Maybe it was the 2.4 liter engine, or it could have been the make and model of this car—but as I peered into my high school friend’s garage I knew that this car had what it takes to drive across country again. I walked around its rust ridden components and opened the creaky door to look at the odometer, it read 300 thousand miles. I asked my friend, if it still rides and she threw me the key. I put the key in the ignition, and the Toyota Celica (renamed Betsy by my friend when she got it as a gift from her father) cranked right up.
This specific version of the Toyota Celica was an American made version and it was powered by a 22R series engine. It was only available in the Coupe and lift-back versions, and this sometimes made it difficult and uncomfortable for three people to ride in it.
The Toyota that wants to outlast…everything – scary that this could be me even ..I thought
Suddenly, I was reminiscing that it was 1999 and I was in my senior year of high school. The car was born the same year that I was – 1982 – and it was plain and kind of ugly – unlike me people say. My friend’s father had bought it used and it had had its share of bumps in the road. The 1982 Toyota Celica seemed like the most reliable car in the history of cars, yet it was unbearably boring and extremely undesirable to ride in if you were a 17 year old high school senior that was considered semi-popular. Most cars, were updated, they looked lighter in statue. Some of the cars of the 1990’s were even equipped with automatic windows and doors. The most unforgiving quality of this car was that it didn’t even have a FM radio. All cars seemed to have rounder hoods; the square body for the car was no longer in style. This post-war shapes did not fit in the vision most of us had for modern era cars.
So, there I was…back in 1999…
It was October 1999, and it was the last time my friend’s father drove us to school. Most of the time we preferred riding the bus rather than risking the chance that someone would see us in his beat-up car that had been in a couple of accidents. But today we had to make an exception. We were forced to ride in the car in the heat of summer refusing to roll down the windows in fear that we would be discovered and mocked. But because we had missed the last bus that would take us to school on time this ride was the only way to get to school.
We both sprinted to the car in hopes to claim the back seat, knowing that her father would make one of us ride up front with him as he blasted gospel music from the cassette player or listened to the AM radio. We were taught how to drive in the very same car, we bumped the bumper many times; once we even collided with a newer car and left the scene unscathed (because this car would not die, it wouldn’t even suffer injury—it rode and rode as we tried to resist it.)
When my friend graduated from high school in the year 2000, her father gave her the car for a graduation present. We used it to drive from Chicago, Illinois to Saint Louis, Missouri where she moved shortly after graduating. The Toyota Celica went from Saint Louis to Chicago twice a year for several years as my friend attempted to keep in touch. Once she even drove to California and back to St. Louis.
The Toyota was just cracking the American roads year after year and there were no signs of this car ever racking up. It was somehow determined to outlast many of its peers as it was showing exceptional endurance. It is probably just one more proof that many oldies are in fact much more reliable than the new vehicles we buy today.