Saturday, January 02, 2010

All My Cars

The other day I did something stupid. I was bored and on-line and got the urge to look at new cars. The local Mercedes dealer had a great web site but in order to view their inventory you had to fill out a short informational opt-in (as we call them in the web world).

They haven't stopped calling and emailing me since.

Mind you, I have no plans on getting a new car. I told myself I would keep the Volvo till it's at least 10 years old. I just wanted to look.

So that little kerfuffle along with yesterday's decade post (and yes I know I only covered 9 years) got me to think about all the vehicles I have owned during my lifetime. As a self-described car aficionado I tend to remember parts of my life by what car I drove. So here are my cars, with a little synopsis of my life at the time, in reverse chronological order:

2006 to Present: My current car is a 2003 Volvo S60 T5. This is probably my most favorite car to date despite the front-end clicking and clanking that no one can seem to fix. (Phyllis stop shaking your head.)

Also, here's Chris' 2007 Honda CRV, great in the snow.

Current vehicles in Bay

2003 to 2006: During this period I technically had two cars, both leases. We (the x and I) had a 2002 Volkswagen New Beetle GLS and a 2003 Nissan Pathfinder. The Beetle was primarily mine but I wound up with the SUV during the end of the leases (and the relationship).

My 2002 New can see Bandit in the back seat

Me driving the 2003 Nissan Pathfinder

2000 to 2003: During this time, I had a Nissan Maxima SE. Loved this car! My second favorite to the Volvo. Oh also during this time we had a second car, a 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cierra. Hated that one but it did the job.

Stock photo of the second most favorite car that I owned
The (ahem!) second car at the time...not a favorite (stock photo)

1997 to 2000: This was my first leased car, a 1998 Mitsubishi Galant ES. I liked it; it was decent. This was also the first car I ever had with a CD player. This alone was worth the $299.17 payment. I remember playing Bette Midler's "Gypsy" as the first song: Here she is boys! Here she is girls! Here's Rose! da...da...da...da...da!

Another stock photo (though looked exactly like this sans the mansion)
- '98 Mitsubishi Galant ES

1995 to 1997: This is were my memory gets a bit fuzzy. I know somewhere in here I had my Mom's hand-me-down, a 1985 Plymouth Horizon. Hated, hated, hated this car! But it was free so I couldn't really complain. We also had a 1983 Mazda GLC (no pictures). This was great little car (hence the GLC acronym). In fact this would be my second Mazda.

The 1985 Plymouth Horizon in better years...before I had it

1992 to 1995: We had an early model (maybe 81 or 82) Mazda GLC. X's father had given it to us. This is the car we drove across country to Seattle. You couldn't kill it. Though I remember it would overheat so we had to put a piece of cardboard in front of the radiator to keep the temperature down.

For some reason I think there may have been a red Hyundia during this time too, another hand-me-down from X's father but if I recall correctly it died on the way to the DMV.

1989 to 1992: My third most favorite car, a 1985 Honda Accord LX. I was living at home with my parents at the time (pre NYU and pre-X). I was teaching special ed during the day and working in group homes at night. I needed reliable transportation.

One of my more favorite cars, a 1985 Honda Acord LX
parked outside my parent's house

1986 to 1989: I'm blacking out here. I know I hated it. It was a blue Pontiac Sunfire or Sunbird. Okay, it's coming back to me. It was a 1980 Pontiac Sunbird, blue with a white vinyl roof. It was a 2-door. The doors were so heavy that you had to give them a vertical boost just to shut them. Oh God I'm having anxiety. This has to be my least favorite car.

1980 Pontiac Sunbird (another stock photo, different color than mine
but junk yard setting speaks volumes

Least favorite? Well, not quite. Hold on.

1986: This has to be my least favorite car. In response to 1985's cluster-f (keep reading), I was talked into shelling out $500 for a piece of shit circa 1963 Plymouth Valiant. My well-intended parents convinced me it was the right thing to do being that they had such good luck with the 70s! The rusted axle broke within a couple of months of my owning it hence the quick purchase of the 1986 bomb (see Sunbird above).

Another stock photo but spitting image

1985: Okay, this period goes down as one of the stupidest financial moves of my life time. Since then, I learned never again to listen to my credit happy, spendthrift mom. I was in college, working part-time and maxing out the amount of money I could get on student loans each semester. I had more than enough money to cover all my expenses and no concept of paying back. It was free money, an unlimited draw. "Take out the max Ricky. Daddy and I will help you pay it off down the road," I was told. That never happened.

With student loan debt (eventually ~$20K for an undergrad degree that only cost about $5,000...paid in full in 2001) and now a new car loan I got a brand spanking new 1985 Nissan Pulsar. I still remember the payments, $197.97 a month. My Mom and I told the sales guy we didn't want a payment above $200. We got what we asked for. Note: Never, ever haggle for a car based on how much you can afford monthly. Better yet don't use the car salesman to help you finance, get that done ahead of time. Best, if possible, don't finance at all and pay cash.

