My first two cars

After writing a few days ago about the first car I learned to drive, that rusty old 1968 Ford Fairlane, I looked at the calendar yesterday and noticed that it was the anniversary of my first and only new car purchase.  But before I finally scraped up enough to buy the new car in 1994, my first car was actually a 1981 Mazda 626 coupe.


This isn’t the actual car – mine was a light blue – but it is the same model and year.  I bought my Mazda about a week before I moved from the Bay Area down to Riverside to start studying, right at the beginning of 1990.  Previously, I had shared the Fairlane and a 1971 Mercury station wagon with my parents and younger sister and there was no way I was going to be able to live in Los Angeles without a car of my own.

I bought the car with a little help from my parents, from a guy who lived two blocks over.  It was a stick-shift and I hadn’t driven one before so my father did the test driving and I had to learn to master the manual transmission in the few days before I left for LA!

My father, who is a pretty handy mechanic, inspected the car and we brought it down to the automobile club for them to do a used car inspection, too.  It looked like it was in good shape and so we bought it for something like $2,500.  What I ended up buying was a lemon and to this day it has left a sour taste in my mouth for used cars, even though I rationally understand that they are generally a good value.

Over the next four and a half years I kept sinking money into the Mazda, which set me back probably a year or more in my eventual purchase of my first new car.


I purchased my Honda Civic DX on June 30, 1994 at the Sunnyvale Honda dealership.  Three months earlier I had graduated from university, I had been working at the same job for seven years already so credit was not a problem, and I had managed to save up a decent down-payment.  My choice of a four-dour was practical: I often drove people around.  I also decided to stick with a manual transmission, something that had grown on me.

It was a wonderful car that got great gas mileage.  I lived in Los Angeles and then San Diego in the years after buying the car before eventually moving back to the Bay Area, and I tracked the mileage meticulously.  On one of my trips from LA to San Francisco I actually got about 50 miles per gallon, thanks to careful driving and a good tailwind.

I kept the car as I moved into San Francisco proper in 1998, getting a street permit and fighting for the limited number of parking spots, trying to remember each morning where I had parked the night before.  Eventually, after Tawn moved to SF and bought a car, I decided maybe I could live without one.  For six months I made it a point to not drive all week, parking far away from the house in an area without daily parking restrictions.  I would take the car out on the weekend to clean it and run the engine, but found I could get around on transit just fine, even when I had classes to train in the South Bay or Oakland.

In the autumn of 2001 (I think – it might have been 2002?) I finally put the car up for sale, selling it to a man from Belmont so his daughter could have her first car.  We met at a rest stop off Highway 280, he inspected it and agreed to my price.  I had kept detailed records of all the maintenance, oil changes, etc. so it was an easy sale.  We signed the paperwork there, I handed over the keys to his daughter, and the man drove me back to my house.  He took the above picture for me, the only one I have of my Honda.

To this day I sometimes see the same model car driving around and think how much I would enjoy having another one. It was a great car.


0 thoughts on “My first two cars

  1. Oh man. Believe it or not, I’m only 21 years old and I have gone through 4 cars in 2 years. There was a time recently when I had 3 at the same time. Now I’m down to two. This kinda inspires me to blog about that. But I don’t know if I will. Haha.

  2. Honestly, us men and our cars! :)I remember that I learned to drive in my Mom’s 1980 Toyota Corolla. It was a stick and I’m grateful I learned how to drive it because I can now pretty much drive just about anything.My first purchased car though was a souped up “66” Chevy II SS. What a gas hog (6 mpg) but I was in heaven and it kicked a$$!I think as guys especially we never forget our first cars.

  3. I don’t remember the Mazda but I do remember the Honda and your decision to sell it. That was brave of you at he time. My first car to own was a 1956 Chevy Belair. It originally belonged to my grandmother but she bought a new Tbird so wanted to sell the Chevy. I think my dad got it from her for a song. Cool huh? Funny how our cars are so memorable…

  4. Really. Hondas seem to  be everlasting. You guys and your cars. Sayeed has a Mustang which is a 1997 (?1998) model. It is souped up to a T. It is stick shift and he really should sell it. It has about 20 thousand miles on it, if that. He is just dragging his feet about selling it. He likes it so much. I had given that to him as his high school graduation gift. Now he has a Lexus and an Infinite; I keep telling him that he needs to sell it. So,he has a ” for sale ” sign on the front shield. But when people call and ask him about it, he hums and haws all the time. Crazy kid.

  5. yes, it’s rather difficult to find a parking spot in SF. i would know after living there for about a year. and yes, anyone would do just fine getting around on transit as i did. it’s a great city. i’m starting to miss it.

  6. @rudyhou – Maybe time to move back, eh?  The thing about parking there that was crazy is that I’d literally forget where I had parked.  In fact, we had a dry erase board near the phone and I got into the habit of writing my parking location as soon as I walked in the door, so I didn’t foget it!@ZSA_MD – It is easy to get attached to a car.  I’m generally not a big car person, but I enjoyed this Honda because it was comfortable, very low maintenance, and ran like a charm.@stebow – They are very much a part of our lives, aren’t they?  For most of us, we’ll own less than maybe ten cars (if that) in our whole lives, so each one is around for a good length of time.@marc11864 – I agree that learning to drive stick shift is very important.  Especially if you’re going to be outside the US, where stick shifts can be more common.@yang1815 – I’ve considered it although haven’t been inside one in years.  The current styling doesn’t do too much for me.  I know that they’re trying to go after the young kids, which has always been a niche market for Civics, especially the hatchbacks.  But I liked mine because the styling was pretty conventional.  We’ll see.  Honda also has the City, a slightly smaller car similar to the Civic.@TheCheshireGrins – And ever and ever…@foggysunnymorning – What year was your 626?  I know that Mazda eventually turned around but back in the early 80s it seems like their engineering wasn’t so good.

  7. I couldn’t remember. I think it was made in 1988, but I’m not sure. It was my first car in Canada. I bought it in January 2000 at $3700 and trade-in in 2003 at $1000. I didn’t get any major problems.

  8. Strange you had that pic taken the day you ‘sold’ the car, not the day you ‘bought’ it! Now, if you’d had a long ariel with a little ‘flag’ on top, you’d have been able to spot your car from down the street. Lol Great pic of you !

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