Re-Purchased 14 Years Later! Mom’s Old 2000 3.5 RL Comes Back for Round Two

Odometer (RL) – 2005:  23,077

Odometer (RL) – 2019:  210,000

Trip Distance:  722 Miles

This isn’t the first time I’ve done it.

I bought back my 1986 Chevy Celebrity 5 years after I’d sold it.

I bought back my 1991 Prelude Si 4WS 4 years after I’d sold it.

And now I’ve bought back an Acura RL 12 years after my mom sold it.

Let me introduce you to my library of car maintenance binders.

Automotive archaeology – sometimes people call it “Car-chaeology” – is pretty much my favorite thing ever.  Each of my vehicles has a painstakingly-created 3-ring binder about its history and the road that it’s driven.

Here are a few examples of things you’ll find in my history books:

  • Receipts or other paperwork / artifacts discovered inside the vehicle
  • Prior owners’ information – even articles written about those individuals if available
  • Printouts from Zillow of the home(s) where the vehicle has lived
  • Google street view of the dealership where it was sold originally
  • Carfax report, AutoCheck report
  • Maintenance records
  • Copies of the former owner’s title
  • An original or a replica window sticker
  • Printouts of email correspondence with the seller
  • Screen shots of any ads or listings it was included in, individual ad as well as search results
  • Color printouts of photographs – most importantly, a key handoff (usually on the cover page)

Each time I buy a car, I think of the original owner in this context:  “How cool must XX individual have felt to be buying this brand new in such-and-such year?  Why did they option the car this way?  Was it his or her dream car?”  And whenever possible, if I can get ahold of that person’s name, I’ll actually seek them out and ask those questions.  It’s worked almost every time.

In fact, I was even able to reach the original owner of my Acura NSX from three prior owners ago.  Call it stalking, call it insane, call it whatever you want.  That one was worth the investigative effort.  After snail-mailing an envelope in 2012 with current pictures of the car to the name and address of the individual on a receipt from 20 years earlier, several weeks went by, and I got an email which read:

That is indeed my NSX.  I was really interested in owning one from the time they came out….  I drove it on weekends and sometimes on Friday to work.  I was racing formula cars at Laguna Seca at the time, so I drove it to Monterey once a month and parked it with the Ferraris, Porsches, and the occasional Lambo that the other racers would bring.

William went on to talk about how he missed the car.

The point is, there is so much cool history to be uncovered about each and every vehicle in our driveways.  I remember that my mom’s original 1993 Legend L sedan had spent a fair amount of time in Maui, Hawaii before coming back to the lower 48.  I always thought to myself, “Man, if this car could talk.”

Which brings me to my latest chapter of had-to-have-it vehicles purchases (in recent weeks, followers will acknowledge, there have been several – see del Sol and SLX).  I have to start at the beginning of the story for it to make any sense at all.

It was April 2005 when I was helping my mom find a daily driver to replace her 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited.  I was 23 years old and eager to facilitate, so I was all over the classifieds.  I’d found a super clean 2000 black on black 3.5 RL in the Bay Area, but mom wasn’t keen on the black leather interior.  I ended up flying to Santa Ana airport in Los Angeles on April 30th to buy one with a tan interior.  Except, I showed up at the dealership and the exterior color was not black; it was dark gray.  And the car smelled like smoke.  I was deflated and angrily left the dealership in a taxi cab with a Korean driver without any plan in motion.

Then I remembered the black car a few hours north in SF, so I reached out to the owner to see if he still wanted to work anything out.  He did, we settled on an $18,500 sales price, and I booked another flight out of Santa Ana.  Given the last-minute nature of the decision, there were no financial arrangements in place.  The seller, Terry, picked me up at the airport and we went to his home.

The timing challenges (this was a Saturday afternoon just after closing time) meant I was not able to pay for the car right away.  I ended up spending the night at Terry’s house.  It was among the most awkward car-buying experiences I’ve ever had.  This was well before the days of Uber, and I was too young to rent a car, so I was effectively ‘stranded’ at Terry’s until we could get him paid.  I hand-wrote in my journal:

This has been the longest day of my life.  Made it to SFO and Terry picked me up.  He lived in England 30 years and I love the accent.  He was in his 209k mile Mazda 929.  The Bay Bridge was way backed up, so it took a while to get to his house in El Sobrante.  Nice neighborhood!  The RL was cozy in the garage.  It is MINT.  Holy cow is it ever.  23,043 miles and it looks like new…  Terry said I could stay at his place.  He and his daughter are out to dinner and I’m home alone!

Mom and dad rushed to a banking branch that was open the following morning, a Sunday, in Las Vegas 90 minutes away from them and wired the funds.  Then I was finally set free by late morning to drive the 11 hours home in mom’s new black RL.  I had written these driving directions in my journal.  Remember, this is way before Siri could tell you where to go.

