My first car was a 1989 Chevy Celebrity. In case it’s been awhile since you’ve seen one, all you have to know is that it screams “80s” rather loudly. It has a distinctly pointy quality with its angular features, and it’s quite low to the ground. It’s the kind of car that a friend of mine once described as a “pimp-mobile in its day.” Whatever that means.
Humphrey, the Celebrity
My Celebrity, whom I affectionately referred to as Humphrey, was my least favorite color: maroon. Down to every nook and cranny. From its leather-handles and fuzzy side paneled doors down to the soft, suede-like seats and ever-sagging ceiling material, the maroon invaded your senses to the point that you felt you might be in a time machine. Sort of like the one in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, only far less groovy.
Humphrey’s passenger side window didn’t work and often fell down, but because I was too broke (read: stubborn) to fix it, I settled for wedging door stoppers down on the inside of the door in order to keep the glass up and the elements out. I still have one of the doorstops in a drawer somewhere.
Despite his age, Humphrey had functioning air-conditioning. Though it definitely had room for improvement, the A/C still managed to help me justify the shotty heater that I fought with every winter. As luck always seemed to have it, the heater needed the most coaxing on the coldest days of the year.
I have one very distinct memory of being called out of school early in a snowstorm and starting the car only to find the vents weren’t putting out any air. In what was, at that point, a customary occurrence, I popped the hood and reached under my seat for the mini sledgehammer my father had given me for just this reason (“or if anyone tries to steal the car,” he also told me). A classmate of mine, a kid I had known since I was five and in peewee soccer with, looked on, his mouth in the amazed shape of an “o” from the parking space next to mine while I knocked the fan to life and retreated back to the inside of my car.
I chose the name Humphrey because it fit with the demeanor of a car that was old enough to drink hard liquor while I was still too young to vote. Humphrey just seemed like a good fit for something made in ‘89, but that felt 89 years old (in car-years, of course). Not to mention, it seemed like a car only a crotchety old man with a similar name might drive because it wasn’t broke so why the hell would you fix it?
Speaking of broken, the first time he broke down was on a back road where I was lucky enough to be discovered by a police officer mere moments after I pulled over to the shoulder and called my mom in panic. The officer was kind enough to keep me company while I waited for my mom and called my friends to tell them that I wouldn’t make the movie. I’ve since lost count of how many times Humphrey broke down, but I can assure you that it was often and that I put quite a bit of my summer wages into keeping him running.
I said goodbye to Humphrey shortly after he turned 22 on a hot summer afternoon. I traded him in for my parents’ black and gold 2004 Kia Sorento that I still drive today. Her name is Sadie.
Sadie, the Sorento
Sadie is the car I grew up in. She’s the car I learned to drive in, before Humphrey was officially mine, and she’s my beloved baby despite the fact that her A/C gave out a couple of weeks after I acquired her. It’s still broken, but I don’t mind it much anymore since I have a moonroof to help keep me cool.
Sadie’s back driver’s side tail light has a crack in it from a small collision between her rear and Humphrey’s front end. It’s a crack I’m responsible for because one morning, I misjudged the distance while backing Sadie into the driveway. It was a small enough collision that it escaped my parent’s notice for months. To this day, I still don’t think my parents know why the crack is there (sorry, Mom and Dad) because all of the damage was on Humphrey. I would eventually lie to my dad about said damage and blame it on the hazards of having to park in a student parking lot.
Sadie broke down last month with just 39 miles to go before reaching 100,000. I was on my way to a job interview at Union Station when I pulled into the parking lot only to hear a loud “pop” and to see steam come pouring out of the hood. With her break down came one of my own while I held back frustrated tears and once again dialed my mom’s number. I wasn’t ready to let her go, but knew the day was coming.
Luckily, the repairs were minor enough (only $400) that I could keep her a little bit longer, but I know the day’s coming where I’ll have to trade her in just like Humphrey. It’s just that point in my life where I’m expected to experience all the firsts like my first real-world job, moving out of my parents’ house, and forking over at least $200 for a car payment I don’t want.
I’m the New Kid on the Street
I write all of this to let you know that I get it. You’re here on StreetsideAuto.com because your car means something to you. Whether it’s the broken-down car you grew up in, your pristine baby you want to modify again and again, or a new project that you’re going to breathe life into, that vehicle has some form of value to you. That’s why you’re here. And I promise to do what I can to help you make your own car memories. Because like it or not, whether they’re good or bad, every vehicle has some memories you just can’t shake, and we’re here to help you make more.