Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A History of Cars I've Owned

As embarrassing as it may, or may not be, here is a history of the cars I have owned throughout my life.

I owned some cars because they were given to me, some because I had no choice, and some just because I wanted them. I was trying to think of a topic that would just be fun to write and I happened to be looking up one of the cars I had owned. I found some interesting and cool info out about it and the two things came together so that, well, here we are.

Now, starting at... the beginning.

My first car was half given to me by my parents. They paid half of it, and I had to make the payments, pay the car insurance and upkeep. When I returned home from spending the Summer in New Jersey with my cousin, my parents took me out on the front porch of the house and said, okay, this is your birthday present. You're seventeen, you have a job, and you now need this. And they handed me a key. It took me a minute to figure it out. They nodded the street and I looked. I still didn't quite get it until I realized there was a car there I'd never seen before.

It was a 1967 blue Chevy Impala. 283 cu. in. engine. Standard (clutch) shift with "Three on the Tree" where the shifter was on the steering wheel column rather than on the floor as most people are used to seeing them. The shifter had a very long shift distance. There was no way you could pretend you had a hot rod, as many of my friends did. My mother one day told me that they were thinking of getting me a Pontiac Firebird, but figured I would kill myself and I probably would have.

It was a real boat of a car but my parent's figured that I couldn't harm myself in it too much. I grew to love that car, more of a love hate relationship really, but it was always the party car for my friends and I which I was in 12th grade, because we could fit a lot of people in it, and we could easily party in it at a drive in theater, which we did a lot because I worked at one, and it was a cheap place to go where you could drink or whatever in semi privacy but definitely away from our parents.

We had owned a 1965 Impala SuperSport which I had expected to receive at some point, but one morning as I was getting ready to go to High School in eleventh grade, I heard a loud noise outside. A few minutes later a knock came on the door and I answered it to a breathless individual who said they were across the street and saw someone plow into our family car, then somehow drive away. He said he was studying his college books before the day's classes, and it happened.

He also said he got the license plate number, but couldn't understand how the guy drove away as one of the front wheels was wobbling so badly he couldn't understand how the car was still drivable. Later the police found the guy at home. He had been out drinking. He said he came around the corner and dropped his cigarette, bent down to pick it up and hit the car. But he had to be going a lot faster. And so my parents got a new car, a Pontiac Bonneville, what I saw as a poor man's Lincoln (and indeed, their next car was a Mark IV Lincoln with a Landau Roof).

My second car was the one I got when I turned in my first car, a 1967 RS/SS Camaro convertible. The one pictured above and below, is slightly different. Mine had a red interior, which I didn't car for, it seemed cheap. I believe the front stripes were black on mine and the wheels were faux spoke chorme wheels.


My sister's boyfriend, Joe, who she eventually married and after decades and two kids, is still married to and, one of my favorite people; his dad had a car dealership. One day we drove up to it and looked at what he had. I found two cars, both Camaros. One was a real muscle car which Joe's dad tried hard to sell me on; the other was flashier, but his dad thought might not be the best bet for me.

In the end, I was adamant and he sold it to me. Truly, it was an expensive car in the end and cost me so much (mostly of my mother's money) that (she) made me sell it for my third car. Something I've always regretted doing, because not that many years later there was a spread in Playboy magazine with a famous sports star showing off his classic cars and there was his favorite, MY car, then valued at $25,000.

Interesting side notes: I had to take the car to the Chevy dealer for brake work, in the end they had to replace the entire brake system for $350 dollars which was a nightmare and in the middle of Winter. They had to order calipers from Detroit which took a week. When they got them, they got two left calipers so they reordered. I was really annoyed. When the got the replacement, the right caliper box had a left one in it, so they reordered, again. But this time they said to check it before sending and finally they got it right. But it took six weeks, six weeks of my taking a bus in the snow when I had a car. I wasn't pleased.

The other note is that I had always wanted a Z28, the Camaro version of their stock muscle car. In researching this past week, I discovered that this first Camaro was a Z28 but there were no badges for this to be placed on the car until 1968 and you could purchase them to put on the car. So, I actually owned a Z28. And now I can die in peace.


My third car, that I sold my Camaro to buy at the insistence of my bank (my Mother), was a 1969 Pontiac Gran Torino, which I had to admit, was a pretty nice car. Just not my Camaro. The one pictured is similar but mine was solid dark green with no strip.

