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Thread: Cars I've owned . . .

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Cars I've owned . . .

    If you are a "car guy" you probably have owned a number of cars over the years - each with memories unique to each experience. Here are nine of mine - for better (and sometimes) worse!

    * 1978 Camaro Type LT -

    This car was a POS but I loved it, nonetheless. The T-tops leaked like a pasta strainer; the 350 V-8 had no power; the cheap chrome on the Keystone Klassic mags was peeling off; the rear quarter panels had more decay than the teeth of the hillbillies in "Deliverance" - and it was painted pastel light blue. But it was mine, my first car. It was also my Learning Curve Car - the car I made every beginner's mistake you can think of, from pouring way too much money into all the wrong areas to achieve pointless or minimal results to simply crippling the car in one way or another through my lack of experience, patience, proper tools - or idiot teenager irresponsibility. I accelerated rust by sanding panels down, then leaving them spray-can primered for months. I enhanced oil burning by flogging the already tired 350 - eventually killing it off entirely by letting a wingnut get sucked into the four barrel carb, past the throttle plates and directly into the valvetrain. After this came my first "built" engine - another 350 but with a 400 crank (so 383 cubic inches). It ran great - until I wrapped the Camaro around a telephone pole one night - after drinking way too much and wanting too much speed for a wet road and bald tires.

    * 1981 Camaro Z28 -

    At least it was a Z28. And it was dark navy blue, this time. But it was in much worse condition over than the '78 had been in originally. Still, it had that cool-looking "air induction" hood with the little flapper doors that popped open when you floored it. I thought it was the coolest thing ever - or at least as cool as the lights on the same-year Trans-Am turbo's hood. Things like this matter to a 19-year-old. But that's not why I bought it. I bought it because it was a cheap running chassis into which I could plop the 383 salvaged from the totaled Type LT. The thing was fast! It looked rough, but it went. I beat a guy in an '86 TPI Corvette! Part of the reason for my success was that I had cleverly unbolted the heavy steel bumpers on both the front and rear ends. On the Camaros of this vintage, these were hidden under rubberized "fascias" (much like modern cars) and once you pulled these off, you could then replace the fascias, securing them with whatever cheesy/afro-engineered method seemed suitable. Of course, the car now had zero impact resistance and you'd be accordionized in even a low-speed impact - but the car was lighter by about 300 pounds, so a sort of low-rent way of achieving what you might achieve by swapping in alloy heads (or engine) but way cheaper. I eventually sold the Z to a fellow cracker who appreciated its merits.

    * 1969 VW Squareback -

    I acquired this specimen for $400 at just about the same time as I got the '76 50th Anniversary Trans-Am (below), principally so I could avoid having to take the TA into downtown Washington everyday - which I knew would kill it. Or get me killed (DC - especially the part of DC where I worked - was not a safe place for a young white guy - or a nice old Trans Am). It was a steal. This car had factory fuel injection - one of the first cars that wasn't an exotic/high dollar car to come with EFI. It was also indestructible. I beat this car like a $20 'ho and it came back for more, every time. Sometimes the FI system would go balky and I accidentally discovered that by kicking the car hard in the left rear quarter panel, it would re-set whatever was not right and the car would the start. One day, in winter, I spun the car several times before hitting the curb hard, full on, at about 30 mph. It bent the hell out of the front suspension and the only way to keep the car going in a straight line after that was to crank the wheel over about halfway and hold it there - which needed strength and concentration. If you let up for a second the car would suddenly jerk hard to left and hit whatever was there. One day, coming home, a guy in a brand-new Mercedes S-Class hit me. We stopped. I looked at the new crumples in my $400 shitbox and told the business suit wearing Yuppie that I was cool with each of us dealing with our own problems if he was. Mine were fixable with a crowbar and two spray cans of Duplicolor. His would be more involved. Eventually, I sold the VW for $800 to some kid who probably did the same and worse to the car - and likely ended up selling the thing, in his turn, for more than he paid me.

