“My” first car was a Model-A Ford, pea green.  It ran okay but tended to jump two feet to the left when the brakes were sharply applied.  I say “my” first car because I was only twelve when Dad bought it .  He apparently was using me as a cover for his own desires.  The old Model-A hung around for a while, but then mysteriously disappeared.  As you will see, mysterious disappearances of cars was common in my life.

My real first car was a Jeepster Stationwagon when I was a sophomore in high school.  I don’t recall the model year, but it was one produced by Willys-Overland from 1948 to 1950.  I guess Dad felt obligated to buy me some kind of transportation being that I had achieved a license.  “Some kind” of transportation it was, but after about a hundred pounds of Bondo and some blue house paint applied with a brush, I could not have  been prouder.  The only thing wrong with the stationwagon was the fact that the engine was not bolted down: it just kind of rested uneasily on rubber pads.  As a result, the engine tended to bounce far enough out of its appropriate position to cause the shift mechanism to disengage.  Although this was a little unhandy at time, I learned to deal with it by using whatever I could find handy to wedge the engine back into place.  The best thing about the wagon was all that room in the back which I used to throw all the trash I accumulated: at least I saw no need to litter the sides of the highways.  I guess I was an advance scout for the national “Don’t Litter” campaign.

When I was a senior in high school, Dad did me proud: he bought me a 1953 Cadillac, dark green.  Although the color wasn’t ideal, the car was as clean as a pin, probably pre-driven by a little old lady.  My goodness, it had power windows, power seats, power locks, air conditioning vented over every window, automatic light dimmers, and a gas cap cleverly hidden under the left hump taillight.  Hot damn!

I don’t recall what happened to this gem, but I do recall starting college without a car.  I think in my second year of college, Dad bought me a ‘55 Chevy.  Wait, Wait!  Not cool.  It was a stripped down model black over black, and when I stopped at a service station I bought a couple of dollars worth of gas and filled it up with oil.  A totally ugly scene.

Along about my third year in college, I guess in response to my pining for a sports car, Dad bought me a Steudebaker Silver Hawk.  I don’t remember the model year, but they only made the Hawk from ‘57 through ‘59.  Whatever the model year was, it wasn’t exactly a sports car, but I did like it...most of the time.  There were a few problems: one door which seemed to like to retain rainwater, an electrical system which seemed to respond best to a hammer, and a gas pedal that tended to stick wide open.  Unlike today’s car owners who bitch about everything wrong with their cars, I simply leaned forward, grabbed the pedal and yanked: problem solved.  I don’t recall what happened to the Hawk, but I do recall entering the service without a car.

A couple of years later I emerged from the army still carless.  I had about $300 burning a hole in my pocket: a ‘57 Ford relieved the affliction.  Anyone who was around in ‘57 knows that Ford took a year off when they produced the ‘57 Ford.  I don’t want to say that it was a total loss: it had power to burn and the best damned air conditioner I’ve ever known.  It actually formed icicles in the air vent.  The biggest problem with the car was that the water pump repeatedly died.  Twice I replaced it.  This was one of my few attempts at automotive repair.  Ford wasn’t real big on welding that year: they opted for bolting body parts together.  To give you an idea of the quality built into this baby, I offer the following: it actually spit out spark plugs: a little inconvenient and more than a  little loud.

After a few months of working, I decided it was time to move on up to a little better car.  A ‘63 Cadillac Coup DeVille, metallic sky blue, was the car that caught my eye.  I doctored the radiator of the old Ford and drove it into a car lot.  The owner of the lot test drove my car, offered me a little for the old heap as a trade in, and the deal was done.  Years later in a bar, I ran into the owner of the car lot who had made this swap.  He eyed me, recognized me, shook his head, and commented, “’57 Ford.”  Apparently he remembered the trade regretfully.

I drove the wheels off that Cadillac.  When I married, it was our car.  It may have been the reason Linda agreed to marry me.  She undoubtedly is not the only young girl who has made a similar mistake.

While Linda was commuting to A&M, I traded in the ‘63 for a metallic gold ‘73 Cadillac Brougham: two and one-quarter tons of tank.  I gave it up to a fellow who came to my front door asking if he could purchase it for $25.  I drove a hard bargain: he would have to remove it from my property within twenty-four hours.  Deal done.

