It was a sad day today as my beautiful 1992 Toyota Camry was ratcheted onto a flatbed and driven away. In all, it was a rather ignominious ending for a wonderful car – maybe the best I’ve ever owned.
The Camry had 135,000 miles on it. The engine was sweet and still more powerful than you’d expect from four little cylinders. A cheap, fresh, black paint job, less than a year old, clung to it like some sort of auto toupee.
It pulled to one side, but that seemed to be tire related as opposed to car related. When the problem first showed up, I had Steve at the Exxon station rotate the tires and the problem just moved from one side of the road to the other.
I know it could go over 105 mph, because one Saturday on the very quiet portion of I-84, just south of the Massachusetts line, I had opened it up. I was feeling good having just captured two Emmys and was rushing back to Connecticut to help out at the Hamden High School ‘after prom’ and then a Good Morning America/Sunday live shot.
Inside, some radio buttons (specifically the one set aside for WCBS-880) were starting to show my digital favoritism. The tiny pop-out knobs for the bass and treble had long since popped out. The floor mats curled along the edges as I inadvertently pushed them slightly to the side every day.
Once, the Camry seemingly healed itself. During its first year, while riding down I-91, I hit something on the road. Bang. It was loud, and I could feel it in my feet.
Whatever it was hit squarely on the bottom of the car. After an unrelated incident with my muffler, the service manager at Faulkner Toyota, outside Philadelphia, told me whatever had hit the car did significant damage to the oil pan and some other parts. I needed to replace them to the tune of $1,000+ or face the consequences further down the road.
I never fixed the oil pan and it never complained, though that happened at least 115,000 miles ago. Thanks Faulkner.
With my “toy car” in the garage during any kind of wet weather, the Toyota still managed 8-9,000 miles a year. It sipped regular and still exceeded 22 mph – even with my lead foot. It never burned oil.
It was the first car I ever owned with a vanity license plate. It started as FORCST. I was asked on more than one occasion, “What’s does ‘for cyst’ mean?” When Connecticut changed the protocol for marker plates, it became FOR•CST.
Over the years, the windshield became pitted from my 85 mph dashes going to and from work on I-91. That made it tough to see clearly when the Sun was low in the afternoon sky. The adhesive from the Velcro strip I used to hold the radar detector in place oozed a little on the dashboard.
A few years ago, when the freon had leaked from the air conditioner, Steve switched me over to some atmosphere friendly coolant. From that time forward you could hang meat in the car.
When Helaine suggested we get another four wheel drive vehicle, now that Steffie was driving to and from school, the handwriting was on the wall for the Camry. I wanted to keep it, but it just didn’t make sense for the three of us to have four cars, each with an insurance and tax bill, and each needing a place to park.
At the dealership, buying the RAV4 which would replace the Camry, Howie, the salesman apologized and then offered me $500 for it. As I would later learn from friends, that’s all he could expect to get for it at auction. On the other hand, if I went to sell it privately, the car was worth well over $2,000. But, who wants to sell a car from home?
My friend Harold had spearheaded a program at Connecticut Public Television where they would take your car, and since it was a donation, I could claim the fair market value (which I established online from the “Bluebook”).
So, this evening the flatbed arrived and the Camry went away.
If you’re in the market for a used car and this little cream puff shows up, believe me when I say, she’s a gem. Without a doubt, the best car I ever had and the first car I was ever sorry to see go.