For Harry Ettling, 63, of New York City, “Bluey” was a man’s best friend.
The 1982 Honda Civic was with him through thick and thin, ’til death do they part, literally.
The rusted-out, falling-apart-at-the-wheels Honda was laid to rest Saturday with a full-blown funeral procession parade marching up Seaman Avenue to 207th Street in the Inwood section of Manhattan. Equipped with police escort and a New Orleans-style jazz band, the junker had one last hoorah before being met by a tow truck to haul it off to Honda heaven.
Thirty years and 170,000 miles later, “Bluey” had become an official uptown icon.
“Every time I’d see it, I’d just kind of chuckle,” Inwood resident Nancy Preston told DNAinfo.com. “We’re always looking for that car.” Even though she often vied for the same neighborhood parking spots, she will still miss “Bluey,” Preston told the paper.
Originally nicknamed years ago, “Bluey” got its name when the car was actually still blue.
“There was a kid that lived downstairs from us who used to refer to him as ‘Bluey,’ when he was a much darker shade of blue. But by the end of his life, the parts had faded and rusted a bunch so he wasn’t exactly blue anymore. The kid was a little toddler guy, and it just sort of stuck,” Ettling told ABC News.
“Bluey” had quite a long, rewarding life, despite being roughed up pretty badly along the road.
“Some drunk driver came screaming down the avenue and smashed into the car two cars behind us and smashed them all up. It was brand new and mostly covered, so we straightened the frame and we drove it,” Ettling said. “After that, I always maintained it was about three inches shorter than it was supposed to be, which in New York is a huge plus for parking spaces.”
Ettling maintained a positive attitude about all the dings “Bluey” had along the way. The most serious incident occurred in 1992 right after the infamous Washington Heights riots.
“In ’92 there were the Washington Heights riots. Some kids in my neighborhood the following day must’ve felt left out of the recreational violence and took one car and pushed it down the hill. They took my car, simply because they could, and turned it upside down,” Ettling said. “It turned on its top, smashed the windshield, the roof was caved in. There was a can of black spray paint in the back of the car, and the car rolled onto the spray paint, so for a while there was a big black abstract painting on the car.
But even after all that, Ettling said $1,500 dollars later, “Bluey” was back on the road and running smoothly. He still drove the car he refers to as “the most reliable friend” he has ever had.
In time, however, “Bluey” began to take a turn for the worse.
“The car was so badly rusted out, I honestly was afraid to take it on any trips, always scared I’d fall through the floor,” Ettling said.
If he ever needed to go on longer trips or handle larger duties, Ettling would rent a car rather than drive “Bluey.” This is when Ettling started to admit that that all good things must come to an end.
“I just couldn’t’ let go of ‘Bluey.’ His quality of life wasn’t very good, so I decided to pull the plug. He wasn’t getting out on the highway and getting to do some serious driving so I figured it was time,” Ettling said.
When Ettling finally made up his mind to retire the car, he wanted to make sure “Bluey” went out in style. Ettling, a rhythm and blues musician in the band “Hoodudes,” has always been very fond of New Orleans-style music. He knew he wanted to incorporate the New Orleans culture into an elaborate sendoff for the old Honda that was always so reliable for traveling to gigs for 30 years.
“When we first started thinking about putting “Bluey” down, that was the obvious thing to me. We have to have a New Orleans-style funeral. We pulled it together and had the last-minute idea to put the flowers on the hood,” Ettling said. “I always had an image that we’d have a parade and service, and a tow truck to take it away immediately afterward. The towing guy was there when we finished. We had a few nice words and we put the car on the truck and away they went.”
As far as Ettling knows, “Bluey” is in a scrap yard in Queens, N.Y., but he prefers to think of the car as resting peacefully along the open highway in Honda heaven. Ettling is still dealing with the recent “death” of his car, and has no plans to get a new one anytime soon.
“I need time to heal. I don’t really see myself owning another car right away,” Ettling said.
The car was a legend among everyone who encountered it, even drawing attention from Honda itself on Twitter.
“RIP ‘Bluey’ the 1982 Civic. You lead a hard life for any car and 170,000 miles in NYC is amazing,” Honda tweeted Monday.
For a behind-the-scenes tour of all the bumps and bruises “Bluey” encountered, click here.