Sunday, August 8, 2010


Here's another of those posts guaranteed to be of no interest to anyone except a couple family members and maybe my ex-wife.

I used to keep a journal on the computer, a practice I began at the start of my flying career and kept on through various trials and job changes. When I met Susan I found that after keeping her up to date with my daily doings I didn't have the energy to go over everything again for posterity, and my diarizing gradually faded away. Then I somehow managed to lose the file--and every backup of it--so that the several-thousand-page record of these years, such as it was, is now lost. (Actually, this blog is just an attempt to transfer this on again / off again daily habit to a more public--and maybe more durable--forum.)

One of the files I kept up along with my daily journal (alas, now also lost) was a record of the various cars and trucks I had owned over the years. (There was a separate file for motorcycles.) Writing this now, I feel immediately defensive at the stupidity of this and the appearance of shameless consumerism. But I must own my car fetish. For whatever reason, I tend to get restless with a car after 18 months or so and I start trolling the car lots and magazines, shopping for the next thing. Though I do love a new car, many of my vehicles over the years--a majority of them--have been used. But clearly making the best use of money has not been the object of my automotive strategy (if you can call it that). And, as I know I've said elsewhere, even now I can't think of much I'd rather do with this money than to have had a couple dozen cars. My car file was in no way an attempt to boast about these cars--very few of them were anything to be especially proud of; but over the years there grew to be such a number of vehicles that I feared losing track of them or of their characteristics or of our history together. And so I started keeping a record.

I've included many of my spouses' cars here, since I tend to be the primary driver when I'm around and I often used their cars as my own (and vice-versa, of course) and I was instrumental in all of these purchases.

Unless specifically noted, none of these photos are from my actual cars. I'm a little surprised to find that I don't have many pictures of these cars over the years. And it's more surprising yet, actually, how difficult it is to find a web photo of exactly the make and model and year and color of vehicles which presumably sold originally in the tens or hundreds of thousands. So I've tried to use the photo that comes closest to the model and equipment, and color has taken a back seat. Maybe I'll make it a mission now to look for photos that exactly match my old cars, or to snap those photos myself when I run across a better example than what I've found thus far.

Without further ado:

  1. 1970 Buick Riviera (purchased 1979). Gold with, maybe, a white or black landau top (sad, I can't remember and I doubt there are any photographs). My first car. Had a 455CI engine with a 4bbl carburetor & 3-speed automatic. No Positraction. Bought before my junior prom from dealer where Tanner's used to be in Brainerd. Traded my mildly-crashed Honda CB400 Hawk motorcycle for it. Drove through my Jr. and Sr. years of high school, and in the summer after graduation my brother Jon drove it up to Hackensack and back and failed to accommodate its prodigious consumption of oil. Overheated and cracked the water pump. Junked @186,000 miles at Shipman Auto in BRD (thus saving me the question of where to put it when I went down to MSP to college).

  2. 1977 Pontiac Bonneville (acquired in '81 or '82). Dark red. 350CI V8, crushed red velvet interior. My dad's car, bought new in '77 and given to me after my first year of college to sell for a motorcycle for an adventure. I used it at college in MSP for part of that year and then sold it to a dealer in Brainerd for, I think, $2300.

  3. 1972 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Black. 500CI V8. After my motorcycle trip, bought in Pine River (I think). Drove for less than a year. Turns out it had been so cheap because the heater core was gone and it was an expensive fix; no heater in MN winter = bad. Drove it (in a snowmobile suit) across the frozen lakes around Brainerd at high speeds--we'd get to maximum speed and then spin the overboosted steering wheel and hang on. Junked it with a couple friends, driving it around town in various states of disassembly until it was just an engine and frame and rear fenders. Gave it to an old junk collector out in the woods around Nisswa.

  4. 1981 Ford Escort (my ex-wife's). Gold or tan & brown 2-tone. Bought used by her dad. 5-speed. Quite junky but reliable nonetheless. Needed CV joints @ about 60K miles as I recall.

  5. 1974 Volvo 142. Garish orange exterior and an interior striped like a beach umbrella. Bought in MSP about 1984. 4-speed manual, coupe. Huge tractor-like steering wheel and stubby shifter with square knob. Not an ounce of performance but built solid like a tank. The most road personality of any car I'd owned before or since. Mechanical fuel injectors as noisy as a diesel. The Swedes at their best: would start in the coldest weather without plugging in (it had no plug) and produced heat almost instantly, even at -40. Simple and very versatile heat controls. But it was always about 25% broke: over a year or so it needed two heater blower motors, three drive shaft universal joints, brakes, etc. Bought my first new truck and sold the Volvo off the street (Cedar Ave. & 46th St.) for a few bucks.

