Thursday, December 16, 2004

The all-important "S"

"It's nice," said Joe Torres, the car salesman at the Toyota dealership, over the phone. (Yes, he nearly shares his name with the hated Yankees' skipper, but this post isn't about baseball.) "Moonroof, leather seats, six-speed manual. Just what you're looking for. Lemme know if you wanna come check it out."

"Absolutely," I replied. "I'll swing by this evening after work."

Ah, yes. The storied Toyota Celica line. My favorite flavor includes the all-important "S" appended to a "GT" emblazoned upon the car and visible to the driver of any vehicle reflected in the rear-view mirror. And, typically, all cars reflect in the rear-view mirror when you drive a Toyota Celica GTS, which features advanced variable valve timing technology perched atop a venerable four cylinder engine. Two front wheels of an exceptionally small car suffer from victim mentality. Wouldn't you be upset, too, if 180 horsepower and a shitload of torque were constantly harrassing you?

At around 5:30 p.m., I pulled my not-too-shabby 1995 Celica GT alongside my prey, which was already idling in the dealership's parking lot. Braving the 20-something-degree elements, Joe emerged from the comfort of a warm showroom floor to hand me the keys to a 2000 Toyota Celica GTS, the bluish-black one he had promised.

"It's all warmed up. We put new tires on it. That's all she needed. Go ahead. Tool around town for a bit. I don't need to come with you. Hand me your keys, and my guys'll check out your '95 in the meantime. I'll have an idea, when you get back, what we can give you for trade-in."

Nice, I thought to myself. I'm going to be alone. Let's see what this thing can do.

I entered the cockpit. It was a killer cockpit, like an actual cockpit to an airplane. My imagination raced.

I reclined the seat, accommodating my predilection for the steep rake of a dentist's chair, and dropped the tilt steering wheel to its fully-lowered position. This is the way I like to drive.

I threw it into first and let out the clutch. At first, acceleration was nothing special, but I was also being gentle. Coasting up to the traffic light, gateway to the main drag that would lead to a freeway just a mile up the road, I waited, patiently, for red to turn to green. It did, and, resolving to employ the gas pedal more appropriately this time, I double-clutched my way through the gears -- all the way to the six-speed shifter's hilt.


The Toyota Celica GTS, my friends, is seriously fast. This is an ethically challenged vehicle. This car is wrong. Morally wrong.

You have no business owning this car, Brent, the voice in my head said. Somehow, I agreed with these scolding remarks. If you purchase this car, surely your best interest will call for the cops to take away your license, Brent, lest you die first.

After committing a series of highly egregious unchecked moving violations, I returned to the dealership, fully intending not to buy a 2000 Toyota Celica GTS. Entering the showroom, I greeted Joe and handed him the keys.

"That car is sick fast," I told him.

"I know," he said to me. Of course he knew.

As fate had it, the best monthly payment Joe and "the boss" could swing for me was a good $40 higher than the ceiling I had mentally set for myself earlier in the day. No 2000 Toyota Celica GTS went home with me that night, but she sure was a great date.