Cars I have known

I’m still groovin’ on the Volvo C30, and my enjoyment of it got me to thinking about the cars I have owned. They’re a varied lot — some were fun, some were utilitarian, some were crap — and I remember all of them well.

I didn’t own a car until I got out of college, and then I grabbed one as soon as I could scrape up the down payment. My dad had to co-sign the $2,800 loan in 1981, and that got me a:

1. 1975 Ford Mustang II. Even though it was six years old, it had only 17,000 miles on it when I bought it. It also was a heap — basically, the Mustang IIs were Pintos in a different skin and are one of the most shameful cars Ford ever built. The transmission started making noise in reverse after I put a few hundred miles on it, and let’s see what else went wrong over the next seven years…oh, yeah: Alternator (twice), starter (twice), master cylinder, timing chain, radiator, blown hoses, broken belts, shot-to-hell valve cover gasket, blown head gasket and a half-vinyl “landau” roof (see the photo) that peeled away one day on the highway. It was all the car I could afford in those days, though, and I learned to actually work on vehicles thanks to this car. This isn’t the actual car — mine was red with a black laudau roof and a black vinyl interior that would heat up to a few hundred degrees in an Arkansas summer — but it looked very similar.

2. 1987 Plymouth Colt sedan. Yes, Plymouth — not just Dodge — sold the Colts. This was an ugly white sedan, but it was extremely reliable, and that’s why I bought it as a year-old car out of a rental fleet. I can’t find a photo of the sedan anywhere, but here’s the hatchback version — imagine a trunk and two more doors, and you’ve got it. I owned this car in my last years in Little Rock, during the year I was in Memphis, and my first couple of years in Washington, during which time it got broken into at least four times and ticketed probably 50 times (one of the joys of living in Washington and a key reason why I choose not to live there any more).

3. 1993 Isuzu Amigo.
I really liked this vehicle — the spare tire on the back served as a nice big bumper in city traffic and it also served up some justice. Twice, cars who tailgated me too closely smacked into the spare, and twice, it caved in the hoods of those cars (and cracked one radiator) while protecting my vehicle from damage. It came with a soft top that snapped off — and it had no air conditioning, which didn’t matter to me because I was driving only about 8,000 miles a year at that point — but I replaced the top with a hard shell after the soft onet got sliced to ribbons by yet still again another Washington car vandal (note to that vandal, wherever you are: The top SNAPPED OFF, you clown — you didn’t need to cut it). I enjoyed this car, drove it well into the 80,000-mile range — during which time it only needed routine brake service and a new starter — and donated it to charity while it still worked fine.

4. 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser. You probably know all about the Cruiser — it was definitely the Flavor of the Month back in 2000 when it was introduced. I thoroughly enjoyed the Cruiser except for its dog-like acceleration. It was also incredibly versatile — the seats folded, tucked and slipped every which way, including a front passenger seat that folded completely flat and made a nice breakfast table and rear seats that could be removed, folded flat or folded upright to create a little wall between you and your gear. Reliability was a different issue — the brakes went after 35,000 miles, the radiator sprung a leak and there were some other problems — but it was well worth the money. Chrysler cheaped down the Cruisers over the years — the current ones have an ugly and crappy-looking interior — and their days are numbered. This is the first car I bought new in my life — I purchased it at age 40, like my first house.

5. 2004 Nissan Murano. Your basic well-made crossover — much bigger than the Cruiser, all-wheel drive, a powerful six-cylinder engine…and yet basically the same gas mileage. This was a great vehicle for a long highway drive. However, it always bothered me to be driving this large vehicle alone around the Beltway to work at 10 mph, and despite its power, I never found it fun to drive. Its only problems: The alternator got recalled, and then the serpentine belt snapped a couple of months after the alternator was replaced. I’m sure those events weren’t related (not) — and that second repair trip to the dealer was particularly special when they tried to get my wife to buy $1,200 worth of maintenance she didn’t need.

And now I own the Volvo. I’ve only seen three other C30s around here; people ask me about it all of the time and it’s the perfect combination of comfort and performance. I enjoy my commute every day and can’t wait to take it out for a long highway trip. I still cant get over the concept that 1)I own a Volvo and 2)A Volvo really does look like this.


Leave a Reply