My 50th birthday is upon me, and this seemed like as good a time as any to look back on the cars that have carried me from my 17th birthday, when I got my first car, to my 50th, some 33 years and 36 cars and trucks later.
My first car was going to be a Pontiac…it seemed pre-ordained. I loved these cars, they had a history in my family and a reputation on the streets. The car, a ’73 Ventura, took mountains of abuse and taught me lessons on auto mechanics, driving on the edge of sanity, how to terrify my friends and a host of others. After that first Pontiac, there would be 18 more cars with the arrowhead hood ornament, or in the case of the ’53 Chieftain, a likeness of Chief Pontiac himself in chrome-plated steel. When they stopped making new ones, I was forced to change brands for my daily driver cars. Oh, and to be fair, a few of those Pontiacs were purchased for my wife’s use and one of them, a ’76 Grand Safari, is her cool old car.
Jeep SUVs played a big part in my car life. Eight more Jeeps would roll into the driveway after the first one, an orange ’75 Cherokee, rolled out of it. The one with the most sentimental value and the one that performed the most heroically was the ’82 Cherokee, the rig I met and later proposed to the woman who would become my wife in. With really big tires and a reworked engine, this truck simply could not be stopped by weather or road conditions.
After the two big players n my automotive life, Pontiacs and Jeeps, the mix gets a little more mixed. The one that may stand out the most is my 1980 Renault R5 LeCar, the only foreign car I ever owned. It’s actually hard to complain about the little French car as it was only a couple of years old when I got it, had very low miles on it and was dirt cheap. In addition, it ran great, gave great service and after installing wider tires, it handled like a slot car. And the 40 MPG it gave was quite different from the low-teens that my Pontiacs were giving.
American Motors cars made their presence known to my fleet with a 1983 Eagle 4X4 station wagon. This car was a revelation. Passenger car comfort and amenities with SUV capabilities. It was an unusual one too as it had a manual transmission, where most Eagle 4X4s were automatics. Unusual or not, my ex-girlfriend killed it and the new Volvo she plowed into gave as good as it got.
A ’63 Rambler that was the only car I ever made money selling didn’t stick around long. Then a dream car of mine, a ’65 Marlin, which you have endlessly read about in my columns, came along. This car is still with me and slowly making its way back to street drivability.
A ’73 Chrysler and an ’88 Cadillac Sedan DeVille were my two forays into the luxury car end of the spectrum. Both were neat cars, the Chrysler with it’s Grand Canyon for a trunk and the Cadillac for its opulence and luxury feel behind the wheel.
But soon came news that there would be no more Pontiacs and we needed some new cars. What to do? The only GM brand left in our price range was Chevrolet. I’d never owned one until I bought a used ’93 Caprice to replace a totaled Jeep. It was a good car, but I needed a Jeep…I have a Jeep problem as you know. Chevrolet number two was an HHR wagon for my wife. Okay car, but it was getting ready to need work and I wasn’t in the mood so it had to go. Chevrolet number three is sitting out in the driveway right now, my ’11 Aveo. This is my second Korean-built GM car, the first being an ’88 Pontiac LeMans. Both built by GMs Korean partner, Daewoo. Both cars have been very good, the Pontiac taking more abuse back in my crazy days than does the Aveo, which I am trying to make last until well after it is paid for.
So, as of this writing, there are two daily-drivers, the aforementioned Aveo for me and a ’12 Jeep Compass for my wife (she has a little Jeep problem too) and out in the garage there are two oldies but goodies, the ’76 Grand Safari and the ’65 Marlin.
Our daughter is six years away from her driver’s license, and there has already been talk of a Cadillac or possibly a Hummer H3 being added to the fleet at that time. As for me, It’s been a wild ride in more ways than one.