I have lots of enthusiasm for many questionable vehicles (cough cough AMC cough cough), but the one I probably love the most is the Chevy Sprint.

Many of you youngins here have no idea what it is, and have never seen one in the flesh. And you might never see one. Most of them have disappeared. They were cheap to buy, and that usually means they didn’t get cared for like they were supposed to. The Sprint (or Suzuki SA310/Forsa, or Pontiac Firefly in Canada, or 1st gen Holden Barina/Suzuki Swift down under) was the predecessor of the Geo Metro. It had a 1.0 3-cylinder NA engine that produced 48 tiny hp and allegedly a few ft-lbs. of torques. You could also get a 70-hp turbo screamer 3-door, but I’ve only ever had the NA version.

I owned two of them, both were silver 5-doors with varying degrees of equipment. The first one (a 1987) was my favorite. It was barebones; the only option it received was an AM/FM radio. Exposed metal on doors, cheap hairshirt upholstery, a spindly little gear lever, and a speedometer. No rear defroster even. It was great. It was as honest as cars get. It had one singular purpose, to get you from A to B as cheaply as possible. Driving it was fun, even though it was slow. On city streets it never felt like it was as slow as it was. It was totally at home at speeds of 40 MPH or less. Highways were mildly terrifying though.

Denver has a highway around the metro area that started as C-470 in the southwest, expanded to E-470 to the southeast/east/northeast, and now the Northwest Parkway to the.... northwest. When I owned it, my daily commute used the stretch of C-470 from Kipling over to University. On the eastbound stretch from Santa Fe Drive to Lucent Parkway there is a somewhat steep hill. When approaching this hill I’d have to flog it to get it to 70 MPH, then downshift to 3rd and keep it floored up the hill. If I was very lucky I’d still be going 50 MPH at the top. But it was still enjoyable. Crosswinds would scare the hell out of me. I would have a mental image of an empty beer can being blown across a parking lot every time the wind picked up. Speaking of that, one time I was headed home westbound on the same highway and suffered a blowout on one of my front tires. I drifted into the Taurus next to me and then spun out, coming to rest in the median. I got out and looked at our two cars, and the extent of the damage was that my passenger side mirror was gone and two other tires had come off the wheels. The Taurus had a 1-inch section of paint damage over the right rear passenger door handle. I guess it was kind of like throwing an empty beer can at a boulder, not much will happen. While I owned it, gas prices plummeted briefly to sub-dollar levels. I filled up with 7+ gallons for $5.60. That’s almost as good as free. It ended when the clutch went out, and because I was young and dumb I traded it in instead of fixing it.


The second one (a 1988) I picked up a couple years later for $1100. This one was downright luxurious compared to the first: it had both a rear wiper and defroster, an aftermarket cruise control, and was the first car I’d ever owned with working a/c. I had it for two weeks before the engine blew. I had driven 200+ miles to be with my parents for Christmas that year down in the San Luis Valley, and the day after Christmas I set off toward home. I checked the oil and everything, but it either developed a leak or consumed it all going over La Veta Pass. About 10 miles north of Walsenburg I was flying along at 80+ MPH (hill assisted), and coming down a hill there was a loud bang, the dash lit up and engine was off. I came to a stop and tried to restart it, but the noises... ugh. This was on a Saturday, the day after Christmas. I figured I was screwed, and started walking back to Walsenburg while hitchhiking. A young guy picked me up in a Suzuki Sidekick, which amusingly enough he was trying to coax back to New Mexico on 3 cylinders. He dropped me at the Loaf and Jug and I called a tow truck to bring it in to Walsenburg. The mechanic that picked me up showed me the quarter-sized hole in the side of the block. My stepdad was kind enough to tow it back to Alamosa, and a friend of mine drove down from Denver to come get me. Fortunately my stepdad was able to find a used engine down there and put it in for me, and I Greyhounded my way down there to get it a couple months later. It lasted another year before my circumstances improved. It wasn’t quite as good as the first one, but it still had that spirit about it. The A/C even worked well as long as the temperature didn’t go above 80 and acceleration was not a priority. The cruise control worked ok on flat surfaces, too! Later on I’d gotten a better job and decided to get something more substantial, a Geo Prizm. I sold the Sprint to the friend who picked me up that day, and she drove it for a couple years after that.

I’m sure that my personal experiences during the times I owned them helped to bond me to them, but it would have happened anyway. I guess the Mirage is the closest current car to what the Sprint was, but it doesn’t seem to have the same spirit of the Sprint. It actually has real-car features, like airbags, comfort, automatic climate control. Still, I like them because it reminds me of the Sprint in some ways.


So what is the car that you love that makes no sense to other enthusiasts?