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Cars I’ve Owned – A Visual History

Cars I’ve Owned – A Visual History

Solid weekend – I had 4 Menage a Troises last night (unsure how to correctly express the plural there, but gave it a shot).  Sadly, the red wine, not the social activity.  Pretty good shit though – California blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet and Merlot, thus the humorous yet appropriate name.  We ordered a case last night and just opened bottle #5 – but might i add over 8 hours of drinking, so pretty restrained.

This sweet website was averaging over daily 40 readers on Thursday and Friday – I wonder how long until the offers come flooding in from Viacom, News Corp, etc?  I think with this kind of viewership i should be able to at least get something in the neighborhood of a Facebook valuation, purely on the basis of the strong growth trajectory i’ve established.  I should probably pull together some pitch books.

Anyway, commenter 1#DS correctly surmised what post was coming next: background on my auto-owning history.  I have always been a car fan, and i think i can safely say i’ve run almost the entire gamut (still waiting on Ferrari – judging by my dwindling finances will have to settle for a Ferrari jacket in tasteful red and black).  Let’s have a look.

1984 Renault Fuego, 1984 – late in 1984

These people seem much more impressed with the Fuego than I recall being

Coolness: 2 (Cloth sunroof!  That actually existed!)

Appropriateness for Awkward Romantic Manuevers:  N/A (Seriously, not even close to “A”.  I was a late bloomer.  Nuff said.)

Transmission:  4 speed manual

Stereo:  AM/FM Radio (I attempted to install a sweet aftermarket stereo from Autozone (you read that correctly – it had Music Search!) but the wiring on this thing was impossible to decipher, even for trained professionals.  So I listened to a lot of REO Speedwagon and Tina Turner on the radio.  A lot.)

Description: This is a little bit of a misnomer, because we didn’t own this car, we inherited the lease from a family member (said family member is no longer in good stead, of course).  My family was a bit on the poor side when i was growing up and we had a couple of bad marks on our credit history (something about financing stuff and then “taking it back and handing them the keys.”).  But at the strike of 16 i took a high powered job at the brand new Taco Bell and was ready to contribute to any auto-related endeavors.  Thus the Fuego – probably one of the worst cars ever to hit the US market.  You were not rocking a lot of chicks with the Fuego, even with the cloth sunroof majestically rolled back (complete with scrunched up bunch of fabric at the back, as if someone was magically sitting on a toilet on the ceiling inside my car).

I did have a decent amount of fun with this POS though – it was my first effort with a manual and, given that my Dad was a truck driver and on the road most of the time, one of my good friends taught me how to control the fury of the sub-100 HP Fuego 4 cylinder engine.  Rest in peace, B.  Once i mastered the stick, we would sometimes squeeze like 7-8 people in there and then drive through Wal-Mart parking lot late at night at top speed (maybe 38 mph), aiming for empty shopping carts and veering away as wrecklessly as possible at the last milisecond.  (Entertainment opportunities were somewhat lacking obviously, Wendy’s parking lot was our big meeting place.  Damn.)

1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (4-door, diesel), 1984-87

Not exactly the Pussy Wagon

Coolness: 0 (I think this is Landry’s car in Friday night lights; back in those days you had to plug the fucking diesel in on cold nights.  That was so cool – “did you remember to plug in the car?”  Given that i lusted after an IROC-Z Camaro (I have a Jersey soul) this was about the worst substitute ever.)

Appropriateness for Awkward Romantic Manuevers: 10 (As shitty as this car was, it was impeccable in this department.  Backseat was bigger than my current apartment.)

Transmission: 1 speed Automatic

Stereo: AM/FM Cassette (I’m prety sure this was mono, but because of a certain nostalgia i will give full stereo credit because of the sweet sounds emanating from those 1/4″ stock tweeters.)

Description: We chucked the Fuego back to that family member after i think 6 months (I think the payments were like $350/month which is like $6,343 in today’s dollars).   My fam amazingly came into a little money and for a time we had 3 cars: 1976 Ford Fairmont (not pictured, as it appears none are still standing), 1984 Thunderbird (Mom’s car – digital speedometer was off the hook) and the Olds Diesel.  Two cool things about this car: the back windows couldn’t be rolled down, so we assumed it was an ex-police vehicle that had carted a lot of perps to the hoosegow.  And we had it painted at Maaco for $100 – all black.  The paint job looked pretty good actually.  The ignominy of driving a diesel was minimized somewhat by the fact that it had a cassette player, so i could rock Boogie Boys, 2 Live Crew and Run DMC as loud as those killer factory speakers would allow.

1981 Nissan/Datsun 280ZX (with aftermarket turbo), 1987-1990

The epitomy of 80's cool
The epitome of 80's cool

Coolness: 8 (Only because it was 6 years old when i bought it)

Appropriateness for Awkward Romantic Manuevers: 7 (Being a 2 seater, this was difficult.  Being a 280ZX, it was mandatory.  Bonus: secret compartment in hatchbatch; perfect for storing Today contraceptive sponges.)

