It’s been a banner summer for the Daewoo. First Will Ferrell accepted the ESPY for Athlete of the Year for Tiger Woods and thanked his sponsor, Daewoo, adding “which I believe is some kind of car.” Then in Pineapple Express, Danny McBride’s character smashes his bright yellow Daewoo into one of the bad guys and taunts, “You just got killed by a Daewoo Lanos, motherfucker.” Daewoo pride is at an all time high right now, which is sort of like school spirit, but dorkier.
Yet, as I was pulled over to the side of road somewhere in Hollywood on Sunday night, my Daewoo’s engine billowing white smoke, I have to admit that I was hoping the engine would just catch on fire and that my car would go up in spectacular flames. I wasn’t sure if my insurance covered spontaneous combustion, but I was willing to risk it.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my car. On the one hand, it’s small, easy on the gas, and ideal for city driving. On the other hand, Daewoo has stopped making cars, putting all of their production resources into cheap televisions and DVD players. Also, the CEO of the company is in Korean prison for a few more years. And then there’s the check-engine light that has been on since I got the damn thing. Oh yeah, and there is some sort of black engine fluid leaking into the carpet.
So as the cultural impact of the Daewoo continues to grow, so does the realization that my car could break down in Seoul, and I’d still have to wait three or four days for someone to track down the parts.
I’ve actually gotten some compliments about my car lately. A co-worker told me I was lucky to have a compact car during these days of expensive gas. I offered to trade her for her luxury SUV. She declined. Yesterday, I squeezed the Daewoo into a tight parking spot, and a neighbor told me that he had tried that same spot with his car but couldn’t fit. “Trust me,” I said, “That's the only thing that’s good about this car.”
Sunday night, after the engine smoke had dissipated, I opened the hood to assess the damage. The coolant had exploded all over the engine, symbolic of that fact that there was nothing on earth that could make my car cool. I was rescued by a tow truck driven by a completely humorless Russian man. In the five minutes it took to haul my car to the mechanic's, I learned that he disliked rich people, drank most nights when the shift was slow, and hated dogs and the people who owned them. When you drive a Daewoo these are the type of people you meet.
The next morning I learned that my thermostat exploded. It would only cost $150 to fix, and I would have my car back by the next morning. In the meantime I got to drive Camille’s Mini Cooper, which is like a Daewoo that doesn’t run on AA batteries. For one day I got to experience what it was like to have a real car. And it didn’t involve jamming my foot down on the brake just to stop.