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Thursday, 17 April 2014

My Toyota Celica GTS Sports Coupe

My Toyota Celica GTS Sports Coupe

I think it was 1984 but it might have been 1983 that I bought my first brand new car, a Toyota Celica GTS Sports Coupe. Up until then I had only owned used cars.
In 1980 I acquired a two year old chocolate brown Camaro. Owning a Camaro was kind of a dream for me. A roommate in Toronto back in the early 70s had one and a rich friend of mine in Vancouver owned one when we used to chase women together in the late 1970s.
I loved my Camaro. It was the car I drove to Gull Lake, Saskatchewan to get married in 1981. It was the car we rode in on our honeymoon in the US. I remember pulling into a gas station in Winnemucca, Nevada and seeing tumbleweeds flying by the front of the car and it being so hot out that it was better to have the car windows wide open than to run the car air conditioner. We couldn’t get to the cold pop machine quick enough. Winnemucca, Winnemucca? The name kind of rang a bell and then it dawned on me. It was one of the places Hank Snow sang about in his song “I’ve Been Everywhere”.
1978 Camaro.
I went from single life to married life owning that Camaro. Prior to and for a bit over a year after our marriage we lived on Bowen Island just off of West Vancouver. We lived on a top of a hill overlooking the ocean. One day there was a really bad snowstorm and I decided to park the Camaro by the side of the road the led to town so I didn’t have to dig the car out the following morning. A snow plow came by and put a dent in the rear of the car that I never bothered to get fixed.
We moved back to Vancouver and I started thinking about getting a new car, a brand new car. I had never had one of those before and the dent was starting to annoy me. In traffic I started to look at new cars on the road and one in particular caught my eye. I just loved the way the Celica GT looked. In a way it reminded me of the 1960s Triumph TR6 but with a hard top. I wanted one.
1960s Triumph TR6
One day I mentioned to some people we knew that I wanted to buy a new Celica GTS. The wife in the couple told me that her father was a car salesman and that he could get me a better deal than anyone else. It seemed like a plan to me. I was introduced to her dad. You might say he was a bit of a huckster and a bit out there. We knew this couple pretty well and had already heard stories about the dad. It seems that he would change jobs quite frequently and was always enthusiastic about whatever he was currently up to. We also heard that when the wife in the couple was quite young her dad would shave in the nude. Supposedly he had a very big penis and claimed that a small child could stand on it. I think I said he was a bit out there.
The Toyota dealership the dad worked for was out in White Rock south of Vancouver. I drove out there one day and traded in my Camaro for my New Celica GTS. Who knows if I got a good deal or not? It was to be my favourite car of all the ones I’ve owned.It was copper in colour and had retractable headlights and with the push of a button I could open and close the sun roof. Like the Camaro, there wasn’t much room in the back seats. I liked that flat back of the car and its overall appearance. The car also had a stick shift which I was unfamiliar with using. My other cars had all been automatics. This was going to pose some problems. I couldn’t even drive the car home myself.

Side view of another Celica GTS.

