Having older siblings, I missed the excitement of having a “new” car when I turned sixteen. Instead, I got to join the rotation of sharing the car once I was able to drive on my own. Although I didn’t get to experience the freshness of a car that was new to the family, I appreciated knowing what vehicle I had coming my way (two cars actually). When I was coming of age into my driving years, my family had a pair of older Mazda 626s. The older one was a 1991 white 626 and the other was a 1997 forest green 626. Growing up in Minnesota, they were great little cars to zip around in the summer but became a very different experience in the brutal northern winters.
The cars were very light and easy to maneuver, which made them nice cars for learning to drive. I remember sitting in a gravel lot with my dad as I put the car into gear and the surprise of an idling engine inching the car forward. It didn’t take me long to get comfortable and I started to enjoy driving. I always liked driving other vehicles like snowmobiles, ATVs, and go-karts and the 626 felt closer to a go-kart than a pickup. I didn’t know much about the specifics of the car like horsepower, torque, or engine details, but I knew the feeling of freedom that access to the car offered me and that was enough.
Shortly after turning sixteen, the older white Mazda began breaking down on us so we were forced to sell it to a recycler but the little green sedan held on with us for a couple more years. I’ll always have fond memories of those first vehicles and the impact that having access to my own car had on me.