September 29, 2011

Confession #31: Nostalgia sometimes trumps good judgement

1987 Renault GTA
If the Internet has done anything (other than make normal people think they won’t miss local newspapers if they were to disappear) then it’s made the ability to buy something in a matter of seconds way too easy. The other day, my roommate was looking at buying 5 lbs. of pens online for $18. I didn’t know you could buy pens the same way one would buy flour.

I’m stuck with a similar affliction, but at least my bank balance has been kept intact. So far, that is. I’ve already admitted my tendency to shop for cars on eBay,, etc. that only an eccentric would long for – cars that no sane person would buy. Alfa Romeos from the 1980s and ‘90s, anything French (there was a really good-looking 1987 Renault GTA coupe – basically a “hot-ish” Renault Alliance – going for cheap the other day), some offbeat German models, you name it.

1990 Audi Coupe Quattro
A 1990 Audi Coupe Quattro caught my eye the other day. It was an awful shade of lime yellow, the color of something that comes out of your nose when you’re sick. I’m pretty sure this was the launch color for the car 21 years ago, because my father road tested a similar model back then, and mentioned the garish color in his Santa Barbara News-Press column. I’ve never had a particularly strong affinity towards Audis of this era, but since the Coupe is such a rarity in this country and because I used to spend hours with my father’s old newspaper clips, pouring over every word of the review, I feel a much stronger connection to this car. The “buy-it-now” price of $5,995 is far too tempting. Of course that price comes with the liability of locating parts for an Audi of this vintage, the inevitable electrical infidelity of a European car as old as I am and the core issue that I have nowhere to put a car and should really use the six grand to pay forthcoming student loans. That's common sense knocking.

Cars from my childhood are high on my search list. Lately, the first-generation Mazda Miata's been near the top of that list. This was, again, my father’s primary mode of transportation in the early-mid ‘90s. It was a silver, five-speed, midlife crisis. I never grew much of a taste for riding in it, partly because with the top down and my luggage usually in my lap on trips between LA and Santa Barbara, it wasn’t as much fun as you might think.

1993 Mazda MX-5 Miata
It was only about three years ago when I actually got behind the wheel of a gen-1 Miata. I drove a red 1990 model, barebones-spec like my father’s, from the old owner’s house to the new owner. First thing I had to do when I got in: Put the top down. I then remembered the useless sun visors and stupid interior light on the dashboard, which basically only illuminated your knees at night.

But then I began to understand why my father loved that car so much. Shifting gears feels a lot like engaging a rifle (except I’m better at finding the gears than I was trying to hit a target at Boy Scout camp), the engine is so willing to rev and the steering does exactly what you want it to do when you tell it. You forget you look a little ridiculous as a grown man in a tiny red sports car and that the college bro in the lifted 4Runner can hear what you’re listening to when you’re side-by-side at the stoplight.

1990 Sterling 827 Si Sedan
Of all the sentimental attachments I have to cars of my childhood, the Miata’s influence grows stronger every day. A mid-‘90s Miata (probably a green M-edition or something like that) is edging its way onto my fantasy 20-car garage, which is rapidly turning into a 25-car garage. And therein lies the problem. Sure, one day I may be presented with the opportunity to buy that Miata. But I couldn't use it as my only car. Where would I put ... things? When it rains, there are so many snap-crackle-pop noises it sounds like you're drowning in a bowl of Rice Krispies and milk. I really should just stick to hot hatches, end of story. All of the cars I saw in Motor Trends, Car and Drivers, Automobile Magazines, etc. are popping up on my radar more than ever these days. It’s getting to the point where I’m starting to become attracted to the Sterling 827. Let's hope common sense comes rushing in before that happens.