  6. 1985 Toyota 2WD x-tra cab pickup. Bought new from dealer up in Brooklyn Park for, I believe, about $7,500; my first new car. Blue, 5-speed, 4-cylinder. Bucket seats and opening rear window the only options. Simple and robust. Totaled not long after purchase while driving home from morning bus run at the MTC. My fault. Wipers were smearing ice on the windshield and I fixated and did not notice the stalled traffic ahead. No injuries, but totaled both cars.

  7. 1980 (I think) Oldsmobile 98. Burnt orange. Bought from dealer in Roseville for, I think, $4000. They touted its low mileage (47,000!). When it used a lot of oil I did a title search at the DOT in STP and found the correct mileage figure was 147,000. Got money back after the dealer demanded I sign an I-don't-know-how-many-miles-it-has disclaimer (even though I did know; I just wanted my money back).

  8. 1986 Toyota 2WD x-tra cab pickup (new). Bright red, same model as above, except with bench seats instead of buckets. Decided the used car wasn't all the savings I had hoped. This truck spent a couple years hauling equipment around for the band I was in, The Steaming Jacuzzis. (No photo here; the above photo for the '85 is actually my '86 truck almost exactly.)

  9. 1987 Mazda RX-7 (new). Blue metallic. Traded above truck in, leased the Mazda. Base model with alloy wheels, fabulous wankel rotary motor and 5-speed. $16,800 sticker, payments were $385, a fortune for me at the time. I quickly exceeded the lease's meager mileage allotment and sold the car at a big loss to avoid a bigger one. Ergo, my first lease and, until I'm driving far fewer miles, my last one. (It seems there's no way to put more mouths to feed in the expense chain and not ultimately pay more money.)

  10. 1980 Chevrolet Impala (Caprice?) wagon. Dark green. 305 CID V-8. Bought used in Pine River as a means of trying to keep miles off the Mazda. Paid, I think, about $1,400. We called it "The Green Weenie." Actually, a great do-everything car. Became my dad's car when I was done with it.

  11. 1985 Toyota Corolla GTS coupe (Ex-wife's, bought used by her dad). Silver. A fun little car but horrid for a MN winter with its RWD, light weight and wide hot-rod tires. Don't remember what became of it--sale or trade-in or maybe her dad just took it back and disposed of it. (This photo is a non-hot-rod version.)

  12. 1986 Honda Civic (Ex-wife's, bought new, I believe). Became my car when she got the Subaru below (I was still recovering from the Mazda lease debacle). Gold metallic. 5-speed. Very lightly built, but a blast to drive and trouble-free until we got rid of it around the 90,000 mile mark.

  13. 1988 Subaru wagon (Ex-wife's, became mine when she got Subaru below). This model was later called the Loyale. White. Automatic, FWD (not AWD). Bought slightly used from Poquet Auto up in Pine River. Utterly gutless but fairly utilitarian. Trouble-free for us. Gave to my dad, who drove it past 225,000 miles despite continuous trouble with the cooling system. (This photo has a strangely raised roof; ours did not.)

  14. 1991 Toyota 2WD x-tra cab pickup (slightly used). Dark red w/ windowless topper. Looked like a red hearse. Got in an accident with this one also, nearly totaling it. It was never quite right afterward. Hauled a lot of stuff while building a house up in Nisswa. Had this the longest of any car to date, over three years. Traded in on next Toyota truck.

  15. 1991 Subaru Legacy sedan (Ex-wife's). Again purchased slightly used from Poquet Auto. A kind of really deep gold / brown metallic that looked black. Shiny, camel-hair-color interior, the fabric for which (I remember a reviewer noting) looked like "the pelts of carnival teddy bears." Auto, FWD. Nice car, but lousy seats.

  16. 1995 Subaru Outback wagon (Ex-wife's). Purchased new or near-new (possibly from Poquet Auto again in Pine River). Red w/ tan 2-tone. Our first AWD / 4WD car. A great MN winter car, though later models with more ground clearance and more aggressive tires were even better in the snow--the earliest one was a mostly cosmetic exercise compared to the basic Legacy.

  17. 1995 1/2 Toyota Tacoma 4WD x-tra cab pickup. Bought new, this time from a dealer down in Burnsville. Red. 4 cylinder like the previous trucks, but my first with 4WD. 5-speed.

  18. 1997 Dodge Ram 4WD extended cab pickup (new). White, with gray cloth interior. 318 CID V-8. This truck remains one of my favorite vehicles of all, but the mileage was tough @ 30,000+ miles a year. Getting rid of it for mileage purposes, though, was stupid since I lost more money on the transaction than the gas would have cost over the life of ownership.