When I went into the service, actually a year ahead of time, I sold it so I could travel a bit as I had nine months before I entered the Air Force. After I went through that year, then basic training, then tech school, and finally made it to my main base, when I could, I got an apartment and my wife joined me. I cannot now remember what car we had. But after we moved from the apartment, which we didn't like but it was affordable, we got a house.

While we were living in the house, my wife's brother wanted to get rid of his car so we ended up buying it from him. It was a Monza Town Coupe, which we really kind of liked at first. Ours was a dark blue unlike the one pictured above. It was a fun little car, especially if you were driving alone. Adding the weight of another decreased the power, but it was cheap on gas. After a while though, I wanted something more, substantial. I do have to say, however, that it is the only car I ever outrun a cop in, or even tried to out run a cop in.

There was a hill we lived on. We were going to see a movie one afternoon. I was going a little too fast, for the 25MPH speed limit. There was a curve to the left, then a steep drop. As I came over the top of the hill and zipped through the curve to the left a bit, I saw the cop sitting right there on a street corner. It seemed obvious to me he had radar on, or at least it was obvious to him I was going too fast and I could see he was jumping on coming after me. As I rose over the next steep hill, which was mere yards from where I was as I noticed him, I knew that road and made up my mind in a split second about what to do.

Once I was out of the cops sight, I floored it. My wife exclaimed "what's up?" I said, "Hold on. Just sec." I hit the next street corner, and wiped to the left, turning the corner, and flooring it again, trying to get to the end of the block. All this was at the short ends of blocks so the distances were compressed. Had this been going along the long side of a street block, I don't think I would have even attempted this fool hardy excessive and certainly not in a Monza of all things. Also, these were short blocks anyway. I hit the end of the block and zipped up and back around, trying to come up right back to the point at which the cop first saw me. My thought was, that the only way to "outrun" this cop, would be to get behind him where he would never think to look, act innocent and I'd get away with it.

As I came up over the top rise again, I headed down the hill more normally and I finally saw the cop below me, obviously trying to figure out where I went. He slowed, I could see him looking around and he wisely and intuitively, turned left. As he headed down that direction, I passed him and went to the streetlight and turned right onto a major road, heading to the theater. I continued on quietly, driving normally now, and hoping beyond all hopes that the cop wouldn't suddenly pop up behind me. I explained to my wife was going going on more in depth. Being a good sport, she had to laugh about the insanity of what I'd just done. In the end, it only added to the spice of the night as it was our anniversary. She wanted to see a new movie that turned out to be, "Looking for Mr. Goodbar", not the best anniversary date movie of all time.

After far too long in driving that Monza around, I finally couldn't take it anymore and we started looking for a new car. What we found, was another Camaro. When I had met her, I was in my first Camaro. In fact, she said one of the things that attracted her to me (now consider, at the time I was 18), what something I did the second time we met. The first time was a block from her parent's house, where my first apartment was.

The next time I stopped by her house. She said she had to drop off some books at the library downtown, so I gave her a ride. I ended up going down the wrong road, downtown and came out of the County / City building, which is where the police department, courts and the jail was. When I came out to a main road, I realized it was one way going to my right and I wanted to go to my left. No one was around, so I went up the road the wrong way, whipped around the street to the left and was back on track and legal. She later said that was on of the things that initially endeared my to her. Weird, huh?

So my next car was a 1975 Camaro RS. When I bought it, I told a kid at work who worked under me, and was from my home town. He said the first thing we had to do was tear off all the California engine stuff and offered to come over to look at it. He looked at it and pointed out all the stuff that wasn't needed and was only going to slow the car down. One of the reasons I wanted it was to make the weekend trips back to home which was a 4.5 hour drive.

I took him to an auto parts store and we just started buying stuff. Edelbrock Intake Manifold, Holly 650 double pumper, and other stuff I cannot now remember. But, when we got down, and I was terrified at all we were doing but he knew what he was doing (luckily), the car really flew. I would make the trip home on a Friday night with my wife at over 130 MPH and in 3.5 hours. The only time I ever got stopped by the police, I got chewed out for driving so far over the 55MPH speed limit, at doing 70 or 75MPH. I only tried to bite my tongue. Once you got over 100MPH the car seemed to lower, and solidify, and become a completely different car. It became far more derivable and just fun to drive.

