Which ones have you owned?

A sidebar conversation in yesterday’s Open Forum centered on what cars people drive why. It seems like a good topic for the weekend

I didn’t own a car until my junior year in college. We were, with rare and brief exceptions, a one-car family until after I graduated high school, with my dad driving the car to work and my mom taking him in and picking him up if she needed it during the day.

I wound up with a hand-me-down 1979 Toyota Corolla hatchback in white. I had a bit of savings and paid the $500 or so we needed to overhaul the engine during a brief period of unemployment for my father and eventually the car became “mine.” I drove it the rest of college and during my training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and donated it back to the folks when I went off to Germany.

The first car I owned outright was a 1978 Ford Granada in gold that I bought shortly after arrival. It was a German edition that bore no resemblance to the US car by that name. It was more of a forerunner to the Taurus. I bought it used from a soldier in Darmstadt and learned to drive a stick shift on the way back to the kaserne in Babenhausen.

I replaced it after a year or so with a 1987 Mazda B2000 pickup in black. I drove it the rest of my tour, shipped it stateside, and drove it from Fort Dix, New Jersey, where I out processed, back down to Alabama. It lasted me through grad school, by which time I’d added a fiberglass camper shell, and most of my year teaching at Tennessee-Chatanooga before it threw an engine rod on I-20. It took three hours to get a tow truck in those days before I owned a cell phone.

With my one-year gig at UTC about to end and no follow-on job in sight, I went for affordability and wound up with a 1993 Chevrolet Cavalier in blue.

I got rid of it a year or so later when I landed my first tenure-track job at what was then Bainbridge College. I bought my first-ever new car, a 1998 Ford Contour in red.

I drove that car for two years or so, into my tenure at Troy, until it got run off I-59 by a flatbed semi at 75 miles an hour. I somehow survived with mild muscle strain in my back and some bruises from the airbag. The car, alas, did not.

I replaced it with another brand new Ford Contour, this time a Special Vehicle Team model in silver. That lasted me the rest of my time at Troy, my move to the DC area, two jobs here, the start of OTB, and getting married the first time.

I traded it in for a slightly-used 2005 Nissan 350Z roadster in charcoal. It had well under 10,000 miles on it when I got it and is easily the favorite car I’ve ever owned. I put maybe 40,000 miles on it but traded it in when my first wife died suddenly over Thanksgiving weekend in 2011. A two-seater isn’t much use to a single dad with a 3-year-old and an infant.

I drove my late wife’s 2010 Toyota Sienna van in black for a while but eventually used the money from the sale of the Z and trading in the gray 2008 Nissan Sentra I’d inherited from my dad and bought a used 2008 BMW 328i convertible in silver. It allowed me to commute to work with the top down and still pick up and drop off the girls, as it had not only a back seat but also a hardtop when I needed one. And I still had the van for longer trips.

That BMW bit the dust in a four-car accident on Route 1 and got replaced by a 2011 model in black. And that one, too, got totaled when a woman on the George Washington Parkway decided that she should turn left across traffic.

You’d think I’d have quit buying BMWs at that point but nobody else is making a comparably priced convertible that’s fun to drive so I replaced it with a silver 2013 335is. I have thus far avoided wrecking that one and it sits in my garage.

Last summer, the van needed $5000 or so in repairs and I used that and the impending remarriage as an excuse to trade it in. The kids are old enough now that we don’t need the convenience of sliding doors but, since I regularly need to haul 6 passengers and that jumps to 7 when my oldest stepdaughter is home from college, a sedan seemed inadequate. After some research, I wound up with a 2018 Mazda CX-9 in charcoal. I bought it certified with something like 8200 miles on it, saving several thousand dollars and, oddly, getting a better warranty than Mazda offers for brand-new cars. It doesn’t have the cargo capacity of some others in its class but it’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable to drive.

The only brand-new cars I’ve bought for myself are the two Ford Contours; the last of those was 20 years ago.

My first wife and I traded in the 2002 Accura MDX she had when we married for a new 2007 Acura RDX. She never really liked it, though, and we traded that in for the van when our oldest was about a year old.

My second and current wife brought a 2016 Mazda 3 into the marriage. Almost immediately, though, we put it on permanent loan to her oldest, who’s away at Temple. She didn’t need a car on a walking campus in downtown Philly but an internship half an hour away changed that. The wife drove my CX-9 for a few months while we sifted through options. We had settled on getting her a certified CX-5 but she called a last-minute audible at the dealership after she drove the CX-30, which had literally just arrived at the dealership. It was the same price as a year-old CX-5 and she preferred its styling and handling.

So, what’s in your driveway?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Yeah… this is a weakness that in the future may not matter due to shifting modalities of travel.

    The first one was a Buick Wildcat. Blown Engine.

