I have a tendency to develop emotional attachments to inanimate objects. No, not like the guy on Taboo who has sex with appliances. What I mean is, if they are particularly useful to me or I own them for an unusually long time, I feel a little sad to let them go. I'm not a hoarder, I promise. I throw things out. But I do, on occasion, say thank you while I'm doing it. If that makes me crazy, so be it.

Last week I sold the first and only car I ever owned, a 2000 Nissan Sentra. According to the paperwork I unearthed during the process of transferring the title, I bought it new in Madison, WI on July 30, 2000 for $14,072. It had 39 miles on the odometer. I sold it just short of 12 years later for $1,300 with 168,787 miles on it. It took me from age 21 to 33 and it never let me down. It was the definition of trouble-free and reliable through 12 years living in four different states (IL, WI, IN, and GA) and a dozen different apartments.

The first girl I was in love with drove me to the dealership to buy it. A decade later I drove it to my wedding. I drove it to my first real job post-college. I drove it across the country and back several times. It regularly took me from Indiana to central Illinois to see my sister's kids. It took me to dozens of band and comedy gigs. You get the picture.

I've replaced it with a far nicer vehicle, as it is pretty run down at this point in its life. Nonetheless, it was sad to part with it, to watch it drive away and see it for what is likely the last time. I said thanks, not so much to the machine itself but to the people who made it. I thought about the people in some factory in Japan who paid enough attention to what must be a not-very-stimulating series of tasks that I could buy one of the cheapest cars on the market and get 12 hassle free years from it. I appreciate their effort and I wonder if they realize how much benefit I derived from their relatively simple labors.

No, I don't go through this thought process every time I discard something (note: disposing of old underwear is an equally difficult process, albeit for entirely different reasons). But I felt like I owed this hunk of metal and plastic a few moments of reflection for all the major life events it saw me through and all the places it took me. And yes, if you're interested, I recommend a Nissan without hesitation.

64 thoughts on “NPF: CHARIOT OF FIRE”

  • Monkey Business says:

    A Nissan saved my life. Twice.

    The first after I hit a patch of ice and ended up at the bottom of a ten foot ravine. The second after I hit a slick spot on the highway and hit the side of an offramp at 70 miles an hour.

  • Rick Massimo says:

    I absolutely anthropomorphize cars. Actually, I think of them as groups of people – the engine is one; the transmission is another, etc.

    It's easy to see why – every one is different, just like people, though there are groups (brands) with some similar characteristics. Not to mention the fact that one often spends a lot of hours alone in them, particularly when you're driving to band/comedy gigs.

    I always have a moment alone in my cars when I sell them.

  • PB@OC–I am old enough to remember Datsuns. Those things never died. Very occasionally see one on the road here.

    Hey, I sold my Chevy Nova (the Toyota Corollas in sheep's clothing, as it were) four years ago. The Nova was 22 years old and I had it for 20 of those years. Made me very sad to give it up. I love my new Fit (first new car ever in my life), but the Nova saw me through a lot of good and bad times.

    What is it with men and their underwear? I assure you that the attachment to underwear and unwillingness to part with dying pairs of underwear is a uniquely male affliction.

  • My husband's best friend bought a 1996 Honda Civic hatchback new, and we had good times in that car with him and his wife. We bought the car when we moved to Phoenix, and loved it for years. We sold it to Honey's other best friend when he moved to ABQ, and he and his wife just got rid of it.

    Three families mourned Little Car. She ran like a top, turned on a dime, and never broke down until she couldn't be fixed.

    I can't refer to the pantheon of cars without mentioning Hermione (named for Gingold, not Grainger), a Mercury my mom's age that she bought for $50. She started every day during the Montana winters of my kidhood, and saved our lives on Valentine's Day when I was in the 2nd grade. We got hit by a drunk driver on a one-lane bridge and lived to tell the tale. RIP Hermione.

    No, I don't think you're nuts.

  • Awww. I love this story.

    And it parallels my story with my standard drive 1999 Honda Civic Hatchback which sadly I had to sell when I moved to Charlotte from Portland, OR.

    Sidenote: My friends were so annoyed I kept driving my low-budge car even though I could afford a 'better' car that they named it Section 8.
    Didn't care.

