“I think this is the nicest car you ever had,” my mother said to me from the passenger’s seat. Her eyes, still a snapping dark brown in her late 80s, choked off my emergent laugh though that’s the response the remark deserved.
After all we were not in my Porsche, my Alfa, my Lancia, my Ferrari – cars I had owned serially over a few decades. We were not even in the MG-TC in which she had shared an at-limit dart up Mt. Diablo — clinging tightly and smiling broadly though precariously exposed to traffic in this right-hand drive roller skate. Nor were we in the semi-rally-prepped Mini Cooper in which we toured a newly opened-to-foreign-traffic USSR in the mid-1960s.
No. The car she had proclaimed to be my “nicest” ever was a white Colt Vista. Colt Vista! A minivan-tall-station-wagon sort of vehicle that was badged a Dodge and imported in limited numbers when Mitsubishi and Chrysler had some sort of patty-cake relationship.
Instead of laughing I set to musing about what is it that earns a car the “nicest” title. I realized that the Colt Vista restored to my mother some fading independence. She did not need my help to get down into it or up out of it like she did in my sportier machines. (SUVS, with their demand for a Sherpa gene to ascend, had not yet invaded the marketplace.) The Vista door opened wide and stayed there yet at least a part of it could be reached while seated to pull it to. The car seat matched her seat height. She could simply turn, plonk down then swing her legs over the low sill. Voila! In.