I was hard set on never owning a Honda as I’m a Nissan fan, but having this one around made me realize why so many people own and love them.
The struggle was real. Gas prices were on a roller coaster. My girlfriend had gotten a better job working at Cedars-Sinai. It was a longer commute, and the efficient nature of this little car was of benefit to our budget.
We actually found a silver colored model of the same year while browsing one of those free used car magazines found at most liquor stores in our area. The silver one looked nice in photos but in person the tint job was bad, had higher mileage, and more dings than we were both comfortable with.
This car was on the same small lot. It presented nicer. It did not have the tint but did have lower mileage. The only issue it had was the Honda OEM stereo was locked out, an anti theft feature Honda had to deter thieves that did not realize after market stereos were better. I did not mind the radio issue as I still had a Kenwood stereo that was in the old Altima.
The dealer let us both go for a test drive. I started off the drive but a few blocks away we switched roles as this was to be her car. She loved it, we switched roles again before arriving at the dealer. For under $10k it came home with us. She finally took her license test and gained her license after a few days of ownership.
I changed the stereo as soon as it got home. A week later I got a sweet tint job done on it, 5% on the rear doors/window and 15% on the front doors. After a few weeks I upgraded the tires from some no name brand tires to General Altimax tires. I was finally getting comfortable with automotive wiring. The final modification I did was installing a 2 way autostart alarm system that she put to good use daily to warm up the car. I still remember the melody that pager played when it started up every morning. It had hub caps, but I wanted the aluminum rims from the EX model, and she did too of course. But I wasn’t in to the car or anything.
Secretly though, I enjoyed that car. It was of higher quality car than I was used to. A bit plasticky and understandable in a compact car. The cloth seats were very comfortable, although as a “Festively Plump” gentleman I was never comfortable in the back seat.
It was an LX model with a 115 horsepower 1.7 liter engine which I would describe as adequate or fitting. I knew little about Hondas and was under the impression that they all were equipped with a VTEC system. But the VTEC never kicked in yo!
A little research and inspection on my part revealed that in this model Vtec was only on EX models. I really had to…I mean you really had to rev it to get the power. Once you got it going, you had to use the momentum and handling characteristics to keep pace. I find what they say is true about small or underpowered cars teaching you how to really handle a car.
The tires greatly improved the handling, and for a long time my girl was scared of how I drove. The license tests in the previously mentioned Gran Turismo game honestly increased my vehicle handling knowledge. I passed the knowledge on to her, how to brake before turns and power out. How to aim for the Apex of a turn, and how to use the throttle to increase/decrease oversteer/understeer, to keep plowing of this front drive vehicle at bay.
I created a monster; after a few month the roles reversed and I found myself being the one scared of her driving. When I drive fast I have to lower the volume of the stereo to listen to what the tires were doing. She could do it while loudly listening to Rockabilly music. She would tell me to relax when I would protest. She’s still out there somewhere so be careful.
Reliability wise the car was solid. Only once did it let us down. The transmission did break down on her while driving home one day. I believe this is a problem multiple Honda lines of this vintage, I keep hearing solenoid contamination along with many other theories. She drove to my job to have it checked. I test drove it while she followed in another car. It felt like it was slipping in to neutral then back to drive. It finally gave up and I coasted it to a stop on a small street in Alhambra.
We towed it home ourselves under the cover of darkness with a simple tow strap. We then took it well known transmission chain for repair. It was around $1800, the mechanic told us a low/reverse drum had failed. It drove well but it felt sluggish, I believe they used the wrong fluid, it doesn’t take Dex/Merc. I left it at that because of what happened next.
She was still hinting at going to the next level in our relationship; And that’s where the trouble began. We were together going on 10 years at this point. I thought to myself: If this is going to happen then I need to get educated and make more money to make it happen comfortably and not struggle.
I mentioned that I signed up to a trade school to her and it set her off. She somehow could not get it through her head that I was doing this for us. She was under the impression that I wanted to get rid of her and/or see other girls. She got more possessive and gave me an ultimatum; I had to never see or talk to Jill again or she would leave. In her words “Danny that girl likes you!”- Truth be told, yea I did like her too. I never got the chance to find out. Love is hard.
My girlfriend ended up moving out and our relationship was never the same. The end came when we were wirelessly sharing music through our laptops. Some of the files shared were of her and another gentlemen in compromising positions. My heart sunk when I saw this. I wanted to cry, I wanted to yell, I wanted to get violent, yet I did nothing but hold back those tears, face it and pack up my computer. She was on the phone as I slowly turned her computer around to face her. She had a slight hesitation but not much of a reaction as I walked out.
It was an unexpected way to find out, but it is better to know the truth. I’ve been physically hurt before many times, this hurt the most and it is a pain I hope to never feel again. Yet in a way I was relieved, I had made up my mind of what I was going to do with my life. Sure I wanted her to be in it, but she did not have my back from the get go, it was a sign.
I had learned what love and heartbreak felt like. I now knew why people enjoy and were passionate about their Hondas. They do get you from point A to B. But more importantly they get you to your next step in life. I knew it was not rock bottom but it kind of felt like it. I felt like I had nothing of use for the next step in my life…except the next COAL.