Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Leif's Last and Most Beautiful Car - Mazda RX-8 - December 2005 - April 2008

When Leif wrecked the 2002 Dodge Stratus Coupe, he wasted no time looking for another car. The wreck was on December 23rd, I think, and he had a new car before the first of the year.
He said he had nearly convinced himself to buy a more practical car like a Honda Civic when he spotted his beautiful silver Mazda RX-8 in the used car lot at the dealer where he was looking at new cars. I think it was a 2003 or 2004 model and it was in mint condition, with a stunning red and black leather interior. He had promised himself that he would someday own an RX-8, and here it was, just waiting for him.

Leif had learned some bargaining from his dad and he told the dealer that if he could drive off the lot with the bottom line all-inclusive price being (I THINK it was) $23,000, he had a deal. He had already checked out the loan possibilities and secured one so he could basically just hand over a check. At that point, his credit rating was good. It was a good price, and not a terribly expensive car, and he was making enough money at the time and living with his dad, but it wasn't a practical car, and eventually the monthly payments in addition to his other bills would prove to be difficult for him.

However, at the time he bought it he was ecstatic. He took a lot of photos of the car, even up until just three weeks before he died, and he tried to keep it in pristine condition, although he wasn't much better at "housekeeping" inside his car than he was in his apartment.

He was still living with his dad for about six weeks after he bought the car, and then moved to the first of three apartments he lived in in Tampa. He loved driving that car and it was a joy to see him drive up in it when he came to visit us.

When we drove to his apartment on April 10, 2008, the day we found him dead in his apartment, seeing both his RX-8 and his silver Honda motorcycle parked outside his apartment building and knowing none of us had been able to contact him for about 31 hours, we knew something was terribly wrong.

The sheriff's deputies on the scene advised us not to leave his car or cycle in the parking lot there. They felt they would be theft targets after the neighborhood had seen him taken from his apartment in a body bag. We had the cycle towed to our house and since neither of us could drive a stick shift, were grateful to our neighbor Bill for driving it to our home about 30 miles away. We couldn't keep it, and we didn't have the title to it so we couldn't sell it. The only option was to let it get repossessed. It was towed away to an auction company on my birthday, May 24, 2008. It was both very sad and a relief to see it go. On the one hand, it was a beautiful car that Leif had treasured and while it was in our garage, I sat in it several times and thought of him, but on the other hand, it also made me sad to see it there. It brought tears to my eyes to think of all the times I watched for him to come driving up, or walked out to the car to say goodbye and saw him in it, and then think I would never see him in it again.

It was sold at auction and the money paid off most but not all of the loan Leif had on the car, one of many debts he left unsettled.

Leif, the man who loved cars, who made a hobby of going to car dealerships to see them and test drive them; Leif who drove like a race driver and had little regard for speed limits; Leif, the man who got his dream car, had left it behind, had left us behind, had gone without saying goodbye.

The photos are, from the top:
1. Leif took this self portrait on November 21, 2007, in his motorcycle jacket, with his iPhone.
2. Leif as he looked on December 24, 2005, right after he wrecked the Dodge Stratus and right before he bought the RX-8.
3. The RX-8 being towed away for auction on May 24, 2008.
4. Leif in the RX-8 showing the interesting way the doors opened on January 4, 2006, just days after he bought it.
5. Leif standing beside the RX-8 on January 4, 2006.
6. The RX-8, taken by Leif on March 1, 2008, just over a month before he died.

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