My 78 Corolla Spoiled Me!

Even when my 78 Toyota Corolla was ten years old and all banged up, I used to get offers to buy it almost every day — at the gas pump, in the supermarket parking lot, heck even at stop lights. I never did any maintenance on it the whole seven years I had it. I drove it up and down hills in San Francisco on three cylinders with no oil in it for years! I got a $2,000 settlement on the thing after an accident in 1989, and that was not even a total loss.

One of the pistons blew after I had driven my Corolla for a year with no oil in it. It made a loud BANG! and a bunch of smoke came out. What? This was my first car. I honestly didn’t know what the big deal was about engine oil. My dad had showed me how to change the oil, but I never changed it or even put oil in it. He added oil whenever I visited him, but that stopped after I took it off to college. I drove the thing for another two years on three cylinders, up and down hills.

I had so much fun scaring my mom’s uppity boyfriends with my beat-up old car! One time one was in the back seat as we were sailing down a particularly long and steep San Francisco hill. Alarmed at the chugging noise my car made because it only had three cylinders, he said I should get the engine looked at. “The engine isn’t all that important,” I told him. “What’s more important than the engine?” He asked. “Brakes!” I exclaimed as I let up on the brakes and let him feel the full force of the hill we were on. Priceless.

A policeman helped me fix my 1978 Corolla after a traffic accident in 1989. Some nut had pulled out to the right of another car that was turning left out of a business driveway. My driver side front fender hit the rear of this other car. Lucky for me, the policeman was across the street and saw the whole thing. The policeman grabbed hold of my fender and bent it outward so that my tire was no longer scraping and I could drive away. The nut’s insurance gave me $2,000 for the damage, but I didn’t get it fixed.

The amazing thing is I paid $2,400 for my 78 Corolla in 1985, and in 1989 $2,000 was not a total loss. That car held its value better than any other model I ever heard of, and I was an adjuster from 1999 to 2007. I had at least a hundred random, unsolicited offers to buy that car. I sold it to a friend for a dollar, when it was time to move on.

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