    Then an Electra 225. Head-on by someone who wanted to catch a light

    After that they seem to blur… There was a Pontiac Sunbird, Saab 900E, an old Detroit cop car (Grand Fury)… Borrowed a lot of my dad’s Olds 98 and 88 convertibles… Big rectangular machines that were awesome. First new car was a fox body Ford Mustang.

    Still, I have a thing for convertibles and clown cars. I can admit to being an owner of TWO fantastic Yugo’s. The second one was about 5 years ago and that thing was a blast. A fuel injected go cart that could do 125.

    It is much more fun to drive a slow car fast … than a fast car slow.

    There was an 89 Vette convertible, a current frame-off rebuild 69 vette convertible (Monaco orange) that I’s burned $100K in…. quite a few Geo Trackers/Suzuki Sidekicks all drop top…

    SUV’s have been many, both domestic and imported. Hated the Land Rover… Love love LOVE my Honda Element AWDs there is a last year 2011 in the drive right now.. And a first gen Porsche Cayenne? Heaven. Until you have to pay to fix it. Germans, am I reich?

    There is also an Audi A4 Quatro Convertible, and a Chevy Bolt Electric in the current lineup as well.

    Luckily, my wife tolerates my weakness.

  2. Jay L Gischer says:

    1964 Chevy Nova – Bought during high school, worked a newspaper delivery job with it, sold it before going to college.
    1972 Datsun 510 SW – Bought it during college (to support a summer job commute). Owned it 9 years, loved the handling. It carried all my worldly possessions from Seattle to SF for grad school. Traded it in on the next one, only to get a notice from the state that it had been abandoned on the streets of SF. I ignored said notice, I was fine with them confiscating it.
    1985 Nissan Sentra – Bought it and drove it cross country to Williamsburg, VA for my first teaching gig. Sold it before moving back to the Bay Area.
    196? VW Bug Got this for my wife after we got married in Williamsburg. It was bright green, and we got a custom license that said “RAAIID” It amused lots of people. But when she got pregnant, she didn’t think it would work, both for a car seat or fitting behind the wheel.
    198? Ford Escord SW – this replaced the Bug, but we hated it the whole time we had it. It once broke its timing chain on I65 and I had to climb a chain link fence and knock on a door to call a tow truck. Probably it took less the 3 hours, but not a lot. We got rid of it when we could afford it, and got
    1991 Honda Civic SW. This was such a great car. The best thing about it was the visibility, but other aspects were really good. We moved it back to Mountain View and it was the only car we had there for about a year while I biked the mile or so to my new job. Then I got
    1988 Nissan pickup. I don’t remember the exact model. It was just a little pickup that I drove to work and could do all kinds of errands with. It was an old beater, but I didn’t care. My sister and I sold some property Dad had left us, so I then got what was my dream car:
    2000 Jeep Cherokee. I loved this car so much. Hauled the kids around in it a bunch. I pulled up to a stop light one day in Palo Alto and some kid plowed into my rear end, knocking me into the car in front of me. That was the end of it. I was unhurt, but sad. I was also in a rush to buy another vehicle to drive up to WA on a planned visit to my sister, so I got
    2008 Toyota Highlander. I’m still driving this. I’ve never quite loved it like the Cherokee, but they didn’t make Cherokees any more by then. It has served me very well. For instance, it just pulled a U-Haul from SF to Houston, TX while having over 200K miles on it. Not a whisper of trouble.
    Meanwhile, the Honda started getting cranky, and sometimes declining to start on overcast mornings. Rather than try to figure it out, we donated it and got her
    2000 VW New Bug (or as we called it, the Y2KBug). It was not nearly as fun and responsive as the old bugs, so eventually she traded it in on a
    2007 Toyota Prius. She’s still driving it. It has served very well. She puts gas in it maybe once a month. (she doesn’t have any long commute, which helps). She’s never taken it to the shop for anything.

    I’m ripe for something new, but I don’t know what. Some sort of EV might be good, but I’m worried about the long trip issue.

  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    Let’s see, in the order I remember them and owned a few concurrently.

    64 Dodge – first car
    65 Mustang
    68 Fiat 850 Spider (Only thing in my life at the time being higher maintenance than the lovely strawberry blond I was dating)
    74 Fiat 128 (dead in 3 years)
    75 Pinto Wagon
    78 Dodge pickup
    85 Toyota Tercel aka The Toilet
    87 Acura
    88 Land Cruiser (alas it rusted away)
    94 C-class (kept it 25 year and ran it into the ground)
    03 Malibu ( my late mother’s car. Fell to me or my wife cause no one else would take it.)
    10 Civic
    13 Pilot (current driver)

    Plus a bunch of (mostly) BMW motorcycles

  4. Andy says:

    I tend to keep cars for a long time and (thankfully & knock on wood) have not had as many accidents as you.

