I almost bought a used Lotus Europa as my first car, around 1970, but while I sat in it (or more accurately, lay myself into it), I became concerned that other cars might run over me. I considered putting flags on it, like on recumbant bicycles. It was a tube-framed, high-speed go-cart with a fiberglass body. Being a teenager, I wanted the option of more than one other person in the car, and room for at least one bag of groceries.
I then almost bought a used Porsche 914, but the dealer said that turning on the heater brought exhaust fumes into the car and they were trying to figure out why. I noticed that the battery platform was broken and the battery was tilted to about 30 degrees off level and under that there were rust holes in the heater box around the exhaust manifold. The expensive Porsche transaxle was right under that, so I decided not to buy the car.
I got 1967 Pontiac Tempest with about 90,000 miles on it instead. V-8 with a 2 speed automatic transmission. Reliable and boring with really bad gas mileage.
I got a first year (1974) Volkswagen Rabbit (one of the first front-wheel-drive, McPherson Strut hatchback cars -- a design I still love) with serious mechanical design flaws: Valves burned up because the valve guides were poorly aligned, so I had to replace the cylinder head (and have the scars on my knuckles to prove it). I went through five clutches because they were glued together by transmission fluids through leaky seals it took five years for Volkswagen to identify (they kept replacing the wrong seals). Brakes failed twice from sudden ruptured brake lines from corrosion because the floorboards filled with water when it rained. Ultimately, the floor literally fell off. The junk yard charitably gave me $75 for it. If reincarnation exists, I will try to carry forth to my remaining lives a hatred for Volkswagens.
Being poor and adventurous, I got a new 1983 500cc Yamaha Virago in 1985. (It apparently sat in a warehouse for two years.) I loved it, except when it snowed. Right after a snowstorm during my second winter on the bike, I bought a car.
I got a first year (1987) Subaru Justy. At 1600 pounds with a 1200cc three cylinder engine with no hybrid boost, it was lighter than the Insight, but only got about 33mpg. Remarkable oversteering brought new meaning to the term "panic braking", and my posture suffered because it was built for people shorter than me. I drove it 100,000 miles, then my closest friend's old Toyota died and she couldn't afford to replace it, so I sold her the Subaru, which lasted another 100,000 miles before it died.
I got a 1992 Honda Civic. It's the first car I've ever loved. I mean really loved. I've hauled everything I own in it (multiple loads, of course), including an impressive, oak office desk with drawers on one side and a fold-out typewriter desk on the other -- with the hatch closed. It gets 40mpg and has gone 210,000 miles without a serious mechanical problem. I've replaced the distributor when the bearing got really noisy, and an oil seal blew out once. That's it. Otherwise, it has never burned any oil, never refused to start (except when I leave the lights on) and generally been a jewel of a car. I put a hitch on it and bought a trailer for it, so it acts as my pickup truck and second car, because in 2000, I bought an Insight.
The Insight was the SECOND car I've ever loved, for all the reasons you guys uniquely appreciate. Within a week of the 45,000 mile maintenance, that car sacrificed itself in order to defend my wife from an assaulting Toyota Pathfinder. Whether or not it was actually damaged enough to total it is a moot point, since some gear-happy rescue workers destroyed it with the Jaws of Life.
Today, my 2003 Insight is supposed to be rolling off the assembly line and loaded onto a ship. The dealer says it should take 2-3 weeks. I'm told on this list that I should probably expect it to take 4 weeks. Yesterday, I bought a pair of Pioneer GS-G1647 speakers (that I learned about on this list) and a Blauplunct "New Orleans" radio/Mini-Disk player. I prefer carrying minidisks, which fit in a shirt pocket, rather than CDs, and the unit is half price at Crutchfield, anticipating a newer model. I know the speakers fit. I'm less certain about the radio, but that will go to a different thread.
I look forward with delicious anticipation to the delivery of my new, red, 5-speed Insight with air conditioning. I just want it to be as good as the old, silver 5-speed without air, except that it will be red, with air. And newer.