I have a couple of good stories about this car, and the trip home which we made the 300 miles or so every weekend or every other weekend, saving me using a lot of vacation time in the military so that when I got out, I had three months saved up. When I got out, I took two months vacation cash in pocket, I took a month vacation to get out one month early, and I got an early out to go to college so suddenly, my last three months, was only one month away, much to the shock of my shop in the Air force.

The day I got out, my wife picked me up on the Camaro. She had a change of clothes for me so I put my jeans and a shirt on and some shoes, then while driving me, she handed me a beer. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that air base growing smaller and smaller for the last time ever. What a day that was.

After we had the car for a while, I wanted to get some decent mag wheels on it. So I went and picked them out and made an appointment. It was during the day and we wanted to have them before the trip home that day, on a Friday. So my wife went to the shop and they put them on. Then when I got off work at 4pm, we immediately headed out to make good time. But for whatever reason we didn't get going until about 8pm.

I drove. As was usual, I pushed the car testing the new wheels. It rode well. There is a mountain pass we have to go over to get home. About fifteen minutes before we hit the most dangerous part of that mountain pass, the car started shaking violently. Years before in my Impala, I had that same feeling. I was on the way to spend time with my family at the ocean in a hotel. Half way there, the car started vibrating badly, then it was like it was coming up off the ground and I had to force my way over to the side of the freeway as it was rush hour. I looked beneath the car and the U joint had broken and the drive shaft fell out and was rotating as if you rotate your index finger widely from your knuckle. Scary.

So when it happened in the Camaro, that was my first thought. But I couldn't see anything. I had just recently installed a B-52 cockpit light on a coiled wire in my console. So I pulled that out and it amazingly reached far enough that in the dark I could see the wheels. All good, driver's side front tire, back tire, I handed it to my wife to pass through and I went around and took it from her. I checked the passenger side back tire but it looked weird. Like it was off center.

I got down and examined it more closely and couldn't absorb what I was seeing. All the lug bolts had snapped off, all but one that was just about ready to go. Now, had this happened in 15 minutes more, there is a place in the mountain pass, after you pass the top, where the road curves downward and heavily to the left, with a 1,000 ft drop on the right. Had this happened then, we would have spun out to the right, hit the guardrail and very possibly gone over the side to our deaths.

What is amazing about this story is what happened next. I got back in the car stunned. I told my wife what I had seen. She said, what do we do now. Well, this was before cell phones and we were kind of in the middle of no where and in the dark I couldn't see where we were. So I said, I guess we spend the night, or more likely, wait for a State Patrol to come by. About five minutes later, an RV pulled up behind us with a "Good Sam" sticker in the window.

A man driving with his family in their RV stopped to see if we needed help. Now I had never had the lugs break on a car and I had no idea what to do. But the man laughed and said, "No, this is no problem. We just need to get some lug bolts and we can have you on the way very soon. We just need to get some bolts." I said where could we get lugs this time of night, everything would be closed. By this time, we were in the RV.

He said we would just drive to the next town and see what we can find. He also said that in these small towns things work differently. We got to the auto parts store and it was, of course, closed. I was ready to give up, but he laughed again his easy laugh and said no, we'll just knock. I thought he was crazy. But I followed him around the building and he found a door that he knocked on. I've never seen this before, but the owner of the auto parts store lived in the back in the same building where there was an apartment.

The man I was with explained our situation and the guy said, "Sure, let me get the keys and we can get this guy on his way." He opened the store and we found the lugs and he wouldn't even take any money for them. So I thanked him, amazed and confused and we headed back. In a few minutes we had the new lugs on and tightened down the wheel. I thanked the man profusely for his kind help and offered him money but he graciously refused.

We drove off and made it home safely only 90 minutes late. The family was getting worried but we had a great story to tell. Everyone said we needed to go back to the store where we got the mag wheels. And when I got home, my wife and I did go back to the store. The owner said, "Didn't you tighten down the lug bolts after 25 miles? We tell everyone to do that. They are aluminum and compress and after putting them on, you have to retighten them."

I looked at my wife and asked if she was told that. The look on her face told us both that she had no clue what he was talking about, his salesman had not told her about this important, life threatening information. There was a law suit here. The guy couldn't do enough for us and said for me to drive the car in and he would replace the wheel as the incident really messed up the wheel. I felt I should have gotten more, but I didn't know what and didn't want to push it. I was just happy to get the wheel replaced because I wasn't sure if my wife really was told and didn't hear it or forgot it, or what.

