Back when I was a freshman in high school, I used to hang out at my buddy Mike's house after school. We had a standard routine: homework in front of the TV (Saved by the Bell) before trying to bum rides off Mike's brother. If that didn't work, we'd just walk to Taco Bell for a snack, or to the local elementary school to shoot some hoop. Though the courts were more than 20 minutes away on foot, I didn't mind. Walking meant we'd probably pass by Arlan and Alvin's place.
Although the two brothers lived just a few houses down on the same street as Mike, it was another universe to me. This was 1991, I was 13 years old and just beginning to realize that my mountain bike was not, in fact, the coolest form of transportation in the world. As I quickly came to learn, my Gary Fisher wasn't even second coolest. No, slots one and two belonged to Arlan's cherry red Mitsubishi Starion and Alvin's Eclipse GSX.
You could say this was a 90s update of a scene straight out of American Graffiti. Set in the Southern California suburbs, I played the role of the impressionable young freshman ogling the hotrods of the cool upperclassmen. They'd cruise our high school parking lot and conversations among the waiting would dwindle and stop, replaced by a palpable buzz of jealousy and admiration. Women-seemingly of another species-clad in biker shorts and sky-high Aquanetted hair, would slink out of the shadows and jump in. Extracurricular lesson learned: hot, dangerous-looking cars beget hot, dangerous-looking women.
When I went to Mike's on the weekend, I'd often see Arlan and Alvin obsessively washing and waxing their Mitsubishis. They never seemed unhappy about it. Back then I didn't quite get it. The only car I ever washed was my dad's, and only because it beat weeding the rose garden. These guys were the first to teach me that you don't take cars for granted. You take care of them.
Six years later, Arlan's Starion appeared in the December 1997 issue of Sport Compact Car. To be honest, I didn't realize this until a couple of weeks ago, when I was flipping through one of the thick volumes of back issues I have on my office bookshelf. As a college student in 1997, reading SCC was a luxury reserved only for breaks between mind-numbing biology textbooks.
Patrick Paternie wrote the 'Mitsubishi's Musclecar' feature and Wes Allison captured the Starion on film. And capture it he did. Seeing it again brought back a rush of memories. I think I even murmured the same two words I did when I saw the car for the first time as a teenager: hot stuff.
Of course, there is more than a touch of irony that I happened to stumble upon the feature of the very vehicle that, in all likelihood, set me on the path to becoming editor of this magazine. But that's not why I bring up the story of Arlan's Starion.
No, the point of my column this month-the very reason why I was flipping through stacks of back issues-is that next year Sport Compact Car celebrates its 20th anniversary. And I'd like to do something special to commemorate the two decades of automotive inspiration this magazine has provided us.
Fans of the magazine often tell me that they have every issue of SCC since the very beginning. Great. Prove it by sending in suggestions for the best features we have run in the last 20 years. Help us choose which stories we'll reprint as part of a special year-long celebration. My plan is to select the 12 best features of all time and reprint one in every issue of 2008. Along with your feature story suggestion and issue in which it appeared, please include your name and a brief account of what the story meant to you. If your message is sincere or corny enough, we'll note it along with the story.
I know what got me hooked. What started it all for you?