I have bought many cars over the years, but I only married one. There is a difference.
When you buy a car for yourself, or even with that someone else in your life, you (usually) have some control over what it will be and whether or not it deserves a place in your driveway. But the car that comes with the person you choose to share your life with is different. It’s a package deal – “You want me? You get my car too.”
I married well, in the normal way as well as in the vehicular sense. When I met the future Mrs. JPC in late 1988, she had just purchased a new Honda Accord LX sedan a couple of months before. She was quite excited about it, but I was having trouble working up enthusiasm. So I faked it the best I could.
I was, you see, about a year beyond from walking away from a car payment and choosing to drive a very, very nice 1966 Fury III sedan. That big C body Mopar made me very, very happy and a little Japanese boresmobile held no appeal for me. I had been raised on classic American iron and was content to live in that happy place for the rest of my life.
However, as things progressed with Miss M, things also progressed in my relationship with that Honda. For starters, it was certainly handy to have a car with air conditioning, as my Fury lacked that amenity. Beyond that, I slowly came to appreciate the Accord’s many virtues. Such as the fact that it never broke. And that it was so pleasant to drive (to the extent that such a thing was possible with a four cylinder/automatic transmission car). In short, I came to embrace the Honda and when Miss M became Mrs. JPC, I was happy to adopt it into my automotive family, which by then also included a 1961 Thunderbird and a 1929 Ford Model A. I was less happy adopting the payment that came along with it, but oh well.
While I traded through a series of cars, the Honda was our vehicular constant. When I wrecked the ’83 Colt that replaced the Fury, a Camry was my rental. The Camry did one thing really well – it cemented my appreciation for the Honda. The styling, the interior and the more engaging driving dynamics were things I had failed to appreciate without a good Japanese point of comparison. The Accord remained our primary wheels until the ’85 Crown Victoria came into our lives in 1993, but it shared the “good car” status even then. It may not have been as big as the Vic, but it was newer.
It was not until the Ford Club Wagon became top dog of the garage in the spring of 1995 that the Accord was demoted to “second car” status. I forget why Mrs. JPC was driving the Accord instead of the van on the fateful day a few months later when she got caught in a flash flood while returning from shopping during a heavy rainstorm. That incident led to an oft-told family story that involved a pregnant woman doing a NASCAR exit through the driver’s window and then rescuing two toddlers from the back seat. The car was towed away and dried out, and seemed to come back good as ever.
I, however, was leery of the car. It didn’t matter that our only repairs during its entire seven year life had consisted of tires, brakes, a muffler and a battery. I now feared hidden damage to mechanical and electrical things that might not rear their heads until long after the insurance company’s willingness to pay for them had dissipated. It also seemed that the a/c was not blowing as cold as before. After a discussion it was agreed that we should advertise the Accord for sale. It sold quickly (with full disclosure of its water damage) and our life moved on. Mrs. JPC teared-up when it drove away – the only time this has happened. I continued to see that car for years afterwards, making me second-guess my haste to unload it.
The Honda was attractive, comfortable and was virtually trouble-free. My relationship with the car began with toleration, moved on to respect and finally landed in a place of genuine affection.
I will have been married to Mrs. JPC for thirty years this next May, so I turned out to be lucky in both love and in the car that came along as part of the deal. So, what about you? Surely you have married or otherwise had a car come into your life as part of a relationship? And was the experience a good one? The car experience, I mean.
All photos unless otherwise identified were taken by the author, who reserves all rights.