    And the ONLY reason I sold it?
    For some reason ( young and dumb?), I chose to purchase a new car without A/C which, as we know, just simply does not work in the South.

    I still wave at Civic Hatchbacks on the road when I see them.

  • I've had many cars in my time. Some newer than others. Some more reliable than others. I tend not to get emotionally attached to them.

    As someone told me when I was young "It's just a piece of metal. It doesn't love you or anything."

  • anotherbozo says:

    @Betham: Francis is a man's name. Frances is the feminine spelling. But perhaps she never objected.

  • Bentpine, we do that too! Ours was the metallic grey, but we always shout "Little Car!" no matter what color we see. And we're seeing more of them these days, now that MPG matters more than looks. If she still ran, I'd buy her back in a heartbeat.

  • I agree with Major Kong in that it's just a machine. I have never named my cars. On the other hand, I agree with Ed that it's natural to feel some gratitude towards a machine that's done its job so well for so long, or at least towards its manufacturers.

    I got seven years and almost 200,000 miles out of a 2002 Honda Insight. Replaced it with a 2010 Honda Civic hybrid. I've been very happy with both Honda products and the people who service them. I hope I don't have to get another car for at least 5-10 years, but when I do it will likely be another Honda.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I still have my 2002 Saturn Vue, 4 cylinder – 150,000+ miles on it.

    Best car I've ever owned.

    And, still being unemployed, and with not job prospects, I'll need to keep taking care of that car for a long, long, time.
    Sadly, I've given it some thought that it may be the LAST car I ever own – and I'm only 54.

  • mel in oregon says:

    your article reads like something on facebook, you know, "now i'm brushing my teeth, tomorrow i'm going shopping." myself i prefer muscle cars, don't see too many progressives that eat meat & like corvettes or the original shelby cobra. oh well, at least they are american made.

  • Wow. I do the same exact thing all the time. I was so attached to my Toyota Paseo that I drove 200k miles that I simply couldn't get rid of it. It sat in my driveway for about a year, then finally I GAVE it to a friend who needed a car and to my knowledge they are still driving it. That was a great feeling, I have to say.

    Plus, I live in Madison, WI, so.. it's no wonder I love this blog.

  • My first car was a 1974 Datsun B-210, the predecessor to your Sentra. I drove it up and down the east coast between school (Gainesville) and home (south shore of Long Island) about a dozen times not to count all of the other road trips to central and south Florida for rock concerts, visits to friends and the grandparents, etc. All in all also a pretty trouble free car from a time when the cars were much less complicated and much less precise in their engineering. After a foray into driving British sports cars–Spitfires and GT6's mostly–I ended up with a used Datsun 610, which was based on the old BMW 2002. Independent rear suspension, overhead cam 1.8L engine. It didn't look sexy but it was a great car and very much fun to drive. (Unlike the predecessor 510 that was the same boxy shape as the Bimmer it was based on.)

    We only buy Japanese cars. We had one Volvo and one was enough. All of our other cars have been Toyotas, a Subaru wagon and a couple of Hondas. Whether built in the US, Canada or Japan, they have all been good cars and the quality just improves as times goes on. I, too, would recommend any of them without reservation.

  • Xecky Gilchrist says:

    But I do, on occasion, say thank you while I'm doing it. If that makes me crazy, so be it.

    I totally do that. I had one of those big cardboard cylinders of salt that lasted me for a couple years and when I tossed it I said "you have served me well."

  • Two cars come to mind reading this- my Bug (66/67 Super Beetle), and my Mule (99 Forrester). Both cars routinely did things and went places far beyond what even an ad agency would show them doing. They did them well, and they did them for a long, long time. Gave the Bug to my sister when I went to live in the woods, and finally sold the Mule when it hit 11 years old and major systems* were failing monthly. I miss them both.

    *After driving the family home to find the front left suspension wedged sideways in the wheel well, I decided it was time to get a new car. It still drove us 50 miles on the highway. That still makes me shudder to think about.

  • Major Kong says:


    The problem with muscle cars, and I've owned several (66 GTO for example) is that they really weren't very good cars.

    Sure they were cool, but they didn't handle very well, tended to overheat, and often took a lot of tinkering to keep running correctly. The interiors tended to be one notch above a taxi cab.

