To have and to hold. Having slammed the doors at the showroom several moons ago, peered through squeaky clean glass panes and overstayed in the toilet cabin staring at the magazine ads, its finally yours. Depending on how good the PDI (pre-delivery inspection) is, every smudge, every speck of dust has no right to exist lest it spoil that long expected moment when you, the man [or woman] meets the machine. The longed for relationship, ownership, begins.

First, precious....

For the first kilometer, the vehicle travels its most tenuous journey, that ceremonial sentimental one way drive away from the waving sales agents - clutching the last shreds of your financial future - to its proper home. In solace, thoughts bombard. Making the monthly payments? True, but why spoil the sanctity of the moment? Enjoy the curbside stares and read lips that all say “WOW, BA-GO!” . The first long trip? The last kilometer of road to farm lot living relatives, is either too dusty or muddy this time of the year. The Friday night cocktail kumpadres [or amigas on Ladies Night Wednesdays]? Parking is too tight, might lose an antenna, mirror or worse, baptism by scratch! Ever wonder why the 1st night of the new car in the garage is usually a sleepless one? Staying up late, going nowhere, whispering sweet nothings to each other, staring, ogling – you and your brand new car. Standing sentinel, chamois or feather duster in hand, no fly or mosquito will ever touch any surface. Splashed by a baptismal thunderstorm on the way home? Family beach towels [worn tender, not crispy new] are deployed to dry away the offending moisture. Lest the new member of the family catches a cold.

Doubts, and then determination

Pondering in blissful silence, doubts creep in. Should one have bought the other brand? The other rival? The smaller one or the diesel? The grey over the silver? The manual or the automatic? Add a bit more on the monthly for the bigger series? Plump a little bit more for the equipment level upgrade? Tell the children to tidy the toys in the garage. Keep their soles squeaky clean. Watch your shoes; don't scratch the door pockets. Careful twisting that sun visor! Dismissed with a never mind, time to tuck in. Gotta get up early the next day. Shopping. For accessories.

Bare necessities

Like fads, the need for must-have and nice-to-have gee-gaws blurs when considering after purchase purchases. Like clothes, accessories do have their eras. Back in the 70s, when some locally made cars came with rust at no extra charge, the first add on, if not included in the dealer's price, was rust proofing. Paint protection was poorly appreciated then as cheap waxes and cheap waxers were a dime a dozen. Side view mirrors, mud flaps, floor mats and seat covers in cotton drill, synthetic velour or wide wale corduroy, were not standard then. To help the air con along, stick-on adhesive tint. Perhaps a chrome tip tail pipe, foregoing the noisy free flow muffler when the factory fit muffler corrodes. More cash to splash? Reading lamps. Stereo equalizer. Digital read out FM stereo. Clip-on wide angle view pan chromatic dazzle free rear view mirror. Wide tires on “mag” wheels. Hanging pine tree perfume, free with every full tank.

Truly middle class

The expansion of the country's car owning class came with the realization of a genuine professional salaried middle class during the 70s. Prior to that, cars were mainly bought by companies or enterprising cash rich entrepreneurs. Available cars were either locally assembled from fully imported kits or extremely good condition used cars from the US military bases. Accessorizing or aftermarket cosmetics to pander to individual expression was virtually unknown. Having a car IS individual expression.

Remedy for narrow choices

In the PCMP [Progressive Car Manufacturing Program] dominated 70s, the choice of brands, car models and even factory colors were curtailed in an attempt to make the local car manufacturing industry viable. Economies of scale they say. But the desire of man and woman to find individual expression was bursting to find exhibition. Locally made cars, built to a price, were mostly barren. There was a demand for accessories to allow car owners to raise life in the car to to the same level as life in the suburban bungalow or city apartment.

Wise move, finally

Happily, by 2003, government got smarter. Instead of squeezing car makers by taxing technology that made life better or safer, i.e. accessories like seat belts, air conditioning, halogen lamps, FM radio, power brakes, fuel injection, extra cylinders, more displacement - it simplified matters by taxing cars based on price. The more expensive the car, the bigger the tax take. Manufacturers responded by building in more and more accessories, making them standard on all cars, bringing the price of the car down. Car sales exploded and the revenue authorities never had it so good.

Sky's the limit

Nowadays, automatic transmissions, power windows, power steering, power locks, power seats, mega-watt stereos, low profile alloys,120hp, easy financing terms and bumper to bumper car care are taken for granted. Ironically, the wealth of high standard levels of high technology and luxury, coupled with a plethora of brands today, encourages up-the-ante individuals to aim for the stars. Never have available aftermarket parts reached out and up to accommodate even the most outlandish wish. Just as money is no object, fancy knows no bounds.

Don't forget the water

For me, the first worthwhile purchase timed with a new car will always be a pair of thick pre-washed washcloths. There are lots of microfiber cloths, synthetic and genuine chamois around, but two good apron sized [not hanky sized] cotton flannel cloths with the edge turned in and sewn with soft cotton thread is value for money. One rag for soaking and the other for drying. True, there are automatic car washes that abrade or scratch the paint less than clumsy hand washing, but only the time short and cash rich resort to this quicker and admittedly more thorough cleansing. With almost all year round tropical weather, nothing could be more fun than giving your new car its first bath. Even if there really isn't much dirt to take out, its as much fun as an outdoor bath on a hot summers day. “Pozo” hard water spots, keep away!