I was living in San Francisco driving the first car I ever bought. I was cruising south on 19th Ave, crossing Sloat in my 1993 Toyota Camry. Someone made an illegal left turn and with that I got to know my airbag and had to say goodbye a great car. They totaled it and I received $2500.
At that point in my life I was a college student, broke, and single. I needed a car and I only had two requirements: manual transmission and four-wheel drive.
For $2000 I found a 1992 Nissan Pathfinder. It had a cabernet-red interior, four-wheel drive, manual transmission, climate control, and 130k miles. It originated from Jersey and had the cancer (rust damage from road salt) but I didn’t care. I took it to a mechanic, found out it needed ~$1000 in repairs. The owner dropped the price a bit, we split the repairs, and I was the proud new owner. Within a week it had an upgraded stereo and sound system. Priorities, am I right?
Having a 4×4 was great. Having a 4×4 with oversized tires and high clearance is better. But having a tab on the spare tire rack that could open beer bottles was perfect. Over the next 6 years I (and many others) opened hundreds—if not thousands—of bottles of Arrogant Bastard, 60 Min IPA, and a whole lot of Old Rasputin.
In this car, I felt invincible on any dirt road. I drove through creeks and washes, over unpaved mountain passes, through desolate deserts, and through deep sand and snow. Driving through Death Valley I dropped the driver’s side into a rut so deep I could reach out and touch the ground. I spent countless nights sleeping in the back on the side of unnamed roads in desolate country. I drove through heat, dust, rain, snow, wind, hail. It carried people, gear, good music, takeout, and rocks, so many rocks. Me and this car, we were made for each.
It was no spring chicken though. It would breakdown at the most inconvenient time. Like the time I had to drive from San Jose to San Francisco without first gear. The time the transmission failed on our honeymoon earning itself a three week stay in San Diego. The countless “checkups” that led to a thousand dollar bill. But it was worth it, every dollar was worth it.
This car and I logged tens of thousands of miles on snowboarding, camping, and geology trips, commutes, late night beer runs, and fieldwork all over the western US. My wife and I drove this car on our first date, home from our wedding, and to our honeymoon. I brought two babies home hospital in that car. It accompanied me from single life, to falling in love, getting married, and moving halfway across the country with my beloved.
In the end, some jack ass slammed on their brakes in the middle of the intersection because they “thought they heard a siren.” Me, being the bigger jack ass, didn’t see the brake lights until it was too late. By then the AC didn’t work, both power windows on the left side of the car didn’t go down, it leaked oil, chewed through gas, and was even more expensive to upkeep. Add a radiator now inset 3” from where it should be, and it was a goner. I managed to drive it another few weeks until it reached the point of overheating all the time.
I sold it for $450 and have regretted it every day since.