When one story ends, another begins. (What happened to my Tacoma, and why I drive a Veloster of all things now)
I write this sitting in my desk chair listening to the same songs over and over again that I’ll probably start hating fairly soon, before I eventually find new songs to replace them. I’ve been doing this for many years now, since I joined Car Throttle back in 2015 even. It’s a routine about as old as time now, although the inclusion of CT is clearly a rare one now. My last post here was about the “Shitbox Experience” as I dubbed it, and why I think everyone should start off with a car that at least looks like total garbage. For me, that car was a 2001 Toyota Tacoma V6 (not the PreRunner) which was handed down to me from my grandfather in May 2019. It was like a first love for me, even though it looked like a farm truck and was an entire year older than me. But I didn’t care, it was my ticket to freedom and independence.
Sadly, the Tacoma is no longer with us. In typical Toyota fashion, it didn’t die because of engine or transmission failure, but rather a pretty violent crash. Long story short, I slid off the highway at 70mph (112kmh for you non-Americans), rolling 3-4 times before coming to rest on the roof. Miraculously, I lived (obviously) and only had minor surface-level injuries. This started a 3 week long period where I had no way of driving myself around places, and I’ll be honest, I thought I was going to lose my mind. I’m a senior in high school, I’d been driving myself since sophomore year, and now I had to depend on my dad to get me there? Outrageous! But this chapter finally ended when we popped into Carmax and found something I would have never considered previously: A Veloster.
I can’t lie, when I first laid eyes on this silver turd looking thing, I wasn’t impressed. 1.6L compact car that looks like a severely disabled Elantra? Forget it! And I’m not gonna pretend sitting in it for the first time was some sort of eye-opening experience either. It just felt like a car, although the flappy paddles (yes, it’s a DCT) and moonroof were big selling points. Overall, a large portion of my decision to get the Veloster was, well, desperation. The car I really wanted, a 2015 Acura TLX with over 100k miles, had just been sold a couple days prior and I was fairly upset about that. I was tired of hunting and just wanted to get back in the saddle, because those three weeks felt like a year. I didn’t hate the Veloster, I actually sorta liked the quirky styling, and that was good enough. I didn’t care that it had an accident history, at least it was low mileage (66k miles, wHoa).
So, we bought the Veloster, which was a decently smooth experience. I personally really recommend Carmax if you’re looking for something used and built in the last ten years. They won’t try to scam you or anything, and all their prices are reasonable. Odds are I’ll keep buying from them later in life. Then I got it home, started messing around with the infotainment shit, took some pictures, just had a little honest fun. I wasn’t necessarily excited for this car, but I liked it, and the car drought was finally over. A week went by and the Veloster really still just felt like a car. Why?
I guess it takes me a long time to connect to cars, to understand their personality. Because I’m a firm believer that these hunks of steel and plastic do have personality, and their own individual story to tell. That’s part of the reason I was so sad to lose the Tacoma, I’d basically ended its story way early, and I also already knew its character. Again, that hunk of crap was my best friend for close to two years. Now I was stuck with this little Korean hatchback thing that’s a struggle to get in and out of for tall folk like myself. It didn’t really feel like… me. The Tacoma did. All the other cars I’ve considered buying did (4Runner, Sequoia, Flex, TLX, Explorer, etc). This small fry of a car simply didn’t seem to match my personality.
After three weeks of ownership, that’s starting to change. I don’t yet feel truly connected to the Veloster, and most of the appeal comes from the cool modern features I didn’t have on my truck (I don’t have to pull my key out of my pocket to unlock it? Holy shit!). I don’t find myself looking back at this car while I walk away, like I did with the Tacoma. It’s my friend, not my best friend. Like a coworker who you have casual conversations with all the time but never see or talk to off-shift. However, I’m finally getting a feel for its personality. Someone asked me what I think this car “says” yesterday, and here’s how I responded: It’s a small car and it knows that, but it doesn’t particularly care. It’s not by any means sheepish, and it displays a healthy amount of confidence. Is it a total road commander? Absolutely not. This is not a vehicle you use to muscle your way through traffic (especially since the blind spots are abysmal), but it doesn’t have that same “small car in a big world” vibe that you may get from other low-power compacts. It won’t dominate all the other daily drivers out there, but it won’t be run over by anyone without protest.
I’ve fallen in love with cars plenty of times before. Not just my Tacoma, but some others that I simply aspire to own in the future. The Veloster was not on that list, and I don’t think it ever will be. It’s a funky little car that I really quite enjoy driving, and I would recommend it over almost any other compact in a heartbeat just because, well, look at it. You wanna be different and don’t care about speed or power but still want modern amenities, you buy this. I’m just not in love with it.
Well, that’s kind of an underwhelming way to end this, isn’t it? “Yeah I like this car but it’s eh.” No, no I’m not doing that. It deserves better. So let me say this instead. I think all cars, no matter what, deserve a chance to become great through the adventures they lead you on and the memories you make with them. I didn’t love my truck because it was an objectively good product (it is, and I’ll swear by it for the rest of my life). I loved it because I have so many memories with it. Through good times and bad, it was there for me. If I just needed to leave my house because I was pissed off, it was there. I think I feel “blah” over the Veloster because I haven’t made any memories yet.
And honestly? That’s what happens with all “boring” cars. Car enthusiasts mostly look over the everyday shit because we’re blind to its whole story. What looks like just another base model Chevy from 2009 may have played a critical role in the events of someone’s life, and we’ll never know that. And that’s why I love these cars so much. They’re workhorses, they help us move to a new house, start a new job, carry a family member to the hospital, and so many other various life events that make us who we are. We joke about non-enthusiasts who see cars as “A to B” machines, but in fact, I think that’s where their beauty truly lies.
So if you ever find yourself in a situation like me where you have a car that’s good but not interesting, remember this. Maybe it can become something special with enough time.
This has been Olds. Peace out.