In Spring of 1993, my last living grandparent, my mother’s mother passed away. With the inheritance that my mother received, she and my father paid off their stateside home in Arizona, what little debt they had, my entire college tuition and offered to buy me my very first car.
I was told I could spend $20,000 and that I could get anything I wanted and I had three months to figure it out. A young person’s ultimate dream, right?
I started test driving everything… the Toyota Paseo, Saturns, a Ford Mustang, the Nissan Sentra, a Honda CRX, an Isuzu Rodeo, the Acura Intega and the only car I really had my heart set on: the all new, completely redesigned and adorable Volkswagen Carbio convertible.
The car that Cindy Mancini drives in Can’t Buy Me Love.
The car made for a college girl.
The car that was fun to drive, super cute and had side impact airbags.
And. It came in the most beautiful shade of navy blue. My favorite color! It also had automatic transmission and a CD player.
I poured over the glossy brochure, visited the Volkswagen dealership so many times that you would have thought I worked there and test drove over and over, each time falling deeper and deeper in love.
I enjoyed the way the air hit my face and messed up my hair when the top was down and how quiet it was when the top was up. I wanted this car so badly and was so proud of myself for doing my research, getting to know all the other cars in my price range and staying under budget.
My dream almost became a reality…
In June of 1994, my parents returned to Arizona from Mozambique for their summer break and it was time to go car shopping.
I had to, with the help of the car salesman, convince my parents of the safety features. They were deeply concerned (as they should have been) about the fact that my dream car was a convertible. This turned out not to be as hard as I thought it was going to be and so came time for the negotiations.
I will never forget sitting in the showroom going over the price of the car thinking, “I’m going to get this car. Oh my God, I’m going to get this car!”, when the inevitable and dreadful “let me take this figure to my manger” moment came up. This went a few rounds and no one was budging.
The color I wanted wasn’t on the lot and would have to be ordered. The salesman said that it would require an $800 deposit. My dad wrote a check and handed to the salesman, I would like to believe in an effort to show his good faith and as a last ditch effort to get the dealership to come down on their price, which was below $20,000. To make a long story short(er), the manger said “no”, the check was ripped up and we left the dealership.
I was not going to get the car. I was devastated!
A couple of days later my dad had his own car, a Buick Regal serviced. He and my mother were just days away from returning overseas where they lived and worked as educators for nine months out of the year. They had their car detailed and prepared for the long months it sat on blocks in the garage.
My dad came home singing the praises of a saleswomen he had met that day at Royal Buick and a car that she had on the lot that he thought I might like.
A Buick? Really? Old people drive Buick’s. You and mom drive a Buick.
No, this was very hip he told me. It’s a Skylark and it fits all your criteria.
1) Navy blue
3) Room for four
4) CD player
5) And while it’s not a convertible, it has a sunroof.
He was right.
And the clincher? 6) If you get this car, your mom and I will pay for your car insurance for a year.
Fine. Car shopping was exhausting and I didn’t have it in me to start all over, plus my parents were never going to leave me the money to carry out this project on my own and they wouldn’t be home again until December.
I hated that car from the minute I started driving it. It was exactly what I didn’t want. It wasn’t hip or cute in any way. It was a Buick. My friends all made fun of me, but I drove everyone everywhere and in the end, I learned to appreciate it. After all, who was I to complain? It was paid for, brand new and it got me from point A to B and back again hundreds of times for five years. I have a lot of good memories in that car. Then my sister totaled it.I really wish that I had asked my dad if he got free oil changes and/or car washes for life after buying me the Skylark. He had to have gotten some sort of kick back, right?
Years later, I finally did get a Volkswagen. A Passat. I have owned three cars since then, but the Passat was my favorite.