4 cars

(Me and my father. Summer 1990. On the day I got the Mustang.)
It means little to me, for whom cars are just a means of getting from place to place. Still I remember from time to time, and think of it, even, for a while. My first car. 

It was a ‘65 Mustang. All original and “honey gold”, which was a sort of sparkly greenish-gold color I have never understood. Already it was old when I got it – twenty-five years old, if subtraction hasn’t failed me – and when brand new, had been my mother’s first car. Then, when it was somewhat less new, it became my aunt’s first car and later on, my cousin’s first.

The Mustang didn’t have a/c, which was just as well, really, because this meant I’d leave the windows down and could hear each time I hit a bump and sent a hubcap rolling down the road next to me.

I swear I never lost a hubcap the whole time I drove that car.

I drove the Mustang my senior year of high school but then, when I went away to college, my parents didn’t trust it on the road and pawned their black 1990 Ford Ranger off on me. The Mustang’s still sitting there, in their garage, up on blocks and without an engine.

I rode the hell out of the Ranger, as they say, all the way through undergrad and then through law school, too. By the time I rolled it back into Houston, it was spewing every fluid it had, the seatbelts and gas gauge were shot, you had to reach outside to open the driver’s side door, and the side mirrors were stuck on with electrical tape.

And I tried to trade it in but my dad asked for it back and he’s driving it still all these years later.

I made a down payment on a red Ford Ranger – this was 2001, I suppose – with money I’d put away for Ruby’s wedding ring. It sat up higher than my old black one, high enough so I could roll over curbs and never had to learn to parallel park the right way. It burst into flames routinely. I’d say, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you move this weekend. My truck is scheduled to catch on fire again.”

I drove the red Ford Ranger fifteen years and had only ninety-four thousand miles on it. I lost my faith in that truck, in the end, and when I was too afraid to drive it to the state Green Party Convention in San Antonio, I traded it in for the Civic.

Now, the Civic is absolutely a twenty-first century sort of scientific marvel, marking the first time ever I’ve had remote locks and automatic windows and even back-up cameras, to boot. 

Mostly these days, I walk from place to place. 

Comments

  1. I was moderately happy with most of the cars I've owned. I frequently rolled the hubcaps off of my 2 door '69 Chevy Impala, so I wasn't entirely happy with it. My next car was an old '68 Chevy Bellaire retired FBI car. Thanks engine knocked a little from what was speculated to have been a bad hydraulic lifter. That thing would MOVE, though. If it weren't for the loose steering caused by a part which they refused to replace with an FBI grade part, I wouldn't have traded it in on my worst car ever, an Audi. That thing wouldn't go 20 miles without something going out and the parts were sometimes impossible to obtain new and cost a fortune even used. I ditched that and got my first Chevy Monza, a V-8 model. I would love to have kept that FBI engine for that car, but as it was, Everytime I put my foot down too hard on the accelerator, it broke the motor mounts and sent the cooling fan through the radiator. It sure was fun to drive, though, so I bought a Monza Spyder. The problem was that it had a 231 V-6. They had bragged about how powerful it was, but the damn thing took about an hour to get from 0-60. Next, I bought my first brand new car, a Chevy Caprice Classic. It was okay until I rescued a white woman who had been kidnapped by a black man and ran across some railroad tracks that were too tall for the front bumper to clear and tore the heck out of the front end. After that was a Lincoln Town Car. The problem is that it's built by FORD (Fix Or Repair Daily). I got rid of that and got a Toyota Cressida, which I would still own if Diane hadn't given it away. I became too disabled to work or to ride in a Toyota, so I got a handicap minivan with a scooter lift... a Dodge Grand Caravan. I still own it, but just got a 2007 Chevy Impala in pristine condition. I'm not extremely happy with it, but it looks good and is fairly economical.

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    1. I saw you had gotten a new car. I hope you like it or that it at least gets you where you need to go.

      The Mustang had what I would call "Loose steering" too. A friend of mine once said it "handled like a boat," which I took to refer to the fact that if you took your hand off the wheel for one nano-sec, the steering wheel would turn enough to send the car in a whole different direction.

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  2. I appreciate you wearing that backwards ballcap in the picture with the Mustang, because I think all Mustang drivers are required to wear a backwards ballcap. Like, even if you tried to correct it and turn it around, it'd still somehow be backwards. It's just the official uniform.

