Eve. The First Woman.
A tale about '97 Mazda 323F who tempted me & I became sinner & I had to abandon the pedestrian heaven.
Purchasing my first car became THE event of my life. The biggest individual and independent investment ever! Therefore, I treated the purchase with all due respect, seriousness, and academic meticulousity. Those, who are not aware of all my preceding preparations, are strongly encouraged to click this link first: drivetribe.com/p/academic-car-buy-BvHFigECQr6i_IlBqXRRIQ?iid=Emojk8ngRv6NKY0ojNiujw
Those, who are aware of my preceding preparations, may condemn them as dubious and inconsistent. It may seem that while taking the final decision, I sabotaged a scholarly approach, ignored a public opinion, and flipped a coin... It may seem so, but no.
There exist at least two reasons behind my last minute change of favourites from Honda Civic Coupé Mk5 to Mazda 323F BA (Lantis).
Primarily, as a human being, I made a mistake. I overlooked Mazda while outlining specifications and making up selections. Simply overlooked with no special intention. And then, when my friend pointed on this mistake, Mazda appeared to be the best candidate! The drivers' opinions praised a great reliability of the vehicle, which was comparable to Honda's. Moreover, unlike Honda, it provided a much higher level of security: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAUii4UVrCc (the first minute of a video). The security was of a paramount importance for me as for a beginner (and still remains such, actually).
Secondly, while considering Honda and making up my first and second selection, I had no clear vision of a perfect car. In a way, I "struggled" with Honda. That was not the case with Mazda as I knew for sure what I wanted. And the vehicle made the best match to that knowledge. It exploded like a super-nova making other stars look dim.
So, I opted for Mazda.
To begin with, Mazda 323F BA is much more of a car than it may seem. People usually underestimate it. Mx-5 of the same generation is regarded as a better choice, though both vehicles share a fair amount of technologies and spares. Not to mention that 323F BA is often called “Mx-5 with a hardtop” or “the five-door Mx-5” in Poland. What 99,9% of people do not know is that the body of 323F BA was designed by Ginger (Arnold) Ostle, who had earlier sketched lines and curves for Porsche 928, 944, and 924. This may, actually, explain why 323F looks so different from the preceding and following 323's. It is more slick and stylish. More sporty and aerodynamic (not boxy). More luxurious? My friend Adam, a long-time owner of Mazda 323F BA, considers that the design of this generation becomes “outdated” very slowly; it is that good. I tend to believe Adam!
Having decided on the maker and the model, I started my searches. The car was supposed to be within 200 km range. And not too expensive. And in its post-lift version with square vents on a dash. Two weeks long searches ended up in fishing two candidates. Aquarius Blue Mica (12R) and Teal Green Metallic (18V). The first looked stunning! That was my most-wanted colour! The second, though, was much better maintained. Having weighted all pros and contras, I leaned towards the purchase of the Green car. I even called the owner and arranged a meeting. 180 km lied ahead.
But then, using a different search engine, I found an Oriental Red Mica (12H) car. Colour of a summer sunset. It was the closest to the place I lived. It was in the next town where my mechanic lived. So, I called him and he agreed to come and examine the car before the purchase. The same evening he called me back and said: “The car is in a good condition, but carries signs of regular exploitation.” What I heard was: “The car is perfect, you should buy it immediately!”
Therefore, the very next day I cancelled all meetings and we drove with my friends 40 km to the south from Warsaw. That was Saturday, November 9, 2013. '97 Red Mazda stood on the yard and waited for us. 1,5L Z5 four-stroke engine stabling 88 horses. 197K km on the odometer. It was indeed nice and clean vehicle. No unpleasant smells inside, no sticky spots. It belonged to a lady driver who dreamed at that time of a new Audi A3. We signed the deal quickly and were ready to leave… but my friend asked for a minute to have a cigarette. To a great surprise of her husband, the lady driver also took one; it appeared she had quit smoking a couple of years earlier. The moment of saying good-bye did not come that easy.
On a way back to Warsaw, the car was going like a dream! And there's nothing surprising here. That was my-dream-come-true car! Moreover, I was so excited and so inexperienced that I nearly crashed another vehicle. “Nearly” is the key word here.
The same day I called her Eve. Whirly Eve.
As a rule, the first car is regarded by a majority of drivers as a “rolling dead.” This is the vehicle to train and improve all necessary skills. Bumps, dents, scratches, frictions, cracks, leaks and other afflictions belong to the first car by default. Therefore, no person should form a strong bond to it. In majority of cases, the first car gets replaced by something better within three years. Recalling my driving instructor: “Your first car is your first girlfriend. She is beautiful, caring, forgiving, and fun to spend time with. But this doesn't mean that you should inevitably marry her. You should gain experience and become ready to meet other women in your life.”
What happened, actually, I fell in love. My bad. The more I drove Eve, the more I wanted serious relations. Like a boy who hit into an experienced and passionate woman. And got tempted. And collapsed.