    – 1970’s (forget the exact year) Datsun pickup. My first vehicle was a hand-me-down and a dangerous POS. I’m lucky I’m alive.
    – 1986 Honda CRX. I saved all through high school to buy this car new. Kept it for 17 years including shipping it to the UK when I lived there.
    – 1996 Subaru Outback – Bought used, only had it for a few years. Traded it in for:
    – 2005 Honda Odyssey – Bought new when the wife was pregnant with our second child. Still have it. This was a great family vehicle and is still great, but showing its age.
    – 2020 Subaru Ascent – Leased this a couple of months ago. The minivan was spending too much time in the shop and we needed and AWD vehicle and a second car. We leased instead of bought since our two oldest kids will (hopefully) be off to college and we won’t need a 7 passenger vehicle in three years.
    – 1971 Chevy Blazer – My dad bought this new and I grew up in it traveling all around the west on for hiking, backpacking, fishing, and other trips. He gave the vehicle to me about 18 years ago. I still have it and will never sell it. I’m currently saving money to have the bodywork/rust fixed and the vehicle painted. Mechanically it’s in decent condition.

  5. Mikey says:
  6. jfoo says:

    I am one of the rare people who owns a Ford Transit Connect Wagon (passenger version as opposed to the ubiquitous cargo versions about). Here is a review with lots of pictures:

    I am at the age where I should be buying a mid-life crisis sports car, but I have no interest in doing so. This little van is about a foot shorter and 4 inches more narrow than modern minivans, has a small four-banger and gets pretty good gas mileage. Is it fun to drive? No, but it is pleasant to drive and is deliciously roomy and utilitarian. It has this awesome large shelf over the driver’s head and what are basically two small aircraft-style overhead bins at the front of the passenger compartment as well (a very cheap upgrade).

  7. gVOR08 says:

    From the Open Forum de stijl.

    My 1976 Olds Omega aka Meg disintegrated in 1983.
    The trim strip fell off. Just fell off, no reason, glue just stopped working.

    I owned an Omegrot. Worst. Car. Ever. Mine was a Brougham, until the “Brougham” badges fell off both sides.

    The company I worked for had a subsidized car lease program, but the only participating dealer withing 50 miles of me was an Olds dealer. I got an Omega because it was the smallest, so to me the least objectionable, car Olds made. Hated the car. Then the company went under (Reagan recession) and offered a buyout deal that was too good to pass up. Once I owned it outright I was too cheap to get rid of it. Drove it another two or three years, disliking it every time I got in.

    I had a jar in the glove box full of screws that fell out from under the dash. Thought I might need one, but oddly nothing under there ever fell out or stopped working. It started running rich. I ended up having to diagnose and fix it after the dealer failed. For the cognoscenti, I had a dealer mechanic looking at a black spark plug telling me it was running lean. Early smog control electronic mixture control on a carburetor. I had a manual gearbox. The controls layout was obviously designed by someone who had never driven a manual. Had to have the tranny rebuilt because the shift forks wore out. Shift forks only wear out if you ride your hand on the shifter or GM, in their infinite wisdom, decide to run a manual box on automatic tranny fluid.

    I had the tail try to come around on me once, going not at all fast, on a damp off ramp. I’d done some front wheel drive racing, so I just got off the brakes, counter-steered, and thought, ‘That was a bit of a surprise.’ A couple of people died that way. In discovery they found a memo from a GM VP who had test driven one asking what idiot was responsible for the brake balance on the car.

    It had a reclining front passenger seat that couldn’t be used because the hinge line was too high and it left a step from the seat back to the seat. But I will allow it had a roomy back seat for your buddy Bug.

    In keeping with the thread, we bought our first minivan around the last days of the Omega. Our current Honda Odyssey is our sixth or seventh. Minivans have no cachet, but dyam they’re practical. Sedan like handling, parking, and fuel consumption, but as much hauling space as a Suburban. Yes, I’ve hauled 4×8 plywood in them. The Odyssey hauled a couple tons of stuff to FL and is nice bus when my wife’s family show up.

    Bought a Mazdaspeed (turbo and handling package) Miata new in ’04. Refrained from putting miles on it so we could keep it into our current retirement. Some magazine described it as ‘corners like a cat on carpet’. Liked it so much we bought a 2011 Mazdaspeed 3. Which is, to my surprise, a nicer driver’s car than even the Miata, but still a completely practical daily driver. I imagine we’ll have to replace one of them before our dotage. No idea what we’ll buy next.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    1972 Datsun 510 SW – Bought it during college (to support a summer job commute). Owned it 9 years, loved the handling.

