Being a recollection of the vehicles I’ve owned (Do you know any of these?)

Recently, on another site I participate in that involves Apple’s discontinued Newton PDA, a discussion went off the rails as they often do after one Newton owner wrote that he had somehow spilled motor oil into his device.

This started a discussion about vehicles that members have owned. As I’ve owned more than a few myself, I thought I would add my contributions.

After I had sent the email posting, I was surprised just how much it looked like a…weblog post. So, I thought I would edit it a bit so it was a better fit, and post it here.

The point of this is to perhaps generate some discussion. Do you know any of these vehicles? Have you owned any of them, or maybe something similar? What stories do YOU have to tell?

Because many of my photographs have not been digitized as yet, all the vehicle pictures but the last one are from Google Images.

Here’s the posting:

My list contains only American cars, and none too exotic, although I loved each and every one, and each in a different way–like children. Well, the AMC Ambassador that I had was more like an adopted child. 😉

My first car was a 1950 Oldsmobile 88. It was the second year of GM’s Rocket 88 V-8 OHC engine, and a huge plated rocket sat on the front of the hood as an ornament. I got it in 1975 for $200. It was the laboratory where I learned to work on cars.

The second was a 1941 Chrysler Windsor. That car never got a fair shake, and of all these was the only one that was never actually driven on the road. I found it sitting in a field and paid $150 for it. It had Fluid Drive, a forerunner to automatic transmissions. You shifted into first, it shifted into second for you. You then shifted into third, it shifted into fourth, again by itself. Unfortunately, while it was being towed home, somehow the transmission got engaged and a tooth broke off the main cluster gear assembly. I could not find a replacement part anywhere. I even toyed with the idea of putting a standard four-speed tranny in it, replacing the fluid drive, but it would have been fairly difficult without the proper tools and equipment. One of the cool things about the car was the speedometer…the owner’s manual said, “the speedometer glows green from 0-40 mph, yellow from 41-65, and red from 65 on up.”

Next I had a 1954 DeSoto Firedome. Mine was the same color as the one pictured, but two tone–white roof and trim over coral. (These antique cars seemed to find me, not the other way around!) It had the smoothest ride I’ve ever experienced, partly because it had knee-action shocks in the front, not the universally accepted two-piece cylindrical ones. It also had a dash-mounted shifter, and an amazingly great-sounding stock radio!

Following that I had a 1969 American Motors Ambassador. The less said about that car the better–at one point I needed an alternator, and at the time most were $20-$30…but, since AMC didn’t make or warehouse their own parts, I had to get it from another source for $75.

After that I had my first truly great car, and my second favorite–a 1970 Oldsmobile Toronado. It had a 455 cubic inch engine and a 400 Turbo Hydramatic automatic transmission. You’d stomp on the gas pedal at a red light and the front wheels would just sit there and spin before catching the pavement, then you’d take off and fly down the highway while watching the fuel gauge needle drop. In 1979 while in college I drove that car across the US and back…soon afterwards a drunk driver rear-ended it and bent the frame. I found a white one, but the engine had a cracked block and the interrior was trashed. My friends and I swapped engines and I changed over the interiors. It ran great, but one winter I skidded on an icy road and went up an embankment, hitting a telephone pole with the driver’s side wheel. This was bad news, especially since it was front wheel drive–it ruined the transmission.

For a short time I had a 1974 Toronado, which my friends and I called the Toro Boat. It was a huge bloated vehicle, and we used to joke that you could play football in the back seat.

Next I had a 1978 Honda Civic. That car got 50 miles to the gallon–no joke. Most of my friends still lived near where I had gone to college in the Pittsburgh area, about 50 miles away from my home. I could go visit them and drive back for around $3 (gas was about $1.25 then). I wore that car out!

I was so impressed with the Civic that my next car was also a Honda–a 1979 Prelude, in fact. This was my third favorite of all I’ve owned. It was the first year of that model, and it had a moonroof (I never understood the difference between a sunroof and a moonroof) and a digital clock that had worn out, now often displaying only parts of numbers…for example, something that looked like a7:0r. We jokingly called this Mars Time, i.e. the current time on the Red Planet. I drove that car from PA to AZ in 1987…it was a good car for most of its life.

Finally–in 1991 I got the car I’ve owned ever since, a 1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the favorite of all I’ve owned. It’s still licensed and I drive it, it still runs great. In 2011 I had to replace a head gasket, and I’ve done almost all the other repairs all myself. It’s got 246,000 miles on it, but since I’ve had a company vehicle for much of the past 15 years I’ve probably put no more than 25,000 mlles on it since 2003.

It was Motor Trend’s 1987 Car of the Year. I’d love to have it restored, or at least painted (the Arizona sun has been most unkind to it). Photo, from 1992: Monument Valley Mittens and My Car, Monument Valley, AZ-UT.jpg .

There’s more to Monument Valley for me than just this picture…if not my first favorite, then it’s at least amongst my favorite places to visit. I’ll have more on that in a later posting.

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