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The Little Corolla That Could

It drove into our lives in May of 1998. My husband bought his first brand new car a month before we got married. We squabbled over the color, but since he was technically the buyer and driver, teal won out over whatever girly color I chose.

We had Toyotas in the past. My husband had an old Tercel that was driven into the ground, and at that time I had a 1986 Corolla (later replaced by a 2002 Tacoma). The teal terror was shiny and new, and as of this date the only new car we ever owned. It would replace the silver Tercel that died on a Pennsylvania roadway.

Fast forward 16 years, 314,000 miles later. The little Corolla is neither shiny nor new. The teal exterior has now commingled with rust and the new car smell has been replaced by a faint odor of gym socks and transmission fluid. Its high mileage is a badge of honor that earned it a spot in a Courier Post story on vehicles with excessive mileage.

In addition to its home state of New Jersey, the little car has traveled to Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and New York. The poor thing has been rear ended more than once, but the worst hit it ever received was a blow to the front driver’s side, courtesy of a novice driver making an illegal U-turn at the base of an overpass. It took the wallop in stride, the airbag never deployed, and there wasn’t much damage from the accident.

On another occasion, my husband made a misjudgment which resulted in his teal terror ripping a side mirror from a Mercedes. The Mercedes owner was gracious, and never sought compensation for the mishap. After that incident, we taught the Corolla not to bite.

Through the years the Corolla never asked for any expensive repairs. Other than routine maintenance, it has not been costly to run. Until recently.

Months ago the transmission started slipping. Transmission fluid was leaking at an alarming rate. A trip to our mechanic delivered the fatal diagnosis—the transmission was failing. For $2,000.00 it could be replaced, but given its advanced age and mileage, we decided to commence auto hospice and seek a replacement vehicle.

The replacement came in the form of American heavy metal. The ailing Corolla now shares the driveway with an orange and black 2011 Camaro. The muscle car muscled the blue car off of the concrete and onto the adjacent grass easement, the Corolla’s life force still dripping but no longer staining the white surface.

The Toyota’s days were numbered, or so we thought. With the hellacious winter we had, rife with snow, we soon discovered our shiny new purchase was a fair-weather friend. Who knew sports cars weren’t ideal in ice and snow? Who knew New Jersey would have snowfall just about every week? With two people working, we realized we needed a vehicle that could drive in most conditions. We kept our trusty Toyota Tacoma, but as a last-ditch effort to revive our flat lining Corolla, my husband took it to the auto shop at the school where he teaches. The transmission no longer leaks or slips, after spending $32.00 for parts. Its space on the concrete driveway has been restored. We thought we would thin our auto herd to two vehicles, but it looks like we will stay a three-car household, at least until the teal terror begins its death rattle anew.

1998 Toyota Corolla

1998 Toyota Corolla

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