    * 1976 Trans Am LE -

    My first collectible car. This was the template car for the ur car chase movie, "Smokey and the Bandit" - only the movie got delayed during production and they ended up using the similar but one year newer '77 Special Edition TA. The '76 LE was the car that first had the now-iconic black paint with gold metal flake trim and German-style lettering. My car also had T-tops and the big (but seriously watered down in power output) 455 V-8 plus four-speed manual transmission. It was the last year this combo would ever be offered and it was also my first big-cube muscle car. I had a lot of fun with this TA. Though the 455 only ginned up 200 hp in stock trim, with the 4-speed and 3.23 gears it would do admirable smokey burnouts and you could make the rear end bust sideways on a really hard 1-2 gear change. I had big plans for this car, which even back then (early 1990s) was obviously going to be a collectible given its coolness and its very low production (only a relative handful were made with the 455 4-speed combo; even fewer with T-tops, too). But my plans were ruined when one day a scumbag with no insurance driving a piece of shit van ran a light and t-boned the TA, totaling it. I still have the shaker but the rest of the car long ago went to that big pow-wow in the sky.

    * 1987 Lincoln Mark VII LSC -

    I should have kept this car. It was bought brand-new off the showroom floor by my mom when I was still in college. My mom was fanatical about her vehicles and the Mark was always serviced by the local Lincoln dealer, always garaged and even when it was ten years old it still looked brand-new. If you don't remember, these hot rod Lincoln coupes were packing the same basic 5.0 liter HO V-8 as used in the same-era Mustang GTs. They looked tough, too. I finagled a good deal on the Mark when mom decided it was time for something new. Problem was I lacked two things mom always had - garage space and money to pay the Lincoln dealer to fix things like the car's trouble-prone air suspension. I felt bad about leaving the Mark outside in my driveway, in a not-so-great-neighborhood. And the Mark looked bad when both rear air springs failed and the body sank several inches, as if someone had poured a load of concrete in the trunk. Cost to fix? More than I could afford. So I put the Mark up for sale and let it go to a guy who could take better care of it than I. To this day I hope the Mark's ok... .


    * 1964 Chevy Corvair Monza coupe -

    This is the oldest car I have ever owned and as such it was a kind of time machine for me since it existed before I did. Every other car I have owned I could theoretically, at least, have sat in the day it left the dealer's lot. Not the 'Vair This was part of what made it one of my favorite cars - and one of those I sold that I now which I had not. When I acquired it, it was wearing a seedy (and not correct) two-tone Earl Scheib-style paint job. Even seedier was what I found behind the back seat. Someone had built a low-rent mini-bar back there, complete with decanters and glasses (all real high quality stuff). It was a wood mini bar - hammered into the car with nails. I wish I still had pictures of this. One also did not need a key to start the Corvair. The ignition switch was so loose you just turned it by had and the air-cooled flat six would fire right up. The worst thing about the car was synchronizing the twin one-barrel carbs - which involved shims and a strange little vacuum gauge you placed on top of each carb. It took forever to get it right. But unlike the similar layout VW (which also had a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine) the Corvair had decent power and could maintain 70-ish mph without struggling. And it was by far the most nimble '60s-era American car I have driven, with light steering (no power assist needed because the front end had no engine weighing it down) and good reflexes, very much like an early Porsche. True it also oversteered excessively and often unpredictably, but that was part of the charm. It took skill (and nerve) to drive the Corvair at a fast pace. I eventually finished a high-quality restoration - really sharp looking (and correct) Daytona Blue exterior, NOS parchment white interior, etc. - just in time to sell it off to help pay an unexpected tax bill. My wife still grumbles about this, grumbling that I ought to have sold some of my motorcycles instead.

    * 1986 Camaro RS -

    Bought it with 126k on the clock for a Blue Light Special price with the intention of using it as a commuter. More looks and personality than a Corolla, I reasoned - and with rear-wheel-drive, too. It had faded red paint and an over Armor-all'd interior, a pine tree air freshener capping off the ensemble. But low rent as it was, it was a damned good car. The 2.8 liter V-6 was impossible to kill (and I did try). I'm not sure what was wrong but you could floor the thing and the tach needle would swing to redline and beyond - and stay there as long as you kept your foot down. Nothing blew up, which impresses me to this day. The little V-6 was easy on gas, too. And otherwise, the RS was basically a Z28, with the same wheel/tire package and 90 percent of its suspension, too. It was a fun car to drive. Useful, too. If you remember these third generation Camaros, they had an enormous convex glass hatchback, which could be raised up on a pair of gas prop rods. I once carried home a 400 cube iron V-8 short block this way. It wasn't recommended and I did put some dents in the "trunk" but it worked and I got the old engine home. Unfortunately, the block still had some oil in it. The Camaro looked rough the last time I saw it, trundling down the road with a happy teenager behind the wheel - and very likely, some not-so-happy parents of that teenager waiting at home.