Mom drove that RL for two years and rolled the odometer to right around 50,000 miles.

Then she passed it along to my uncle Brett in 2007 who used it as his daily commuter in northern Utah.  I saw the car in passing a few times at family functions, and he kept it up nicely.  He later passed it along to his son (my cousin) Chad who took it over as a newlywed in the Provo area and continued to put on some miles.  The car was faithfully maintained but required a transmission overhaul at around 125,000 miles.  Time marched on.

Chad sent me a text on June 13, 2019:  “You ready to add another car to your fleet?”  I was on my way at the time to Los Angeles for the Honda 60th Anniversary event and I had a lot on my mind, so I didn’t say yes right away.  In fact, my first thought was, “This is the worst timing ever.”  As you’ll recall, my current garage is already beyond full with recent del Sol and SLX acquisitions.  But Chad sent some picture of the RL, now with about 209,000 miles on it, and I took the chance to sleep on it and think it over.

In the end, I decided it was too cool of a chance to pass up.  The car and I have both aged, but with a little elbow grease and a little luck, it’ll still be reliable for a few years to come.  What I’ll do with it I’m entirely unsure.  As a car collector, does it even matter?  For me it’s an artifact of my early 20’s and a reminder of my younger years.  Its model year is the same year that I graduated from high school.  Buying it is almost like some sort of long term automotive dream finally happening almost 20 years later, even though I’ve already gone on to own or drive plenty of far superior / more desirable cars over the years.

Chad picked me up at the Salt Lake International Airport on the morning of Tuesday, June 25th.  I had premeditated the sequence of events a few times in my head:  Dropping him off at his office, and proceeding to southern Utah to have lunch with mom and re-introduce her to the car that she hadn’t seen for well over a decade.  And that’s pretty much exactly as it played out!

I caught a 6:45 a.m. flight out of Phoenix that put me in Salt Lake at 9:15 local time.  Chad scooped me up in my “new” car, and took care of business.  The drive home – all 700+ miles of it – was uneventful, and that’s just the way I like them!  I had forgotten what a smooth ride the first generation 3.5 RL is – the car took everything sporty about its Legend predecessor and numbed it down.  That means it makes for a great long-haul highway cruiser.  Even the armrest on driver door panel is soft and cushy.

Mom enjoyed the reunion as well!  I made sure to catch her reaction on camera.  Check out the 5-minute video below!

And by the way, those headlights cleaned up nicely with some polishing from a 2-step kit from Meguiar’s.  Crystal clear now.  Thanks for hearing me out on my latest Acura-quisition.  Now let’s see how much fun I can have with it.

Window sticker that has somehow gotten lost over the last 14 years

The first odo when I got the car was 23,043, but I didn’t take a picture until 23,058

Back at home in St. George (with Legend in the background) in 2005.

Initial odometer reading on June 25, 2019

Interior still looks good!

A friend’s entertaining reaction to my continued automotive purchasing madness

Fuel up in Nephi, Utah

2000 RL + 2016 RLX

Home safe and sound!

Before / After of headlight restoration!

Visit from friends Davis & Baron this weekend! They just departed on a cross-country trip in a modified Honda Passport.

29 Responses to “Re-Purchased 14 Years Later! Mom’s Old 2000 3.5 RL Comes Back for Round Two”

  1. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in your neighbors’ houses. Hahaha!

    • I’d love to hear the conversations. Also consider the fact that my roommate James does new car reviews. So every 7 days he’s in a brand new vehicle of a different make / model. The driveway and garage are a total revolving door.

  2. What a beautiful reunion! So, did you intentionally wear a tucked-in polo with an undershirt and belt knowing you’d have the old photo to compare? 😀

    • You know what’s funny about that? I didn’t plan anything about the wardrobe, but believe it or not the belt I was wearing is the exact same one in both the 2005 & 2019 pictures. I’ve had it since high school. I might have gone up a belt loop since then though… haha.

  3. Great story. Great looking car. My favorite pic is the profile shot with the ” Do not enter” sign in the background. The chrome rims look great with the black color. I have always been a fan of the RLs. Plus I love the practicality of 4 door sedans. I very rarely see them on the streets. It is a very exclusive car.

    • Yeah I think (much like the Legend that it replaced) the RL is still an attractive looking car. It has a nice ride and cold air conditioning, which is an absolute necessity when owning a black on black vehicle here in the Phoenix area!

  4. Oh man, that’s a tale of a car coming back to you, and quite the adventure to get it! Ever since I saw an ad for the 3.5 RL in Car and Drive (advertising the “Grade Logic” transmission), I’ve always liked that model, and have thought it never quite got the respect it deserved. Congrats with the new purchase! Aside from the crack in the windshield, is there anything else it needs currently? There’s a red light above the fuel gauge- is that the SRS lamp? Anything to be concerned about?

