CarStories are stories about your cars. This week we have Fred Taulbee, filmmaker, photographer, writer, and a regular contributor to CarStory. Check out his book, Ana and the House Are One, available on Amazon.
I’ve bought five used cars in my lifetime. Someone helped me buy the first one, a used 1980 Honda Prelude five-speed with a luggage rack on the trunk and my favorite color, gray. One owner and no major accidents, but that driver side door never did look right with the rest of the car.
That low riding, bucket-seat, speedster got me through college from 1987 to 1994. It got me to the movies in Alexandria, Louisiana, pre-gps with the newspaper in the passenger seat, driving between three theaters on Saturdays or Sundays.
That curb-hugging stick shift flew me back and forth from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches (don’t try to say it), Louisiana, to my hometown, Leesville, on occasional weekends, all the major holidays and twice most summers for seven years.
Let me rephrase that. For a million trips, that gray dream of a first car got me over Louisiana’s 117. You probably have a road like this where you live. The 117 is a rollercoaster of a highway with no shoulders; plenty of potholes; the Kisatchie National Forest full of deer and more; and a town called Provencal, which in some other language I’m sure means “speedtrap.” Sounds like a great fictionalized story, but those who know are shaking their heads right now. It broke my heart to see that Prelude go, but I knew it wouldn’t make it the 1800 miles to California and grad school.
My twelve years in California I owned a car for about two years, that’s three cars combined that made up two years. The first was a Vette, first name Che. Me and a friend split for it. We drove it a few times, and after it stopped working, I just gave up on it. Somehow I got a hold of a 1969 Volkswagen Fastback, light blue. After I left California I saw it on the driveway of my old place in Google maps satellite mode. The third car, a red Ford Focus, got me around Los Angeles for two years. When I sold it, I told the guy not to trust the oil light that was always on, but he ignored me, filled it up and it burned off the oil like a professional fog machine in a horror movie.
Number five was a 2002 Mazda Protege 5-speed, found by the same person who found me the Honda back in 1987. It got me to NSU Leesville where I taught, Paradise Bar where I bartended, and Alexandria, which now only has one theater. I bought that in 2006, and it’s still with me, but I’m not sure how much longer, and I don’t know how I’m going to buy my next one.
You see, my mom found me those two cars, the Honda and the Mazda. Shrewd, smart, sharp as nails, hard to match—my mom. She left us a few years ago, but one way or another she’s going to help me buy the next one. I just have to keep repeating the mantra, WWMD—What Would Mom Do?