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98 BMW M Roadster (II)
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81 Toyota Celica
79 Datsun, (II)
79 Datsun,(I)
The Beginnings

July 29, 2006

1990, My First Car: 1981 Toyota Celica

In 1990 I ceased to be an employee and jumped into the self-employed world. The story of that transition is the subject of another section. If I mention it here is only to provide the background for the story of the first car of my own: a 1981 Toyota Celica. I am not quite sure if I got it late in 1990 or early in 1991. An acquaintance I knew while working on my first job kept encouraging me to leave my ungrateful boss until I finally made the decision. It was from this guy who I got the car. He even gave me seller financing with very flexible financing terms: Whenever I could make payments. Of course, since he was also a source of considerable business for me, he was sure I would make payments.

The car was not the GT model; it had an Inline 4 naturally aspirated engine, good for 79 HP (I believe), with a 4-speed manual transmission. It had a manually operated sunroof and for a 10-year old car in my country, it was in good condition. It also had an after market stereo (not good), an electric antenna (almost at the end of its life) and air conditioning. As soon as I could afford it, I had all the windows, save for the windshield, covered with tinted film, I applied cleaning and polishing products to the seats, dashboard and trim, waxed the paint, and foamed the tires.

The first thing I noticed when I drove it, was its superior acceleration and handling compared with the family Datsun pickup truck. Suddenly, I developed a love affair with speed. However, while my driving was limited to the city, I remained a "normal" driver. It was not until I took it to the highways that I started to push the limits.

To the extent that my resources allowed, I tried to improve its appearance by replacing damaged body parts, new "aggressive-looking" wheels, performance tires, new stereo complete with amplifiers, equalizer and speakers, new seat covers, floor mats, electric antenna, and finally, new paint. That process did not take place all at once. It was more like a project executed in phases.

A naturally aspirated engine making 79 HP does not quite make an exhilarating ride but it was an improvement over the 79 Datsun. The maximum speed I achieved was 100 mph. However, in my country's roads such speeds are not sustainable for more than a few minutes. Most roads have only one lane per way, too few straight stretches, and are loaded with too many buses and trucks… This last characteristic was a real turn-off since the car did not have good acceleration L. It was really frustrating to be cruising at a "decent" speed, only to bump into one (or more) of those mammoths and have to wait until you have a clear passing opportunity and then, not being able to regain your previous speed quickly. It seemed like forever.

 Nevertheless, I had sufficient fun driving the car in and out of town. The tinted windows shielded me and the passengers from the heat that is typical in my country. The stereo allowed me to enjoy my music the way I like it. And maintaining its appearance was a refreshing break from my hard work in my CAD services business. For the first time since mid 1979, I was able to ride with my parents and my brother in comfort. While we only had the 79 Datsun, all our family's trips involved 2 people (usually me and my brother) riding in the truck's bed. The Celica proved to be a great improvement, even if my parents complained about the difficulty in entering and exiting from the coupe's back seat.

Most of my out of town driving was business related. In mid 1994 my dad was transferred from Tegucigalpa (Honduras capital), to San Pedro Sula (approximately 150 miles north). In early 1994 most of my business came from San Pedro Sula and naturally, I considered moving with them (did I mentioned that I was living with my parents?). That did not happened however, because in a matter of a few months, I secured sufficient business from clients in Teg. That's how I ended traveling a lot. I often combined business trips with micro vacations with my parents.

These trips became a real rally for me. I even got a stopwatch to time my treks. I picked a benchmark on the outskirts of each city and got myself a log pad. I was not racing against anybody but myself. Every trip was an opportunity to try to beat my latest record. My memory is not that good and since I lost that log, I can only guess what my best time was for the Celica. Well, suffice it to say that a normal time between those cities is around 4 hours by bus, 3.5 hours by car (driving by the book) and around 3 hours by car (driving more "spirited"). I always made less than 3 hours when rallying. Yes, every once in a while I decided to take it easier and just coast my way, admiring the wonderful views; or sometimes, the weather would be bad enough to make me forfeit any thoughts of racing (hey, I love speed but I am not that crazy).

On February of 1996, while on one of my many trips to San Pedro Sula, I had an accident that, although didn't have physical consequences for the occupants of either cars, it practically ended the Celica's role for me. My business was exploding like never before. I had a contract with Shell de Honduras, S.A. to develop the gas stations and convenience stores that the petroleum company was implementing nation-wide in its attempt to become No. 1. The regional branch for the entire Central America and the Caribbean area was looking among the national consultants to contract the implementation of an interactive multimedia library of gas station elements that would be distributed to each local office. I was the selected consultant. Mobility was now more critical than ever. I could not afford to be without a car. However, in order to fulfill the terms of the new contract, I had to make heavy investments in my business. I was short of cash and realized I would not be able to repair the damages to my car to my satisfaction. Therefore I decided to get a "new" used car on financing and wait until I could start collecting on my contracts to restore the Celica to its former glory, and then, keep it as a second car.

And so began my love affair with two seaters... But that is another story.

As a corollary I will say that I did restore the car that same year and used it as a second car. However after a few weeks of driving a Toyota MR2, the 79 HP Celica lost all its luster. The only thing in its favor was that the Celica could haul me, my brother and my parents, whereas the MR2 could only carry me and one more person. The next year I sold it to my dad. My parents still had the 79 Datsun and therefore the Celica was an improvement. They kept the Datsun nevertheless.

In 2001 they sold both cars to buy a Toyota Tercel.

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