    Let's look at a Cadillac CTS, since you want to stick to Detroit products.
    Even the 3.6 V6 will run with all but the hottest of the 60's machines. Plus it will start every time I turn the key, won't overheat, rides stops and handles much better and will be infinitely more comfortable.

    Oh, and I can get it with AWD so I don't have to park it when it snows.

    And don't get me started on the over-inflated prices of these things on the collector market. Just because some baby-boomer lost his virginity in the back seat of it doesn't make a '70 Cuda worth half a million dollars. I can remember when these things were $500 because they were just old cars.

  • That's just unAmerican. Don't you know you're supposed to get a new car you can't afford every three years whether you need it or not? You need to watch more commercials.

    And speaking of things American and Japanese and suchlike … The 2000 Sentra was built in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

  • @PB@OC, yeah, my first car was a co-branded 1982 Datsun/Nissan Sentra station wagon. That thing was handed down from my dad to my brother to my sister to me, and was a fun little car (and an easy car to learn stick shift on). You could (and we did) beat the hell out of it and it just kept going. What finally brought it down was rust and corrosion from Boston winters–the underbody started falling apart and it became more trouble than it was worth to keep the thing, but the rest of the car ran just fine until it was put out to pasture.

  • Major Kong says:

    Now if you want to really know automotive pain – buy British.

    I had a 1995 Jaguar XJ12, that I bought used sometime around 1998. It was sooooo sexy. It was also every bit as unreliable as you've heard.

    On average, every 3 months the Check Engine light would come on. I'd take it to the dealer (because nobody else would touch the thing) and the technician would say something like "The frackemajack sensor is out. That will be $350."

    Pretty much every part on a Jaguar (at least of that era) is over-engineered and twice as complicated (and expensive) as it needs to be.

    It got to where I was deferring fixing problems because things were breaking faster than I could afford to fix them. I finally traded it in on a used Audi.

  • ladiesbane says:

    @mel — I don't know what to tell you. I'm a leftie who grew up in the country. That means I own guns, hunt, eat all kinds of meat, and dated motorheads in high school as well as geeks. I moved to Oregon when I was 17, and was not lucky enough to meet many people who shared that small slice of the Venn diagram who heartily endorse single payer AND go to stock car races. If you weren't snarking, I'd feel your pain.

    A sentimental salute (on a personal blog, no less) is not the same as 24 hour running updates on Facebook notifying the world of quotidian trivia.

  • I still have my 1999 Sentra; bought it used in 2002, and it brought me to Madison, WI from Mississippi; took me there and to Louisiana a few times, to Milwaukee and back more than I can remember.

    The sad old thing with its fading paint and failing joints mostly sits in the driveway these days, only to be moved when completely necessary. Won't be too easy to let it go when the time comes, but when it does, I hope to have a job within walking distance from the house so I don't have to get another one. I'm one of those commies.

    Oh, and somehow, it's only got 87,000 miles on it. Go figure.

  • I think I've seen a TV ad that pretty much is identical to this blog post. I can't remember the name of the car brand though. Bad ad, I guess. Subaru, I think?

  • I'm one of those commies.

    Yeah, me too. I am far more likely to wax poetic about my bicycles. Got way more excited when I bought my commuter bike than when I bought my car. The car is a mandatory albatross in Albq.

  • I love this post. I've loved both of the cars that I've owned, and saying goodbye to them was sad. They represented freedom and adventures, and going places with people I love.

    Now if you want to really know automotive pain – buy British.

    I see your 'British' and raise you 'Italian'. Most ludicrous electronics in the world ever, and require pampering like an overbred dog. If you didn't love them, you would kick them right in the engine management light.

  • Can I add French? I had a Citroen AX, which was a peach to drive, but a little hand grenade just waiting to go off. Eventually the brakes failed, thankfully at a low speed, and used a Ford Ute as a stop. The Ute was barely damaged. I abandoned the Cit at the crash repairers after waiting six months for body panels. Now the wonderful Toyota Hilux that I replaced it with- there is a car I wish I still had!

  • It seems that no one but the Japanese have really mastered the art of making a car that doesn't fall apart.

  • Major Kong says:

    Japanese cars are appliances. You turn them on and they work, just like a toaster. Unfortunately they're about as fun to drive as a toaster.