    In 1986 David Halberstam published a book called The Reckoning. It was largely a parallel history of Ford and Nissan from after the war into the 80s, as the US industry rose and fell and the Japanese rose. Much of it revolved around Nissan looking at the BMW 1600 and asking themselves if they dared try to design and build a comparable car. They swallowed hard and decided to try, resulting in the 510. A girlfriend had a 510, really nice car. Marked a real turning point for the Japanese.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    You guys remembering what year your cars were made, I have no idea. More or less in order, all purchased used, and probably an incomplete list:

    A 70s Datsun 2wd p/u (traded in)
    a 70s Ford 2wd p/u (blown tranny)
    a 70s International Traveler 4wd (rusted away, sugared gas tank)
    a 70s Dodge van (I forget what happened to it)
    a 70’s Chevy 2wd p/u (I sold it for a song because it was a piece of junk)
    an 80s Ford Bronco (rusted away)
    an 80s Ford 2wd p/u (blown head/gasket)(drove it that way for a month, drove it into the junkyard)
    a p/u that all I remember is it’s mangled frame getting towed away as I pulled up from a TAG trip
    a ’72 Chevy 2wd p/u that I replaced both engine and tranny in and sold because gas was getting too expensive. (I sold it over 10 years ago and it’s still running the backroads of Crawford Co)
    A couple of Chevy S-10s 2wd that I tore up and gave to the junk yard
    a Mercury Topaz (blown tranny)
    a ’90s Dodge van (rolled it after hitting a patch of black ice)
    an ’00s Buick Century (given to my NOLA son)
    an ’00s Chevy 2wd p/u (sold for too cheap to an old black guy from the Delta who knew how to hit my buttons)

    As I said, I’m probably missing one or 2 others.

    Presently driving a 2010 Dodge 4wd p/u with 200K+ on it.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Andy: A good friend of mine had an early 70s Blazer until just recently. Letting it go was like amputating a leg. At least 4 engines, 4 trannies, a couple of transfer cases, 2 bodies and an infinitude of lesser parts got it 750K miles or so and he did all the work on it, because he could. It made many trips south of the border where it picked up the nickname of Bette Robusta. (iirc)

  11. grumpy realist says:

    Due to living in places where a) friends drove me around or b) had excellent public transportation, I have only had two cars, both Nissan. Nissan Altima (which I finally got rid of because I got tired of the dashboard randomly crapping out on me–quite exciting at highway speeds! Took in to the repair guys many times and no one could ever find anything. Turns out to be a standard bug in Altimas of that year) and now have a Nissan Versa. Makes nice U-turns.

  12. Andy says:


    That’s a cool story!

    My blazer only has about 300k and the mechanicals are all original except the engine, which I had to replace about 15 years ago and I also added power steering to make driving it a bit easier.

    They are great vehicles. Whenever I drive it, I always have strangers come up and ask if I’m interested in selling. I’m cautious about where I take is as I’m worried it will get stolen. Hopefully, I’ll be able to save enough money this year to start restoring/fixing up the body and interior.

  13. tyrell says:

    The best car I have owned was a ’63 Chevy Impala SS: 327 cu. in., two – four barrel Holly carb, four speed Borg Warner transmission, Pacemaker mufflers. That thing would get it at the stop lights.
    My next favorite was a ’72 Pontiac GTO: red with gold stripes, Tiger Paw tires, hood scoop, and loud.
    Two cars I always wanted: Pontiac Firebird TransAm with the eagle on the hood; 1969 Mercury Cyclone with the legendary Ford Boss 429 engine – 600 horses! The engine that won 32 NASCAR races in 1969.
    “Dodge unveils 840-horsepower Demon, the fastest production car in the world” (Chicago Tribune) Just thinking about it quickens the pulse! Who said that muscle cars were dead!

  14. Michael Reynolds says:


    The cars I’ve owned have been a 67′ VW bug (ran it into a cement truck), a 1970 Ford Fairlane (reckless driving arrest in VA), a 68ish VW Van (threw a rod on the autobahn, abandoned), and a green Karman Ghia convertible, which I drove cross-country with a paper bag of stolen money in the trunk.

    Cars my wife had to drive me around in as a consequence of me having a bag of stolen money: a hand-me-down 1976 (?) Chrysler New Yorker, a 1967 Dodge Dart, (threw a rod in Vermont, abandoned) a 1972 Plymouth Valiant, another rusted out old Dart, and Chevy Pick-up, old, but year uncertain (abandoned in a Winn-Dixie parking lot in Florida). Then we started making a bit more money. A new Taurus, our first new car ever, a Mercedes M Class, a Lexus SUV, and with more money, an Audi A8.

    And then, all charges dropped, the first car I could actually drive myself in two decades: A new, black, 2002 Mercedes S-500, the Official Car of Evil. My God I loved that car. I literally cried when I had to give it up when we moved to Italy. A Toyota RAV. An Audi A6. My beloved E-350. And now the 450 which is fast as fuck but still seems a more sedate driving experience than the 350.

  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    I originally wanted to be a Shelby Mustang convertible, but it didn’t have roll bars, so my wife thought I shouldn’t be driving the kids in it. That’s when I got the E-350.

    If I were looking at muscle cars aside from the above, I’ve lusted after the Dodge Viper.