I was glad to get rid of the car being that the transmission had locked up, and we had obtained a ‘73 Chevrolet pickup which had been one of Dad’s company trucks.  Being that the pickup, a standard, was our only means of transportation, I had to teach Linda to drive the standard transmission brute.  I have to say that she did remarkably well.  Other than hitting one mailbox and leaving rubber each time she “popped” the clutch, it went pretty well.  I had the truck for nearly 30 years.  During its last few years with me, I allowed the tires to go flat and the battery to go dead several times.  But when I needed it, I’d air the tires up, throw in a new battery, and drive it away.  For years about once a month someone would come to my door to ask if I was willing to sell it.  “No” was always the answer until an old guy, even older than me, walked up my sidewalk.  I saw him coming, and I knew what he wanted.  I instantly decided that he was the one.  After explaining to him that the tires were dry rotted, the battery was dead, and not a single piece of sheetmetal was without rust holes, he still wanted to buy it.  After insisting that he take a good look at the truck, he made me an offer: $150.  I counter offered at $100 and his agreement to haul off all the junk in the bed of the old Chevy: tires, tree limbs, old newspapers.  He jumped at the offer.  He, of course, replaced the tires, added a new battery, inexplicably added a huge rearview mirror to the driver’s side, and drove to my home for me to admire it.  I indicated my approval and occasionally saw him driving it around town.  Finally I noticed it seemed to have disappeared.  It turns out that the old guy had given it to the young man who had been my neighbor for years.  The young fellow came by to tell me how he was fixing it up.  Good luck.

In 1969 we must have felt rich because we bought a brand new car: silver over blue Cutlass Supreme.  This car outsold all other models produced in the US that year.  To give you an idea of how they were throwing them together with great haste, my Oldsmobile had a Chevrolet engine and a Vega transmission.  There seemed to be some concern about the Vega transmission being that it was made of plastic.  When I heard about the lawsuits over the transmission, I crawled under the car to determine if my car had the Vega transmission.  After emerging from beneath the car, Linda asked me what I had learned.  I responded that it read “Body by Mattel.”  However the car never gave me any trouble, and I was always well satisfied with the beauty.  We drove it for years, my mother used it for years, my brother used it for about a year, and I finally signed it over to one of my brother’s daughters who immediately traded it in for a vehicle which she could not afford and had repossessed.  I’m sure someone is still driving the old beauty.

I guess the Cutlass was what made me an Oldsmobile man.   My next car was a couple of years old ‘87 Oldsmobile  88.  Good car.  I followed this up with a used ’97 Olds 88.  I would probably still be driving Olds 88’s today if not for the fact that in their infinite wisdom General Motors discontinued production of the Oldsmobile.  I’ve watched General Motors since I was a kid.  It was once a great company, but they took stupidity to an art form several times through the years.  During their recent bailout, I was for letting them fail.  It was just a matter of thinning the herd.

Some time during the 1990’s, I finally got my sports car: well, kinda.  It was a Pontiac Fiero: it was old and had had at least one crash, but after a few dollars, it was running the way it should run.  Yeah, I know, the Fiero was more of a girl’s car.  That wasn’t the problem: it undoubtedly was the most dangerous means of transportation I’ve ever sat in.  While behind the wheel, one was painfully aware that even a minor accident could result in major injuries.  I drove it for several years, but never on a major highway.  It was neat to  go antiquing with Linda in the little fellow.  I finally sold it to a fellow who had tried to trade me an old BMW and then a TV for it.  I finally sold it to him for a few bucks.  Several thousand dollars later, he had it running right, a new coat of paint and bizarre gold trim.  Okeedokee. 

I’m currently driving a 2007 Chrysler 300.  I bought it when it was one year old.  It’s very comfortable and gets 28-29 miles per gallon.  Most people think only small cars get good gas mileage.  They really don’t because those little bitty engines have to work so hard.  I often shake my head sadly when I notice people driving tiny cars.  I guess they’re “saving” the planet.   I’m saving the planet also, but doing it in comfort.  If I live long enough, I suspect this won’t be my last car, but it could be.

I’ve never spent much on transportation: since ‘67 when I bought that ‘57 Ford, I figure I’ve paid around $45,000 for vehicles.  I’ve driven each one until it was time to put them down: other than the Ford, I’ve never even bothered with trading them in.  I’ve either sold them for very little or given them away.  I’ve had such good luck with vehicles that I doubt that I’ve spent over $5000 for repairs.  So let’s say I’ve spent $50,000 over the last half century on cars and trucks.

If you’ve surmised I’m not much of a car guy, you’re right.  The truck was handy, the sports car was scary, the Cutlass, yeah, I had a moment with that car, but overall, no, I’m not a car guy.  
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