    Also, props for “La Isla Bonita” being on your playlist. That whisked me right back to elementary school. Well done, sir!

    • My cousin said he had the timing belt changed “around 170,000” but I would say that’s going to be on the maintenance list soon. Otherwise when I took it in for an oil change this week, they said everything looks good. Good eye – the SRS light is illuminated. When I looked through the paperwork, the car actually already had an SRS module replaced or serviced to take care of that, but it must have come back! Love La Isla Bonita – glad you recognized it. That is a remix version I discovered from a YouTube channel called Tropical House Records.

  5. So how many cars is your collection up to now 😀

    What a great story Tyson – that is so cool that you have managed to buy this car back – it sounds like a real piece of your family’s history. It’s a cracking looking car too!

  6. Joshua L Says:

    Hi Tyson,

    How are you doing? Wow, that was so amazing that you re-purchased 2000 Acura RL and it was great memories that your mom drove 2000 RL long time ago. The interior looks great, it looks the same as before. Are you going to wax on the Acura RL soon and clean the interior? I hope you have a great day!

    • Thanks Josh! I haven’t done much detail work yet aside from the headlight polish, but I probably should condition the leather, touch up some of the rock chips, and have some paintless dent repair done on the exterior. All in due time!

  7. The best thing about the video was Tia’s reaction. Priceless! The car, and particularly the interior has held up really well considering the mileage on the car. I can’t make fun of the fact that you’ve purchased a car back, I re-purchased my Mk3 Mondeo back off the dealership a week after I traded it once. I’m sure the salesman thought I was mental. In fact, I’ve since purchased another low mileage Mk3 that I’m halfway through composing a blog post for.

  8. Wesley Adams Says:

    Hey man!

    This is SUPER exciting!!!

    Look at that blue 4G Camry in the third photo!

    I admire you keeping up with the car’s history! I have always tried to do the same… Find out where the car came from, ect!!!

    • Totally agree with you. Finding out about a vehicle’s history can be a fun experience, like digging up old artifacts and piecing together the owners and the locations. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  9. Happy 4th Tyson…

    Want to say I think you’re truly living the dream! What red blooded and breathing car enthusiast hasn’t dreamed of recovering a treasured vehicle from their past? I don’t think there’s anyone out there who owned/loved a car or two who hasn’t felt they gave it up too soon.

    You even had me rethinking my long departed ’77 Camaro again but sometimes I think it’s best to leave some cars in the past.

    I also believe your most immediate issue now may be adding AC to the garage and possibly consider a future garage expansion how does 10 cars sound!? 😀

    Thanks again for hosting us yesterday and don’t consider anything on the del Sol until we’ve had a chance to talk. 😉

    • Really made my day to have you and Linda over, and the other guys who coincidentally were also stopping by. Made for a nice little get together. One day I’ll plan something a little more formal and grill or cater some food for people. Maybe when it’s cooler out and we can use the back patio. I should have let you guys borrow the del Sol. It’s not exactly convertible weather, unless you take it up north, but it’s still a fun ride. Have a great holiday today.

  10. Little late to the game here. I’m LOVING this whole story. Ms. Tia’s reaction was priceless. The RL looks to be in great condition considering being 19 years old. All original paint? I totally dig those maintenance binders. Happy Friday!

  11. I don’t think I ever chimed in here, and I feel that I, of all blog followers, have a special connection to this one. Yes! That’s all I have to say! When you showed up at my office driving this car, I had such mixed feelings! Many memories were made when I owned that beautiful gem. It, like the rest of us, was showing signs of aging … which was tough to see firsthand (since I still visualized the flawless car that I once owned). You got the headlights all shined up like a new dime, and I bet you have detailed the heck out of the rest of it by now, too. I remember making the decision to sell that car to Uncle Brett in order to use the money to pay for finishing the patio / backyard area of our Cobblestone house. That was a sad day for me, but the yard was amazing and hosted many gatherings subsequent to that. Again, thanks for documenting the good stuff, then, now, and in the future. Love, Mom

  12. Sloane Cunningham Says:

    Hi! I, too love my 2002 RL 3.5. I am in Dallas…..have you had to replace the cad converter? I just had it done and it ruined the drive of the car. Turns out it was aftermarket. Do you know if I poney up the $2600 for factory replacement if it will be a smooth ride again? Also, do you know anyone who knows this car well enough to work on it? And do you think I can keep it forever if I take car of it, or do parts become impossible to find and therefore the car is toast. Thank you so much! I’d love to talk if that is a thing here.

    • I’ve never done any work to my catalytic converter on my RL. I don’t know of any specific Honda/Acura mechanics in the Dallas area. Glad you are enjoying your RL!

  13. Sloane Cunningham Says:

    I probably should mention I have a broken back, so I am stuck with this car! Although I do LOVE it! Do you have any idea what other car would drive like this car if I have to replace it? Thanks!

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