  16. Michael Cain says:

    Let’s see… 1969 Toyota Corolla; 1979 Nissan 280ZX (carefree young engineer with money); some vintage of Chrysler minivan (wife and children had arrived); 1992 Honda Civic (later passed on to kids); 2000 Honda Civic (later passed on to kids); 2004 Honda Civic (later passed on to kids); 2008 Honda Fit. The minivan didn’t make it to 70,000 in my hands — it was developing lots of problems that were covered by the extended warranty that was about to expire. All of the Civics made something over 120k miles eventually — the drive trains were all still fine but other issues came up. The Fit will get to 100k eventually, but I’m driving it less than 6,000 miles per year. My wife’s current car is a 1998 Honda Odyssey with 170k or so miles that gets driven less than 3,000 per year. Both the Fit and the Odyssey go to the shop once per year for oil and filter change and inspections on the lift just on general principle.

    We’ll probably do one more car. We’re muttering about moving someplace smaller and closer to the granddaughters. If/when that happens, I’d like to swap the two existing cars plus some cash for a 3-year-old Nissan Leaf or similar.

  17. DrDaveT says:

    1968 Dodge Coronet 440. Learned to drive in it. 4″ play in the steering, Flintstones brakes.
    Various other cars owned by my parents — 1982 Plymouth Reliant K-car, Mid-80s Pontiac Le Mans wagon, etc.
    1990 Geo Prizm hatchback — my first personally-owned car. Loved it.
    1998 Mazda 626, that my brother-in-law eventually drove to 200,000 miles
    2008 Toyota RAV4, which I am still driving and only has about 84,000 miles so far. Love it too. My dealer keeps trying to buy it from me; apparently others love this vintage as well.

  18. Scott says:

    In order:

    65 Mercury Comet – Bought for $50. 3 on the tree. 200 straight six. No radio. 3 tone Rustoleum.

    74 AMC Hornet Hatchback – New. Fawn Beige. 3 speed manual.

    80 Fiat Spider – Convertible. Manual. Blue. Loved it.

    84 Ford Ranger – Manual (notice pattern). Owned along with Spider above. Camping cap.

    ?? Toyota Van – While stationed in Japan. Right steering wheel. Manual. Dirt Cheap. $2000. It was a great hauler of people and gear to the ski slopes.

    84 Jeep Cherokee. Auto. OK

    91 Honda Civic Si. Manual. Loved it. Hugged the hills of South Ohio wonderfully

    93 Mercury Villager. Yes, married with children. Wife’s car: Geo Metro.

    2000 Chrysler Town and Country. Hated it. Awful reliability. Yes, two mini van owner. 3 kids, two dogs, minivans.

    2006 Honda Pilot. Auto. Seated 8. Still have it. The youngest still has it.

    2008 Honda Civic. Used. Auto. Kid’s car. All three had turned driving it. The youngest wrecked it.

    201o Mazda 3. 5 sp Manual. Still have it. Middle daughter is driving it.

    2010 Mazda 3 hatchback. 6 speed manual. Still have it.

    2015 Subaru Outback. Auto. Wife’s car. Loves it.

    So at one point, we had 5 cars in the driveway. Looks like a use car lot. Down to 4 cars.

    Basic rule for kid’s car. “You can’t have a better car than Dad. And I drive them til they’re dead”.

    Right now I’m eying a Fiat 124 Spider. Italian styling with Japanese mechanicals. Seems like a good combo.

  19. Kathy says:

    Just the highlights and lowlights:

    1979 Chevy Malibu. Boxy, ugly, with a monstrous engine that made it feel like a race car.

    1984 Renault R-12. pretty, stylish, with an engine so weak I felt like getting out to push when going uphill.

    1998 Nisan Altima. Leather seats with electric controls, decent engine, good fuel economy, and something went wrong at irregular intervals. One time, near the end(*), the brake line broke and left me with no working breaks at all, fortunately as I was slowly coming to a stop near a gas station.

    2011 Toyota Corolla. Best car I’ve ever had. I still have it. I’ve replaced windshield wipers, tires, break pads, and one battery(!), and other than regular maintenance it has never been in the shop, not even once.

    (*) About two months later, I sold it to a coworker. Her husband totaled it (he was uninjured) a few weeks after that, exactly two days before the insurance policy expired.

  20. Pylon says:

    Ancient Datsun 510 – used from Farmer Jones Used car lot (seriously that was the name). It broke down in a week and I had to sell it at auction.

    AMC Hornet – the sedan version of the Pacer. It was so basic its windshield washer filed was a pump. You pressed the button in several times to get the juice.

    83 Mustang 5 litre. Fastest car I ever owned. I hit black ice, when off the road and rolled it driving home for Christmas.

    Bought an old beater from my vice principal as a stopgap. I can’t even remember what it was – just a long 2 door from the 80s. I sold it to a kid who forged a cheque. They had driven it to BC and I never bothered to have it brought back – it was that cheap.

