Cars and Pets are very similar. They both require fluids to continue to move and live, they both need a bath time to time, they both need to taken about in the fresh air. The strongest similarity though, is that they both become part of the family, the more time you spend with them.
I’ll be honest, I’ve owned a disgusting amount of cars, among them I’ve liked many and loved a few. Joni Mitchell’s big yellow taxi speaks it best, that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Betsy was my 18th Corolla, another corolla in a long list. I grew up in an ’81 Hardtop Corolla, bombing all around southern and eastern Ontario in a 5 speed SR5 with my mom and sometimes even our cat Wrinkles. We spent most of our summers roaming around new areas of the province as each summer my mother worked in a Camp as a cook.
I had owned a lot of AE86’s, AE95’s, the odd AE92, and a few AE70’s before Betsy, but I didn’t really bond with them to much, although they all had that simplistic and direct Corolla feel, I’m not sure if any of them gave me that summer cruise feeling I remember as a kid as much as Betsy did.
It very well could be the body style of the e7 liftback being so close to that of the e7 hardtop. She was acquired not long after being in Victoria BC. I really enjoy looking around for cars, different ones, knocking on doors and hearing their stories, this is seriously a pastime of mine.
I spotted a Corolla fence on an a hike one afternoon, after knocking on the door and receiving a reply that it was not for sale, I continued on my way. A few weeks later I decided to check back, not exactly sure why, but it was a good surprise to find that they had lost my number and were interested in selling it! I had no money at the time, but it was in my mind. Not long after we needed a car, Robin had gotten a job and was sick of biking to work in the rain on a busy hilly street. So $250 later I drove it out of the backyard. The most noticeable problem with Betsy was that she had been previously T-boned and the damage wasn’t repaired. With a ton of white cans of spray paint, the strength of my legs, a drill, some rivots and some spare sheet metal, what I thought was a temporary repair was permanently created.
With a slightly too long e-brake cable from a Corolla wagon Betsy was ready for the road…by my standards. We began driving her everyday. A reliable car that always starts, something I’ve come to expect from all my corollas, no matter how little maintenance, or in Betsys case: No maintenance. Suddenly time had lapsed and here I was pulling her apart on the lawn. Some people measure experience with time, some measure it in accomplishments, in betsy’s case it was the latter.
Almost a year had passed with a car purchased, 2 hours after the decision to acquire a vehicle was made. I had never expected to keep driving her but some how a short time turned into a long one over a period of a very short time. 60,000km’s scaled the odometer over those months, and I realize now that probably 50% of my time awake was spent in the seat of that car winding around through the mountains and across the island.
These meters really lived up to the name Kilometers my ignorant attitude towards her sound reliability didn’t take as much toll as one would think. You have to imagine that these 60,000kms never featured an oil change, no rad flushes, just a few top ups, a set of front pads, and a drivers windshield wiper. Burying the speedometer needle beyond the limit of the 140km/h, motor screaming along was a daily occurrence. As I write this I can’t really seem to find a way to put our shared experiences together. Although intended as a daily driver, the car spent most of it’s life being treated as a rally fighter on the back roads of the southern island. Consistently burning the brakes off, that sweet warm smell working it’s way in the non-existent rear passenger window. Jumping over blind crests with hope, bottoming out on random bumps, and sliding through corners with hands manning the wheels direction.
Being shamelessly beaten wasn’t her only duty. She was also a people carrier, often a taxi for friends and family. She had the task of sight seeing and car hunting, flopping along the highways and crawling around through neighbor hoods. One of Betsy’s greatest feats was being that truck a young man always seems to want and need. No less than 7 engines were hauled in her hatch. On two occasions she climbed the Malahat mountain bottomed out, filled to the brim with parts. Two motors in behind the seats, a full exhaust and transaxle from an Alfa Romeo, was the first, but shorter stint. The second was a Haul from North Vancouver, an entire drivetrain from another Corolla was fit inside, so much weight that the drive shaft ground the trans tunnel on large bumps, and the rear left tire’s internal belts failed and separated.
Night and rain drifting were other priorities of great importance, and she served them surprisingly well. Being an Automatic 1.6L SOHC carbed car with an open differential and blown shocks and bushings, never kept Betsy from playing with other cars, on back roads, parking lots, off ramps and even the race track. Sadly so few photos and videos came of this, as it was never something to cross anyones mind, it was just ole Quinn in his POS Corolla, his race car’s at home. I regret not documenting Betsy’s life more, I wasn’t paying attention to what was really happening around me, and now that she’s gone I miss her very much. I’ve been on the hunt for another car, but so far they have just not been the same.
Her death came at a time that was politically correct to me. With the beginning of the Corolla Parts Exchange there were those who expressed interest in some stuff from her, however, no matter what I think I still feel like a monster, as she still had life left and I blindly ignored it.
Rest in Peace Besty. 😦