It was three years ago that I wrote about my 2002 red Mazda Miata reaching a milestone of 100,000 miles, only the second car I have ever owned to reach 100K on the odometer. In that post I speculated that with multiple cars now available to me, her next milestone would likely not be a mileage one but rather an age one. Well, in January of this year, with just about 3,500 additional miles clocked on the odometer, she reached the ripe old age of 20.
Affectionally named “Fireball” (short for Atomic FireBall, one of my wife’s favorite candies at the time I bought her), it also is now only the second car I have owned for 20 years, making her like my 1994 Mazda Miata also no longer a teenager.
Five years ago, when she turned 15 years old, I wrote a post about many of the fun trips we had taken together.
The highlight of those trips was in 2010 when I set out to drive all 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). But over the years since then, her trips have been mostly limited to around town running errands.
Now that she is 20, you might ask how she has aged. Well given that red is probably the worst color of car to have due to the long-term fading, I have tried to protect her as much as possible. I have dutifully kept her well waxed, often performing this task once a quarter.
For the first four years I owned her, she was 100% garage kept which kept her in pristine condition. But starting in 2006 and continuing thereafter, I purchased additional cars which meant she was relegated to living outside our 2-car garage. In 2012 after we bought our midtown condo, I could at least let her reside under covered parking which prevented her from being exposed to the sun all day, but still that did not protect her from dust, leaves, and debris that blew on her tending to mar her paint.
But having given up our reserved parking spot at the condo during the height of the pandemic when we rarely stayed there, she began to spend most of her time parked on the street at our house with no protection at all. Over this past winter, a combination of her age and a fairly harsh winter took its toll on her exterior.
This past spring, I learned from the person that bought my 1994 white Miata what a fabulous job he had done restoring her.
This gave me the idea that maybe I should try getting the Fireball professionally detailed. So recently, when my wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I suggested this.
I did some research online and found that many car detailers were basically mobile car washers. What I wanted was a company that detailed used cars for car enthusiasts and car dealers. And I found one close to one of the major car dealership complexes in Memphis.
I went over there and had my car looked at. The employee pointed out several white spots where water had gotten underneath the clear coat and could not be repaired without repainting the car. He also noted the faded rear-view mirrors could not be repaired as well. But he did say what they could do would make the car look 10 times better.
I arranged to drop off the car before I left on a weeklong trip to give them plenty of time to do a thorough job. And when I got back in town and went over to pick up my car, I could see as soon as I drove up that they had done an outstanding job.
From the outside, I could see a nice shine on the paint job and when I ran my hand over the finish found a silky smooth, waxed feel confirming that they had even removed the gritty feel accumulated from all those years exposed to debris. When I opened the door, I could see that a painstaking job had been done on the interior as well. The floor mats had been vacuumed and shampooed. Every surface had been spotlessly cleaned…
…and when I started her up, I saw that they had even gotten the radio display to work again.
I saw that I needed to gas her up and so before driving home, I ran by a gas station to fill her up. When I opened the filler door, I was surprised to see that it too was immaculate (after 20 years of gassing up, it had become black with stains).
While filling up, I opened the trunk to see that it too had been meticulously cleaned.
I drove her home tickled pink at how great she looked but once home, I had another surprise when I opened the hood and found she looked brand new. I realized that she had not looked this good since she sat on the showroom floor.
Looking closely at the convertible top, I saw that they had also gotten all of the black stains off the top making it appear to be a brand-new top.
Because she has not looked this good inside and out since the day I drove her home from the dealership, I decided to do what I usually do whenever I buy a new car—take her over to the lake in our neighborhood for a nice photo op.
Only this time, she was actually 20 years old but still looked pristine for her age.
So, I must say a big thank you to my wife for giving me such a great birthday gift—a gift of a good as new car!