After I got out of the service (with the Camaro), my wife and I split up. I couldn't find a good job. I ended up losing the car as I couldn't keep up payments. I actually took it to the bank and turned in the keys, on a voluntary repossession. It was funny as the bank manager had never heard of one being done. He said, "You realize they will sell this at auction and if you don't get enough you will have to make up the difference." I laughed and said it wasn't a worry, as it will get a good price. I never heard from them again.

It was a while before I got another car. First, I didn't work for a year. Then I started college. While working at Tower Posters, I got a motorcycle, a Honda 400. After a year of that, through all kinds of weather, I traded it straight across for a coworkers POS (Piece of Shite) Impala (another Impala). This was a 1965 finally (like the Supersport that got totaled when I was in High School). I had that Impala, with no back seat, with plywood for a back set and shag carpet tacked on to it, all through college.

After I got out of college (four years), I ended up trading the Impala to my brother for a car, I don't even remember what it was, but it was a muscle car. The Impala was starting to die and my brother had a car laying around, so he kindly swapped with me to help me out. Which was great, but shortly after I got it the 30 miles home, after a week or two, it started doing this thing where it would go like 30 ft and stop, then jet off. So weird.

The first time I took my next wife to be home, shortly after we had met, it was doing that. I had always had a car that would start immediately, that ran well, or was a very cool car. But here was a horrible vehicle that embarrassed me greatly and now in front of a girl I was seeing. But she was laughing hysterically, having a blast. Yes, she was weird.

I finally one day found someone to tow the car away and I was done with it. Then, I just did't have a car for a while then.
similar model
Finally my son was about to be born and my mother gave us, her old 1975 Lincoln Mark IV. I don't know what the deal is with 75s, they seem to crop up a lot. It was also the year we lost my little brother to cancer. One day I offered to borrow that car to take the ladies at Tower Video, just after college, to a meeting we were going to have at a restaurant. We needed a car with room. They called it the "pimpmobile" and teased me greatly about it.

After our son was born, as we couldn't afford this car. I swear it cost me $5 just to drive to work and back, which was a total of four miles. That 454 cu. in. engine was a dream on the freeway but a nightmare on the city streets with much stop and go and starting from a start at stop sings, street lights and pedestrians. Driving on the freeway or on trips was incredible, excluding the situation with the gas even at the prices in those years around 1988. But that's what you get in driving around a living room. So, we traded it in.

Similar model but on ours the paint was washed out
In its place we got a 1970 Volvo sedan. That, was a real transition. But it was great on gas mileage. And, when it got totaled, it was in far better condition that the Toyota sports car, which was really totaled. I could have hammered out the fender and driven off, but instead, it was towed and I had to walk home the last couple of miles. It was a bad week.

I bought this car with my new wife by the way, my son's mom; my first wife and I had no kids, but she remarried and had seven kids, so don't feel too badly for her. And we separated on good terms, we just had married too young, I think. At twenty, we were too young for what the military would eventually throw at us.

What happened was, every year my wife at the time, has a big family gathering. They are based in Portland and so it would be at some location there or in between. But as the Matriarch lived in Portland and was getting old, it tended to be closer to Portland. This one year it was at Cannon Beach, Oregon. We rented two houses for everyone to stay in. We played volleyball, rode bicycles, played cards, flew kites and just hung out. Come Sunday however, I had to head home for work on Monday.

So, I took the Volvo. My wife and young son hitched a ride with the family. I left round 11AM. After being on the road for a little while, I was hungry so I stopped for a dough wrapped long hot dog at a cheap store/gas station. I drove off eating it. About an hour later, if that, I didn't feel so well, so I pulled off at a rest stop. I threw up. I figured it was the hot dot, stupid me for eating something from some place like that.

After a while, I wasn't feeling well again, I was getting stomach cramps. It got so bad that I decided I needed a hospital, thinking I was poisoned. But I didn't know where I was and I was having trouble functioning. Finally it was so bad I could hardly drive, let alone be on the freeway. Then I saw an ambulance. I made up my mind to follow it, thinking that it might be going to a hospital, it didn't have it's lights on, so chances were it was headed back.

It pulled off an exit and I followed it right to a hospital. I went in to the ER, told the nurse I suspected I'd been poisoned with some bad food. She said to have a seat and I'd be called. Twenty minutes later I was getting pissed and I was in pain. I asked the nurse how long, she said again, that I'd be called. Ten minutes later I was really getting mad. Looking around, I didn't see anyone in as bad a shape as I was, and why couldn't they move me ahead. If I HAD been poisoned, they were going to just let me sit there and die? I was incredulous. Finally, after forty-five minutes, I got called. They took me to an exam room.