Transmission:  5 speed manual

Stereo:  AM/FM Cassette (in a later episode i will detail how, after failing out of college (GPA: 0.0 – all will make sense later, loose ends coming together in Seinfeldian manner), i went on to install a sweet Sony Disc Jockey and subwoofer (which sadly ended the potential for romantic encounters.))

Description: Now we are fucking getting somewhere!  The day i drove the Gold 280Z (with louvers!) off the lot still registers as one of the greatest of my life.  Having established a rock solid work history (2+ years at the Bell raking in $3.45 an hour!) a kind used car dealer financed this vehicle for me (at only 26.3% interest).  Still one of the great gestures in my life.  This thing was fast as hell, the aftermarket turbo added a complete nother dimension (and also, after about 6 months, a plume of smoke that followed me wherever i drove).

I cannot say enough good things about this car (even though in its sad last days it was a bit of a smoking albatross) – at times i even lived in it (some hard times befell me after i proved unworthy of the local university).  Once i had the misfortune of losing the gas cap and had to suffer the indignity of stuffing a rag in the opening (the stylish Nissan approach to gascaps was to have them flush with the side of the car).  Replacement cost: $35 (in today’s dollars: $7,450).  In a final act of teenage rebellion (and honestly, necessity), some friends and I pulled up beside a similar car (ironically, on the same lot from which i bought my car) and stole the gas cap.  (Note: if the statute of limitations for gas cap theft is somehow over 30 years, i point to a general disclaimer that there may be some fabrications in this sweet website).

1989 Ford Mustang GT, 1990-1991

American muscle, hard to stop once you start

Coolness: 8

Appropriateness for Awkward Romantic Manuevers – N/A (By this point, generally had other options in that department.  Awkwardness still abounded, just more comfortable environments pretty readily available)

Transmission:  5 speed manual

Stereo:  AM/FM Cassette (Nothing exceptional)

Description: I didn’t have this car for a long time, but it was the first late model car i ever owned.  And it was also badass; 5.0 liter Mustang’s are all pretty much badass by definition.  I did drive it basically across the country; I distinctly recall almost soiling myself trying to get through snowy-assed Idaho with 18 wheelers piling snow on top of me from the passing lane.

This car was also an life lesson for me as I mulled my future.  Having re-discovered the importance of academics (ie suffered the indignities/humiliations of boot camp: yelling, screaming, 3:00 AM wakeups, stenciling – having a long last name was a fate worse than death) i was carefully considering my options. Both opportunities were pretty attractive (to someone who had lived in a 280ZX for a few days): full ROTC scholarship or military academy appointment.  I was leaning toward the ROTC deal, because i could work part-time and keep the kick-ass ‘Stang.  My parents, being of an age that fully understood the life-long benefits of being a military academy grad, stepped up and offered to pay for the kick-ass ‘Stang if i went to the academy.  Case closed.  Done deal.  Easy decision.

Unfortunately, I learned a lesson about my parents that many other creditors had learned before: they were a bit lax in the area of  “paying monthly payments.”  However, they were strong in the area of “we’ll drive the fucker back to Ford and hand them the keys.”  So i scored a solid repossession on my credit rating before the age of 20.  Nice.  (Not necessarily the dick move it seems like – I could’ve/should’ve realized they couldn’t afford to pay for a kick-ass car to keep in the (nonexistent) garage.  But i did score one excellent Thanksgiving visit – girlfriend and ‘Stang, backed by the stellar vocals of Vanilla Ice.   So it wasn’t all for naught.

1994 Ford Mustang GT, 1994 – 1996

I couldn't find a black one, but close enough
I couldn't find a black one, but close enough

Coolness: 8

Appropriateness for Awkward Romantic Manuevers:  N/A (I had my own apartment and everything by this time)

Transmission:  5 speed manual

Stereo:  Ford Premium Sound (Which sounded pretty sweet but subsequently upgraded with Sony headpiece and CD changer.)

Description: My folks made up for the whole repossession fiasco by convincing the local Ford dealer to finance a car for me.  (And you can also totally trust me if I were to borrow some money from you.  My track record now is golden.  Because I might need a bit to tide me over pretty soon.)  So two buddies and I piled in a rental car and drove the 16 hours straight or so to my hometown.  I recall being so messed up that when we went to gas the rental car up, I left the nozzle in and drove off.  Ripped right off (they have breakaways, like stripper pants, because of morons like me).  One of my buddies noticed almost immediately and let me know of the severity of the situation by laughing and pointing non-stop for 4 straight minutes.  Those guys suggested we just throw it in the lake and turn in the rental, but given that i already had a gascap theft in my personal history, i didn’t want to push it on the petroleum-related crime front.  Some dude on a motorcycle caught us 5 minutes later anyway; he just called me a dumbass and made me give the nozzle back.