  • I just sold Manuel, a 2008 Chevy Aveo (a car model Ed lampooned well and accurately on this very blog), and while he was under powered and lacking in almost every area, he treated me well. He was reliable, at least, which is better than some of my cars before him. When I sold him, I felt the loss. My wife and I have been bike-commuting for a couple of years and we realized the massive waste of insuring two under-utilized cars, and hers was the nicer of the two (not a high bar). Now we have one slightly-less under-used car.

    I've had four Hondas over the years, and they are truly amazing when well maintained. If/when we replace our current car, Manuel aside, I'll be lobbying hard for another Japanese car. More expensive than their American counterparts, but they last twice as long.

  • My vehicular object of affection is a 2003 Dodge hemi supercab (don't bitch at me please, I understand the environmental issues) that has moved me across 3 different lives, made it unnecessary to borrow a male neighbor's truck to haul plywood or a couch and suffer him grabbing my butt as the price of doing business… I love that truck, and it will be like losing a vital organ to ever let go of it. I understand your sentiments.

  • @chrisbear –
    OMG- my very first car was a 67 Superbug. In the family alone, it had already been thru 2 cousins and 2 sibs. It was older than me, had red astroturf for carpet, and you could choose to die of either hypothermia or CO poisioning in cold weather. You could see asphalt through the rust holes in the floor, and had a flat every day if it was snowing. It would surf through high water in 2nd gear, and only had one window roller handle. But I so loved that car. So, so, loved it. We've got a '73 that we're trying to rehab now and probably will continue working on that for the foreseeable future.

  • I do the same thing. I don't name or anthropomorphize my vehicles, but I do feel a pang of sadness for them, just as I do when I move out of apartments or any similar move that, while minor in the scheme of things, nevertheless represents a significant change in my daily routine.

    I currently drive a 1991 Toyota Pickup/Hilux that I bought with 168000 miles on it and is now approaching 180. I have a great deal of affection for that piece of crap.

  • I recently acquired my first car – a Saturn L200, 2001. It had 130kish miles on it when I have it, and I'm maybe up to 132k. It was so well taken care of, it's crazy – a little glitchiness with the lights is all I have to deal with. I named it Daedalus, hopefully it will last longer than its' Stargate-spawned namesake.

    My friend paid the same price for a really sketchy late-90s Grand AM. It died within a year. Why do people still buy/drive those shitty things? I come across them all the time, and they're always really badly screwed up. They don't get good gas mileage, I imagine maybe 10 total in the entire country have functional air conditioning…Savages.

  • Japanese cars are appliances. You turn them on and they work, just like a toaster. Unfortunately they're about as fun to drive as a toaster.

    I've never driven one, but I always think that high-end Subaru Imprezas look quite fun. Of course, they're much less reliable, because they're operating on such fine margins. Same thing with the Mitsubishi Evo.

  • @Elle & Major Kong…

    I've owned both the Subaru Impreza WRX and the Subaru Impreza WRX Sti. Both were a hoot drive, fast as lightning, amazing in the snow, and reliable as hell.

    Just FYI…

  • @Paul

    Nice. I have a pal with an Evo, and his car spends about as much time in the tender care of a mechanic as mine.

  • Subaru WRX was absolutely the bestest car I ever had. Like the Rabbit GTI, but actually fast. I did things in the snow and ice with that car that left people's jaws hanging. We had a Forester XT turbo at the same time, which I still drive today, although it's not as fast as it once was, it still gets terrible mileage to remind me it's a turbo. The Forester, though not as dead-stupid reliable as the WRX, has been a great car, an absolute tank. I drag logs out of the woods with it, it pulls trailers full of firewood that are double its own weight, I drag stuck cars out of ditches during ice storms. I ask it to do ridiculous tasks that are WAY outside its design envelope, and it does them happily. When the Forester is no longer fit to drive on the road, I will very likely fit a mower deck underneath it, weld a plow to the front subframe, and use it around the property.

  • First car: 76 VW Dasher that my sister got for free. Looked like crap, but ran pretty well. Sad to let it go.
    Second car: (also handed down from my sis) 84 Hyundai Excel. She paid $5400 new off the lot. She drove it all over the East Coast, my bro and his mate drove it across the country. I drove it Portland LA for Uni. Did the run in 17.5hrs solo—a the stupid thing we do when we're young n stupid. So many road trips. Most I ever put into it was $600 for a rebuilt gearbox. It had a tragic end when after 8yrs and 98,998 miles I drove it up the back of a parked 72 Impala—I was having a really bad week. The surprising thing was that after all that, it was still worth $1500!

