My First Car
I bought my first car, a Saturn SL1, in 1993. The car was practical and no frills, although I did go with the 5 speed manual so at least I had to shift to try to get as much power as possible out of the 4 Cylinder engine, but I had big plans for the stereo system.
At that time CD changers were state of the art. There were two major manufacturers, Sony which sold 10 disc models and Pioneer who sold 6 disc changers. Ever the Sony brand loyalist since my early days of “Sony envy,” I convinced my step-mother to buy me a Sony cassette head unit and 10 disc changer as a birthday present.
Since I was living in Miami at the time and had seen car stereo after car stereo stollen from my step-mother’s car in New York, I opted for a head unit with a removable faceplate. I became religious about always taking the faceplate with me whenever I parked the car. Little did I know that a few months later the car itself would be stolen!
One morning in 1994 I went to get in my car parked right in front of my apartment on 12th and Meridian in Miami Beach. The car was not where I had left it the night before and there was no reason it should have been towed. I called the police and gave them the plate number and asked if they had it. They did not and it was now certain that the car must’ve been stolen.
Anyone who’s ever had a car stolen knows what a feeling of violation it is and although fully insured, I was really down. I called my boss and told him I wouldn’t be coming into work that day. I had a good excuse…my car had been stolen. When I hung up the phone I looked down at the counter where I put my keys and wallet and saw the removable faceplate in its plastic case. I laughed to myself for a minute taking some consolation in the fact that whoever stole my car was crusing around without any tunes!
About a week later I got a call from the Hollywood, Florida police telling me they’d recovered my car. Hollywood was a good hour’s drive from my home in South Beach and I enlisted a friend to drive me up to see what had become of my car. We arrived at the address they’d given me, which was a gas station. I had prepared myself for the worst, thinking the car would be banged up, the seats torn out, certainly the CD changer from the trunk would be gone.
What I discovered was that the car looked mostly fine. There was damage to the driver’s side lock where they’d broken in, and the ignition which they’d forced, and there were cigarette butts in the ashtray and that awful smell of cigarette smoke. All in all I felt pretty lucky. Then I saw that the speaker grill was missing from the driver’s side door and my heart sank. But on further investigation I found that the speaker was still there. Great, I thought, now I’m going to have to order a speaker grill from the Saturn dealership.
I’d talked to the clerk at the gas station who’d called in the plate number to the police after a couple of teenagers left the car after giving him all the change and dollar bills they could scrounge up, less than $3, to put gas in my Saturn. He said that after giving him the money they’d looked around at the outside of the car and then disappeared.
I put the key in the ignition to see if the car would start and discovered that the gas gauge read empty, much lower than I’d ever seen it. I reached down to the left of the driver’s seat to release the gas tank cover, and discovered my missing speaker grill! It all became clear. The thieves couldn’t figure out how to open the gas tank to put gas in my car, got nervous, and fled.
I don’t remember if I brought the removable faceplate with me and listened to music on my way back home, but I was delighted to have my car and its killer soundsystem back. As a product, the CD changer was great, but I found myself leaving the same 10 discs in the car all the time and only swapping them when going on a long roadtrip or when I couldn’t stand to listen to any of them any more.
Sony CD Changer and Removable Faceplate
I kept that car stereo when I sold that car, thinking I’d put it in another car, but I didn’t buy another car for three years after selling that one and technology moves so quickly that it was outdated by the time that I did. I should really put this up on Ebay now that I’ve just taken this picture. It’s a Sony CDX-U303 CD changer and a XR C8200 cassette head unit. Anyone want them for a fair price?