    (No judgment. I have a Torch red 2005 GT. And a ballcap or two.)

    You and my dad have a lot in common. His first car was a '65 Mustang. Wimbledon white. He loved that car. His brother sold it when he went off to the Air Force. Now he drives a 2001 red Ford Ranger, the version that's lifted higher up, except that thing hasn't given him any concerns or burst into any fires. Last I checked, it's currently sitting at 330,000 miles and the only thing he's done on it in the past 10 years is a clutch change.

    I wish I could say the same thing about my Audi. See, that was supposed to be the reliable gas sipper so that I could keep miles off the Mustang. But the phrase 'German engineering' is not often said in this household, unless it's accompanied by uproarious laughter.

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    1. I've made peace with my past looks.

      I always had awful, thick, kinky-curly hair that I allowed to get way too long, and I don't know why I didn't just cut it because I'd have to either wear a cap or else (when it got longer) pull it back into a ponytail.

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  3. The hubs very first car was a Mustang....1967....green....brand new. He still talks about that car. My first car was a beat up used Toyota Crown 4 door 6 cylinder....can we all say LEMON????

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    1. I don't mind less-than-glamorous cars. My only problem is that I don't really do maintenance, so I need something that I jump into without worrying that I am not actually going to get where I'm going.

      When I asked around at work about what kind of car goes and goes forever without any maintenance, everyone seemed to agree that Civics fit the bill.

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    2. We had a PT Cruiser for eleven years and practically gave it away to a young chap we knew. He drove it from Ontario to BC (it's a long way) and it's still going strong. We had an AMC Gremlin for twelve years and sold it to a chap who wanted it for his daughter..she drove it for years. I guess every once in a while, regardless of make, you find a winner and a lemon.

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    3. Gremlins! My aunt had a brown and yellow Gremlin back in the Seventies. You don't see those much.

      I agree that it's sometimes luck of the draw - had you purchased the identical car next to the one you bought in the lot, it might have died after 5 years.

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  4. I wonder if you can tell a person's age by counting the number of cars like rings on a tree?

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    1. I don't know whether that works. I've known some people who go through a lot more cars than I do.

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  5. I have the same attitude to cars as you, Harry. To me, they're just something that gets you from Point A to Point B. I don't put a lot of money or status needs into cars. But I've worked with plenty of people to whom it really mattered if you drove a Lexus, a BMW or a Mercedes. Puh-leeze. I drive a Toyota Yaris. That's more than enough car for me!

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    1. I looked at Toyota Scions last year. The problem was, my dad was with me and I believe it would have killed him to have a son not only buy a Toyota, but a tiny Toyota at that.

      I'm still not sure that he's made peace with the Honda.

      He's 71, loves cars, and drives a Dodge Challenger.

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  6. Cars just cost to DAMN much. If you do the math, taxies and mass transit is cheaper than buying a new car

    In Thailand, you can buy a really nice house for the same money that a car cost

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    1. The car insurance alone makes cars a difficult proposition for a lot of people.

      I'd go without if I could, and maybe in the Uber era, someday I will.

      But Houston's mass transit system is not compatible with my need to go to remote places to interview clients and get to court.

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  7. Sorry I know nothing about cars craze but as debra says i really get perplexed why people spend millions for a car like rollsroyce or hummer.Here in india,car is a luxury.Nowadays i dont think people r suffering from poverty rather i think people r suffering due to materialism.Ha ha walking is good for u craze.Keep it up.

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    1. You ride a bike most places, don't you?

      In Houston, many people commute into the city from the suburbs. This means that they are sitting in traffic for 2 hours or more - each way! - every day. If I had to sit in my car that long every day, I might spend some cash to make sure it's a place I really want to be.

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  8. Imagine in a few years, you'd either be walking or sitting from place to place. Where remote locks might be a marvel now, self-driving cars will be the norm soon. I fear they're going to carry a lot less history with them. I can't imagine them not getting fully scrapped rather than patched up. That's kind of sad.

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    1. I think that if everything went self-driving, I might just have to chalk it up and go the Uber route, calling up for a car on an app as I need it. Driverless Ubers you order on your phone. The future is now.

      I sure hope my father passes before this becomes the norm, because it would kill him. He's from that generation that thought about cars more than they thought about girls.

