This is actually a story about three vehicles, not just one. During high school, as related elsewhere, I drove many different vehicles (one of the odd perks of my father’s business, a repossession agency). We lived out in the boonies, many miles from school, and when I got heavily involved in after-school activities my parents grew understandably tired of shuttling me back and forth at all hours of the day and night. After the Type 2 Van was sold, and before I requisitioned my sister’s Honda while she was in college, My dad gave me the keys to a silver Mazda B2000. This was the fourth generation (’78-’85), featuring a 2 liter gas engine, five-speed stick, two seats, and not much else. This particular truck was only in service for a short while; I’ve forgotten exactly why it left the fleet.
In its place appeared a black doppelganger in better mechanical shape. I drove this truck during one hot summer to and from my job as a golf-course ranger (in retrospect, one of the easiest and most ridiculous jobs I’ve ever had) and as a barback/busboy. Lacking any source of air conditioning, I beat the heat by rolling the windows down and turning the balky radio up as loud as possible. Being a 5-speed, it was slightly more fun to drive than an oxcart. The gearing was low and then got ridiculously high somewhere around 4th, so I found I had to get the engine screaming in 3rd to stay in front of it. It featured black fabric seats and worn carpeting that smelled… funny, and which got even more stinky as the heat of the day wore on. It had a steering wheel made of some form of black rubber that cooked in direct sunlight and then melted off onto one’s palms, so it looked like I’d arm-wrestled a Sharpie upon arrival to work.
It took a righteous beating from a 16-year-old punk, though, and stayed together admirably well as I bombed it up and down the lumpy back roads of Putnam County. At some point that fall, my next car was appeared and/or my father decided he wanted his utility truck back, so I turned it back in and moved on.
During my sophomore year of college, perhaps to celebrate the highest GPA I’d ever earned in fourteen years of school, my Dad handed me the keys to another Mazda and told me to take it with me. This could also have been in response to the painful and expensive series of train rides I needed to take to make it home each break (although I’m not complaining–to be able to walk to the train station in Baltimore and make it all but 15 miles from my house in New York State via rail is a miracle here in the USA). It was a fifth generation model, an ’86, and it had about 90K on the odometer. Compared to the black pickup, though, it was a Cadillac. The body and interior were in better shape. The clutch was smooth and geared reasonably. It was miserly on gas. It had modern tires. And all my crap could fit in the rear bed–perfect for a dumpster-diving art student with a ground floor apartment.
Over the next three years, my little mule got me to and from my parents’ place in NY through all kinds of weather, moved countless classmates between shitty apartments, carried people to and from parties, hauled construction debris and camping gear, and never complained. It took my roommate Pat and I all the way out to Texas in a meandering, aimless spring break journey our sophomore year without incident; the only issue we had with it was due to driver error when I bent a leaf spring backing it into a service station bollard in a driving rainstorm. The bed was just long enough to fit the pair of us for camping, but we found out the hard way about the effect of corrugated metal on restful sleep.
Apart from a vapor lock problem with the carburetor I never had major mechanical problems with it. Upon graduation, my father signed the title over to me, and I used it heavily for the next three years while I ran a contracting business. As it reached past the 175K mark, however, it started to blow more and more smoke. I was adding oil weekly, which meant the rings were going. Grudgingly, I placed an ad in the Baltimore Sun and within a day I had three people call me to set up appointments. The first guys to arrive showed up in a slammed Nissan minitruck painted teal over maroon and spoke little english; I knew what my little mule was in for when I signed over the title. I like to think she’s still on the road somewhere, lowered an inch or two above the ground, painted like a back alley puta, cruising the minitruck section at car shows.