  19. 1998 Dodge Intrepid (new). Dark green metallic. Nicely equipped, though without the leather I'd wanted. Good radio. Come winter--and after a couple beachings in all of 5" of snow--I missed the 4WD and not having to fret about weather on my cross-the-Midwest drives for my airline work. My current car when I met Susan; she remembers our first date in it.

  20. 1998 Jeep Cherokee Sport. Green. Susan's car when I met her in Fargo, her first new car, bought on a 2-year lease in Appleton. Auto, with an inline 6. Peppy but crude, and had a series of little niggling problems--doorstop breakages, front end seals. For the record, she insists this is STILL the greatest car ever made (except that it isn't--she'd take her Honda now anyday).

  21. 2000 Toyota Tacoma 4WD V-6 xtra-cab pickup (new). Yet another red Toyota, and another 5-speed. Traded the Dodge Intrepid on it. First stick shift car Susan drove--I had to teach her (very nicely, tho there were still tears! And then tears when we got rid of it. Go figure). After her 1998 Jeep Cherokee lease expired shortly before our wedding this became our primary car. (No photo; again, very like the 1995 above except for the V6, which only carried a small badge on the tailgate.)

  22. 2001 Saturn L200 sedan (new). Gold metallic. 4 cylinder, automatic. Leather interior, heated seats, sunroof. Nice car and trouble-free for us (though I suspect it would not have aged terribly well). (Ours did not have the alloy wheels in the picture below.)

  23. 1981 Cadillac Seville. 2-tone gold / brown. Bought out of some guy's front yard on Kaukauna's Northside for $1,000. Very used (150K+). Big history of extracting repair penalties from its owner, but was mostly trouble-free for the several years I had it (excepting that only about 50% of its accessories ever worked at any given time. It helped to have a good mechanic adept at the $20 band-aid fix). Heavy and lazy with a grumbling 368CI V-8 and severely overboosted steering, this car's element was the open road, and it made numerous 500-mile trips between Louisville and Appleton over the years. Lived in Louisville at the end. Blew a radiator in the Galyan's parking lot and the fix was determined to exceed the car's value. Sent to the crusher on a flatbed (I still have pictures somewhere).

  24. 2004 Saturn Vue V-6 AWD (new). Red. Snappy 3.5L Honda V6. A functional but unimpressive vehicle. The seat heaters gave up after the first year or so. Traded the Saturn L200 on it. All our Saturn experiences were made happy less by the cars, which were only adequate, than by a first-rate dealer and excellent customer service.

  25. 1997 Buick Riviera. Dark red. Traded my Honda Superhawk on it (ironically at "Great Lakes Auto" in Darboy). Actually a pretty cool car. Every option: leather, sunroof, heated seat, seat & mirror memory, cruise, good stereo, automatic climate control. Extraordinarily quiet; the perfect freeway car--like my old Seville but with just a dash of Monte Carlo chic. Fabulous, sensuous lines. But a real hangar queen. Stickered for $35K new; I bought it with seven years and 73,000 miles on the clock for $11K. Three years later it was worth $500 on trade. Needed three sets of brakes, two A/C compressors, a zillion other $500 items. When the "heavy duty" transmission gave up at 125,000 miles, I cried uncle.

  26. 2006 Honda Civic EX coupe (new). Blue metallic. 5-speed, great radio, sunroof. A mini-Riviera without the latter's constant financial bloodletting. A great car, but light and small; a bit snug for a fat guy. Good mileage, tho (38 MPG highway). Traded on Flex.

  27. 2008 Honda Element (new). Bright lime green metallic. AWD. Traded the Saturn Vue on it. Quirky but very utilitarian, the do-everything car. Drives OK, has good radio, and gets through anything in winter. Susan's current car, and her favorite thus far.

  28. 2009 Ford Flex (new). Black. Limited, AWD. Every option but navigation. Thus far (presently @25,000 miles) I have to say it's my favorite single vehicle of the lot. As quiet as my Riviera and very smooth. Great winter car, and very comfy for 4 or even 6 people. (For once, an actual photo of my car.)

  29. 1998 Ford F150. White, 2WD, 4.2L V6. 133,000 miles. Work truck, w/ no options whatsoever. No A/C, no cloth seats, no carpet, no cruise, no opening rear window. Bought to live in Louisville as my airporter (now that I'm back on reserve), but it needed to be roadworthy enough to make the 500 mile drive when required. Alas, it survived but the trip down to KY before throwing its motor. This photo was our last together. $3G down the drain. (This has rekindled my skepticism of American cars; I may have to vent in a separate post.)

