Discussion in 'Fred's House of Pancakes' started by FA6, Apr 6, 2017.

  1. FA6

    FA6 Member

    Mar 19, 2017
    2017 Prius Prime
    Prime Premium
    This was "it".....

    My older brother had bought "it" for $900 from one of his friends in El Paso and had driven it to Galveston. He had finished his Masters and was now looking for a job. In the meantime he had come to Galveston, Texas and I was staying with him.

    "It" was a 1977 Toyota Corolla 2-door, dirty yellow in color and with untold number of miles as the odometer had stopped at 999,999.0. It was a manual drive and had a working A/C! The front two seats were torn up badly and were now partly covered with aftermarket seat covers that were also in a very bad state of repair. The cushion of the rear bench seat was in reasonably tolerable condition but the entire bench itself was not solidly attached and would slide back and forth with sudden back and forth movements of the car. The steering wheel was large, composed of hard black plastic and as usual, misaligned. It also had a habit of constantly vibrating to the extent that the driver's hands were a blur. This vibration only stopped when a hard turn to the right or left was made. The long gear stick was topped by a black ball that at one time had inscribed on it the directions of the four forward gears and the reverse but now was as bald as an egg. The gear shift action itself was an act of faith wherein the driver pressed the squeaky clutch and pushed the gear stick in the general direction of the intended gear. A grating mechanical squeal would indicate failure and a repeat performance would be required. I never drove that car without having missed the intended gear at least half of the time. My brother was worse.

    Within months my brother found a job in Reston, Virginia and the good caring brother that he was, he gave me that car to use for as long as I wished to.

    That car had oodles of character and I used to call it, "it". It had an A/C that used to blow cold air as long as I had charged it with Freon within the past seven days. It had a black knob to the left of the unit that you turned clockwise to turn the unit on and twisted it further to increase the fan speed. Clicking it all the way to the left would shut it off. This A/C unit produced at least as much water as cold air and due to some hose detachment under the dash in the past this water would mostly drip within the passenger compartment and thence somehow leak outside the car. This was never a problem for me. The amount of freon "it" leaked during the time I had it must have contributed in a significant way to the damage to the atmosphere's ozone layer, but at the time I was not aware of the connection nor could I do anything about it as spending money was not exactly abundant. It was my routine to pour in about a quart of oil into the engine every third or fourth tank fill up and to charge the A/C every weekend without fail. Once while pouring over the engine I noticed that the wires from the spark plugs to the distributor were in a very sad state and I changed the spark plugs and the spark plug wires. The new wires were orange in color and I thought they just about made the whole engine compartment come alive. It must have been my imagination but after the spark plug and wire change the car seemed to have found it's youth again and would move with particular determination when pushed. The brake, clutch and accelerator pedals within the foot well had long lost their rubber caps and were now little more than small, shiny metal projections that slipped easily when my shoes were wet. Each of these three had a particular squeak distinct from the others. The clutch had the high frequency, short duration squeal both while being pushed in and released, the brake had a soft trapped air-escaping sound only when being pushed and the accelerator had a rusty, no-oil-on-the-hinges sound that was in direct proportion to the extent to which it was depressed. It was a most musical arrangement and one reason why the lack of a working radio did not bother me in the slightest.

    In low speed city driving, "it" was quite competent. It would always start on the first attempt and never stall. Highway driving was a different matter altogether. "It's chassis was slighted warped it appears and hence while it would be going dead straight, it would actually be facing a few degrees to the left. In addition the shocks had gone bad some time ago and going over irregular surfaces would set up a jiggling up and down motion that was rather entertaining. When given gas the engine would take on a strained mechanical whine, the car would acquire and maintain a slight lean to one side and then "it" would take off. "It" loved to be revved and the assault on my aural senses inflicted upon by the combination of the engine's whining, the transmission's buzzing and the windows and doors rattling while my hands vibrated on the steering wheel would be too much and I would therefore hardly ever inflict this pain upon myself.

    For all its character flaws however, I loved "it". It never left me stranded and always delivered me to my destination safely, shaken up and a bit dizzy perhaps, but safe nevertheless. It had actually arrived at a level of entropy and had stabilized at it, for good it seemed. No amount of abuse could cause it to decay or deteriorate any further. I had to add engine oil every few weeks and this was essentially like changing oil very frequently but I never changed the oil filter.