The doctor came in and I complained to him about the service. He was polite and understanding and said that I most likely had the stomach virus that was going around. I didn't believe him, saying it was unlike any thing like that I had ever had before. He smiled again, handed me some small plastic jar and said to drink it, if I didn't feel better in fifteen minutes, then I would be right, but he was sure I'd be fine. So, I drank it.

Fifteen minutes later, I felt a world better. He said I just had the virus that has been hitting a lot of people hard like that. He said he wanted to keep me overnight but I told him I had to get home and I promised, I'd pull over and go to a hospital if it got that bad, and stay home once I got there; that, was no problem. He argued with me but could see my determination and agreed. I took more of that medicine with me and took off.

It wasn't easy but I made it all the way home. I stopped however, at a video store and rented all the videos they would let me. Then I went home. I got on the couch and passed out. That, was Sunday. Over the next few days, I watched videos, drank water as I could and that was about it. I was on the couch the entire time, sick as a dog. I started to feel better on Tuesday morning and about mid morning my wife and son showed up. She was really irritable and complained incessantly.

When she found there was no milk she gave me a really hard time about it. I said she should go to the store, I would but I've been sick on the couch for three days and I shouldn't drive. She said she'd been in a car for hours with grumpy old ladies and was beside herself with annoyance and she wasn't getting in another car that day. She pushed and pushed until I just wanted out of the house. So I took the videos and went to the store, I got the milk and dropped off the videos. Then on the way back, I was approaching a stop light. It was green but as I got closer, it changed to yellow. I just wanted to go home, so I sped up.

I wasn't wearing a seat belt, my stomach just didn't want one on. Back then, I didn't always wear a seat belt. I grew up not wearing one, and many people back then were still arguing about social myths where someone died because they wore a seat belt; or could have been seriously harmed and wouldn't have gotten thrown from the car as they were and survived and without a scratch; or how people had been in accidents and were fine without a seat belt. These, were stupid arguments. I learned that the hard way.

As I hit the crosswalk, I saw a woman suddenly approaching the front of me, in the middle of the intersection. I realized I was going to broadside her. I wondered, time slowing down greatly, if I had made a mistake. I glanced to the right and say the stop she had been sitting in. Other drivers who were stopped around that position, had looks of disbelief on their faces. Then I looked up and saw that my light was still yellow. I looked at the woman headed past me in front of me. She was staring straight ahead, oblivious of what was about to take place. I couldn't believe it. She had simply run a red light. Why?

But I didn't have time to wonder, I just calculated. I was going to most likely kill her if I broad sided her. So I swerved hard to the left, trying to connect at an angle instead of 90 degrees. The exact front corner of our cars connected. I remember thinking that wasn't so bad. Time stopped, then suddenly, all went black. Just before the blackness, I felt my head hit the ceiling of the car, then another whack that came out of no where, and then nothingness.

When I next could see something, I couldn't figure out where I was or what happened. I could feel I was in the car and hear sounds that supported that. I wondered, all in fractions of a second, what had happened and where I was since I couldn't see clearly. I realized that if I simply tensed up all my muscles everywhere I would move and maybe I could see where I was and what had happened. When I did, I felt a movement and tensed muscles up to further me in that direction.

Then I started to see, light was coming in and I continued as it turned out, moving up off the passenger side floorboard. I had somehow, been transported from sitting behind the wheel to having my face flat down on the footwell of the passenger seat. As I realized that, I realized too I didn't want to move, and I should just stay down there. But then it occurred to me that if I wasn't driving, having been alone, who was? The answer made me sit up in my seat, with great effort and not a little discomfort as no one else had been with me and I had to be the one to drive or I would be possibly in even worse condition shortly.

When I sat up, what I saw was a fire station. There was a fire station on the corner and my car was approaching the curb from the center of the intersection. Within a second, the car gently came to a stop when the tires hit the concrete of the curb. That gave me time to assess my situation. My head hurt. Looking up I saw firemen running toward me from the firehouse. I looked around me. As it was rush hour, there was a lot of traffic, but no one was moving. The empty spot where the woman had been sitting was still empty, telling me, not much time had passed. But there was no woman in a car.

