Goodbye, Foxy Fox!

by Wendy Copley on February 9, 2011

Goodbye Foxy Fox!

Yesterday, the first car I ever owned was towed out of my driveway and out of my life forever. It was a 1990 Volkswagon Fox that I bought in 1996. I drove it regularly for most of that time, though for the last year it sat at the back of our driveway with a dead battery while we tried to decide what to do with it. I can’t say that I’ve ever loved this car, but I do feel some affection for it.

I was working at a job doing high level tech support when I bought it and it was the first time in my life that I actually had any money.At the time, I was single, my rent was a low and I worked different hours from everyone I knew (1pm-11pm, Sunday-Wednesday). I wasn’t super stingy with money, but I didn’t really have anything to spend it on either, so I found that money just started piling up in the bank. Once I had a few thousand dollars I decided I should probably get a car. Knowing nothing about cars, I took the Fox to a mechanic to have it checked out before buying it and the guy didn’t have a lot of good things to say about it. There was a little crack in the windshield, and it needed some brake work. There were other problems too but I can’t remember what they were now. This is what the mechanic told me: “If you were my daughter, I wouldn’t let you buy this car.” I bought it anyway. The list price was $2700, but because the mechanic had so many bad things to say about it, I got the guy who was selling it to me to go down to $1900. I felt like a super bargainer.

I was the worst car owner in the world. It took me at least two years to get it registered and I don’t think I changed the oil in it for something like the first 5 years I had it. Seriously – it was a really long time. People would blanch and stutter and try to think of a polite way to tell me I was crazy and reckless when I told them I’d never had an oil change.

But that car was awesome and it just kept going and going and going no matter how badly I treated it. My high-paying job didn’t last too long after I bought it, so keeping up with maintenance was hard for me because I never had any money. Things started to go wrong with the Fox and instead of fixing them, I’d just live with them.

There were always weird problems with the battery and I often would go out to my car to drive it somewhere and it just wouldn’t start. No matter how poor I was, I never, ever let my AAA membership lapse because I never knew when I would need to call for a jump. I always kept some jumper cables in the trunk too. After awhile, the battery problem got a lot worse. The car would always pull power from the battery whether it was on or not, so I went through a really long period where I would have to open the hood of the car and disconnect the battery every time I parked, then reconnect it when I was ready to drive somewhere again. I didn’t even think it was too weird at the time, but looking back on it, I realize how completely ridiculous it was that I put up with it! I remember being particularly stressed out when I’d have to park at the garages in San Francisco because so many of them required that you leave the keys so they can move the cars around.

Then there were the awful noises the foxy Fox has made throughout the years! There have been several squealing belts. Squeals so loud that my friends could tell I was about to arrive at their houses when I was still several blocks away. The squealing came and went and it often would start when I was stopped at a light. I got very good at looking around at other cars like I was trying to figure out where the awful noise was coming from. Or so I thought. I probably wasn’t fooling anyone.

The worst thing the Fox ever did to me though was the random honking. There was some sort of short in one of the wires to the horn and sometimes when I started the car it would just start honking like I was laying on the horn. This typically happened when it was cold and damp outside, so if I left someone’s house late at night the horn would start going off. I can assure you that you feel really self conscious driving down the streets of a residential neighborhood at midnight with your car honking non-stop. I could sometimes get the horn to stop by wriggling the steering wheel back and forth, but only if the car was moving, so I was usually weaving all over the road while all this honking was happening. It’s a wonder I was never arrested!

In later years, the Fox was much more mellow. Switching to a better mechanic helped a lot because he managed to fix a bunch of the pesky problems with the car (like that horn). After awhile the car just started getting old and junky. The seats started falling apart and the foam inside them began to disintegrate. The faceplate on the stereo broke so I couldn’t listen to NPR any more. Someone tried to punch the locks to break into it (Why? WHY?) and failed, so the doors got temperamental. When we got the bigger, nicer and more solid Passat the little Fox started feeling more like a tin can on wheels and every time it went over a bump it felt like a part might fall off. Then I got laid off and stopped commuting to work so there really wasn’t much of a reason to drive it any more. When the battery died at the end of the driveway, jumping it was more trouble than it was worth and it wasn’t in the way so we just let it stay there. Moving to a new house was the push we needed to decide whether we wanted to keep it or not. After some discussion, we decided we haven’t missed having a second car all that much and decided to donate it.

The Fox was my main way of getting around for a very long time and thinking about driving it makes me think about the people who were in my life at that time.  I have many, many good memories of driving places with my friends Allison and Lisa in the car and now that they’re far away, it makes me sad to let go of that tangible reminder of that time.

Oh, little Foxy Fox! You were a pretty good friend!

Well, maybe not a good friend. Let’s say you were an adequate friend.

Hmmm…Maybe more like a frien-emy?

At least the honking thing makes me laugh now!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

  • Awwww, I do love this story! This is one of those things you really need to print out and put with a pic of this car because years from now, you’ll love this even more. (When your boys learn to drive!) I used to drive a ’77 green and white Ford pickup truck that had a lot of the same ‘quirks’ you could say. I could never come to a complete stop at intersections or it would die. You had to pump the gas three times to get her going. She was a rusty beautiful stripey thing. Awesome.

  • Clistyb

    So youre moving? Staying in the bay area?

  • Pguth66

    This story made me all warm and smiley inside

  • Xpurg8d

    What a sweet story! Everyone thinks of our first cheap, crummy cars with fondness no matter how many things were wrong with them. I think it’s especially true of “girls” who bought our first cars with our own money — it’s such a step into independent womanhood that it takes on far more meaning than just buying something for transportation. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

  • Yes — we’re only moving a few blocks away.

  • I actually pulled most of this journaling from a scrapbook page I made a few months ago. 🙂

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Goodbye, Foxy Fox! | Wendolonia --

  • Aunt Linda

    Great story.The business with the horn honking had me laughing pretty hard.I think that it is very important for everyone to have had a “first car”. Dan and I ended up owning several cars with character.

  • Abeaudry

    Really enjoyed this. I’m growing rather fond of Foxy Fox the Frienemy. May he/she go to the next place with as much character as he/she gave to you:)

  • I love this. This is your This American Life post. It is just so curious that a responsible citizen like you would so blatantly disobey the rules of car owning. I’m sure Ira Glass could tie it into a broader theme.

  • meg

    this is an awesome story! I am really enjoying the stories coming out of your basement these days 🙂

  • I can relate! We just found out that the 4-Runner I’ve owned for the last 11 years is on it’s last legs. I bought the car in college (first I ever bought!) and drove it all around the country. I learned to drive standard in it (while in San Francisco, no less), I’ve slept in it (while camping), moved all my possessions from apartment to apartment to house, taken it to the mountains and to the sea, and now I’m very sad to see it go. Like you, I’m just trying to focus on all the wonderful memories so that I can let the car go!

  • Evmorris

    Haha… I feel like you could replace a few key words/phrases and easily be talking about the boyfriend you finally broke it off with. You guys just didn’t grow together the way you had always imagined and you finally had to admit where this was going and do the healthiest thing for both of you. There will always be those memories that make you sigh and just a little bit sad inside but, in the end, you made the right choice.

  • Mamamolly

    El Sobrante in the house! Never realized just how local you were 🙂

  • Hi Molly! I’m in El Cerrito, so we’re practically neighbors!

Previous post:

Next post: