The Great Used Car Adventure of 2016, Episode 2
I started looking for my new ride almost immediately, in the expectation that the check from the insurance company would come in a week or two. My search began, as most things do these days, online, scouring dealer websites and car-shopping databases. The resulting “long list” included a few possibilities that, for one reason or another, I dropped from consideration without physically examining them.
2002 Jaguar X-Type – It looked so pretty in the photos, the sleek yet dignified lines in a glistening coat of British Racing Green, the leather interior, the real wood dashboard trim, a true gentleman’s conveyance that would impress the snot out of my co-workers when they saw me rolling into the employee lot behind the Jag’s leather-wrapped steering wheel. Further research revealed that this particular breed of Jaguar is cursed with build quality and reliability issues of the sort I have not had to deal with since that happy day decades ago when I rid myself of my thrice-damned ’78 Chevy Monza. Not wanting to relive the days of leisure suits and national malaise–the ’70s were bad enough the first time!–I crossed it off the list.
Fiat 500 – By all accounts a fun car to toss around, but with a reputation for unreliability almost as bad as the Jaguar’s. Forget It Again, Tony.
2008 Lexus IS-250 – I suspect this was one of the last manual transmission Lexuses (Lexii?) ever built, as it seems like everything they sell now has an automatic. A nice looking car, well equipped, impeccably engineered and mechanically unkillable just like everything else Toyota puts out, mostly good reviews from the buff books. So why didn’t I go check it out? It’s hard to put into words, but in the end, I just couldn’t see myself in a Lexus. Whatever personality trait it is that makes people want to be Lexus drivers, I don’t think I have it.
And then there was the black swan, the wild card, the crazy idea so crazy that it just might have worked: a dealership in Altoona, Pennsylvania was listing a 1985 Honda Civic CRX Si with just a little over 50,000 miles on it!
Back in the day–1985 to be precise–I had an ’85 CRX, the first car I ever drove that I truly loved. As I described it in a post over at my old car blog:
That CRX was perfect. Completely, absolutely perfect. The most perfect car I had ever owned, driven, ridden in, or even looked at from ten yards away.
And here was a first generation CRX, and if the photos were to be believed it was a museum-grade example. And it wasn’t just any old first generation CRX, it was a 1985–the last year for recessed headlights. And not just any ’85, but an Si–the badass fuel-injected air superiority top trim level with a sunroof. With just over 50,000 showing on the odometer, this car was so lightly-used that it was practically still in the break-in period. Best of all, it was comfortably within my price range.
Altoona is 187 miles away, so arranging for a test drive would take some doing. I’d have to call the dealer and set up an appointment, and try to do as much of the purchasing paperwork as possible in advance. My brother-in-law Steve, who lives in Pittsburgh, offered to drive me to Altoona, but I didn’t want to trouble him, so I came up with a better plan: early on the morning of my test drive appointment, I’d have one of the boys chauffer me down to the railroad station in Pittsburgh so I could catch the eastbound Pennsylvanian, which departs at 7:30. That would put me in Altoona at 10:00. If all went well, I’d drive the car home that day; if not, I could hang out in Altoona until the westbound arrived at 5:06, and I’d’ve at least gotten some recreational train riding out of the affair.
What stopped me? I’d love nothing more than to have a pristine ’85 CRX to play with. The thing was, I wasn’t shopping for a fair weather road toy, I needed a daily driver. Was it morally right for me to take this magnificent historical artifact out on the roads in all weather, exposing it to the salt and slush of the Ohio snow belt and the risk of being randomly walloped by an uninsured motorist in a ratted-out ’93 Oldsmobile? I concluded that it wasn’t. That car is a treasure to be preserved, not a thing to be consumed.
So what cars did I end up test-driving? I’ll tell you about them in the next installment.
–Mike (Cookie the Dog’s Owner)