    Pontiac Sundance – just a little car to run around. My wife had a similar car.

    Ford Taurus wagon – I now had a kid so we became a 2 car family and I drove a Pontiac Sunfire.

    The Taurus turned into a series of Honda Odysseys when we had another kid but my car became an Infiniti G35. A lawyermobile, though possibly the only one in the city that was a stand. I also bought a Dodge Ram with a plow on it because I have a long driveway on my acreage and I live in Canada.

    I started to play in a band with law school buddies so then got a Honda Crosstour to carry stuff, and which I liked very much. I now have a Honda CRV. My wife drives a little Nissan Qashqai. Plus the last Odyssey we bought is still around for my 17 year old to drive to school, much to his chagrin. My name is also on a Kia Soul my university going kid drives.

  21. Grewgills says:

    First car was a hand me down Plymouth Duster.
    It was rear ended just outside a Rally’s on my way to a warehouse job. It’s rear axle was broken and the bolts holding down the front bench seat were broken. I ended up on the passenger side floor sitting on my burger covered in my soda. (Found out years later that the first cop on the scene was a contract killer). Another side note, the kid who hit me was going to Alabama and it was the summer before I went off to Auburn.

    My next car (first in HI) was an early 80s Toyota pick up truck that had been sitting in a field of California grass long enough that the grass had grown up through the bed and body of the truck. At the time $350 and a cheap after market fuel pump made it worth it. Every time I went over a bump the bed would lift up and fall back down, until we built a wooden flatbed for it. My dad has seen that truck driving around South Kona as recently as 5 or so years ago.

    Moved on to a Chevy Malibu station wagon (again price was the primary concern $500). It was a great party mobile for most of college.

    I bought a Blazer in ‘bama the summer after college and drove it to CA. I managed to draft semis most of the way from Dallas to Phoenix in one epic day of driving. It’s brakes failed catastrophically on the 5 and it was totalled, as was the Lexus it rearended.

    Moved on to my first brand new car, a corolla.

    I stuck with Toyotas and Hondas, until the Kia Soul I’m in now.

  22. Kit says:

    I remember (or at least think I remember) an interview with the Dire Straits’s Mark Knopfler back in the 70s or 80s. The subject of Bruce Springsteen came up, and Mark was asked his opinion on the man and his music. His response: I don’t drive.

  23. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    You know, you could write a hell of a memoir.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Question: do ALL Mercedes make you realise you’re driving a massive multi-ton hunk of steel down the highway, or is it just the diesels? (I used to drive my roommate’s diesel Mercedes around when she needed a driver. God, that thing was a tank.)

    I’m eyeing a Fiat 500 for my next purchase, provided they’ve solved the problem of the engine catching fire….

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: Last I heard, 500s are no longer being imported after last year. But that may only refer to that weird 500 pseudo crossover model, not sure.

    And I wouldn’t count on them being able to solve anything. I owned a Lancia Beta from just after Fiat bought the company. Great shop car! Always in the shop!

  26. Mikey says:

    My first one was a late-70s Chevy Malibu. We pulled the weak engine it came with and put in a 350, for some wonderful reason it fit perfectly. We called it “The Sleeper” and I won many a green light drag race in it.

    When the USAF sent me to Germany I bought a used Mercedes 280s. In America we think Mercedes equals luxury, but in Germany that is not always true…mine had cloth seats, manual crank windows, and a stick shift. But it was a great honking boat of a car and I loved it.

    Next I bought my first brand-new car, a Plymouth Horizon hatchback. From a luxury standpoint it was indistinguishable from the Mercedes, but it did get much better gas mileage…

    I transferred back Stateside, sold the Horizon and bought a shiny new Saturn. Those were pretty cool cars and fun to drive. Hung onto that one for about 10 years.

    Subsequently we got a used Toyota pickup, which I kept even longer than the Saturn. I sold it to a mechanic when the A/C went and the timing chain started to rattle. I think it was around 170K miles.

    My wife got a Hyundai Sonata, nice mid-sized car, very dependable daily driver. We took some long road trips in it as well. Tremendous value for the money. I liked it so much that when I sold the Toyota, I got a Hyundai Elantra.

    But then I got a couple big raises and finally finished grad school and decided it was time to move up in the car-buying world, so I leased my first Infiniti G37x (x meaning all-wheel drive). It was rather more performance oriented than any of my previous cars (0-6o in about five seconds) and man, was it fun.

    Next was another G37x, then a Q50 AWD, and currently a Q50 RS400 AWD (the 400 is for the horsepower, although it’s allegedly about 10% underrated so it’s probably actually putting out around 440). It’s the first car I’ve ever driven that has actually scared me a time or two. It will go very fast with very little urging.

    I may buy it at the end of the lease term and hold onto it a while, because I’m already set on the C8 Corvette. When I get that one it will be the car that brings me back to American car makers. I simply love how it looks and the performance and handling are beyond unbeatable for the price.

