Molly has now been here two months, and we've traveled a thousand miles (more or less) together, so it seems like a reasonable time to evaluate where this relationship has been, and where it might be going.

For those of you who haven't been introduced, Molly is a Mazda 626, sort of green, acquired over the Labor Day weekend after her parking-lot predecessor acted up once too often. (Well, "once" is being generous.) Without repeating the excruciating details of the purchase, let's just say it was an experience, and leave it at that.

Molly's virtues are many, considering she had been through 80,000 miles and, from the look of some of the trim pieces, a hailstorm or two. The newish-looking paint tends to confirm this thesis. Perhaps more to the point is that the big rectangular hole in her roof doesn't leak, despite fifteen inches of rain during these past two months. She starts readily, shuts down without drama, and is decently frugal with fuel in between — I have to work really hard to get less than 22 mpg in the city. With her current tires, Michelin X-Ones, her on-the-pavement behavior is almost exemplary.

On the debit side, that non-leaky sunroof doesn't seem to slide, though it tilts and pivots with the best of them. In fairness, this may be due to the less-than-intuitive controls — and the inexplicable absence of the Mazda owner's manual, for which I have applied to a dealership. There are buttons on this dash I am almost afraid to push. The four-speed automatic is programmed to save fuel whether you want to or not; there have been times when I thought getting a downshift required a reservation 24 hours in advance. And the idle has its perversities as well: after a cold start, the fast idle sounds very much like a cheap paper shredder, and once warmed up, the car is somewhat buzzy at idle, which I am told is characteristic of this model. There is a complicated (and expensive) contraption which controls the idle, and it failed one morning, which did nothing for my sense of well-being or my pocketbook.

Still, on balance, this is a promising start. In a mere 46 months, she'll be paid off, and maybe she'll still be worth something at trade time — or, if things go really well, we'll extend her stay. I don't know if she'll last as long as Dymphna, the 1975 Toyota Celica which I drove for the better part of twenty years, but the future, as they say, starts here.

The Vent

10 November 1998

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 Copyright © 1998 by Charles G. Hill