Cars: A Straightforward History

1981 Ford Escort
1986 Hyundai
1988 Toyota Corolla, purchased used.
1983 Toyota Corolla, purchased for $350 when household needed second car. Had 167,000 miles on it.
1998 Ford Explorer. Purchased used, replaced ’83 Toyota, so it wasn’t really my car.
2001 VW Passat, still in service. Purchased to replace ’88 Corolla when electrical system failed. The Corolla could have been repaired, but I had learned 48 hours earlier the details of my confidential separation agreement from the Baltimore Sun. So I bought a new car for the first time in 15 years.
2011 VW Jetta.

Also drove an AMC Hornet, a used Audi (family cars) and an enormous Buick owned by my grandfather.

Best car of the lot? I’ll award a tie to the ’88 Corolla and the ’01 Passat. The Corolla had 112,000 miles on it when it was retired. The Passat, now almost 10, has fewer than 70,000 miles on it because I just don’t drive that much. (And a lot of those miles have mounted up since it went to live in New Orleans and is now driven chiefly by Mr. Lippman. The Jetta has less than 4,000 miles on it and it’s almost a year old.)

Novelists use cars all the time to create insight into character. Here’s mine: Doesn’t care about cars, drives them into the ground, likes to drive stick, prefers a nimble sedan over an SUV behemoth.)

What do your cars say about you?


18 thoughts on “Cars: A Straightforward History

  1. I started out with a 1968 VW Microbus and then graduated to a 1972 Beetle. My first new car was a 1985 Honda CRV that I drove for 11 years. I ventured away from Honda, a Kia, a Subaru and a Land Rover and now am back to a Honda CRV. I guess it says I’m older and practical. My hubby has a Jaguar.

  2. 1966 Plymouth Valiant
    1989 Ford Bronco II
    NYC subway system
    1989 (?) Trek 7000 hybrid
    2006 Burley trailer
    2007 Trek 1000SL road bike
    2007 Dahon Matrix folding bike
    2009 Xootr Swift folding bike
    (2) 2009 16″ Specialized Hot Rocks

    2014 Ren� Herse 650b

  3. All bought used:
    ’65 Chevelle Malibu (it finally rusted out too badly to be inspectable)
    ’65 Olds Cutlass (engine gave out)
    ’65 Olds 442 (frame crunched in a wreck)
    ’78 Buick Regal (at 235K, sold to co-worker)
    ’78 Buick Skylark (bought from a friend for 2nd car, finally scrapped)
    ’93 Buick Regal (205K — sold to friend’s daughter for her first car, she used it about four years)
    ’00 Buick Century (141K and counting)

    I keep the maintenance up to date and don’t pay much attention to washing and waxing. Rain is my cars’ best friend.

  4. All bought new:

    1972 green Chevrolet Vega (I’m still embarrassed about that one)
    1973 red Fiat x/19
    1976 blue Chevrolet Camaro
    1986 grey Honda Civic
    1989 “champagne” Nissan Pulsar (I didn’t like the Honda)
    1996 silver Honda Accord
    2006 grey Honda Civic(I’m going to go the distance with this car)

    The only car I still pine for is the Accord that in a moment of stupidity sold after 12 years and ONLY 176K miles.

  5. all bought used: ’78 impala, drove it for years; ’85 dodge shadow (over 200,000 miles); now own a purple ’95 geo prism, which has a toyota motor, so it will no doubt pass the 200,000 mile mark too.

  6. 1985 - ’75 Chevy Nova - Year late graduation present
    1987 - ’76 Ford Mustang II - Tired of the Nova. This car was a mistake
    1987 - 1979 Dodge Aspen with bad brakes and broken frame, became the Mustang II (ie-Pinto) blew a rod.
    1987 - 1973 Buick LeSabre - My inner mullet boy LOVED this car with its 350 motor
    1988 - 1983 Chevy Camaro - Another mullet boy indulgence.
    1991 - 1976 Postal Jeep - Cheap, easy on gas, took me from rural mid-Ohio to Cincinnati
    1991 - 1986 Toyota Corolla with 200,000 miles on it. Thing ran forever until the transmission shop destroyed the drive train. They’re out of business now.
    1994 - 1991 Toyota Camry - Another long-in-the-tooth Toyota that ran for two years with a blown head gasket. Ruined by collision with deer
    1998-99 - various and sundry disposable beaters: A 1988 Chevy Celebrity, 1988 Nissan Z that leaked oil, 1982 Dodge Omni, none more than $500
    1999 - 1997 Chevy Cavalier. Finished my pizza delivery career.
    2005 - 2000 Ford Taurus - My father’s car, which I inherited
    2008 - 2005 Dodge Neon - Still my car. Bought it because gas was $4.50/gallon. It’s replacement will likely be a hybrid if it lasts another three years.
    2008 - 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe - The Nitamobile. Yep. I married into this car, which took us to our wedding and honeymoon in Tennessee.

  7. I drive a 2002 Saab. I live in Austin. I use a Mac. I am a cliche.

    (the Saab has fewer than 60K on it. advantage of working at home.)

  8. Jeff, is that Austin, MN?

    1969 Valiant Used
    1975 Sky Blue Maverick Used, from my parents.
    1988 Olds Delta 88 - New I got a Job in Sales!
    1990 Hyundai Excel - New, Lamb Chop’s Car.
    1991 Isuzu Rodeo - New, Lamb Chop’s Car after the Hyundai is totaled.
    1995 Camry XL - retired 2010 (270,000 Miles) Ended it’s time with us known as Dad’s Crap Car.
    2004 Honda Pilot - New, great car. Lamb Chop’s.
    2011 Chevy Traverse - Company Car. 1st ever.