  27. EddieInCA says:

    1963 VW Bug
    1977 Ford Maverick (paid $200), no hubcaps, hood and passenger door were different color than rest of car. No front grill. Basically a horrid looking vehicle thar ran well. It was so ugly that I parked it two parking lots away so on one would seem me enter or exit it. Ever. Drove it to Junior College and back. That’s it. Too embarrassed to drive it anywehre else.
    1977 BMW 2002 (totaled by a drunk driver in 1983)
    1981 Nissan 310
    1987 Honda Accord Hatchback (Bought in 1988 for $7K, and drove for 12 years, and put 300K miles on it. Best car I ever owned.)
    1963 Ford Fairlane (still have it, completely restored and modified)
    1997 Honda Civc
    2001 Mercedes E320 Sedan
    2003 Mercedes CLK430 Cabriolet
    1966 Ford Galaxie Convertible (still have it, completely redone as a lowered, bagged restomod)
    2010 Porsche Cayenne (Still have it)
    20o8 Porsche Carrerra Cabriolet (Still have it)

  28. EddieInCA says:


    Thinking about a Range Rover to replace Cayenne.

    My boss just swapped out his 2015 Range Rover for a 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo. It’s pretty sweet. I, too, like Porsches.

  29. Mister Bluster says:

    My first car was my Aunt Ruth’s 1956 Plymouth red over white Savoy 2 door hard top (Holly Sue) that she gave me when I was just out of high school. The model with the big fins. It had a radio and the Pushbutton Drive Powerflite automatic transmission which I thought was pretty neat.
    Holly Sue was totaled when a driver pulled out of a parking lot from behind a snowbank compliments of the Chicago Blizzard of 1967 and T-boned me as I was driving by.
    My next car was a 1958 Ford. How do you spell T-A-N-K.
    When I moved to Sleepytown to finish college I really couldn’t afford to operate a car so it was two years before I bought my first Corvair. The 1963 model that inspired Ralph Nader to write “Unsafe of at Any Speed”. Everything he wrote was true. Mine had the added feature of a plywood floorboard. The entire metal floor had rusted out and was replaced with 3/4 in plywood by the former owner. The front and rear bench seats were screwed to the floor somehow. It was not sealed well so when I would hit a puddle it would splash inside the cabin. One time I replaced the generator. When I was done there were several nuts and bolts and other parts that I had removed left over. Threw them in the trunk in front. Car ran just fine.
    Next was a 1960 Mercury Comet. I called it the Vomit.
    1952 Chevy. Ran a few months.
    1960 Ford F-100. My first truck. Bought it in1973. At that time in Illinois all trucks had to have the owners name and City or Town name displayed on the vehicle. This was mandated years earlier so cattle rustlers could be identified. That’s the story I got anyway. Truck owners got pretty loose with the requirement. When I bought the F-100 it said Rainfarm Carbondale, Il. on the doors. There was no such place. The guy I bought it from said when he and his girlfriend would go out for a drive it would start raining.
    Mid ’60s Ford Van. Traded the Van for a 1965 Corvair Spyder Monza. This car was slick. The suspension had been modified and handled much better that the earlier model. Unfortunately it leaked oil like a sieve. It got so bad that I would put a Tupperware bowl under the motor when I parked, catch the dripping oil and pour it back into the crankcase. There was a sticker inside the glovebox that said “If this warning light comes on the dashboard, turn off the engine immediately”.
    One day that light came on and before I could get my hand off the steering wheel and onto the ignition key the engine locked up. Toast.
    1962 Chevy station wagon, 1966 Chevy Impala, 1966 Chevy pick up.
    My first new ride was a 1979 Datsun pick up with a full 8’ bed. I needed a reliable truck to put on the job for which I was reimbursed. Gas was fast approaching $1.00/gal!!! I think the first time I paid that much was Dec. 1979. Ran it for seven years and 200,000+ miles all over the midwest.
    Replaced it with a new 1986 Nissan Pick up.
    Needed a bigger work truck in 1989 and bought a new F-150. The last clutch pedal I ever stepped on. I was headed to a job in Rolla Missouri on I-44 one Monday morning in 1992 when I hydroplaned and spun into the dividing wall. Totaled.
    New 1992 F-150 SuperCab 8’ bed. Dream Truck. Drove it for 14 years. It was an automatic transmission that I did not maintain properly and after 100,000 miles of driving loaded down with tools in the bed and ladders on top the tranny had to be rebuilt. This time I religiously replaced the transmission fluid every 30,000 miles. After it turned over 300,000 I took it to the same guy who rebuilt the transmission for an inspection. I told him he had rebuilt it at 100,000 and now it had 300,000. “Really? Rebuilds don’t usually last that long!”
    I drove it another 20,000 and finally parked it in 2006 when I bought a used 2003 F-150 with 24,000 miles on it. Never had to put it on the job as my last stint in the landline telephone industry provided a company truck.
    Still managed to run up 150,000 miles on the ’03. Mostly after I retired. Midwest to California and return five trips in four years. Galveston Island. Monthly 400+ mile turnarounds to Columbia Missouri while my parents were still alive.
    My current ride is a 2013 Ford Fusion with 184,000 miles that I bought new. California and back 5 more times. Washington DC. Upper Michigan via Mackinac Bridge.
    I still have 15 States to visit.
    I like to drive.

