They say you never forget your first car. Of course, if you end up totaling said car by rolling it in a ditch just 26 days after acquiring your license, forever proving that the D- pass system is a foolish one to implement in Driver’s Ed, it doesn’t leave much time for it to make an impression. When this happens, it’s the second car that becomes memorable.
And I can say with great confidence that car no. 2 (and boy, was it ever), my grey 1994 Nissan Sentra “Limited Edition” was a memory for the ages.
When I first acquired the car from a used lot in the spring of 2001, it wasn’t necessarily a crowning achievement in automotive crappiness. However, it wasn’t without its shortcomings.
For starters it had zero pickup. The fastest time I ever clocked it in a 0-60 test was approximately 12.5 seconds. Not that I was ever a speed demon (except for my first 26 days as a licensed driver, which as I stated above, yielded disastrous results), but there is always going to be an unnerving feeling when your car feels as if it’s ready to explode at 70.
Another glitch was that the air conditioner never really worked, which was no problem as I could always just roll the windows down. And when I say “no problem” I mean it was fine so long as you had “no problem” finding someone to assist you in getting them back up by placing their hands on each side of the window, pulling upward while you pushed the “window up” button.
Side note: this is a more socially acceptable request to make of your friends than it is the boss of a company whose employed you for less than a week.
But all this was fairly standard bad teenager car stuff. For the most part in high school, the Sentra treated me alright. Though I’ve always hated driving, it was nice to occasionally have transportation. That way, when I received one of those oh, so rare party invites, I could leave whenever I wanted instead of having to wait on my prom king best friend to stop circulating the room and give me a ride.
Having a car also prevented me from having to endure his “fundamentals of popularity” lecture on the way home, which was a fantastic bonus.
And, as surprising as it is even to me, I was able to secure a little action in the car. I’ll always have a soft-spot for the Sentra, as it was the place where I got under a girl’s shirt for the first time; an occurrence which took place mere seconds after I got on top of a girl’s shirt from under the passenger side seat belt for the first time.
Damn, I’m smooth.
However, things took a bad turn for the car when I went to college, when I decided to take the option of no longer driving, thus handing the car over to my dad.
One day I got a phone call saying Papa Cunningham ran the Sentra into the side of another woman’s car at an intersection. A nice kicker to this story was him answering “I don’t know” when I asked him which person ran a red light. Perhaps they fell asleep simultaneously.
As a result, the front end became so damaged that the hood didn’t close on its own anymore, and had to be tied down with a chain, thus making the simple procedure of checking your oil a wonderfully drawn out 15 minute expenditure.
After college, during my first stint of living back home, the Sentra became mine again. For a few months, I had a job about 15 minutes from the house and got to take this chestnut on the road with me everyday.
Things were fine until one July morning, I drove past a semi on my way to work. A simple enough occurrence normally, but not this day.
Because of the accident mentioned above, some metal on the front of the hood had become separated, leaving a small gap on the hood. Well, when this truck whizzed by, that small gap instantly became a three foot wedge which nested directly in my line-of-sight.
I’m too crappy a photographer to accurately simulate the experience, but this what my view at 65 mph should have looked like…
And this is what my view at 65 MPH did look like…
And, the icing on the cake was that this is now what my car looked like from the outside…
In addition to the chain, the hood now had to be held down with a C-clamp with a board of wood stuffed into the aforementioned wedge.
Though it never broke off, the car banged loudly and violently every time I drove it, which was nice because it helped bring back my repressed memories of the night my psychopathic neighbor stole a baseball bat from my shed and beat on the door of his cheating wife.
Then there were the taunts. On multiple days when I got home from work there were two young boys waiting across the street to yell “nice car, faggot,” at me as I returned home. Now I am aware of a teenage oddity where the phrase “you wanna bang?” means “do you wish to fight?” so perhaps in their backwards way of speaking “faggot” means something like “modern day Fonzie.” However, if their tone was any indication, there is reason to believe they weren’t being complimentary.
Though my “Limited Edition” Sentra no longer runs, it still sits in the driveway of my childhood (and current) home. And while many of us have our shitty car stories, I’m arrogant enough to believe mine is of real significance.
While my current car is only marginally safer (I once blew three tires in the span of a week-and-a-half) it’s never packed the same visceral charm of the Nissan. If it weren’t for the fact I feared death every time I stepped behind the wheel, I’m sure I’d miss it.
Auto Score: 1.0/10
Final Score: 3.0/10