Driving through the past

Everyone remembers their first kiss, their first lover, and first car. As for cars, I have made it a point to try to remember them all… some fondly, others not so much.

I bought a 1966 Ford Mustang hardtop (dark blue, 200 cubic inch six cylinder manual with 50,000 miles on it) for $300.00 when I was in high school. Bucket seats and a three speed floor mounted shift that moved two feet with each shift and would rattle when resting in third gear; I had to put a scarf around the shift and tuck it in between the seats to stop the noise. The car was a classic even at 7 years old. What I remember most about it is not that I drove it 30,000 more miles before I sold it to my brother, or that it made a trip down to Daytona and back with four people in it (a trip I recommend to no one in that car, especially if you had to sit in back), but that one day the FBI came to the door and said my car was hot. Man flashed a badge and said it was stolen in South Carolina a few years before and if the owner wanted it back, the car was to be returned. I could sue the person I bought it from, and they could sue the person they bought it from, and so on and so on. Turns out the distance from here to there to get back a 66 Mustang was more than the owner could afford.

After dumping the Mustang on my little brother I bought a 1968 Pontiac Tempest coupe (Green, black vinyl top, automatic) that I adored until the transmission failed about 6 months later. Bought a junkyard transmission for $100.00 and put it in with a friends help on my garage floor. Worked for about a month…

While the Tempest was in it’s final days I came across a 1972 Toyota Carina (the Cadillac of Corollas) in a friends yard. Seemed it would not go in reverse, so I bought it for $100.00, bought a used tranny for $75.00, and installed it. This car is memorable for two things. First thing is, in a moment of youthful “I can do anything for almost nothing” I actually cut a hole in the roof and installed a Dodge Panel Van window as a sunroof. Yes, it leaked water, snow, and anything else into the car onto my head, made security a thing of the past, and made me the butt of sunroof jokes to this very day.

The second memory is that this is the car I was driving when I got a job as a new car salesman at a Ford dealership. One day the right brake caliper failed and as I was too poor to replace it, I just kept buying and adding brake fluid daily and using the emergency brake to help slow the vehicle. When few wanted to buy a new car from me I assumed it was because they must have seen what was I was driving.

The Toyota lived through a timing belt and welding the rear seats back to the body’s rusting frame, but could not hold compression through the cold winter months… when I actually took to placing a blanket over the engine at night to help keep it warm.

As the Toyota was breathing it’s last I happened upon a friend of a friend who had bought a new 1980 Mazda GLC Sport and after three years wanted to move on to another car. This was a five speed with a teak dash, orange two toned seats, and would actually pass inspection without going to a “friendly” garage and greasing a palm or two. Outside of a quirk that the car would not start or run in the rain very well, I held onto this one for seven years.

There are cars that you sometimes just HAVE to own. Sometime in the early 80s I decided I had to have a Toyota Land Cruiser… after seeing lots of them I bought the most rusty, foulest looking, worst running POS I could find. Drove it perhaps six times in winter storms. Found someone as stupid as me to take it off my hands a year later.

Around 1984 I decided I HAD TO HAVE an MGB… so I found a 73 convertible for $1200.00 from a guy who had just had brain surgery but still had the faculties to know a sucker when he met one, and without checking out anything, I bought it. I paid a local MG mechanic enough to buy a second house to get it running. Drove this British Racing Green (yellow interior) car back and forth from Worcester to Long Island dozens of times, and once drove it under the influence of some malt beverages through Central Park NY at 3:00 AM with two other people in it (it is a two seater). The car is still alive somewhere in Rhode Island after I got so bored with it I beached it for three years in my parent’s yard, then sold it for $400.00
to a guy who rebuilt it completely in a month.

There are always brief dalliances that just go wrong. I still owned the MG and the Mazda, but neither was a good winter car by that point, so I bought one of my employees’ Chevrolet Impala. I liked it because the replacement radio offered a warm green glow, the car smelled of his Obsession cologne and he picked up a lot of women in it. I bought the car and the cologne. I soon discovered it was him, not the cologne, and not the car, that got the girls. Water pump failed about a month later on the Long Island Expressway. I will remember this car only because I once pulled over to let it cool after it overheated, only to have a passing care on the LIE fire a paintball gun at me and steaming car. Only the car was hit.

In 1986 I bought my first new car. A Mitsubishi Montero SUV. Please stop laughing.
The first time I tried to change the oil on it I mistakenly drained the front crankcase of grease (sure was way too clear for used oil… but that did not stop me). Only realized the mistake when the wife had the front axle seize on her during a storm. Dealership picked up the cost and figured it must have come from the factory like that. Wife got the Montero when we split, then after some thought, gave it back to me since I had actually paid for it when new. Drove it for a bit, then sold it in 1990 to some Haitians who said they were floating it back the main island for use there. Since it would be hard to drive back and demand a refund from there, I gave them a nice cash deal.

1989 was the year I had to have a pickup truck, so I bought a friends Toyota Turbo pickup (red five speed manual) and this thing was faster than any car I ever owned. Decided pretty quickly I was not a pickup truck kind of guy. Sold it a year later for what I bought it for.

1991 was the year it all turned around. I bought a 1988 Saab 900 S with 90,000 miles on it for $6000.00 (18K new). Drove this car until 1999 and put 180K on it for my $6K cost, and sold it to a friend who drove it from 270K to over 300K. He cannibalized the tranny and combined it with two other Saabs to create one “Frankensaab” car that is still running.

Remember the movie The Money Pit? Automotively speaking, that is the Saab 9000. I sold the 900 S because I HAD TO HAVE a Saab 9000 automatic. Saw a car I liked on a Boston street, left the owner a note that said if they were selling I was buying, and a week later it was (much too easily) mine for $16,000. If only the note had blown off the windshield. The car blew a fuel pump, water pump, ignition system, and then the tranny went in 50K miles, then the replacement tranny failed after a new radiator blew up and spilled all the transmission fluid that cooled there under antifreeze section. 1-877-Karsforkids.

Which actually brings us up to date. Needing a car after the 9000 was given up for nothing, I did a little research and bought a new 2004 Acura TSX for $27K. I wanted the new TL, but settled for the TSX automatic. 210,000 miles, one tune-up, four sets of tires, and one set of brakes and rotors later, it is still sitting in the garage raring to go anywhere at any time.

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