It seemed I had hit nothing. But how could that be? Had I hit hard air? What did this damage? There was no other damaged car anywhere in sight. About then, the fireman opened my door. He asked me some questions. Are you hurt? I said, yes. He said, where. I said, my head. He got a worried look on his face. I said, but it was hurting before, I've had the flu for a few days; but I think I hit the ceiling with my head when we hit. He looked around and was wondering himself I think, where the other car was. I saw another fireman head down the street away from me, I had no clue where he was going.

The fireman at my door as if I was wearing a seat belt. Thinking clearly about the law, I said, yeah, sure. He looked at me disbelievingly and pointed at my passenger side dash and said, when did that happen? I looked at it, surprised to see it was caved in, a metal dash, caved in above the glove box. I said, Oh, that's been that way for a while. He said, and you were wearing your seat belt, huh? I said, yeah. Then he realized why I was lying and dropped it. He checked me out and said, okay your fine.

I got out and walked into the middle of the intersection. The firemen were doing things like disconnecting my battery to avoid a fire. I don't remember what all happened then, except at some point I saw an ambulance deal with the woman down the street, put her on a gurney and load her into the ambulance. I was asked if I wanted to go to the hospital and I made a huge mistake and said, No. She got to the hospital and it worked in her favor later, legally. I should have gone, but we didn't have money for that kind of thing and my car was just totaled. I had insurance through the University of Washington Medical Center where I worked and it wouldn't have cost me a dime, but I wasn't thinking THAT clearly yet.

I asked if I could use the phone and went into the firehouse and used their phone to call home and tell my wife what I really didn't want to tell her, that I had totaled the car. I had told her I shouldn't drive, not that this was my fault, but I do believe that if I were feeling well, that accident wouldn't have happened, I would have seen the woman sooner and slowed down, rather than sped up.

I told my wife that I just totaled the car, but it wasn't my fault, someone ran a red light. She lost control but I'll give her credit for first asking if I was all right. I said I was. Then she tore into me about the car. I told her no one was more upset about it than I was. We talked some more and hung up. I thanked the firemen and headed home, walking a painful thirty minutes of a slow walk back to my apartment over a wine store.

A week later I went back to that location to try to figure out why that woman would run a red light. Amazingly enough, while I was standing there, a woman with three young kids in the car (none seat belted) ran that red light, I looked over, that same empty spot was there that the last woman had left to run the red light. I couldn't believe it. This time however, this woman saw what she did, about the point she hit the center of the intersection, she snapped her head to the left and stared wide eyed and thankful that no one was heading at her but she continue on as there was nothing left to do.

Stunned, I looked around trying to figure it out and I did. I went to my new car and drove around and got in that same spot the two women were in, first in line at the stop light. While I sat there, a short block away I saw the light turn green. I started to go, but being so thoughtful, I realized no one else was moving next to me. I hesitated and focused on the green light and realized, it was at the next block. I looked up and saw no light. I leaned down and looked up with difficulty and saw my street light, still red. And then I knew what had happened. This, was a scary intersection.

So I went into the firehouse and asked if anyone knew anything about it, or had seen anything. They all avoided me, they were sitting down to eat dinner as I had tried to hit the intersection at the same time of day, about 5pm, rush hour. One of the fireman, the cook, said that none of them should talk about legal matters and I realized the spot I was putting them in.

So I thanked them, told them that the woman ran a red light, there was no doubt about that, and she was claiming that I had run a red light. I could see that they believed me, but didn't want involvement in something they could do nothing about. So I thanked them again and never went back.

similar model
The one good thing about this situation which was considered in the end a "No Contest" accident, where no one was responsible, was that I got a bronze or copper colored 1980 BMW 316 out of it, a car I thought we couldn't afford. I learned to love that car. As for my Volvo, when the accident happened, I was actually in tears walking around it in the intersection, the last time I ever saw it. I actually said out loud, "Thank you, for being such a good car and saving my life."

After the accident, after we moved to another place, the engine started going out in the Beemer. So we got a consult and that lead to a $4500 loan from our credit union. Then we found a guy that said he could fix it with Volkswagen parts, for $800, something the first shop had warned us not to do. But we did it and it worked fine, never having any problems.

