While I was working the overnight shift at a mental hospital in Fargo, N.D., I would often skip across the state on a midnight drive to Duluth. It was a way to escape and get my mind off of work for a weekend.
At that time I had a 1992 Hyundai Elantra that I had been given from my uncle for a case of beer after my freshman year in college. It was a junker, but it got me from point A to point B most of the time.
The vehicle didn't start when the temperature dropped below 32 degrees and was unbearable when the temperature got warmer because the AC didn't work and only one of the windows would roll up.
It had computer speakers for listening to music – but that didn't matter because the car was so loud even if you cranked the stereo as high as it would go you wouldn't hear a word.
The car constantly smelled like gasoline, and would die if you took your foot off of the clutch just for a second. It was a difficult, but fun car to drive. Riding around in it felt like going everywhere in a go-kart.
On one of my cross-state trips to Duluth it started raining and when my car came across a puddle, the water shot up into the undercarriage so hard that my entire exhaust disconnected from my car and fell down onto the street.
My Elantra was loud before, with a rusted out exhaust that had seen better days – but a car with no exhaust sounds a bit like an old-time airplane. I got pulled over twice for the noisy vehicle.
The first time I hadn't even made it to Duluth yet, and there was nothing I could have really done. When I got to Duluth I generally tried to use my car as little as possible. The problems with the clutch made it an extremely difficult car to drive anywhere where there were lots of hills.
However, with more rain coming I had made the decision to buy some Rain-X (since the mechanical function of the windshield wipers didn't work and I wanted to be able to see on my ride home).
Now, in the Elantra all of the doors could be locked and you could still open the driver's door from the inside. That being said, I never made a habit of locking my car. The vehicle was such a piece of junk that there was literally nothing worth stealing. In the absence of any common sense, when I reached my store I dropped the keys on the floor of the car and locked all of the doors. I was locked out.
About an hour later I had someone help me into my car – for a price.
Page 2 of 2 - When I finally got in, I began to make my way home when I was pulled over for the second time. It was like being kicked while I was down – and I'm sure the officer could see that because I was let off with another warning. However, he told me I had to get the car fixed within the day. So I made an appointment at a car shop in West Duluth and brought it there later that day.
I had what I could find of my exhaust sitting in the trunk of my car, and the mechanic was nice enough to repair the exhaust free-of-charge.
That's not to say the car was quieter than before, but it was quiet enough that it would be able to avoid getting pulled over everywhere I went.
I guess the point of my story is that junky cars are a right-of-passage. I got rid of my Elantra when I purchased the Taurus, but still miss driving it from time-to-time. It was a good beginner car – one that I could work on without worrying I would destroy it.
I believe every person's first car should be a real junker, one that you can grow with and learn to maintain. It will help you to appreciate your new set of wheels when you can finally afford a new vehicle.