 My wife and I found an empty parking lot somewhere and she taught me how to use a stick shift. I grasped most of it but once in a while at the start there would be a bit of grinding as I tried to change gears. Most of my driving was city driving with all of its starts and stops and in hindsight a stick shift is probably not the best thing to have living in a big city.
One day I was out doing sales calls in east Vancouver. I was a copier salesman at the time. I parked in a residential area and did some cold calls. It wasn’t the best area to try and flog a photocopier. I must have been preoccupied when I got in the car because I turned the ignition on without thinking. I must have been in gear because the car lurched forward and bumped the car parked in front of me. There was a bit of a bang. I got out of the car to see if there was any damage to either car. There was no damage to my car but there was a slight dent in the other car that was about the size of a golf ball. The other car was an older model and I noticed that it had a few other dings on it. I took a look around to see if someone from one of the houses near me had heard the bang. Then I got back in my car and sat there for a few moments. I wasn’t about to knock on every door on the block to see who owned the car I had hit but maybe someone would turn up in the next few minutes who either owned the car or knew who did.
After sitting there for about 5 minutes I drove away. As I was driving down the street I passed two pedestrians walking on the sidewalk who were headed in the opposite direction of where I had been parked. I didn’t give them much thought.
When I got home later that day there was a message on our phone answering machine. It was the Vancouver Police Department and I was supposed to contact an officer who had left his number. I gave him a call. It turned out that 2 people had claimed they had witnessed a hit and run and written down my license plate number. The officer asked me to bring my car down the police station at the foot of Main Street not far away from where the dastardly crime was supposedly committed.
I drove down to the police station and after waiting for a bit, a police officer led me outside to give my car a look over. There wasn’t even a mark on the bumper. The cop had a mirror with him and checked the front underneath of the car. There was still no sign of any damage. I thought he was going to say he was sorry for wasting my time but I was wrong. I was to be issued a subpoena with a court date.
I talked the situation over with my wife and she suggested that I use her uncle who was a lawyer to defend me. I made an appointment to see him and we went over my case. Her uncle was probably in his late 60s at the time and had white hair. Hiis office was in the Kerrisdale area of Vancouver and I think his specialties were wills and estates.
My court date came up and I met my lawyer at the traffic courts in the same building as the police station. You might say my lawyer wasn’t the flashiest dresser. Underneath his shirt you could clearly see a “Colour Your World” tee shirt. My case was called and no witnesses turned up including the owner of the car that was hit. My case was tossed out and words between my lawyer and the judge were very brief.
It cost me something like 250 bucks for the lawyer but at least this inconvenience was in the past. I bought my lawyer a coffee after we left the courtroom and got his assurances that the matter was completed and that was that. This was not to be the case.
A week or two later I got a call from the court prosecutor (a women) who told me the case was going to be retried. I asked her if she thought this was a good way to spend taxpayer’s dollars but she was having none of it. Later that day I went over to see my lawyer. I asked him about him telling me that there was no chance of anything else happening with this case. His response was to tell me he didn’t like my attitude and then he pretty well threw me out of his office.
The lawyer was part of my wife’s family but kind of a distant relative. Sometime later there was a bit of an apology from his wife for his behavior but I could never imagine being in the same room as him again. Once in while my wife would go over for a visit but it wasn’t with me.
So now I had to figure out what to do next. I’ve never liked lawyers in general so hiring another one was out of the question. I decided to defend myself.
I thought this should be pretty easy. After all the last time I came to court there were no witnesses. I was wrong on this count. There were 2 witnesses this time, the same guys I had spotted on the sidewalk as I was driving away after hitting the other car. The first witness got up on the stand and told his brief story. When he was done I asked him if I ever got out of my car and he said no. So now I had a lying witness. All those Perry Mason shows I’d seen hadn’t prepared me for this. It dawned on me that this might be kind of a class thing happening. A guy in a suit in a late model car comes down to a poorer area of town and prangs a local resident’s car and then tries to get away Scott free?
The second witness told his story also and when he was done I asked the same question I had asked the first witness about my getting out of the car. His response was that he thought I didn’t. The judge then interceded and repeated the question but made it sound like there might be consequences if he lied. This time the second witness said he couldn’t remember if I got out of the car or not. I kind of got the feeling that the judge was wondering the same thing I was. What the hell were these so called witnesses up to? It wasn’t as if I had maimed or killed somebody or even done significant damage to the other car.
The judge's verdict was to fine me 50 bucks. A number of phone calls, two summons, time spent by more than one police officer, time spent by the prosecutor, a paid lawyer, witnesses, court time with a judge, all for a lousy 50 dollar fine that I would have paid gladly instead of going to court. What a waste of taxpayer’s dollars and my time!
I drove that Celica GT for about 3 years. I remember racing through the Rocky Mountains and how the car cornered on curves. I remember the breeze in our hair with the sun roof open.
In 1986 I started my own business. It was a pretty simple enterprise. I had been a salesman and a sales manager in the copier business and knew that a lot of people were paying too much for copy paper. I started buying copy paper at Costco, which had just opened its first Canadian store in Burnaby, BC, and reselling it. Eventually the business grew into other products but in the beginning I would pick up the copy paper from Costco and deliver it in my Celica GTS. If I pressed it I could get about 12 cases in the car. I was making about $200.00 a load. Not too shabby.
It got to a point where I needed a bigger vehicle, a van. I put the Celica up for sale in the local newspaper for 10 grand. One day I got a call from a car salesman who tried to negotiate my price down. I was having none of it. A few hours later he called back and offered to pay exactly what I was asking.
I wanted to clean up the car and make it look as nice as possible before the salesman came over to see it. It was then that I discovered that the wheel well areas in the trunk were full over water. Apparently the trunk lid had been raised about a ½ inch from me cramming copy paper in the trunk. For months I had been driving around in an aquarium. I managed to siphon out all of the water.
The salesman was a good looking young dude and after selling him my car I hired him as a salesman for my company. I didn’t know that he was a bit of flake and he never panned out.
My Celica GTS was my last crack at owning a sports car. I went through about 6 vans in the ensuing years. At first the vans were for business but then I started using couriers. The vans then became people movers and I shunted my kids and often their friends around to sports and ballet and other activities.
Everybody should own a sports car at least once in their lives. There isn’t much that is sporty about driving a van. I sold my last van over a year ago and now share Linda’s car. The van would just sit in the driveway most days and was a V-8 gas eater. Repairs were becoming more costly and of course there was also the insurance. Getting rid of the van was a no-brainer.
But all is not lost. The other day we bought 2 brand new 14 foot kayaks. We have also purchased a roof rack and the components to carry 2 kayaks. I’m back baby! I’m sporty once more!




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