    My parents were living in Houston in those days and I used to drive the hundred and forty miles round trip without fail every weekend. "It" never failed to deliver. I finished my Clinical Clerkship after twelve months and was about to move to New York city after matching there through the Residency Matching Program. My brother Farooq was visiting Houston with one of his good friends and since I no longer needed the services of that good car, it was sold by my brother to his friend for three hundred dollars, if my memory serves me well. I saw "It" being driven away for the last time, heard it's engine make the usual whine and watched as the car lurched with a missed gear shift and then roll out of my sight and life. It was driven to El Paso by its new owner and the last I heard from my brother it was still in the employ of some needy student in El Paso. I miss "It" still. It was my friend during a difficult time in my life. If you have such a friend, I would ask you to not let it go, you may just miss it more than you think.
    Hope you enjoyed :)
    jerrymildred, The Electric Me and RCO like this.
  2. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web BMW i3 and Model 3

    Nov 25, 2005
    Huntsville AL
    2017 Prius Prime
    Prime Plus
    1966 VW Microbus but safety inspections wrote its obituary.

    Bob Wilson
  3. Trollbait

    Trollbait It's a D&D thing

    Feb 7, 2006
    eastern Pennsylvania
    Other Non-Hybrid
    I thought this was going to be about the new "It" movie.
  4. The Electric Me

    The Electric Me Go Speed Go!

    May 22, 2009
    Undisclosed Location
    Other Non-Hybrid
    I have a very similar memory.
    When younger, and inexperienced I bought several "bad" used cars.

    But one that was good?
    I found a similar mid 1970's Toyota Corolla. It looked horrible. Flat brown color. But the guy was selling it for less than $500. Even though I was just coming off a bad used car purchase, so I was very untrusting, I figured for only $500 I had little to lose. I had bought bicycles that cost more.
    What I feel bad about, is I was so snake bit from my previous bad purchase, that when I looked at The Corolla, I was so hard on the guy selling it. He was being honest, and just selling what he had...an old Corolla. But I met every statement he made with paranoia and mistrust. I'm surprised the guy didn't just tell me to leave, or just refuse to sell it to me. But in the end I did give him about $500 and he gave me the keys to a high mileage...incredibly ugly 1970's Corolla.
    And it remains to this day one of the most fun vehicles I ever owned.
    I put a new master brake cylinder in it...as the previous owner warned me it needed.
    And that Corolla...ran.....and ran..and ran....
    Sure I had to jury rig, external dash lighting...that got me pulled over by the police one night. Who even though I think was well in his rights to give me a ticket, seemed actually impressed with the flexible tube light I had somehow angled just perfectly to illuminate the gauges, that he let me go with a warning. Even though I think he and I both knew, The Dash Lighting was gone...and was never coming back.
    And the piston rods made a vibrating sound every time I turned off the engine. You could take it as a last second purr...or the foreshadowing of a death rattle...your choice.
    BUT...it wouldn't die.
    And...what I loved? It was so beat up-It was actually very liberating. I never worried about cleaning it, or waxing it, it would of been laughable to even bother to try.
    And it was so valueless, that even as a young man, it was about as cheap to insure as possible.
    And all though it wasn't the most beautiful machine on the road, I could drive like Mad Max on a Showroom floor. What did I have to worry about? It was a vehicle that cost me less than a bicycle.

    Eventually I saved up more money and bought something "better"...which meant it had dash lights that worked, an engine that didn't vibrate on turning it off, and a body and paint job that demanded attention. And I couldn't drive it with the Mad Max bravado The Corolla allowed me to have.
    And I traded in the Corolla, still running even with it's quirks and faults.
    I suppose I had to move on.
    Even though it had nearly uncountable miles, it wasn't going to last forever....I think....

    But I will always remember that cheap, Mid 70's Corolla as a "special" automotive ownership experience. Yeah, it was a machine, but yes, it seemed to have a personality. I learned to take pride, in it's complete ugliness and it's amazing reliability. I drove friends to mechanics to pick up their "Nice" vehicles. They stopped laughing when they paid their repair bill and I told them how I had only spent $575 on my Corolla in over a year, and that included purchase price and new master cylinder.
    And on full moon nights, I sometimes cruise Craigslist, dreaming about possibly duplicating the experience with something similar today. By daybreak I've usually talked myself entirely out of the idea. Which may be a good thing. You can't go back again.
    RCO and FA6 like this.