The first thing I did after the purchase was followed my cousin's advice. He owns a staggeringly bold '79 Volvo 244 diesel, a daily drive. Once a year he visits his mechanic and says: “Please, replace everything in this car so that I wouldn't need to visit you urgently within the next 12 months.” I did the same. And promised to cover all costs.
And that was my “mistake...” The bill for all fixes reached half of the price I paid for the car!
No doubts, my mechanic did his job perfectly well. All elements and parts, which are usually replaced after the purchase, were replaced. Apart from this, he examined and replaced all worn mechanisms. He also fixed faulty electrics. The only thing he left untouched was the bodywork (apart from repairing a noticeable dent on the rear arch – read below). I decided to wait with this for a couple of months.
I started driving Eve. Daily and cautiously. The winter of 2014 was warm and inviting. No major adventures happened at that time. I also dared taking no major experiments. In a word, that was my driving-as-your-grandpa period.
By late spring 2014 I covered the hole in a credit card, which my mechanic had made earlier, and started thinking of further improvements. Moreover, at that time I joined Mazda 323F owner's club of Poland and discovered that it was HUGE. Thousands of drivers and dozens of mechanics who specialized in my BA '94-98 generation. That was also the moment I got acquainted with Adam's and Chris' cars (I'll speak of the latter in my future posts). They impressed me to the bones and I decided to obtain something similar.
Love and passion started consuming me... started exhausting me...
The list of desired improvements was long and sophisticated. Re-spraying the car into Velocity Red Mica (27A), or Copper Red Mica (32V), or Soul Red Metallic (41V); spraying selected body elements into black; lowering suspension; Illuminating gauges and a gear leaver (all led); mounting an on-board computer and an up-to-date multimedia system; changing a seat upholstery and a headlining (black alcantara); mounting Philips BlueVision or Osram Night Breaker bulbs into headlamps; installing new sport-type bumpers, etc. My most ambitious – and most irrational – improvement-on-the-list was the swap of the 1,5L Z5 (88 HP) engine into the 2,5L KL-DE V6 (170 HP), or even the 2,3 KJ-ZEM supercharged V6 (210 HP). This swap would transform my Mazda into an even more powerful beast than its stock Type R version (2,0L KL-ZE with 170 HP). Moreover, this swap seemed to be a plug-and-play one; a couple of guys from Polish Mazda club had done it already.
I started, though, with re-spraying the bonnet, which had lost its shiny upper layer under the sun (the previous lady owner rarely garaged the car) and fixed the rusty rocker panels. Important note: that was not me who cut and wielded holes here and there, but professionals. I covered all costs. Then the time came for the air conditioning from the scratch, multimedia steering wheel from '06 Mazda 6, the new exhaust system, new alloy wheels and summer tyres (16'' Dezents with 205/45/16 Uniroyal Rain Sport), wash of the engine bay, re-spraying of the valve cover, and dozens of other minor improvements (regulations, lubrications, calibrations). And yes, the led-illuminated gauges and the gear leaver!
You may be curious and ask: “Have you had any incidents while driving the car?” Yes, I had. The first – and the most “terrible” as it came the first – was the incident in an underground garage. I reversed and hit a metal pillar with the rear arch. The dent was noticeable and required puttying and re-spraying. I almost cried as this was the day of my showing the car to mates at work. But the dent was mended within days as I gave the car to mechanic. The reversing sensors were also installed then, by the way.
The second incident was connected to my miscalculating the turn radius, “missing” the garage doors, and leaving a group of scratches on the passenger’s side. These required only re-spraying. However, I used a colour wax to hide them. This “budget” solution did not hide scratches completely, but made them less visible and prevented doors from rust. By the way, Eve had mountains of waxes, lubricants, sprays, and other cosmetics.
Eve has also brought me a couple of memorable moments and adventures. Once I drove through a snowfall (do not confuse with a snowstorm). “Endless” highway in the forest. Conifers stood green on both sides. No hurry, 90 km/hour. No oncoming cars. No wind. Snow was falling straight and – as the car cut through it – hundreds of tiny snowflakes were getting caught by the air waves and rushed towards the windshield. Just before reaching the glass, they floated up and continued their journey above the car. You know, mates! That looked like entering a hyperspace in the Millennium Falcon!
Another memorable moment was my first visit to parents. And giving keys to my father for a ride. That was the epitome of my personal glory! That was a symbolic demonstration to my father that I became a self-sufficient individual capable of earning enough money and purchasing a good car. The one he enjoyed driving! My brother, by the way, enjoyed the car too.
Day by day and month by month I was coming closer to what I wanted to reach at the very end. Eve was no longer a typical daily drive, but more of a car project. Naturally, this transformation consumed a lot of my time and resources. To be consistent and avoid mistakes, I often referred for advice to Adam and Chris, my Mazda gurus. They were the only guys I knew with an immense experience in working on 323F BA. They could craft virtually everything. And they helped me improving Eve. Day by day and month by month.
And then, on Wednesday, June 24, 2015, Chris called me and said: “I'm moving to Canada on Friday. I know that you like my car. Would you like to buy it?”
And I did.
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P.S. Matt Parsons can be reached here: www.behance.net/Matthew_Parsons_SA