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Andy: The stories that truck could tell… One I wasn’t present for:

    They were camped on a beach in the Yucatan and had some locals share their bonfire and their beer that night. The next morning, several items were missing. Called the cops. (Why? I don’t know) Cops wanted a description of the culprits. One was a young lady who was rather blessed. In trying to describe her physique, one friend found his limited Spanish lacking. Finally he held his hands in front of his chest and said she had “bolces de mantakiya grande!”

    And ever since, any well endowed woman has *bolces de mantakiya grande.*

    **large bags of butter

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @tyrell: Oh dawg, muscle cars of olden days. I still have a soft spot for early ’70s Chevelles and Gran Torinos.

  32. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Flintstones brakes.

    Heh, I had to watch out for puddles in the Bronco. Accidentally locked myself out of it once. The folks I was laughed their asses off when I climbed under it, reached up thru the floor board and opened it.

  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    I totally forgot two 1959 Morris Minors. Cannibalized the sedan to keep the woody station wagon alive. And lost my virginity in the back of it.

  34. Neil Hudelson says:

    My grandpa lived in Detroit and built a successful conveyor manufacturing business. Something about Detroit in the 50s and 60s entailed a lot of conveyor belts? Anyway, when my sister turned 16, he revealed he had traded a signed baseball card of some legendary Tiger player for a new 2001 chevy cavalier. Nothing special, but it was new, and it was ours. My sister moved to college two years later and that car was fully mine.

    Two years into college, a drunk crashes into my parked car. I was dead broke, so I could only get what the insurance check would pay for–a used 97 buick century.

    Two years later, a deer hit me. Yes, the deer hit me. I was driving up a steep country road, and it leaped from the crest of the hill into my windshield. Shattered the windshield, landed in the passenger seat. Died a few minutes later.

    Yay, another insurance check, another downgrade, and wouldn’t you know it another buick century, this one a…93? In 2011, my friends and I travelled to the “Rally to Restore Sanity” in DC (it didn’t work). On the way back, outside Columbus OH, another deer jumped in front the buick. We hit it at full speed, around 70 mph. That heavy tank of a car barely shuddered. The deer was liquified.

    Another insurance check, and wouldn’t you know it we are clearing out my grandmother’s estate and she has a… 91 buick. It lasted one year before I hit a deer outside Minneapolis.

    15 years and four insurance claims later, and my original newish cavalier has degraded to a $700 check. I figure let’s see if I can go one more round. ’94 ford ranger stick shift with no AC, and if violently shuddered if you got it above 80 mph (the speedometer only went to 90 iirc).

    When I knocked up my wife, I figure the ranger was a death trap and I finally spend my own money on transportation, a 2008 Tacoma, owned by a nonagenarian who only put 5,000 miles on it in 9 years. I’ve been driving it for about 3 years, and except for a stolen catalytic converter, haven’t had to have any maintenance. Some home upgrades–back up camera, A/V system, etc–and I’m prepared to drive this for another decade.

    After 19 years of driving and 6 cars, I’ve only spent about $7k of my own money. What can I say, I’m a cheap bastard.

  35. grumpy realist says:

    @Neil Hudelson: I don’t suppose that you’ve ever driven down that interstate that goes all the way down the western side of Pennsylvania? I drove up and down it on several road trips and man, the blood stains and deer carcasses on the sides of the road during certain times of the year….talk about a Roy Acuff song come to life!

  36. de stijl says:

    Possibly worst first car forever.

    Olds Omega 1976.

    The trim literally fell off. Glue just stopped working. The rear bumper fell off in traffic, and some poor lady screeched up short to avoid running over it. Hennepin Ave. Up near 25th.

    Perhaps, the highest instance of saying both ma’am and sorry in the same exchange.

  37. de stijl says:

    Reading through these makes my heart warm.

    So many true memories.

    A lot of interesting stuff happened in our old cars.

  38. Electroman says:

    @de stijl: Well, maybe. My first car was a ’74 Vega; however, its bumper never fell off. 😉

  39. de stijl says:


    Was thinking of that too.

    That the camera obviously shows up in reflections was so obvious. Dorky cool. Dude was making what he called “machine music”.

    What about The Cars?

    Great American band. So many great songs.

    All my peers claimed to hate them as too pop back in the day, but such an amazing band and such great songs. I loved it, didn’t care.

    Just What I Needed was relavatory. That was an very interestingly constructed song.