NPF: CHARIOT OF FIRE

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.

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64 Responses to “NPF: CHARIOT OF FIRE”

  1. JoyfulA Says:

    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.

  2. PB@OC Says:

    @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.

  3. Major Kong Says:

    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".

  4. 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.

  5. Sidney18511 Says:

    This was really quite sweet. You are one sentimental dude.

  6. 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.

  7. 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…

  8. LanceThruster Says:

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

  9. 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.

  10. Oblio Says:

    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!

  11. Gayle Says:

    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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  13. Dalia Walmsley Says:

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