  • Ed Says:
    July 6th, 2012 at 7:20 pm
    It seems that no one but the Japanese have really mastered the art of making a car that doesn't fall apart.

    VWs seem to still be out there, and they have a cult following to restore them. Can't say that for 70s Japanese. Yeah, we may remember the B210, but who wants to restore one?

  • @Xynzee

    Yeah, Germany can certainly demand some props for reliability. We had a whole bunch of German cars when I was a kid, and they always seemed fairly robust.

  • Major Kong says:


    I'm sure a Subaru WRX is fun, but it looks like a "kid's car" to me. If I was 25 I'd probably enjoy one, but I think I'll stick with my A8.

    I don't want a bunch of spoilers, scoops and air dams announcing to every highway patrolman what my intentions are.

  • Leave it to a canuck to defend North American cars…

    Vehicel #1: Ford Mustang – 2001. I drove it off the lot new and I had zero problems. Oil changes and new tires have been the expense. It's still looks mean and goes like shit when needed.

    Other vehicle: 2001 Jeep Wrangler. I picked it up used 5 years ago. Despite having to pay an extra $900 for an oil change every few years as I also replace transmission pan, radiator, brake lines, (etc ad infinitum), that bastard has always started and never left me at the side of the road. Some of those incidents defy physics; jeeps are tanks.

    I loved this post. I've never gotten rid of a vehicle: they either died or someone else victimised it in an accident and the insurance companies balked at the idea of repair.

    Worst cars ever: ANY Chevy from the 80's, AMC Pacer and the venerable Ford Pinto / Mercury Bobcat.

  • I just got rid of a 1994 Accord last fall. I was sad to see it go, but the clutch was getting to be too much for my damaged knee. I donated it to a charity, where it's currently making someone else very happy.

    IMO, the 2012 Accords are just made of plastic and are boats to drive. The 1994 fit four adults comfortably and got great gas mileage.

    My choices this time around came down to a Hyundai made in Alabama or a Ford made in Mexico. I went with the Hyundai because it was made in the USA. It's okay…nothing like the Accord was. I won't regret when its time comes to an end. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just so meh.

  • Just remembered:
    Why does Dolly Parton buy her bras at a Datsun dealership?

    Because they're the only ones who sell a 240-Z! Ba-doom! Tish! =D

    So I'll keep the day job.

  • I feel the same way about my car. I bought a Saturn in 04 with 33333 miles on it. Today I crossed 210,000 miles. I know sooner than later I will need to part with it and it willl be a sad day for me.

  • My turn!

    First car I ever bought by myself was a 1997 Geo Metro. That little 4-cylinder powerhouse lasted 10 years and 140K (or so) miles. Climbed the hills of San Francisco and crossed the American desert with it. Great little car with a surprising amount of headroom. I was sad to see it go, and I'm sure my look was wistful that day.

    Traded it in for a 2007 VW Beetle, which I still have. Named it The Green Monster, affectionately. First time I've ever named a car, so that's something, I guess.

  • We inherit cars relatives are getting rid of. Currently parked here are my father's 94 GMC pickup, his mother's Chrysler minivan, and his grandfather's Ford Taurus, a nice variety.

  • @Mel: You're right, you don't meet too many progressives who could identify a real Shelby Cobra – As opposed to a Factory Five, Superformance replica, or GASP a Fox Bodied Shelby "Cobra" Mustang, but WE'RE OUT THERE. And Major Kong had it right when he said that muscle cars were, to paraphrase him, mostly awful. Yeah they're cool and continue to bring big $ but they're overpowered, under-braked 3000 lb scud missiles. And lest you think it's just a case of sour grapes, I owned one, a 64 Plymouth 426 Max Wedge 4 Speed. And I currently have a 51 Studebaker bullet nose starlight coupe that I hot-rodded; small block, aluminum heads, roller cam, w/ 700r, Ford 8, (3:80 gear set) and YES I did all the work. Oh, and I eat meat, drink beer and love NHRA.
    Needless to say I try to avoid getting into political discussions with my fellow gear-heads as many, (most?) seem to think that Rush, O'Reilly, Beck have all the right answers.
    @Major Kong: I do have to take you to task for one of your comments. Have you driven the Nissan GT-R or to a lesser degree the Lexus LS-F, both can hardly be classified as an appliance! Given my druthers however, my current choice would be the Cadillac CTS-V.

  • I've only test-driven one Lexus and that was an ES300. It was so quiet you couldn't even tell if the engine was running except by looking at the tach. While the car was of very high quality, I've never felt so insulated from the road.

    I recall thinking "This would be a perfect car for my 72 year old father who hates to drive".

  • left behind says:

    In the last 34 years I've had three Nissan trucks, The first was a 78 Datsun, lasted 8 years 160,000 mi. Then I got an 86 Nissan King Cab with AC cause I needed it in FL. Kept it for 215,000 miles. Had to get rid of it cause the winshield was rusting out and every time it rained I got soaked. Itehn got a 79 Nissan King Cab, which I still have. Don't drive long distances so often. This one's only got 195K. "Runs Good" and it's the last 4 cylinder that I know of out there. Don't need lots of power but still need to schlep stuff around.

  • jimintampa says:

    My first real car was a Datsun 2000 sports car. Neck breaking acceleration, not too reliable, but at the time I thought 140 MPH top end was worth it.
    Forty years later I'm driving a 2005 Prius with 261,000 miles on it – best, most reliable car I've ever owned.

  • Cynthianne says:

    Oh boy, a car thread!

    My first new car was a 1981 Toyota Starlet that I drove until 2002- 21 years. It never let me down, and was in good condition when I traded it in on a 2002 Prius- my current car, which is still going strong. I'll drive it until one of us dies…

  • LanceThruster says:

    I think it is noble and rational to appreciate those labor saving devices and the people who design, manufacture, and maintain them.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    In 1987 or 1988, my mother survived a heinous accident in her Nissan Sentra with nary a scratch on her, and this was in the days before airbags. She was wearing her seatbelt when a large truck changed lanes into her car at freeway speed, sending her across four or five lanes of traffic into the concrete median. The car was utterly destroyed, but she refused to be taken to the hospital. I took her later just to be sure, but she was totally fine. She bought another Nissan Sentra and ended up giving it to me a few years later when she gave up driving. I had it for several years and ended up buying a bigger, nicer car when my financial circumstances improved, but the Sentra probably served someone else well for several more years. My last two cars have been Toyotas, and I've been very happy with them, but I'd definitely consider another Nissan. I'm actually hoping that my current 2004 Avalon will last 5-10 more years and that by then I'll be able to afford a "low-end" (a relative term, to be sure) fully-electric Tesla.

  • Great post, wish it were more common for folks to pony up and talk about their cars-of-choice. I bought my first new car in 1993, a Toyota SR5 pick-up truck with a V6 and extra cab, and it had 14 miles on it. I am still driving it, now showing a tick over 236,000 miles on the odometer. There have been head gasket issues, but since I paid cash for it way back when, the repair costs have been fuly amortized. The carmakers have slowly eliminated this vehicle segment from their product lines since the tariffs for importing small trucks are still over 25% (thanks, auto company lobbyists!). I cannot replace it with anything now on the market, all the other trucks are antideluvian hulks or 50% larger than mine. However, lo and behold, it was reported this morning that auto industry analysts have decided that the newest car segment to blow up will be (TA-DAAAA!) compact pick-up trucks. I've been waiting for a decade. we'll see what pops out!

  • So late to the conversation, so I hope you'll forgive me if I chime in as an unrepentant Nissan lover. My husband owned a bright yellow 240-Z when I first met him, a fantastic hunk of metal that might have had something to do with our getting together. It could entice you into speeds you'd never otherwise travel because it drove so smoothly you were going 'way fast before you even realized it. Comes marriage and mortgage and other stuff, and after we had sent the Z card on its way we purchased a 1992 Sentra, dark blue, manual transmission. We drove that thing for 10 years without a hitch and replaced it with a lovely 2002 Altima, the favorite car I ever owned. We gave it to our son in 2010, who used it for a cross-country move to Portland, Oregon and drives it happily today.

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