However, the new guy was shady. I went back to him for work and one time I went to get something from my car and it wasn't there. The mechanic said sometimes the owner took cars home for a test drive. This was unprofessional. When I got the car back the shifter never worked right again. I'm sure he swapped it out at home that night with another one. What a bastard. I never went back.

similar to my model
But as we had the extra money, minus the $800, we ended up buying a 1979 Honda CB750 Custom (strangely, I now have a 1980 CB900 Custom). We also were able to buy top of the line leather gear and helmets. I bought the bike from a guy that rode and worked on Harleys, so the bike was in good shape, he said he just wanted to ride Harleys again for his every day bike. I later realized it was because of the sticking valve which in the end was why I sold it years later.

The BMW lasted for a few years until I got divorced and remarried. It started having issues. That shifter one day broke and I drove to a welder who "Fixed" it. I drove away the next day after $100 (Stupid, shifter was cheaper than that), and as I drove off from the welder's, the shifter broke again. Pissed off, I drove right around the block to a car dealer, as it turned out the same dealer I got the BMW from, but they had changed hands and it was under new management.

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Still, I traded it in and got a 1988 Ford Tempo, a car built for someone shorter than I was. I drove that as a commuter car as the commute really tore up the BMW. The Tempo was a good car until, I was driving home from Seattle one day, on I-90 and it was pouring rain, I was dressed in my best clothes, had to get the kids from school as my wife was out of state at a horse show again and I had her take the one cell phone we owned. I had a pager from work which she could contact me on, tell me things I needed to buy if I were at the store and such. But she would drive on back roads in the middle of no where and at night and needed a cell phones to keep in touch and in case of emergencies.

I was driving through sheets of rain when suddenly the car poured thick smoke out from under the hood. I pulled over and sat there. It wouldn't start. So I got out and walked down the freeway, up an exit in the pouring rain with no coat and sprained my ankle. I walked to the nearest gas station and called for a tow truck. They said if I were an AAA member it would be 24 hours. Cars were breaking down all over the region. I said no, I wasn't and he said, oh, okay, I can have a truck to you within an hour then. Weird. I called my wife's sister and she picked up the kids. But not a good day.

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Not long after that one day, my wife came home driving a 1990 Geo Storm. She said one of her horse clients had it just sitting on her farm and she only drove it to keep it running, she'd just drive around her farm to charge the battery and stuff. So between lessons my wife gave her, we bought the car for free? After it was about half paid for, she quit training so we just paid off the balance in cash. It was a fun car. The day she drove it home she had the biggest smile on her face.
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She had owned a Ford Ranger when I first met her and by now it was started to peel paint. We had been told that 1990 was a year that Ford was trying out a new more environmental paint, which tended to peel. By time we got to finding out, the call back was over.

One day, I parked the truck backed up again the garage door and that night someone stole the tailgate. Though we kept it up maintenance wise, it was getting to drive not so well, so she was very happy about the Geo. In the end, I drove it as a commuter car, replacing the Tempo which I eventually sold to a guy at work who fixed it and eventually totaled it in an accident.

The Geo was a blast to drive and has a solid following in it's user groups and clubs. I still have it, I've repeatedly fixed problems with it but now I think it blew a rod or something, so it's just sitting. I could replace the engine and transmission, I just don't have the money now.

When I started driving the Geo to work, she really needed to replace her truck. So we drove around looking at SUVs and found a 1998 Nissan Pathfinder with most the extras and leather seats. She was coaching our daughter's jr basketball team for five year olds and my son's soccer team (they were undefeated under her coaching, as opposed to after we moved here and our neighbor was coach and their best that first year was a tie, and because she was on the sidelines screaming at the kids what to do). This Pathfinder has been a great truck (as its based on a truck chassis).

After we divorced (yes, I've been married three times, 3.5 actually as I see my girlfriend through college as a kind of common law marriage but Washington doesn't have that, so, half), my ex's new husband bought our daughter a Saturn which she accidentally drove into a ditch and the airbags went off, and so it was just barely damaged enough (not really but....) that it was totaled.

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We took that money and bought her a 1994 Volvo 850 Turbo from a palm reader and restaurateur. He said he drove it to commute to Seattle, then gave it to his niece who wanted a different car. I knew that was a mistake but it was only $1350 on a car worth between $4-5,000. He said it needed work, but in the end over all the car has cost me $7400 and now needs another $1200 in something to do with the turbo oil line or something.

I kept working on it in the hopes eventually everything will be replaced. It is a great car. When it works. But when it works, it goes like a bat outta Hell, and is a blast to drive. Far more so than the Geo Storm, obviously. And hey, it's safe! Or so everyone keeps telling me and honestly, considering my accident in my first Volvo, it's true.

