Run, Rabbit, Run!

A Facebook quiz on cars has me thinking about my first - a galleon brown 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit. The Rabbit was a popular model back in those days before Toyota, Honda and Nissan were sales powerhouses, and though the VW was certainly an economical car, it wasn't cheap in price or build quality. My dad bought the Rabbit when I was in 8th grade, and it was my family's first new car since I was born. Well, actually it wasn't brand new... it was a showroom floor model, which meant it came with a couple hundred miles already on the odometer. But it also came loaded with features my dad probably wouldn't have sprung for otherwise, like the crystal clear AM/FM stereo with four (!) speakers and the "automatic" seatbelts that were attached to the door. It looked like they were in your way, but if you ignored them and just got in the car, your seatbelt was already on when you closed the door. To this day I have to remind myself to put my seatbelt on because I got so used to it happening without any effort on my part. So the little brown Rabbit was my family's transportation for a good four or five years. I learned to drive in the Rabbit, and though mastering the hilly streets of Syracuse in a car with no power steering and a manual transmission was a tough way to learn, I now feel that I can drive pretty much anything. And those hills worked in my favor in other ways as well. Every night after my parents went to bed, I'd head out to the Rabbit, release the parking brake and shift the car into neutral. Because both our driveway and the street were on steep inclines, with a couple of pushes with my left foot I could be a block away from my house before starting the engine. And then, sweet freedom for an entire night! All I had to do was replace whatever gas I used and get home before my dad got up for work. I did this more or less every night for over a year and miraculously I wasn't caught. I still can't believe I got away with it. Between the daily driving of an active family and my nightly escapades, our Rabbit got a lot of use, and when I was in college my parents bought a Subaru wagon and sold the Rabbit to me. It was luxurious not having to steal the car every night or keep meticulous track of how much gas to put in the tank, but I also took on the stress and expense of owning a car that had been driven hard, even if it had been by me. The car was peppy, and an absolute blast to drive. Did you know a 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit can do at least 120 miles per hour? I can't give a more exact figure because the speedometer topped out at 120. That's my speed record, and my capacity record is ten passengers plus me. I didn't have a whole lot of common sense in my late teens. Of course, it came back to haunt me as my reckless driving and casual attitude toward maintenance led to more and more time at the repair shop. I think this is about when I started referring to galleon brown as shit brown, and when I went away to school I left the Rabbit for my family to use as a second car. They traded it in the first chance they got, and while I don't blame them exactly, I still missed the Rabbit. I've never since driven a car that was so much fun.

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