I want different cars for different purposes and not every carmaker makes every car I need (or want) for myself and for my family. I still have a Toyota in my garage—and it’s probably the fastest and the most ambitious Toyota ever that’s actually designed by Toyota from the ground up. But I look to different carmakers for other cars in my family because they’re good at different attributes: reliability, sportiness, etc.

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on May 22, 2020

    I worked at a GM dealer and drove GM for decades. My GM cars were far more reliable than their reputation and I was happy enough with them. I bought a Malibu Maxx for its brilliant packaging, it was also fairly reliable, but it was so cheaply made of cheap materials that I hated looking at it. I traded it on a then 10 year old Lexus and 10-years later that car is still the single best thing I've ever bought. I bought my wife a Volvo 850GLT which led to a 'no European cars' edict being issued in our house. So, it's going to be used Japanese cars from now on.

  • Analoggrotto Level 50 Trolling at it's finest. Well done.
  • Lorenzo The unspoken killer is that batteries can't be repaired after a fender-bender and the cars are totaled by insurance companies. Very quickly, insurance premiums will be bigger than the the monthly payment, killing all sales. People will be snapping up all the clunkers Tim Healey can find.
  • Lorenzo Massachusetts - with the start/finish line at the tip of Cape Cod.
  • RHD Welcome to TTAH/K, also known as TTAUC (The truth about used cars). There is a hell of a lot of interesting auto news that does not make it to this website.
  • Jkross22 EV makers are hosed. How much bigger is the EV market right now than it already is? Tesla is holding all the cards... existing customer base, no dealers to contend with, largest EV fleet and the only one with a reliable (although more crowded) charging network when you're on the road. They're also the most agile with pricing. I have no idea what BMW, Audi, H/K and Merc are thinking and their sales reflect that. Tesla isn't for me, but I see the appeal. They are the EV for people who really just want a Tesla, which is most EV customers. Rivian and Polestar and Lucid are all in trouble. They'll likely have to be acquired to survive. They probably know it too.