The Resurrection of a Mazda

When I returned home from work a few weeks ago, I broke into a wide grin at the happy sight of a familiar Mazda Protégé in the parking lot. She’s a scientific wonder affectionately known as The Maz; 24 years old, baby blue (in places), boasting all of her 406,000 kilometers with every inch of her peeling, rusting, dented and pockmarked body. She’d just spent nearly a month at the shop before coming home to us, her engine once again purring like a kitten. “It’s not worth it,” the auto shop had told my husband, Jon. “Why don’t you just go buy a used Corolla instead?” O ye of little faith.

That’s the first major repair she’s had in twelve years. We figured if we put $700 under the hood and she ran another year, it would be worth every cent. We ended up paying significantly less than that, yet Jon swears there are all sorts of new parts inside that weren’t on the bill. There are only two possible explanations: 1. Nephites, or 2. The shop turned the repair into some sort of team building exercise. Synergy!

Some old cars are cool. Not so The Maz! We don’t drive her because she’s old enough to be awesomely vintage (she’s not), or because it’s funny and cultish, like driving an El Camino or wood-paneled AMC Eagle. We drive her because my husband bought her, and she still runs, and otherwise we would have to go buy something else.

I wouldn’t have blamed her if she’d up and died years ago, but she keeps going with very little coaxing. Just in the time we’ve had her she’s lived in Rexburg, Idaho, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Tucson, and Phoenix, all with no air conditioning. But hey, you can’t argue with 40 miles to the gallon, even if it is just because she only weighs like 500 pounds and you’d die instantly in a fender bender. Plus, if we can keep all her bits and pieces together til next year she’ll be considered a Historic Vehicle and is no longer subject to emissions testing. There’s even an elite Historic Vehicle license plate option! I must have it. ONE MORE YEAR! ONE MORE YEAR! ONE MORE YEAR!

But maybe Jon and I are taking the “don’t go into debt for anything other than education and a house” advice a little too far, for she is not a pretty sight. My grandpa once gifted us one of his treasured coupons for a free car wash and shoved us out the door. When we returned, he sat at the window puzzling and puzzling over why the car looked the exact same as it had before we left. That was almost 10 years ago, and time has not been kind to her. Cosmetically, she’s begun deteriorating at what seems to be an exponential rate. My pride got the best of me last winter when I refused to continue driving her to work even though our other car costs at least twice as much for my commute. Someone left a note under a wiper blade last summer; at first I thought it must be a visual pollution complaint from a neighbor, but it was actually a guy named Anthony expressing his interest in buying her. Jon and I doubled over in laughter, but then I started thinking about the life circumstances that might lead Anthony to that desperate act and it made me sad.

Yet despite her shortcomings – her age, lack of air conditioning in 115 degree weather, the fact that all of her insides are essentially fused together by heat and rust and time so that tinkering with one piece almost always leads to the subsequent disintegration of many other pieces – we’re quite fond of her. The day Jon went to pick her up was a bit nerve-racking. The auto shop had just finished remodeling their administrative office and hadn’t kept in touch very well during the process; we weren’t exactly sure if Jon was going to be driving her home in triumphant glory, or calling a scrap metal company. The question was answered for me in spectacular fashion when I received the following text:

“She lives, she lives who once was dead!”

Comments

  1. I like the idea of the 3 Nephites running a garage. Someone oughta write a book…

  2. Mark B. says:

    The air-conditioning problem would be solved by a move back to Fort McMurray.

  3. This was a lot of fun. Thanks. Funny how easy it is to get attached to a car.

  4. Everything about this makes me smile :)

  5. J. Stapley says:

    I thought this was going to be about Zoroastrianism and possibly short fiction by Steve Peck. Still it is pretty cool.

  6. Coffinberry says:

    Rain-on-your-parade Alert: You may be paying more for insurance than for a more recent car due to the lack of antilock brakes and airbags. We learned this the hard way ourselves, when the ’85 Toyota we had been keeping alive for similar reasons and through three teenage drivers met an ignominious demise while just sitting parked in front of the house. So we accepted the insurance settlement and bought a 99 Toyota of the same model. Imagine our surprise when the insurance rate was 1/6th what it was before. We asked why, and were told that it was because the older one had none of the new safety features. We were devastated to learn how much money we had wasted in insurance when we thought we were being prudent and frugal! I think it was something like $5-6k we wasted by paying a higher rate for the older car.

  7. 1/6th of $35 a month would be very cheap, indeed.

  8. liz johnson says:

    Hmm. I could potentially see hell being a library… and heaven being an old car that never stops running.

    YAY for permablogging!

  9. Jason K. says:

    Two things come to mind: Neil Young’s “Long May You Run” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIk1O8l2czk) and Eugene England’s “Blessing the Chevrolet” (http://www.eugeneengland.org/blessing-the-chevrolet). Thanks for a great post!

  10. I had a car like that. I still miss her.

  11. Oh my. This reminds me of a car my husband and I drove through his graduate school, post-doc, and well into “real” employment, a used Corolla, actually, which my husband would still be driving if we hadn’t run into some circumstances where having reliable transportation could be the difference between life and death. But it stalled randomly in intersections and no mechanic could figure out why, and the driver’s window didn’t roll down anymore, so you had to open the car door to pay tolls, and the insurance company had totaled it after the body was severely damaged in a major hailstorm. Ah, the memories.

  12. MDearest says:

    My hat is off to your awesome car-owning skills. My almost new (03) Toyota doesn’t even rank. And here I was feeling sheepish when I parked it next to my friend’s shiny brand new Escalade last week. You’ve renewed my pride in my old bucket.

  13. She lives to hear my soul’s complaints…which may or may not include her lack of air conditioning.

  14. What a perfect homage to The Maz. Brilliant and funny.

  15. Oh wow, how I loved this. I just sold my 1996 mazda protege after fifteen years and nearly 300,000 miles together. Something about it defines who I was for so long that it’s odd not to have it any longer.

  16. What a coincidence! I bought a blue Mazda Protege DX new in January 1991, so it would be 23 years old today. After 12 years and 240,000 miles, I finally donated it to charity so I could buy a CNG car.

  17. Old cars. Love ‘em. My ’89 Nissan truck sits in my driveway, because I haven’t the heart to junk it. It still runs fine, but the rust. The rust has nearly taken her.

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