It lasted until the end of 2014 when I ended up having it towed away and donated. The oil light came on and I thought I could make it to the store for more but I couldn't have been more wrong. Had I stopped, I would have saved the engine and it would still be pinging me for money to fix it again and again.

Since my divorce, I also bought another bike. I had sold my old Honda 750 custom because a valve was sticking so bad. It was the day I bought it, but it would warm and stop popping. After years, dating an International Trade Lawyer in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and a trip to Portland to try to talk my second wife back (which failed in the end but I had to try, it was the right thing to do, we had a kid), the bike finally was shot and I sold it to a guy who wanted a bike to fix up. I also gave him my two Shoei helmets worth more than the bike, which was stupid in hindsight.

One day back in 2006, I took my daughter to see her grandparents (her mother's parents) on their boat. It was docked in Kingston, WA about eight miles from home. They had a twenty-three foot boat for years that we used to have fun on, but after the divorce they bought a forty-two foot boat with two full baths and a stateroom and another bedroom, with living room upstairs.

Beautiful boat. I ran into my ex's sister and her husband. We always got along really well and they took me out for drinks (at my ex's bar/restaurant a block away, she has sold all her restaurants now and is a car salesperson of all things).

My old 900 Honda
While we were having fun in a packed bar, I found he was selling his bike as he had just bought a "crotch rocket". I turned out to be a 1980 Honda CB900 Custom, a step up from the exact same bike I used to own. I said how much and he said, for you, $600.

I had that in my savings and bought it. It's been a good bike these past few years. I recently added a new seat and other things like a pad on the back bar for a passenger. It has two transmissions and ten speeds. It goes fast. It's good on gas mileage, rated for 41 MPG. It was a good bike except the day I bought it, the battery was almost drained of water and I made it to downtown Seattle during rush hour, stop and go traffic and it died on me.

I sat there really annoyed with my "new" bike, fretting about what to do next. Then, it started and somehow I magically made it home. I struggled the next couple of years with the power issue till one day I was up at the Honda shop on the way to Port Townsend and they told me it was running funny because it wasn't charging but 9 volts.

I asked if I could make it home and he said he didn't know but he did know I needed to cancel my day and head home. So I did, It was an interesting trip home. At one point I couldn't get over 45MPH on the highway, going up a long hill toward Hood Canal bridge. Finally I made it all the way home. I went through a few batteries on that bike and finally started using a trickle charger. The first start of the season before that was always rough. Miserable sometimes.

I finally figured out it was the alternator so I bought the parts. When I went to install them I came to realize it wasn't that at all, just the brushes. I replaced those and it's been great every since (after yet another new battery).

Bulldog Bagger Bob and myself
After about seven years or so I sold that to a friend. I made money on it, he got it for a very good price. I thought about keeping them both but they are such a different configuration regarding sitting on it and shifting, it got to be weird to go from one to the other. I bought my first Harley Davidson, a 2006 FDXi Dyna "Street Bob".

One day I gave my daughter a ride somewhere and she remarked how much power it had and she kept forgetting that. She called it a "bulldog" and so the name Bulldog Bagger Bob stuck. Bagger as that's a bike with saddlebags and Bob cuz, well Harley named it that, a "bob" or "street bob" being a bike that's cut down to the bare necessities.

I've added a few things so far, quarter circle saddlebags from Viking Bags, USB connections so I could charge electronics. Above is only one of the configurations I can set it up for, depending on windshield or seat.

I really like it, a lot. I'd never wanted a Harley, too much baggage and history. But I got it into my head I wanted to ride a cruiser, something I could sit back, relax, and hear a nice low sound rather than the higher sound the Hondas turned out.

And so that is my long history with my cars. I now have a Pathfinder SUV, a Honda 900 motorcycle and a not quite working again yet Volvo 850 Turbo. The Geo Storm is sitting in the yard awaiting my decision. Possibly, I'll just donate it at this point. But with one person in it, it is a lot of fun to drive, people are always surprised at this. I'd love to fix it up again.

What the future will bring, one can only guess.

2 comments:

  1. Wow, this is one of the best car stories I’ve heard in a long time. Not only you mentioned your cars’ details to the tee, you also provided vivid memories you had with them. For me, stories like these transcend the value of cars. Yes, their primary purpose is to serve our travelling needs. But when you associate your car with your life experience, it becomes a part of you that can’t be detached.

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