    * 1998 Nissan Frontier -

    I still have this one - chiefly because it has given me no reason to get rid of it. The truck is old-school simple, with get out and lock 'em by hand manual 4WD hubs, manual transmission, manual roll-up windows and room for just two. They literally do not make trucks like this anymore, which is one reason why I will keep it as long as it is reasonably operational. Trucks have gone Yuppie - or "too much" - for my taste. The idea of a leather-surfaced power-everything $40k pick-up strikes me as ridiculous. And I am suspicious of automatic/electric 4WD and don't want to pay for it, either. But that is what the automakers are selling, which is why I am not buying. New, that is. A guy down the road has the same basic truck - with more than 230,000 miles on his. It still looks new, too. Mine's a baby in comparison, with a mere 118k showing. I expect it will be in the driveway for many years to come.


    * 1976 Trans Am -

    The Great Pumpkin. It is painted a lurid bright orange color Pontiac called (oddly) Carousel Red. This is a rare color, used previously on the 1969 GTO Judge. 1976 is itself a "rare" year, for a number of reasons: Last year for the single (round) headlights and shovel nose front end. Final year for the polycast Honeycomb rims (which looked like aluminum wheels but weren't), the monster 455 V-8 and the old-style "big" shaker hood scoop. 1976 was a transition year - bridging the gap between the early "muscle" Trans-Ams and the latter '70s disco machines. It will also do the best burnout next to a Bentley Arnage R. With close to 500 lbs.-ft of torque on hand and just 15x7 wheels to deal with, you can fry the tires down to the cords, digging ruts in the asphalt and leaving two piles of cinders/smoldering chunks of what used to be your BF Goodrich Radia T/As. Big fun!

    I got the Great Pumpkin in unmolested, factory-stock condition from the original owner, with 48,000 miles showing. This was back in '91, too - when such a car was still affordable. I paid $5,400 for it - which was ironically about what it sold for brand new. I feel lucky to have been born just in time to be around - and in a position to buy - when these '70s-era heavy hitters were still both abundant and accessible. Fast forward 18 years and my car has become unaffordable - at least, it would be to a 2010 version of my 1991 self.

    This makes me feel bad for them - and glad for me.

  2. #2
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    Wow. I can see how you saved a bunch of money. You hardly have owned any cars over your years of driving. I, on the other hand, bought a bunch of vehicles.

    1966 Ford Mustang - My dad bought this mustang in September 1965 for my mom's birthday. She hated the car, so he ended up driving it. The 'Stang, as we all called it had a 289 V8 with the 2BBL carb, automatic transmission, and power steering. Other than that, it was pretty much a stripper. The 66 model had the circular 140 mph speedometer and small fuel and temperature gauges. Our Mustang had been passed from Dad to my environmentalist brother and then to me (after he tried to pawn off the Gremlin.. which I didn't want). By the time it got to me, it had holes in the floor and in the trunk. I did not have the mechanical aptitude to do a restoration. I should have developed that.

    1981 Toyota Starlet - This was my Dad's first Japanese car. My oldest brother influenced him to buy a Toyota because they were good on gas. The car was tested in the January 1981 issue of Car and Driver magazine in which they stated it as what the Chevette should have been. The Starlet came with only a manual transmission. My dad, to no avail kept me away from the car. One night, a friend of mine and I snuck the keys out and drove it down the road. In a couple of short weeks, I was shifting the car like I had been doing it for 20 years. Thank God for synchromesh transmissions. The little 5 speed stayed with me for 24 years (on and off). I drove it to Indiana, Alabama, North Carolina, and New York, where I hope it is happy with its new owner.

    1987 Acura Integra - This was my first car out of college. I picked it up brand new at David McDavid Acura in Arlington, TX for the tidy sum of 10,625. I liked the car because it had Fuel Injection, a 16 valve engine and 4 wheel disc brakes. It was the first car that I could cruise 80 mph with no strain and fuss. The little growl coming from the 4 cyl was entertaining. It served me for 9 years before I got rid of it. By the time she was ready to go, she needed too much work to be worth it. In hindsight, I should have done the work myself instead of buying newer cars.. There aren't too many usable Integras still on the road.

