The very first car I owned was a white 1994 Mazda Protege LX. It was not at all anything I was interested in at the time. It was the summer of 2003 and I had just graduated high school. I obviously didn’t have much money and I was certainly privileged to have my dad help me purchase my first car. I was searching for something “cool” at the time which in my mind was a Honda Civic, Accord, or one of those kinds of cars that everyone my age was getting.
Before craigslist and the internet marketplace, we relied on local dealers, the classifieds in the newspaper, or the local Recycler (if you don’t know or remember, it was a published book of vehicles for sale that you could find at a nearby liquor store or market). I would equate The Recycler as the brick-and-mortar version of Craigslist except you’d have to pay a few bucks for a copy of it.
We actually did go to see a black ’95 Honda Civic that was in my hometown. After checking out the car with my dad and him test driving it (I had no idea what I was looking at or for), he turned them down because he said it wasn’t a good car. After looking more and more, he stumbled upon a classified listing in the newspaper for the Mazda. We went to see it and my dad decided this was in good enough shape for $2000 and purchased it for me. I wasn’t incredibly enthusiastic about the choice, but given that I have been wanting a car and thinking about driving so much since I first got my learner’s permit almost two years prior, I was still pretty happy.
I really didn’t know anything about cars and started dabbing in personalizing my car. Frankly, I’m embarrassed at my first “mods” which mainly consisted of blacking out my tail lights with black spray paint, replacing my automatic shift knob several times with aftermarket ones from eBay, and putting in a squash scented air freshener. I remember I had an overdrive button on the OEM shifter and had to rewire it to a switch that I got from RadioShack because the one I bought didn’t have an option for it.
These were the two shift knobs that I used on the car… both came with set screws that you would have the screw the knob onto the shifter. They would always come loose and I’d have to keep the allen wrench that they provided inside the glove compartment to keep tightening them regularly. What a joke! I can’t believe they still sell these on eBay!
Anyway, I don’t think I really got into working on cars seriously until I got my next car (which needed a lot of work). With my first car, this Mazda Protege, I will always remember it as my trusty commuter which never gave me problems. I ended up keeping it until I moved up to the Bay Area and sold it there for what we bought it for, $2000. What a good sell, and what a reliable vehicle it was.