So I had my Pulsar for about a year. It's newness wore off after about a month. I quickly realized that the payments and insurance were just not worth it. Life lesson learned: Do not live above your means or even at your means...always below.

My Dad (God, rest his soul) putting the plates
on my new 1985 Nissan Pulsar NX

Me in 1985...what's with the white socks and boat shoes?

1983 to 1985: This was another favorite of mine, a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle. I loved this car until I plowed into a truck whilst changing my cassette tape player. I think it was Prince's Purple Rain that did it.

This car had terrible heat (air cooled VW's were notorious for this) and smelt like gasoline when you filled the tank up all the way. Despite all that it was fun. I can still remember Phyllis and I riding around, out of boredom, him crouched down on the passenger side leaning on the horn while I pretended it was stuck. Shrieking my shoulders in vain as people next to me stared. Or the time we drove on strip mall sidewalks and got pulled over by the police. Mind you all this was done stone cold sober...simple things for simple minds.

Decorated for high school graduation here
sits my 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle

Booful the family cat (then kitten) exploring the Bug

1982 to 1983: My very first car. I've written about this before. Another hand-me-down, the big, ass 1973 Buick Century. It got about 6 miles to the gallon. By the time I got it the thing was riddled with so much rust it looked like a blue cheese grater. The factory installed radio was AM only but I had an FM converter mounted to the bottom of the dash. In order to get any decent reception you had to give a good hard whack.

My very first car, 1973 Buick Century pictured
here prior to my ownership alongside my parent's Plymouth Valiant
spoken about above (see 1986)

So that's it. My life in vehicle ownership.


A Lewis said...

sweet jesus! i thought i was the only one with the white socks and sperry top siders. and the cars! you sound like me. I love love love cars...and it doesn't take much coercing for me to want another one. it's one of my many fetishes.

Anonymous said...

I'm one too--a car addict. Like you, Rick, the most hated car I ever owned was a Plymouth Valiant. At the moment, I'm resisting a new car---what do u recommend?


Ur-spo said...

What a fantastic entry!
how you remember all of this its amazing!
he did a fine job.

madtexter (corey james) said...

Whoa nelly! Now THAT's a trip down memory lane (with luggage). I applaud you on this post. It much have taken forever to pull together. I always appreciate it when people take the time to really draw you into what you've written.

I see you've had a few VW's. That's my auto of choice right now. Love, love, love my VW Jetta (Her name is Gretta. Cheeky)

All best for the New Year to you and yours!

Peter said...

Rick, don't they have a informational opt-out? It sounds like the Mercedes dealer is desperate for new customers, only the way they treat [read: harrasing] you they'll never sell their product.

Peter said...

It also shows, I don't give a damn about cars, since I didn't react to your fine list of automobiles. *wink*

Maddog said...

My first car was a tan Chevrolet Impala...1973. Which promptly blew up because I didn't put oil in it. It was replaced with a 1971 Ford Galaxy. Both cars were tanks.

My first new car was also a Nissan. A Sentra. 1987. Damn that was a long time ago.

Will said...

First car: Chevy Corvair--last year in college and through graduate school. Ralph Nader (who turned out to be a dick, anyway) notwithstanding, it was fun to drive, sipped gas, and was surefooted in snow. I loved it.

Worst car: FIAT 128--early 70s and the first big OPEC gas crisis. Wonderfully designed, dreadfully engineered. Gave almost 50 miles to the gallon but the engine welded itself into a solid block of scrap metal on Boston's Route 128 one day--with 700 miles left on the warranty. The dealer had no choice but to drop in a new engine at no expense to me, and it immediately became a trade-in for something else.

Most interesting car: Mazda with a Wankel engine--1970s. The car whose engine had only one moving part, the big rotor. Tune-ups, when needed, which wasn't often, cost a tenth of what piston engine tune-ups cost. Pick-up was phenomenal--the thing took off like a cheetah with no vibration and the engine was virtually noiseless. Gas mileage was OK but I later heard they were heavy on the emissions because of incomplete combustion. That problem could probably have been solved but the Wankel scared the hell out of Detroit, which bought all rights to it so they could then kill it.

Favorite car (actually two in succession): Jeep Cherokee--1992 to the present. A wagon rather than an SUV so mileage is good; narrower and shorter than many full-sized sedans; 4-wheel drive that you can turn on and off so gas mileage is good the 99.5% of the time it's off; strong as a bull and the 6-cylinder engine has excellent pick-up, even now at almost 210,000 miles; great cargo capacity, comfortable on long trips, my ideal vehicle.

Daimler killed the entire Cherokee line when it bought GM to concentrate on Jeep Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, and a newly developed SUV called Jeep Liberty which came out just as gas prices soared and then the economic slide began in earnest. It was an incredibly dumb move as Cherokee owners are extremely loyal. Daimler's gone now--but so is the Cherokee. I'll never be able to buy a new one, sadly.