1990 I ceased to be an employee and jumped into the self-employed world.
The story of that transition is the subject of another section. If I
mention it here is only to provide the background for the story of the
first car of my own: a 1981 Toyota Celica. I am not quite sure if I got it
late in 1990 or early in 1991. An acquaintance I knew while working on my
first job kept encouraging me to leave my ungrateful boss until I finally made the
decision. It was from this guy who I got the car. He even gave me seller
financing with very flexible financing terms: Whenever I could make
payments. Of course, since he was also a source of considerable business
for me, he was sure I would make payments.
The car was not the GT model;
it had an Inline 4 naturally aspirated engine,
good for 79 HP (I believe), with a 4-speed manual transmission. It had a
manually operated sunroof and for a 10-year old car in my country, it was
in good condition. It also had an after market stereo (not good), an
electric antenna (almost at the end of its life) and air conditioning. As
soon as I could afford it, I had all the windows, save for the windshield, covered
with tinted film, I applied cleaning and polishing products to the seats,
dashboard and trim, waxed the paint, and foamed the tires.
The first thing I noticed when I drove it, was its superior acceleration
and handling compared with the family Datsun pickup truck. Suddenly, I
developed a love affair with speed. However, while my driving was limited
to the city, I remained a "normal" driver. It was not until I
took it to the highways that I started to push the limits.
To the extent that my resources allowed, I tried to improve its
appearance by replacing damaged body parts, new "aggressive-looking" wheels,
performance tires, new stereo complete with amplifiers, equalizer and
speakers, new seat covers, floor mats, electric antenna, and finally, new
paint. That process did not take place all at once. It was more like a
project executed in phases.
A naturally aspirated engine making 79 HP does not quite make an
exhilarating ride but it was an improvement over the 79 Datsun. The
maximum speed I achieved was 100 mph. However, in my country's roads such
speeds are not sustainable for more than a few minutes. Most roads have
only one lane per way, too few straight
stretches, and are loaded with too many buses and
trucks… This last characteristic was a real turn-off since the car did
not have good acceleration L. It
was really frustrating to be cruising at a "decent" speed, only to
bump into one (or more) of those mammoths and have to wait until you have
a clear passing opportunity and then, not being able to regain your
previous speed quickly. It seemed like forever.
Nevertheless, I had sufficient fun driving the car in and out of town. The
tinted windows shielded me and the passengers from the heat that is typical in my country.
The stereo allowed me to enjoy my music the way I like it. And maintaining its
appearance was a refreshing break from my hard work in my CAD services
business. For the first time since mid 1979, I was able to ride with my
parents and my brother in comfort. While we only had the 79 Datsun, all
our family's trips involved 2 people (usually me and my brother) riding
in the truck's bed. The Celica proved to be a great improvement, even if
my parents complained about the difficulty in entering and exiting from
the coupe's back seat.
Most of my out of town driving was business related. In mid 1994
my dad was transferred from Tegucigalpa (Honduras capital), to San Pedro Sula (approximately 150 miles north). In early 1994 most of my business
came from San Pedro Sula and naturally, I considered moving with them (did
I mentioned that I was living with my parents?). That did not happened
however, because in a matter of a few months, I secured sufficient
business from clients in Teg. That's how I ended traveling a lot. I often
combined business trips with micro vacations with my parents.
These trips became a real rally for me. I even got a stopwatch to time my
treks. I picked a benchmark on the outskirts of each city and got myself a
log pad. I was not racing against anybody but myself. Every trip was an
opportunity to try to beat my latest record. My memory is not that good
and since I lost that log, I can only guess what my best time was for the Celica. Well, suffice it to say that a normal time
between those cities is around 4 hours by bus, 3.5 hours by car (driving
by the book) and around 3 hours by car (driving more "spirited"). I
always made less than 3 hours when rallying. Yes, every once in a while I
decided to take it easier and just coast my way, admiring the wonderful
views; or sometimes, the weather
would be bad enough to make me forfeit any thoughts of racing (hey, I love
speed but I am not that crazy).
On February of 1996, while on
one of my many trips to San Pedro Sula, I had an accident that, although
didn't have physical consequences for the occupants of either cars, it
practically ended the Celica's role for me. My business was exploding like
never before. I had a contract with Shell de Honduras, S.A. to develop the
gas stations and convenience stores that the petroleum company was
implementing nation-wide in its attempt to become No. 1. The regional
branch for the entire Central America and the Caribbean area was looking
among the national consultants to contract the implementation of an
interactive multimedia library of gas station elements that would be
distributed to each local office. I was the selected consultant. Mobility
was now more critical than ever. I could not afford to be without a car.
However, in order to fulfill the terms of the new contract, I had to make
heavy investments in my business. I was short of cash and realized I would
not be able to repair the damages to my car to my satisfaction. Therefore
I decided to get a "new" used car on financing and wait until I
could start collecting on my contracts to restore the Celica to its former
glory, and then, keep it as a second car.
And so began my love affair
with two seaters... But that is another story.
As a corollary I will say that
I did restore the car that same year and used it as a second car. However
after a few weeks of driving a Toyota MR2, the 79 HP Celica lost all its
luster. The only thing in its favor was that the Celica could haul me, my
brother and my parents, whereas the MR2 could only carry me and one more
person. The next year I sold it to my dad. My parents still had the 79
Datsun and therefore the Celica was an improvement. They kept the Datsun
In 2001 they sold both cars to
buy a Toyota Tercel.