  9. My dream car is a ’50s era Studebaker pickup truck. I saw it in 1986 or thereabouts. It is my Moby Dick. Big, round and white.

  10. When I was young and beautiful, I drove a sexy car…the Honda Prelude before they ruined it. Now that I’m an old grandmother, I drive the treehugger’s car; the Toyota Prius. Evolution.

  11. My baby is a 2000 Honda Civic. She just passed the 165,000 mile mark and to celebrate I got her a new steering wheel cover. She’ll also have her oil changed next week. She is my 2nd Civic and I know that she is getting close to retirement age. I commute at least an hour in each direction each day and having a reliable car is extremly important to me. But my finances being what they are (tight), I might not be able to get a Civic next time. It might have to be a Fit (which works out to be about a year’s worth less of car payments). Will I look silly driving it though? It’s very small. I am not. My first Civic lasted from 1993 to 2000. It was great. I am sorry to report that the two Fords (both stick shifts!) and one Plymouth I had all fell apart starting at 50,000 miles and I would never buy a Ford again.

  12. Oh, very much on my mind this week, as I prepare to put another $400 or so into my 2000 Beetle (140,000 miles and counting).

    Since I went off to college (in an urban setting) within months of getting my driver’s license, I never drove much and didn’t own a car until I was 25, when I bought a burnt-out 1980 Mercury Lynx from a Foreign Service Officer who was leaving the country. I paid $500 for that car, which was way too much — although it was the car I learned to drive a standard shift on.

    A few months later I bought my first new car, a 1990 Saturn SL. Four doors, because I reasoned that I’d own it for at least ten years, and might be married with children by the end of that time, so would want something I could put a car seat in. Not quite ten years later, I drove that car cross-country to Los Angeles, still single.

    The standard shift was totally impractical for LA, and I wanted a car that represented my new life, so bought the Beetle. That car has been more or less rebuilt twice, has crossed the country once and traveled the East Coast north-south more times than I can count, and will probably be the last car I own. At this point, it feels like an extension of my own body (which may be why it’s looking so shabby these days).

  13. One summer back in 1993 I worked at the Brass Elephant, and one of my very funny coworkers (David Matthews not DMB) made a comment about an attractive lady he was waiting on. �She looks like she�d drive a white Lexus.� Ever since then I�ve wondered about that idea, and I also knew right away that I do not look like I�d drive a white Lexus.

    Right now I have a stupid Ford F150, but I�d rather drive a wagon type car, like a Honda Element. I’m pretty practical.

  14. Laura, the piece of fiction I’ve been banging my head against forever features a character who traded her Corolla for a used Explorer. It’s a reflection of her affection for the city of Detroit, but now it’s an homage to my favorite mystery writer.

    As for me:

    1979 Mercury Capri
    1986 Honda CRX
    1987 Volvo 240 DL
    2003 VW Passat wagon

    All stick shifts, all driven more or less into the ground. We have a lot in common.

  15. The first novel I wrote features the murder victim drove a BMW X6 sports series coupe. Now I drive a 5 speed Honda Civic. Oh sigh, I think I now what it says about me..

  16. abridged listing:

    Well, my first car was a 1965 Dodge Polara - a marvelous car that always, always, always started. The day its transmission gave up the ghost, and the scrapman hauled it away, its 383 cubic inch engine still started right up and purred.

    My first - and so far only - brand new car was a 1981 Dodge Aries K-Car. It was a manual 4-speed, and it more or less physically collapsed over the course of about 4 years.

    My lovely wife had a ’91 Olds Calais that she bought new, and which I dearly loved. That car had rack and pinion steering, and was a joy to drive.

    Around 1996, we bought a “company car” from where I work; it was a ’91 Olds Eighty Eight with 140,000 (mostly highway) miles on it, and they sold it to me for what they could have gotten at the wholesale auto-auction, $1800. That poor car got broken into once, and vandalized another time, until finally, in 2001, it got stolen! I had just put a new set of tires on it, and then a month later, poof! It was gone. And if that wasn’t unnerving enough, 6 months later the police found its pitiful remanants in East Chicago.

    Anyway - nowadays we have an ’03 Didge minivan, and a 1998 Olds Eighty Eight, which was another company car, and which we also purchased with 140,000 (mostly highway) (!!) miles on it; and which now has 210,000 miles on it.

    Honestly, I think that old girl is the best car I have ever owned, period. (and it is literally true to say, they don’t make them like that anymore)

  17. What do my cars say about me? Cheap, maybe?

    1980 Ford Fiesta (4 spd manual) — sold in grad school (1983)
    1983 Buick LeSabre (automatic) — bought from family member (in ’86)
    1973 Honda CL-350 (5 spd motorcycle)
    1990 Geo Prizm (5 spd manual)
    1996 Mazda B4000 (automatic)
    2001 VW Jetta (5 spd manual)

    I’d probably still own the Prizm, except that someone rear-ended it at 164,000 miles. The insurance company totaled it, but I drove it for another two years before the resulting rust started doing it in. Still driving the Jetta (a lemon) at 102k miles and the Mazda at 50k miles. The Mazda was largely a gift after my employer (the defunct Sun Microsystems now owned by Oracle) made some very stupid decisions.

    Learned to drive on a ’73 valiant (3 speed manual, shifter on the column, no synchro into 1st) and a ’76 Audi Fox (4 spd). Also have driven a Ferguson tractor (Massey Ferguson? 1953?) — 4 spd manual, no synchromesh (needs double clutching).

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