Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dreaming, But Not Doing

The Truth About Cars has a feature in which readers submit their automotive biographies; a list of the vehicles they've owned. As I thought about this I realized that for a 30-year subscriber to Road & Track and Car & Driver, and a long-time follower of the car industry who started college with the idea of working for a car company, my choices have been far from what most enthusiasts would consider desirable. I'm expanding my list to include personally significant vehicles that I didn't actually own.

- Ford Country Squire wagon,vintage and color not recalled. This was the first car I actually remember our family owning; other that that I can't say much about it.

- 1967 (I think) AMC Rebel station wagon, green. Looking back this was a fairly clean design. As I recall we kept this one for quite a while, at least long enough for me to be old enough to drive it.

- 1975 AMC Matador wagon, burnt orange and fake wood grain. Truly a septic tank that exploded onto the landscape of automotive aesthetics, but deceptively fast, as only a teenager would determine. I put many miles on this vehicle.

- 1972 Chevrolet Impala 4-door, tannish-yellow with white top. It's difficult to describe the exact color because the paint had faded by the time I got it. This was the first car for which I had primary responsibility, although my parents still owned it. I took this car to college and drove it until I got married shortly after graduation. It was reliable and roomy and could take abuse that would ruin many of today's vehicles. But it used gas at a rate that made me wonder if it was secretly giving it to other vehicles, and its handling could have been used to demonstrate the term "boat" as applied to cars. It eventually went to my second brother as a college car.

- 1981 Plymouth Reliant station wagon, white. The first vehicle I actually owned. My wife-to-be and I bought it in 1986 from a private owner. The exterior was square and plain, as was the interior. It had the optional Mitsubishi 4-cylinder engine with (to quote the chief mechanic at the local dealer) a "piece of shit" carburetor (remember carburetors?) that didn't like cold weather all that much, but once it was running it would cruise as well as the Impala with much better mileage. It also served as a temporary lawn shed when I moved from Rapid City to Vermillion. I kept this car for 12 years.

- 1985 Chevrolet Cavalier, burnt orange. This replaced my wife's Dodge Dart. Not much to say about it; it was adequate transportation until it developed a tendency to die at intersections in hot weather which never was diagnosed.

- 1993 Plymouth Acclaim, white. The replacement for the Cavalier. It was roomy and economical, at least while I was involved with it. It went with the wife when we divorced and developed a habit of generating excess heat and/or fire that eventually consumed it.

- 1997 Ford Escort wagon, green. The replacement for the Reliant, and my current ride. It's the definition of basic transportation, but has done everything I've asked of it, including haul a surprising quantity of tree branches. Small things are wearing out, but circumstances seem to be dictating that I'll be keeping it for a while longer, and that's fine.

- 2002 Ford Taurus, gray. Purchased to replace my second wife's Pontiac Bonneville. It was a fun vehicle, but she never could get used to it; we traded it in on another Bonneville, which she took back to North Dakota after the divorce.

- 2003 Dodge Neon, blue. My wife's car. It's been a good vehicle for her until recently, but has started developing worrisome troubles that may warrant replacing it instead of the Escort as we has originally planned. it has been the subject of a post at The Truth About Cars, and the consensus of commenters there is to get rid of it. Finances dictate a delay in doing that, but further problems may force action.

As I said, not exactly a dream list. Money and extenuating circumstances, not enthusiasm, have driven my purchases so far, and will probably continue to do so, although I still hold out hope of owning a Miata someday, perhaps after the Escort. We shall see.