The Old Yellow Zephyr

{Photo via: SplatterGraphics on Flickr}

My old yellow Zephyr. What is that you ask? Well, it’s the finest automobile ever known to man ::insert sarcastic eyes here:: Yes, the fantastic 1981 Ford Mercury Zephyr (aka: Old Yeller, The Big Fish, Stupid Car That Won’t die).

This was my 3rd car I called my own. It was purchased and given to me by my Stepdad when I was 17. I can only assume the previous owner sold it for $2 or, they paid us to take it. Let’s just say I was not happy when my stepdad drove up in that thing…. the “new” car for this 17-year-old. But, I couldn’t complain. I didn’t have the cash to buy a car (my first car went to my sister, and my second had been totaled when someone read-ended me).

This car had beautiful bench seats covered in faux lambskin, it was solid as a damn rock, and it got me places. Most of the time. This freakin car could not be stopped. It just wouldn’t! Every time it broke down and died while I was driving it (my favorite time being the center of a busy intersection during rush hour) I’d hope that it couldn’t be fixed… But, it kept going.

One morning, on my way to work, I hit a deer! The only damage to my car: a teeny tiny knick on the heavy duty bumper (p.s. I’m afraid the deer did not make it).

So, all that ranting brings me down to the final days of the Zephyr. I was-22-years old (yes, that car managed to hang on for way too many years… Cramping my style) and living in Seattle. The day was beautiful, so I made sure to, manually, roll down the windows before I headed out to my destination. I was cruising along and I noticed a girl was waving at me. I smiled and waved back. She seemed nice. But then, I realized she was also yelling something… I turned down my radio and hollered, “What?” Then the girl said, “You’re freakin car is on fire!!!” I responded with a wtf? Omg. F#@$%^.! Pulled the freak over into the first driveway I saw (which just happened to be a Land Rover dealership. Ha).

Turning off my car, grabbing my phone, and running the bat heck outta there… I saw my Zephyr: dropping actual fireballs. Oh my. Over and over. These tennis ball sized fire balls were dropping onto the parking lot. I called 911 and told the lady I could not be put on hold (sorry, my car’s on fire) and requested the fire department.

When I was done with my call, a man came strolling by. He gave my car one look, and ran away. Yup. I thought he had abandoned me. Tuuuurns out he was just being awesome, and he came running back with a fire extinguisher. Put the fire out. Yeah!

When the fire truck rolled around, the fire was out. Nothing they could do, except tell me to keep a fire extinguisher in my car (for safety)… and, that I made a mistake when I took time to grab my phone (should have figured that out on my own, never run back to your flaming car for annnything). Fact: do not mess around with a car that’s on fire. Get all the humans out, get far far away, and find a phone to call 911.

As terrible as this car was, it got me from point A to point B (sometimes). Oh, sweet old Zephyr. RIP.

– Chelsey

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of the Toyota. 

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Categories: about me


  • Audrey on said:

    True Story: When I was a kid an incident happened that my parents still refer to as "The Scream Heard Round the World". My parents' Buick caught fire after they'd been driving it. My dad opened the hood, it was partially parked under our driveway roof, and a huge fireball rose up out of the engine compartment (enter my scream of doom – which brought kids from round the neighborhood to my house to investigate) and he promptly slammed the lid shut and ran to call 911. The hood melted in a huge circle before the fire actually went out on it's own. Super traumatic. In other words, I sympathize in fireball cars.

  • Karly on said:

    Ah ha ha this is awesome. After my first car (base mod. Plymouth Sundance) went to my little bro, I inherited Dad's GEO PRISM. Seriously, at one point in time, Dad bought HIMSELF that car, and he drove it for several years before I got it. It had a tape deck that didn't work, a radio that hissed more than played music, had no AC and was a manual transmission. It was also this very hideous shade of blue with a weird purple/yellow racing stripe. But honestly, when I got that car…it was AWESOME. I could drive it 10292u34239423 miles before needing gas (not that it mattered since gas was, what, .99/gallon back then?!), and I loved to drive it on the interstate with the windows rolled down, laughing as I passed vehicles that were easily three times bigger and more powerful. I loved that stupid little toybox car so much that when I bought my first car, I moved out of that '92 into an '02 Chevy Prism. That car was pretty much just as awesome, but had things like AC, and I installed my own CD player. And! when Rudy wrecked it in a left-turn accident, it kept running without repairs for two years, when the radiator and fan finally succumbed to their injuries.

    I love cars. I'm such a freak.

    • The Paper Mama on said:

      Those old cars keep running…. I'm afraid the old zephyr would have been a major gas guzzler. It was great when $5 of gas would last forever! Ha!

  • roxana on said:

    ohmygawwwwwwhhh! the banana boat! <3 i remember you calling me after the deer incident. still have a special place in my heart (and brain from all the fantastic memories) for that hunka metal!

    • The Paper Mama on said:

      Oh, those old cars. They get you where you need to be… but, man: I like my "newish" car I have now. 🙂

  • Kiara on said:

    Oh my goodness, this shouldn't make me laugh so hard, but it did. I was in a bad car crash years ago, and had to climb into the back seat in order to escape my burning car. As a man ran up to help me out, I reached back up front to grab my backpack, which had my laptop in it. I didn't even think of grabbing my purse with my wallet and phone inside. It was such a stupid move, especially since it was for naught, the laptop has been cracked to smithereens during the impact of the crash. Car burned to the ground, but it didn't explode. Apparently cars actually don't explode very often when on fire, but our natural instinct will always be to run.

    • The Paper Mama on said:

      Scary! I'm glad you're ok. And, I laugh at the story now. It was crazy. 🙂

  • Tara on said:

    That is crazy! And scary!! I have seen two cars on fire at my work. I never knew that happened until I seen cars explode while at work, one was a big big car fire, one was just a little one contained under the hood, and he was smart enough to park away from all other cars.

  • sadiedear on said:

    Oh my goodness, that's quite a dramatic story! Yikes!

  • MommaExpat on said:

    My dad had a Zephyr when we were growing up. It wasn't very comfortable for us kids. I'm so glad you made it out in one piece!!

    • The Paper Mama on said:

      Ha! I thought I may have been the only person on the planet with that car. 😉

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