I may have at some indeterminate point in the past told some of you to slap me upside the head if I ever went and financed the purchase of an automobile. I may want to amend that statement slightly.

A soccer buddy of mine, Dane Tepper, owns a local Honda/Acura repair shop called Valley Specialists. Given all the problems we’ve been having and continue to have with the Mazda, he volunteered to hook it up to a machine and check out the battery and alternator. Conclusion: Another crappy NAPA alternator. Genuine Parts (GPC-NYSE) might be a heckuva a company and a heckuva good long-term stock, but my experience with their NAPA parts has been dismal. Monday’s will be the third(!) alternator replacement on the 626. At only 141,000 miles, the car should be doing much better than it’s done. I won’t be buying a Mazda again.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been scouring the classifieds and online auto brokers for Toyota Camrys, Avalons, and Lexus ES 300s in the 1994-96 era. Of these, I can hardly deny the appeal of the ES 300. It comes standard with almost every imaginable feature, and it’s a classy, elegant car. How do I feel about picturing myself driving a Lexus? I’m not sure if I can pin the emotion down exactly, but “giddy” comes pretty close.

Of course Toyota products—Lexus being their high-end line—aren’t the only game in town. Although I’ve long loved the styling of Toyota’s 1992-96 model years, during my jaunt to Valley Specialists I saw a very impressive 1995 Acura Legend. Acura is Honda’s answer to Toyota’s Lexus line, and having actually tooted about town in a Legend before, I can say from first-hand experience that it’s a magnificent ride. Like Lexus, the Acura line has a sterling reputation for reliability, longevity, and quality. So I’ve started looking at the Acura Legend L and LS series from 1991-95. I’d feel giddy about driving an Acura too.

Additionally, Erin and I have decided that we’d be willing to finance the purchase of a car if it’s necessary to get what we want. That doesn’t mean we’re going to drop $50k on a Hummer (which is to my old school eyes a terrifically hideous vehicle anyway) just because we’ve decided whip out the auto equivalent of the Visa card. There is a line to be walked between paying for what you want in a car and overpaying for what you don’t want or need. Of course, there’s another line out there someplace that represents the difference between reliable transportation and driving a POS car, and we’re evidently busy drunkenly swerving our 626 back and forth across the solid stripe on that one. Not wishing to subject Jonah too many more automotive versions of Gilligan’s Island, we’re gonna spend what it takes to get what we believe to be a very reliable car. Ãœber reliable even. Or does it have to be German for that? Anyhow, Lexus, Acura, Toyota, Honda—I dunno—but whatever we end up with will undoubtedly do better than our 626 has done.