Sales figures and the Guinness Book of World Records support me when I say that the Mazda Miata has been the most successful two-seater sports car in history. For me, it has been a very special car and one that holds even more significance now. It was in January 2002 when I bought my red Miata, now known as the “Fireball,” following the magical years with my 1994 white Miata known as the “Marshmallow,” now residing with my oldest son in Atlanta (See related post titled Magic!).
The Fireball’s first couple of road trips however were not for joy but for sadness as I drove it several times to Hot Springs, AR where my Dad was in the hospital. Two trips in early March, just days apart are still vivid in my mind as one was for a celebration of his life with my three siblings once we learned his cancer had spread. The second trip was just three days later which ended just minutes before he died with all four of us around him in his hospital room.
While my Dad knew I had bought the new Miata, he never got to see it nor did my Mother who had died three years earlier. So it was once my parent’s estate had been settled and I had received my portion of the inheritance that I decided the Fireball should be the last gift from my parents. I took what portion of the money I needed and paid off the car loan three years early. I thought since my parents were well aware of my love for cars, that what better gift could they give me than the little sports car that sparked magic in me. And for me, what better way to be reminded of their love than every time I got behind the wheel to go anywhere. After deciding this, I distinctly remember driving down the street with the top down, and looking up into the sky and picturing them smiling down on me, both happy and proud. Since then, I have had many more experiences exactly the same–all three of us with big smiles on our faces.
Now that this car was a part of my inheritance as well as a constant reminder of my parent’s love, I decided I could never sell it. This got me thinking of starting a collection that would become my stable of cars. I already had a rather extensive collection of 1/18-scale cars in my office, now I thought I could collect the real thing. But my ideas were never to accumulate expensive cars that were more for show than driving; my idea was just to collect cars that I could afford and ones that I loved to drive. This collection would give me a choice each morning of choosing whatever car I felt like driving for the day.
Starting with the Marshmallow and then with the Fireball, a Miata had been my daily driver for 10 years. And throughout that time, no matter what the weather, I had had fun driving a Miata. The two Miatas would definitely be the start of my stable of cars. But during the 11th winter of driving in the cold, I came to the realization that a hardtop would be nicer and warmer to drive in the wintertime and would also give me a different choice of cars to chose from (I am not a fan of cold weather).
It was at the Detroit Auto Show one year that I had picked out my next car—a Mini Cooper. It was the first time I had seen the modern version of this iconic car and sitting in it in Detroit, I decided this would definitely have to be my next car. So in the spring of 2006, I went to the local dealership to pick out what I had in mind. Unfortunately what I wanted wasn’t anywhere in the US. I was then told that I could order one equipped the way I wanted it and my first thought was of all the cars I had ever bought, I had never ordered one exactly how I wanted it. Excited even though knowing there would be about a six-week wait, I filled out the order form for my next car. To help with my anticipation, I was given a website that I could go to track its manufacture. It was fun to follow its progress down the assembly line, from the factory to the shore in England for its voyage across the ocean, and finally its trucking overland from its port of entry in the US to my dealership.
The day I went to pick it up, my wife dropped me off at the dealership. When I went inside, there it was sitting on the showroom floor just waiting for me. Only I didn’t know it was mine at first because it had the wrong color wheels—silver rather than white as I had ordered. A quick investigation by my salesman revealed his mistake but sadly there was no way to change out the wheels. We would have to go through the order process again and wait another six weeks. My mind raced as to what to do. In the end, I decided this was close enough and hindsight has taught me that this was a most wise decision as it next to impossible to keep white wheels clean from the accumulation of disc brake dust and road film.
I drove it home and my wife took this picture of me. That day happened to be our youngest son’s birthday and when we met him at the restaurant that night, he had a most astonished look on his face as we drove up. We had not told any of our kids that I was getting a new car.
Now that we had three cars at home and a two-car garage, I began a daily routine of car shuffling. I soon started to decide the night before which car I wanted to drive the next day so I could park it on the driveway and not have to move cars in the morning. This worked fine in the summertime but in the wintertime, I had to reverse the process so my drive for the next day could spend the night in the garage so I wouldn’t have to scrape ice or frost off the car.
In spite of moving cars around almost everyday, it was a joy to have a choice of cars to drive. I found myself as I drove not thinking about my next car purchase but thinking if I wanted to drive my other car the next day. What fun this was. For someone who had a stable of cars, wouldn’t this be what it was like—deciding among several fun options what to drive each morning?
Not long after buying the Mini (known as “Chili” for its red hot color), my stable expanded to three cars. In June of 2006, our oldest son moved from Austin, Texas where he had just finished graduate school to San Francisco where his first job was. He wasn’t going to be able to take the Marshmallow with him so he parked it at my sister’s house in Austin. Father’s Day weekend, I took a flight down to Austin to pick it up and drive it back. It was my first time to drive it in four years. Much of the trip back was with the top down and I realized I had missed its distinctive muffler tone, different from the 2nd generation Fireball. It was wonderful to find that it had not lost its magic even though it was 12 years old and had a few more rattles than when I had driven it last in 2002.
Upon arriving home, the joy of the trip faded quickly as I realized that we now had four cars for a two-car garage. Multiple car shuffles each day became the norm. And when our youngest son was home, five cars resided with us. I remember thinking the front of our house was starting to look like a used-car dealership. But in spite of the extra work, I remember happily joking with someone at work that when I came out of the house to pick which car to drive to work, I had a choice of red or white or red and white.