Today was a great day! Until the day turned into night and someone decided they didn’t really have to pay attention to traffic before pulling onto Burbank boulevard. I wish I could tell you that the picture above is a prop car, or some amazingly realistic CGI creation, but no, it is my once gallant, graceful and gleaming gold Miata, now badly in need of a medic.
I’ve never been a typical car-freak kinda guy. I grew up in NYC, where most sane folk stay away from automobiles. I didn’t even get my license until I moved to California when I was 24, for the simple reason that I wasn’t exposed to car-culture mentality. Even in high school, I could tell you everything you needed to know about Vipers and TIE Fighters, but Mustangs and Cameros? Welcome to the blank stare.
In fact, cars weren’t even a blip on the radar for me until the day I took a ride in a Miata. Back in 1992, when I was briefly working in Kansas at Newtek (the company that makes Lightwave, BSG’s primary visual effects software), the owners flew everyone out to LA for the premiere of Jurassic Park. Miatas were still fairly new and popular, so all the guys rented one and I went along for the ride.
Wow. Naturally, I had been a passenger in countless vehicles, but this time it was different. It’s hard to say exactly what it was, but the combination of having the top down in the perfect LA weather, the sound and styling of the car and the way it effortlessly swung around curves just made me giddy. For the first time in my life, I wanted a car. This car.
So, when we got back to Kansas, I learned how to drive, got a license and bought a silver 1991 Miata, much like this one:
I had a lot of fun with that car, and it served me well until 2003, when, with a scant 240,000 miles on the clock and still running strong, someone felt the need to make a left turn straight into me. Of course, by this point I was hooked (you’ll find that, much like sci-fi fans, Miata fans are an enthusiastic, loyal breed) so I knew my next car would be another Miata. I really liked the silver look, so I figured I’d pick up a used 1999 silver Mark II (1999 was the year Mazda redesigned the car).
It was at that time, in 2003, as I was hunting around online, that I caught my first glimpse of the gold Miata. Where the hell did this come from? I thought I knew everything about this car, but I had never even heard of this color before. I did a little snooping around and found out why: they only ever made 300 of them, all in the year 2000. But one look at this rare gem and I knew I had to have her:
What’s not to love? Sleek, elegant sporty and – to me – the perfect balance of flashy yet tasteful. But, given the short production run, I knew it would be no easy task to land one. I spent a month searching far and wide and found a few, scattered all over the country. Much to my frustration, each one I found would reveal some sort of fatal flaw – the first one (Seattle) had ridiculously high miles, the second (Utah) had been in an accident, the third (Texas) was perfect but suffered hail damage the day after I told the dealer I would buy it and the fourth one (South Carolina) turned out to be a scam.
For a while I thought it just wasn’t going to happen but then finally, a shining, orange beacon of hope sliced through the darkness – from Rhode Island! Ultimately, I found the perfect, low mileage and pampered gold Miata 3300 miles away. So, I hopped on a plane, bought the car and drove it home, making it perhaps the longest victory lap in automotive history.
Six years later, in 2009, she still looks like new, runs perfectly and puts a smile on my face every time I hop in.
That is, until tonight. Tonight, some unthinking A-hole who’s excuse for not looking at traffic was “I was trying to follow my friend” hit me where it really hurts. Fortunately, I acted fast and swerved out of the way just enough to avoid a T-bone (the car in the lane next to me made it impossible to get completely out of the way).
As bad as the damage looks, I was shocked and delighted to discover that I could drive away from the scene. In fact, driving the car betrays not a hint of anything amiss. Nothing is scraping the tire, the wheel is straight, my alignment is still perfect and there is nary a hint of wobble; I can’t detect any leaks and everything in the engine compartment is still where it should be.
Might I have been lucky enough to avoid any frame or suspension damage? In a car like this, cosmetic maladies mean nothing – you could drop napalm on the car, replace the entire body and it will still run perfectly. But if slam your tire into a curb at 15 MPH, even though you may see absolutely nothing wrong, you could bend the frame and the car will never be the same again – no matter what all the king’s horses and all the king’s men do.
What all this means is that if I am really lucky, and the gods feel pity and smile upon me, despite the mess you see pictured I may have miraculously managed to get hit at just the right speed and angle to avoid any true structural damage.
Please, my dear readers, pray for me! And as Dirk Benedict is my witness, if my car checks out A-OK I’ll do an entire week of Battlestar posts.
So say we all!