    That's all for now....

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Nice roster!

    (To bad about the Mustang; I like the Starlet - and also the early Datsun B210; remember that one?)

    You're right, I have been a cheapskate when it comes to cars. In fact, the most I have ever spent to buy one was the $7,200 I spent on the '02 Frontier I bought this past summer.

    I have no doubt that this (and skipping health insurance during all of my 20s) is what made it possible for me to save up enough money to buy my first house - or rather, to have the (at the time, required) 10 percent down payment.

    $10k back in '87 (for the Acura) was serious coin - probably close to $20k (or more) in today's money.

    I just could never bring myself to buy a car (or bike) that I had to finance....

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Nice roster!

    (To bad about the Mustang; I like the Starlet - and also the early Datsun B210; remember that one?)

    You're right, I have been a cheapskate when it comes to cars. In fact, the most I have ever spent to buy one was the $7,200 I spent on the '02 Frontier I bought this past summer.

    I have no doubt that this (and skipping health insurance during all of my 20s) is what made it possible for me to save up enough money to buy my first house - or rather, to have the (at the time, required) 10 percent down payment.

    $10k back in '87 (for the Acura) was serious coin - probably close to $20k (or more) in today's money.

    I just could never bring myself to buy a car (or bike) that I had to finance....
    I financed it, but I had put down something like 4,000 down. I paid the car off in about 2 years.

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    Eric;

    I've owned some God awefull cars like the Dodge Omni my first actually I loved it because it was my very first car back in 1981,Pinto yuk in orange to boot at least people saw me coming and the miserable stupid and bad Yugo.
    However that being said I owned a '85 Subaru Loyale that leaked since I first bought it but lasted for 150,000 miles. I should of never tried fixing the leak what a waste of money. A Mitsubishi that was pretty good. I think Mitubishi are pretty good cars. My best was a '87 Mazda B2200 pick up just it rusted badly. I had a Geo Prism that was a good car,a Ford Windstar was a good vechicle,a Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme was good once I had one of the cylinders repaired, a Ford Contour that was OK till my son got into an accident.
    I'm thinking maybe just maybe the best car is the one I own today the good gas mileage,no thrills Honda Civic. 100,000 miles and not a peep,I just do routine maintanece. At 125,000 I'm putting in a new timing belt.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
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    60-something Renault, '65 Triumph Spitfire, 65 Ford Galaxie 500, 1972 Toyota Celica, 1965 Mustang, 1972 LeMans, 1976 Toyota Corolla Wagon, 1979 Toyota Corona LE, 1977 Cadillac Deville, 1989 Chevy Celebrity (two of them, at different times) 1981 Plymouth Volare, 1989 Cadillac Fleetwood, 1992 Plymouth Acclaim, 1990 Jaguar XJ^ Sovereign, 2005 Cadillac DTS, 1998 Saturn SL1.

    I still have the Jaguar, DTS, and just got the Saturn.

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    Perhaps the mother of all bad cars I've owned was the 1985 Yugo. I remember at work a joker talking about a new cheap car coming out that is good,economical and fun to drive. Being a young man at the time with a family I wanted to get a good work car on the cheap. How can you beat $90 payments a month? I thought I'd give it a shot.
    The car was neither reliable,economical and it should of never been named Yugo but Bad. I had problems after problems and it only lasted 6 months. It would over heat at speeds over 60 miles per hour. Was dangerous as hell to drive and I got to know the Serbian mechanic Huezo pretty well. We sort of hated each other after a while as no matter what he fixed that or something else would break. Needed a new muffler after 6 weeks. Have to admit the car did have a unique sound and all the neighbors and work colleges and my friends called me Yugo Man. I became a cult figure in my own back yard. It took years and years to live that down too. It was one of many serious financial mistakes I've made but one thing for sure. Today you won't catch me in anything new no sir. I drive the tried and true Honda Civic closing in on 100,000 miles and nothing wrong with just it's not very exciting.
    This being said call it a midlife crises I'll be reading Erics reviews and hope to get something zesty on the economical side for my next car. I want a manual,maybe soft top and fun. I want to enjoy my next car and blast some good old AC/DC along the way.

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