Saturday, September 11, 2004

Cars I Have Owned

Owning a car. A boy's dream. Well, owning a car often turned into a nightmare -- rust (a problem from Northern Virginia northward, where I lived most of my life), breakdowns, flat tires, accidents, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and on and on. I remember some of my cars fondly and others with loathing. Here's an inventory of every car I have owned, save my present auto, which shall remain anonymous.

My first car was a 9-year old 1948 Buick Special, for which I paid $125. It was gray and rusty when I bought it. My father "helped" me Bond-o it and repaint it a shiny black. (My father did most of the work.)

The Buick only lasted a few years. I went through most of my college years without a car. After getting my first "real" job, I bought a red 1963 VW Beetle (used but almost-new). I later owned a green 1963 Beetle as a second car.

This 1965 Rambler American looks a lot like the white four-door sedan I owned for several years. What a piece of trash. It finally succumbed to a fatal disease of the transmission. I nursed it 25 miles to the nearest Rambler dealership, where I asked how much they would give me for the car. The offer was $65. I took the money on the spot.

Before the Rambler died, I bought a green version of this 1969 VW Squareback. It was a peppy little car, one of the first with fuel injection. It survived a round trip from the D.C. area to Austin, Texas, at an average speed of 80 m.p.h.

Next up was the 1975 model of this VW Dasher. (Mine was gold, not red, and a four-door.) It was another piece of trash. In fact, the owner of the local VW repair shop referred to Dashers as Trashers. It died of terminal suspension failure.

Sometime before the Dasher died I bought a Chevette like this as a second car. (Why does such a small car rate such a large photo?)

I enjoyed driving this 1982 Cadillac Cimarron. It got bad reviews, but it worked for me -- perhaps because I owned a stick shift model and knew how to get the most from its 4-cylinder engine. (I've always owned a stick, and I don't plan to switch to slush-o-matic.)

I wrecked the '82 Cimarron and bought an '84 to replace it. The '82s were assembled in Cadillac plants. By '84 -- when GM knew the Cimarron wasn't going to make it -- they were assembled in Chevy plants. The difference showed.

My all-time favorite was a red 1988 Acura Legend. I ran it for 13 enjoyable years, beating all comers away from stoplights.

A gold version of this 1989 Mazda 323 served well as a second car for eight years. It survived another seven years in the hands of my son.

As a replacement for the Mazda, I bought a black version of this 1995 Saturn coupe from my daughter when she went off to B-school. It was probably the last American-brand car I'll ever own (I'm a firm convert to Japanese brands), but it was a reliable car with surprisingly good pickup.

That covers the first 44 years of my history as an auto owner. The remaining years, I trust, will see a far higher peach-to-lemon ratio. They don't make them like they used to -- thank goodness.