It may not look like much, but it sure goes like stink

I drive a 2003 Toyota Matrix XRS.

Replacement Matrix

That’s what it looked like last year just after I bought it, still shiny and clean from the dealer’s detailing. It replaced a red base model 2003 Matrix that I wrecked on the National Road in Ohio. My red Matrix had been a sedate performer but I liked it anyway because it hauled me, the kids, the dog, and a weekend’s luggage with room to spare. So I was really happy to find another Matrix, and even happier that it was the top-line model with a much more powerful engine. No more struggling up hills and praying when trying to pass! I was also glad that this Matrix was painted Cosmic Blue (Toyota’s name for this color), as I never liked it much that my old one was red.

I have had the worst luck with the finish on this car, though. Paint has cracked and is chipping off several large areas across my front bumper. Every place this is happening corresponds to a place where there was some impact. Someone backed into me in a parking lot about a year ago, and then I slid into someone on an icy road last winter, and a month or so ago in traffic someone’s hubcap flew off their car and struck my bumper. I’ve had low-speed impacts like these with other cars I’ve owned and have come away with not so much as a scratch. I kind of wonder now whether this bumper is original to the car – a replacement bumper and a poor quality paint job perhaps? Fortunately, I guess, the previous owner sent along a bra he bought for the car. I think bras look dorky, but it looks a heck of a lot better than what’s underneath it.

But that’s not all. Clearcoat is peeling off in several spots on the back bumper. A pass through an automatic car wash, one I’ve used for years, noticeably scratched and abraded the hood and roof. And then last weekend while backing into my driveway I scraped the rear bumper against a stack of paving bricks I removed from the ends of my driveway last year but have yet to use or pitch.


Having my car repainted would be a waste of money – it’s 7 years old and has 114,000 miles on it. So I am trying to accept the fact that I’m driving a car whose best looks have passed. I’m just trying to take what pleasures I can from it. My favorite is that satisfying feeling of my back sinking into my seat a little when I stomp on the gas to pass somebody. Now that is pure joy.

The slowest car I’ve had was a 1983 Renault Alliance. That car didn’t have enough power to get out of its own way. Read its story.


6 responses to “It may not look like much, but it sure goes like stink”

  1. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    “So I am trying to accept the fact that I’m driving a car whose best looks have passed.”

    My car is a year old, has only 23,000 km on it, but is unfortunately having to come to terms with exactly the same fact about its driver as you are about your car. :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      Ah, we all have to face that at some time!

  2. vanilla Avatar

    Yes, it is nice to have enough power to complete the pass before the yellow line jumps into your lane. Or worse.

    1. Jim Avatar

      The red Matrix gave me a few white-knuckled moments until I figured out that I needed to have clear highway as far as I could see before I tried to pass. The blue one — mash on the gas and zoom.

  3. Scott Palmer Avatar

    It sounds like you have a basically good car that’s just not an “ego car.” Mine are like that. I drove a little Mazda Protege from 1988-1997, and then got another one of the same model (at almost twice the price) which I drove from 1998-2009. Those little things never have any pep. They’re fine on a flat road, but going up a hill — or going up a mountain, as I did when I moved to Arizona for a while — they just don’t have the power to do anything but hold up traffic.

    I also drove what my friends and I called my “Renault Appliance” from 1984-88. That was the first new car I ever had, though I leased it and the auto dealer saw me coming from a mile away. I really paid through the nose for that one, but it did get me around for a few years.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I am sorry to hear that you did time in an Alliance! Compared to that, your Mazdas had to seem like race cars.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.