true story: the gift that kept on giving

Every so often I get a call from an old friend to tell me a truly heartwarming story…about a car. I know this sounds really weird, but bear with me.

There was a time in my late twenties during which I lived in an apartment, owned two cars — a luxury model my friends dubbed “the golden slipper” and a sports car — both of which were parked on the street. And I got tired of maintaining them both — trying to wash off the tree crud and wax them and insure them both. It seemed a little ridiculous for a single gal. And, as much as I loved my responsive little Mazda RX-7 and manual 5-speed transmission, I was ready to let her go.

Some background:  I had purchased the RX-7 from my mother and stepfather. It was originally a California car, in pristine condition, never exposed to road salt or the elements. I don’t recall the year anymore — only that it was deemed one of the best years in terms of design. I paid $3,000 in $500 installments, unloading a Ford Taurus in the process.

I loved and babied the car, storing it during the midwest winters. Eighteen months after I’d purchased it, the RX-7 and I were caught in a hail storm. The insurance company deemed it a total loss and assigned the fair market value at something approaching $5,700. After deducting the salvage cost, I drove my car home with a $3,800 check in hand — on the white finish, you could barely see the hail dents.

A year later, I realized it was time to sell one of my cars. I was ready to let the RX-7 go. I took some photos and cobbled together the kind of flyer you see posted on bulletin boards, with tear-off phone numbers along the bottom, and sent these along to work with several friends. A few days later, I had a message from someone who worked with my friend Joe. He came with his 17-year-old son to look at the RX-7. I cautioned him:  she wasn’t a car for a teenager, she should be stored in the winter, a young kid with no experience driving a stick shift could get in trouble with a high-revving responsive car like this. The more I cautioned them, the more determined they seemed. I suddenly didn’t want to sell my car, at least not to a 17-year-old boy, yet I eventually let her go for $3,750.

And that’s how a boy named Evan drove off with a car that captivated his interest and imagination. The RX-7, with its Wankel rotary engine, quickly became his passion and obsession. He was able to give the car more love and attention than I had, and he reached out to online forums and groups to chat, learn and explore everything there was to know about the car and its engine. He worked to make payments on the car and for his insurance, and bought parts to replace any that were no longer pristine. Regular updates came to me from Joe, who heard these things from the boy’s father. Evan’s older brother had turned to drugs, and their father was positively convinced that a car, my car, had saved his son’s life.

After graduating high school, Evan moved to Arizona and opened a mechanic’s shop, specializing in his passion for RX-7s and the rotary engine. He had an online presence and sold parts. He was doing very well for himself and his father was proud to go visit him.

It’s been the better part of a decade since I’ve heard updates from Joe on his co-worker’s son. So it was fun to hear recently, out of the blue, what Evan’s up to now:

He acquired an RX-8 when they came out and began playing with that, too, replacing, upgrading and customizing. He shared his work on YouTube. And Mazda saw what he was doing and asked him to do some work for them.

I don’t know the details. I only know that it feels so good to hear that someone’s life can be touched randomly, when they find that one thing that sparks their passion. And it’s lovely to think that an object, a possession, might be truly special — special enough to give me back more than I paid for it twice, and special enough to alter a young man’s life permanently. His return on investment must be much, much greater than mine. That car was charmed, I swear, and I am grateful to have been a steward of her magic, even if for such a short time.

And, in the same way that hearing the latest in this story warmed my heart earlier this week, I hope you got a warm, fuzzy feeling reading about it. Personally, I needed a little something positive today.

2 thoughts on “true story: the gift that kept on giving

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