So when we got there, the dealer told me to pick out any car they had or had access to, $20k or under.  I had a little scratch for downpayment money (thanks to a little advance on pay, much obliged MF!) and we sought out the black Mustang GT with stick and premium sound system.  Brand new body style.  200+ horses.  Jet black.  Premium sound made both Snoop and Smashing Pumpkins sound equally heaven-sent.  Given that i was headed for Orlando and then Charleston, this was the perfect ride for the next 2 years.  But my eyes were always on bigger things, and i’d always wanted a GM V-8…

1995 Chevrolet Corvette, 1996-1999

I understand now why GM ain't gonna survive
I understand now why GM won't survive

Coolness: 8

Appropriateness for Awkward Romantic Manuevers – N/A (In a pinch, maybe you could try but seems almost impossible)

Stereo:  Stock AM/FM Cassette (as this car was the exact opposite of loaded, it had nada for extras.  I did add some nicer speakers later, but given the bizarre shape of the headpiece, it stayed.  No CD player = lame.)

Transmission:  Automatic (Here’s where i started getting the “you have an automatic?  I’d never have an automatic Corvette” from every Camry-driving motherfucker in the world.  My opinion: if your car is putting out 300+ horses, you don’t really need a manual to capture “the essence of the road” or whatever.   Guess what?  I like to drink a Mountain Dew while driving my ‘Vette, and an automatic makes that a helluva lot easier.   So get back in your Accord and STFU.)

Description: This was easily one of the most spontaneous and stupid decisions I ever made.  If you recall, my credit was fee-ucked up….but i had always wanted a GM V-8 and a Vette was at the top of that particular food chain.  On a whim, I drove out to a Chevy dealer near Seattle and found a 1995 with only 2k miles on it.  Had the sweet black ‘Stang as tradein.  This particular car had basically no options and was only vaguely discounted from sticker, even though used.  It was love at first sight.  The salesman knew he had the ultimate sucker on his hands (they made me pay to have the aftermarket stereo removed from the ‘stang!).

I couldn’t have been happier.  I took it back home and was roundly admonished for this piss-poor financial move.  I had a lot of these conversations:

Random person:  Dude, that’s a lot of money to spend on a car.  What about saving for retirement?

Me:  I figure having a Corvette when I’m 25 will give me a lot more pleasure than having an extra $100-200k when i’m 80.

Random person:  Fair enough.

Despite my arguments to the contrary, this car was a piece of shit.  Transmission fell apart at 8k miles.  Constant radiator problems.  And perhaps its biggest shortcoming: chicks in Seattle weren’t really diggin the muscle cars.  The Accord-driving dudes with those Jamaican hats were doing much better, ladywise.  Sigh.  I kept the ‘Vette even when i had full use of a company car for a year after getting out of the military.  Moving cross-country for business school, i waited until THE DAY BEFORE MOVING to drive to San Francisco and try and sell the car to a dealer.  I, predictably, took a bath – got about 2k less than i owed on the thing even though i’d been paying for what seemed like 15 years.  In hindsight, it’s astonishing that i could even get that good a deal.

2005 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet, 2007-2009

Do not settle for non-red brake calipers.  Ever.
Do not settle for non-red brake calipers. Ever.


Coolness: 9 (My tastes have change a bit since the Corvette days; i’ll leave top marks for the LP640 and F430s.)

Appropriateness for Awkward Romantic Manuevers – N/A (I’d say even less likely than the Vette, despite the “backseat” which might hold the bag of stuff your dentist gives you after a teeth cleaning.)

Stereo: Bose Premium Soundsystem (sounded pretty good, although I’ve never been a huge Bose fan; exhaust note sounded better)

Transmission:  Tiptronic (yes, this is another way of saying “automatic,” see rant above.  But seriously, almost all Ferraris and Lambos now have these, so STFU and go hop in your Prius.)

Description: Ahhh, what a difference 8 years makes.  Since taking a bath in the Vette, I’d reached a proud pedestal of sorts – semi-successful investment banker raking in dough that only other finance types and professional athletes could aspire to.  Well, professional athletes at the veteran minimum; the superstars were probably doing somewhat better than your average banker.  But I was burned out, and endeavored to take some time off.  (Helpful hint: when you hear that an investment banker is taking a sabbatical, go ahead and pull all your money out of the stock market, okay?  You are at what we financial experts call a “market top,” at that point.  Seriously, take it all out.)  I decided I’d drive cross country, see friends, clear my head, seek epiphanies.  Of course, i needed the right car for this, and i considered all varieties of high end vehicles (Lamborghini Gallardos, Ferrari 360s – used, of course).  I settled on the 911 because it seemed really the only car that would be comfortable enough for a 10,000 mile trip.

And it was – every moment driving this car was a pleasure.  But, truthfully, I didn’t have much need to drive in NYC.  So I’d create places to go (almost inevitably cities in NJ where gambling is legal and crackhouses/meth dens greet you as you drive in) and would end up super annoyed at dealing with traffic, garages, etc.  On one 3 day weekend we decided to go down to DC to visit friends; unfortunately the 911 greeted us with a “check engine” light.  New battery needed.  Plus yearly inspection due.  $1600.  Time to sell.  eBay was fairly quick and pretty painless (still waiting for my feedback, bro) and now there is no car in the stable.  And sadly/honestly, no need for one.  But the next one will be fucking badass (or a Prius)…