Totanes Family Cars, Through the Years
I was searching the internet a couple of weeks ago and I stumbled upon a photo of the very first family car we ever had in the Philippines. The photo brought back memories of my childhood that I decided to write this note. Basically, recollections of my thoughts as I remember each period intertwined with our family autos at the time.
The 1965 Contessa was made by Hino motors of Japan. It was a small sedan and was gift from our Uncle/Aunt (Tito Rudy, Tita Tess) after purchasing their brand new 1976 VW Beetle.
Seeing the photograph of the car brought back the excitement of having your own automobile and the thought of not having to take public transit anymore when visitng relatives or simply going to Cubao for a family night out at the movies. This also brought back times of sadness since this was basically only a few months after our beloved mother sadly passed away in March 1975. It was a time etched in my mind as one mixed with sadness and happiness.
I remember this particular car as having a defective horn. My father would simply give way to the buses and large trucks who veer in our path, and without a horn to express his objection, helplessly stare at the offending vehicle in vain. Needless to say, the first investment put into the car was a horn made by Bosch. It emitted a tiny shriek akin to the horns put into Japanese economy cars of the 80’s.
The car had a faulty water pump too. There was one time, it overheated and my father, brother Edgar and I stupidly unscrewed the radiator cap and boiling coolant squirted all over us. Later on, my father mentioned to me that it was stupid that we even thought of removing the cap.
The 1965 Chevy Nova II
Right around 1977, my father sold the Contessa and bought a 1965 Chevly Nova II. Now this was a clear upgrade from the Contessa. Aside from being a better-looking car, it had greater power and the interior was much better.
One of my great memories involving this car was the Pioneer stereo my father purchased. This was my first stereo-installation job, and I think I did a pretty good job. My brother Edgar will attest to the constant barrage of Pilita Corrales songs Dad used to play wherever we go “? Ako ang nagtanim, at nagbayo at nag sa-ing, ? ? subalit ng maluto ay iba ang kumain… ? “.
During this time, backup horns were a hit in Manila. If anyone remembers, these were the little electronic devices that were installed at the rear of the car, and beeps when put on reverse. I remember installing one of these in this car but the type we had played a wailing sound like a bomb dropping before playing the bird-like tweet, tweet sound. I had a laugh one day when my friend heard it the first time and started to duck because he thought there was a whistle bomb that was lit next to him.
Dad had also been managing a group of out-of-school boys in the Cubao area, which was a project by a class called 36-70 in Fort Bonifacio by then President Marcos. The aim of class 36-70 (named after Proclamation 36-70) was to train business owners in the Military and awarded them ranks as commissioned officers upon completion. The class project was to round up all the street kids in the Cubao area, turn them into Boy Scouts and teach them a living by shining shoes. We visited these shoe-shine kiosks every weekend around Cubao in this Chevy Nova car. Being a Boy Scout myself, this was probably one of the most humbling but fun experience Dad has ever gotten us involved in. Camping and doing activities with less fortunate youth made me appreciate what we had.
Mercedes Benz 190
This is probably the most solid car we have ever owned. The body, engine and everything about it says a lot of thought has been put in its design and manufacture. Our particluar car did not have the front round headlights as in the photo. The previous owner of the car ‘upgraded’ the front headlights to oblong-shaped ones that made people mistake the car for a model 220.
Dad rear-ended a car one day on the way home from the office and pretty much destroyed the front end of this car. He never told us about the accident but he didn’t know that I knew about it. All I remember is that he came home a little shook up that day. The car was in the shop for several weeks for ‘engine repair’ as my Dad called it.
1969 Toyota Toyopet
The first car ever provided to us by the government was this Toyota Toyopet. I don’t have much memories of this car except that I can readily detect another Toyopet because we had this one for a few months. It was also one of the most popular car models for taxis in Manila in the 1970’s.
1973 Toyota Corona
This was another government-owned car, and an upgrade from the Toyopet. This was the last car I ever rode with my Dad before I left for America. I believe it was around 1981 when he was assigned this car.
Our first air-conditioned car, Dad got this during a time when CB radios were popular in Manila. I remember installing a borrowed CB radio in this car with a K40 antenna, going mobile everywhere we went. This was also the car we used to drive to the the very first McDonald’s in Cubao (first in the Philippines), where I tasted my first McDonald’s product, the Big Mac. I remember taking a last glimpse of this car on the way to the airport when I came to America in March 1983.
Since the Toyota Corona, my wife and I have owned several cars here in the States as well. But the very first car we ever bought on our own was a 1986 Plymouth Colt E.
We kept this car until it was paid off, and sold it around 1989. I remember seeing this car one last time about two years later at a grocery store parking lot, it still had the same license plate (and I still remember it!: 1SLL794), but was plastered with some stickers on the backside. The man who bought it from us was getting it for her daughter who was going to college. I guess that explained the stickers.
Each car has its own history and its share of memories attached to them. It’s funny because as I was writing this, I felt that they were family members who have somehow passed a away or have moved on. But the reality is, they are material things, and with all material things in this world, they come and go… But one thing is for sure, my memories will linger on.