Longtime friend of King Motorsports Russell Laviolette gives us a peek into the special slot in his brain's memory bank reserved for his first car. We'll glimpse inspiration, ambition, a bit of charity, and a community-fueled reunion. This is PART 1 of his story. Thanks Russell!
An abundance of stories have been written about the importance of a first car. The sense of independence and adventure personified by these masses of metal is well documented. But what does it look when a car comes full circle and is reunited with a past owner - an owner who first experienced those emotions in this very car?
I, like many, was baptized into the Sport Compact industry during the late 90s. Blossoming from the grassroots movement of the mid 90s, it would reach global status when the blockbuster franchise "The Fast and the Furious" began in 2001. Despite the fact that I was excited by the film, it didn’t quite capture the vision that initially enthralled me.
That vision was represented by the enthusiasts of Southern California. Avoiding fiberglass body enhancements, underbody neon lighting, and a litany of monitors in obscure locations, these gentleman (and of course women) were doing it “right.” Many of them were importing parts from the motherland (Japan) and tempting others with parts the Red, White, and Blue never received. There was one particular car that caught my attention among many great ones: Erik of FF Squad and his gold CRX. The car featured many JDM parts (Japanese Domestic Market) including a CRX SiR front end, RHD conversion, Japanese spec glass roof, and Mugen MR-5 wheels. Ironically, this car is now just minutes from me, thousands of miles away from California. I knew I wanted a CRX and the hunt began.
I was working a miserable job at a local movie theater at the time and knew my only chances for a car lay squarely on my shoulders. Eventually, I would save a decent amount of money but didn’t know if it would be enough. My brother-in-law called me out of the blue and told me he found what I was looking for - a CRX Si - and, best of all, yellow. I traveled as soon as possible to see the car and immediately loved it. It was the first year of the iconic second generation and again, it was yellow! I knew nothing of the Y49 curse fortunately. Some days later I would return with my stepfather to retrieve the car and tow it to its new home. It needed virtually nothing to run save a driver’s side CV axle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy to replace as it should have been. Four broken sockets (including Snap-on) and a breaker bar in excess of three feet long, and the 32mm nut still wasn’t moving. Eventually, we would melt the bolt with an oxyacetylene torch. Desperate times. Desperate measures.
It would take a bit longer to save the money necessary to insure the car and take care of other legal details, but it was now roadworthy. I still remember driving the car forwards and backwards in my yard in an attempt to learn to drive the manual transmission well. After several years of driving the car, I began to tire of it. The pernicious curse struck sometime in 2005. After purchasing an imported JDM engine for the car (DOHC ZC) and investing quite a bit of money into improving the power of it, I was involved in a rear-end collision. It was my fault, and the CRX was a mess. Hood wrinkled like aluminum foil. Life blood dripping from the undercarriage. Despite it, the car fought on. I tethered the hood closed and drove the car home, coolant leaking into the Florida aquifer. The car would run for quite a bit longer, but I lost the vision. I sold many of the parts acquired and began thinking about another car. An opportunity presented itself to purchase a 1995 Honda Civic Hatchback from the original owner, and I wasn’t going to hesitate. I brought what I could to the owner that night and picked the car up the next day.
The CRX was now second fiddle. I would eventually give it to a woman I worked with who was walking to work each day. She was in her fifties, and the Florida heat is unforgiving even in the winter. She would eventually trade the CRX for a minivan much to my chagrin. I had always harbored hopes of reacquiring the car from her in the future, but now that possibility dissipated. Or so I thought.
** to be continued in PART 2 **
The CRX (Erik of FF Squad) that originally inspired Russell: