Ours was a light metallic blue with blue interior. This, oddly enough, caused a rift in our household since my father considered it a, "cool grey". "Don't argue with me - I'M AN ARTIST!" he'd quip.
But my father loved this car, and drove it daily for years. I think he really enjoyed the utilitarian-ness of the hatchback, and it wasn't long before he'd line the interior with a tarp and fill it full of tree branches and grass clippings.
The car saw some action through the years, too. It's major christening came on a family road trip when all three of us fell asleep, and awoke to my father over-correcting like a madman. We crossed three lanes of traffic, and slid onto the grass median in the middle of interstate 95 in Virginia, damaging the drive axles and CV joints. Later on, its driver's door was backed into and replaced with one of the (almost) same color, and another incident resulted in a crumpled rear quarter panel which my father had repaired by a man at the local junk yard and a hammer. This repair also resulted in a mismatched tail light, but it passed my father's idea of safety, so it stayed.
After 10 years, and 125k miles or so, the car was passed on to me. By then, the hammered-out quarter panel and bumpers were rusting out, the pinstripes were peeling off, and the LR door no longer opened. But it was mine, and I drove the remaining three doors off of it.
The engine was a mighty 1.5 liter putting out an astounding 67hp through a new for '82 5-speed manual. But since the car probably weighed just over a ton, and had pretty short gearing, it was a spritely little car. In fifth gear, it would top out at 80mph, but if you shifted down into fourth, it developed enough torque to pull you to a staggering 85mph.
Amenities were few, but my parents did pop for the bucket seats which, to this day, are still some of the most comfortable ones I've experienced. The radio was a single-speaker unit, which didn't do much to impress the ladies (or anyone else, for that matter).
I had to do something about the outside, so I took a cue from Porsche and went with the "black chrome" look they'd started in the '80s. I sanded down the rust on the chrome bumpers and painted them black, along with the peeling plastic chrome on the drip rails, and the shiny door handles. I also rattle-canned the 13" steel wheels back to silver. When I was done, the car actually looked remarkably good, and more than one passerby would stop and ask about it. I even caught a glance or two from the guy across the street with the custom Maxima.
The struts had long since worn out, so it skipped across uneven pavement. This, combined with the front wheel drive, made for entertaining cornering and, along with the 6k rpm redline, made you feel like you were always hauling ass. The muffler even fell off once, which made the car ridiculously loud (and "sporty", to my 17-year-old ears), but was soon replaced much to my chagrin.
But like my father, I learned to really enjoy this little car over the next few years. It looked like nothing else on the road, and even had a reverse-opening hood with functional louvers which gave it a sporting persona.
I was terribly upset one afternoon when the car finally died, and I hobbled it home and parked it. My father, who knew nothing about cars, was convinced that the engine was toast. Now that I know better, I think it was something like a fouled spark plug or a bad distributor. It only had 155k miles on it.
I can't imagine many of these cars still exist, but I'd love to have the opportunity to find another one and run it up the road again. I'll even be happy with metallic blue. Sorry, Dad.
Photos courtesty of oldparkedcars.com