  30. 2011 Ford Taurus SHO. Metallic Slate Gray. Got as a slightly-used dealer demo. Traded the Flex on it in July of 2011. Just about every option known to humanity: navigation, adaptive cruise control, heated / airconditioned / massaging seats, automatic wipers, automatic headlights / high beams, backup camera, blind spot warning system, collision alert, rear / side collision alert, SYNC voice control. Twin turbo "Ecoboost" 3.5 liter V-6 good for 365 hp and 400 ft/lbs of torque. Spirited performance, but perhaps even quieter than the Flex. The perfect highway car.
(Not my car, but same color.)

31. 2014 Ford F150. FX4 package (at that time, its own trim level; later the FX4 became a package added to whatever trim level purchased. Mine was based off of Lariat trim). Extended cab, so not full rear seats. 3.5L Ecoboost twin-turbo V6. Fabulous power, good transmission. Very comfortable seats--maybe the best seats I've had. Very quiet on the highway. Nicely equipped, but missing a couple key features. No adaptive cruise (was not offered by Ford on the trucks until 2015), no navigation. But for these I could have kept the car forever. Leased and then purchased at the end of the lease. My favorite car of all.

32. 2016 Honda CR-V Touring, white. Traded the Element for it--to my wife's eternal chagrin. Same running gear as the Element, but in a more civilized package. Touring trim had everything: adaptive cruise, navigation, heated leather, sunroof, AWD. And it *is* the most popular SUV sold in this country. But... (and maybe I'm just becoming a horrible snob) I just don't feel like any of it quite added up to a home run. The navigation was unusable as a directive device (though OK as a moving map display); the adaptive cruise was so slow and cautious as to make one a road hazard; the seats were nice, but not F-150 nice; it was quieter than the Element, but not especially quiet. Etc. Became my airport car after Susan discovered the glories of the Jeep (see below), and I sold it to a dealer in MKE.

(not mine)

33. 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Sahara trim level. I intended to buy something inexpensive for a Louisville car and (because my wife had never liked the Honda CR-V) it kind of morphed into this Jeep (which she HAD always liked). 6-speed manual, removable hard top. Heated seats, power windows. Otherwise, pretty basic. Noisy and fairly crude, but kinda fun to drive and more comfortable than one would expect. Great seat heaters and a fabulous cabin heater.

34. 2019 RAM 1500 4X4 crew cab. Laramie trim. Heated and cooled leather seats, automatic everything (lights, high beams, wipers), adaptive cruise, 12" center screen with navigation. My first time ordering specifically from the factory--even came with my name on the sticker! Traded the F-150. I really struggled with this decision, as I had loved my F-150 so much. My plan was to buy another Ford. But the interior of this RAM made me roll the dice. The RAM's V-8 sounds like a million bucks (the F-150 alway sounds like a sewing machine) but makes less power than the Ford--though pretty close. Markedly worse mileage. Rotary shift knob makes for a huge center storage console, but the switch doesn't always manage to put the truck in gear as expected. No external keypad like the Ford, but an app that lets you do as much and more from your phone. A much more ambitious options package, but not all of it seems fully worked out. The wipers, for example, don't always work and cannot be made to work until they've worked thru their issues.


dbackdad said...

oh my god! I've had 4 cars. I've been found wanting in the maleness category apparently. :-)

'77 Toyota Celica - black. Rusted out door. My first car.

'96 Ford Ranger - Probably my favorite vehicle. Put 210K on it before another driver decided it was time for me to retire it by rear-ending me.

'01 Saturn SL1 - mostly the wife's car. Tranny went out.

'05 Hyundai Elantra - current and our only car. Wife drives a '07 Honda Elite scooter to work.

Jon said...

I'll have to add my own list at some time in the future. I also remember the Riviera had a couple of broken motor mounts that shifted when you stepped on it. That in itself was quite a feeling. I remember most of those cars. I think that dealer in Pine River is now gone. Of all my cars over the years, most have been trucks, for obvious reasons. 1 car and 6 trucks, I think, not counting Kyles cars and my present is probably the most reliable so far.I think she has had 7 or 8 cars and without a doubt, Subaru is by far the best, especially in MN for the winter!

Dzesika said...

Wow. Die Jetta is only car number three for me. This is fascinating, probably for that reason!

wunelle said...

Huh? Motor mounts? I honestly don't remember that! But the car had one wheel in the junkyard just about from the day I bought it, so I'm not surprised...