COAL: Your Humble Author Reflects on a (Near) Decade of Driving: The 1989 Ford Taurus GL Wagon – As Owned by My 16-Year-Old Self

Back in the era when one could purchase a disposable camera, I decided to buy one, just for the hell of it. The idea was to take pictures of things I figured my future self would want to remember. If I had a DeLorean, I’d travel back to that moment to tell Edward of the past to invest in Google…and to thank him for the pictures he took of my very first car.

December 26, 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of my being allowed to drive a car legally. It hadn’t been set in stone that the Taurus would be the vehicle my father bestowed on me, but eventually it won out over several candidates–two of which are pictured above, albeit shrouded in snow. The first is an early 90’s Chevy Corsica my dad bought from an acquaintance for a bargain price–and we very quickly found out why. The car had a horrible stench, but one not directly related to the vehicle itself, just like a real-life version of a Seinfeld episode you might recall. Still, I liked the way it drove, and it did have decent power, but the Corsica was not to be.

The other car pictured (just ahead of the stop sign) is a white, completely optionless 1987 Toyota Cressida that was handed down from my uncle. It was a decent enough car, but it paled in comparison with the 1986 Toyota Cressida my sister was driving. Besides, it also suffered from major oil leaks and had other issues, and my dad didn’t want to put any money into it.

That left one remaining option: The car we had bought in 2001, to replace an American sedan (of the same model year) that had died of a blown head gasket after 280,000 miles. My future car had 102,000 miles when he plunked down the cash for it, and 180,000 by the time I got the keys. I didn’t mind too much. I’d always been fond of the car despite the prodigious rust caused by the previous owner, who’d used it to tow a boat somewhere down south. He must have dipped it in the water a couple of times, too.

On April 16, 2003, and all by my lonesome, I was granted the privilege of driving by the state of New York. It was a sweltering-hot day with temperatures in the mid-90s. For 45 minutes, I waited in a line of cars containing equally anxious fellow teenagers. When the woman who would be evaluating my performance got into the passenger seat, she immediately saw that the car didn’t have air conditioning. It was at that point that part of her soul died. Nevertheless, I passed the test and then drove to the nearest Chinese buffet to celebrate with my friends. At first it felt pretty strange not having Dad sitting next to me, but I got over it pretty quickly.

Can any of you younger readers appreciate the bumpers stickers I affixed to my vehicle? I know they’re hard to see, but if you were a fan of those particular bands, you’d know them right away. Also, does something about the right taillight look strange? You see, my Dad smacked the wagon into a tree while backing out of a friend’s driveway one night. That’s red tape you see, and the rust on the side reveals the dent made by the tree. Boy, was I pissed–never mind that the car had lost the war against rust several years before. Judging by the look of the damage, this picture was taken very shortly after I got my license, in summer 2003, when I again braved the New York heat in search of a replacement light. I mistakenly bought one for either an ’86 or 1987 model. That meant it had four fake reverse lights instead of the two you see in the picture. To put things into context, my parking spot was the grass beside our driveway. My Dad’s car is to the right (can you guess what it is?), and my sister’s Cressida occupies the other side, thus giving her the advantage of being closest to our front door.

I even took an interior pic! Obviously, there was a CC Contributing Editor living inside me a decade before I knew it. This nearly spotless interior really was the car’s saving grace, with materials that outclassed the mystery car my dad drove at the time (of the same model year–hint, hint). It also didn’t hurt that the car drove well. I soon fell in love with highway cruising, and with the 3.0-liter Vulcan V6 engine that powered the wagon.

Time passed quickly. By summer’s end in 2004, the car was showing its age and needed work. The heater core blew out on me on the way to the local pharmacy where as I was employed at the time. Smoke came pouring out of the vents, and I was terrified. One tow to the mechanic later and we quickly found the price of the repair to be unacceptable. So we got the Sable,  and the picture above shows the spot my Taurus was relegated to, more or less permanently.

So the Taurus sat. It was still usable, but without a heater core it would only be useful in warmer weather. I got acquainted with my Sable, and several months passed. Snow was on the ground and I looked at the Taurus, all covered in snow, abandoned. My feelings got the better of me and I persuaded my dad to help get the Taurus out of the snow for a quick spin. But the snow was too deep; the bull was stuck. My dad tried rocking it in order to get some momentum going then…SNAP. Both front struts gave out at the same time, leaving the wagon to forever stare at the ground. It was at that moment we knew it was time to say goodbye.

Which leads me to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In order to have a fighting chance against the Klingons, Kirk sacrifices the U.S.S. Enterprise, and after escaping danger, the crew looks on as the wreckage of the ship they had served on for twenty five years disintegrates into nothingness. The exchange between Kirk and McCoy here are particularly noteworthy:

Kirk: My God, Bones… what have I done?
McCoy: What you had to do. What you always do: turn death into a fighting chance to live.

Now, our real life experiences won’t be nearly as dramatic as that fantastic scene, but it illustrates an important point: What we’re doing is living; and no matter how attached we become to the people and things we love, they’ll go away eventually. This will happen to my current CC; but others will replace it.

There’s always hope. New memories, people, and machines to become accustomed to. And as long as we remember our past, those things will forever give us solace, in times of despair or happiness.

And now I leave the floor to you, brave CC commentators. Have you ever gone through an experience like mine? Is it shallow to lament the loss of a simple machine? What is the importance of a curbside classic “death?” I’m looking forward to hearing from you all.