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  9. I love my Wrangler jeep because it's still very unusual in the UK, (but common as muck in AZ). But I live in the country and really do need it as we live along a dirt track. I'm not into sports cars, but a bit like my clothing, I do like to drive something a bit different. I ought to mention that before I had my boring red jeep I had one that was covered in stripes and looked like a zebra. Honestly.

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    1. Nice. I can picture the discussion: "I saw this jeep that looked like a zebra today. When it pulled up, I just sat there because I wanted to see what a person who'd drive that would be wearing. I was NOT disappointed!"

      There are good reasons for getting a vehicle like that,and living along a dirt track is one of them.

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  10. I'm not a Cat Guy but I always loved the 65 Mustang and never had one. :::sigh:::

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    1. When I was going to get mine, my dad told me that '65 Mustangs would be perfect to "attract girls or guys or whoever it is you're trying to attract."

      Years later, I told him that the car never worked like that for me.

      He told me it was probably "operator error."

      Oh well.

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    2. Your father sounds fabulously funny!

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    3. Usually without even meaning to, yeah.

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  11. Never had a new car. I inherited my parents' red '70 Torino for my twentieth birthday. It was a boat, but it had a 351 Cleveland in it, and it's a safe assumption that wherever it is now, it still runs.
    We moved to Oakland in Briana's Datsun B-210, and drove it until it was totaled by a woman in a minivan who ran a red light, leaving us with our motorcycle to get around, a Yamaha RZ 350 that we did buy brand new. For $2,500.
    That precipitated my brother giving us the Torino again, which we drove until a Berkeley Campus Cop took it from me for having my high-beams on and my license expired.
    After that I mostly walked and used Public Transport, but as I worked driving a truck for a decade about then, I also got around in the truck way more than I should have. In retrospect, using a 20' bobtail to drive to the grocery store, or a couple of times to shows in San Francisco, was fairly uncalled for, but I did it just the same.
    I got to drive an '87 Accord around for a year when Briana got it from her mom and I was working in San Francisco, so it reduced my commute money from $13/day to the $5 that was bridge toll in those days. I loved that little car. Fill it up on payday, take it to the car wash once a week and it always got you there. I had to replace the water pump, which wasn't any fun, but it was totally worth it to me to get out of the two-buses-and-a-BART-ride-each-way commute that began at midnight I was dealing with at the time.
    The OPD towed that car for expired registration after I'd had my stroke and couldn't get around to arrange change of title from Briana's mom.
    After my SSDI retroactive payment check came through, I bought a '96 Corolla off of Craigslist, and never even drove it, as you lose your license after a stroke, but it was a great little ride also, until OPD took it for parking tickets and expired registration.
    Three years later, in 2015, my friend Rob got us Briana's car, a '92 Mercedes 190e, for $500. We had to replace the radiator and head gasket, but it runs well, and I have actually driven it some, as I am in the slow process of getting my license again. We drove it to our friend's house near Yosemite last year, and the head gasket blew on the way home.
    It would be nice to be able to drive a nondescript new-ish car around and not ever have to worry about it breaking or needing water, but I think this car is as good as it's gonna get for us, and we're trying to enjoy it.

    -Doug in Oakland

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    1. Both of my grandfathers were car people, priding themselves on paying cash for new cars every 3 or 4 years, and this infected the family even though most of us can't or shouldn't afford such ridiculous luxury hobbies.

      I believe my mom had a Torino after the Mustang. By the time I came along, though, she was driving a Chevy Nova.

      My dad had a stroke 3 years ago which affected his eyesight and he lost his license for a year. Maybe more. He has it back now. I'm not completely on board with his driving, but my mother swears by it.Me, I believe that his years of driving commercial trucks on the highway have left him able to negotiate the roads half blind.

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    2. That's similar to my thinking. I logged right around a million miles behind the wheel of a 20' bobtail, so I do take driving seriously, as I have seen the hideousness.
      I had some serious left side avoidance after the stroke, which you really don't want when driving on the right side of the road, so I didn't even want to drive for a few years. I feel like I've gotten past that well enough now, and last year I went to the rehab hospital and got evaluated for driving. That went well, and ever since I had my cataract surgeries and no longer require glasses to drive, I somehow feel confident enough to do it.
      Also we took the car down to the huge parking lots by the race track and I drove it around to see if I felt like I could still do it.
      Luckily enough, I did.

      -Doug in Oakland

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    3. That's great because I have seen the negative impact it has when people are told they can't drive anymore.

      Hey, worst case scenario, I bet you're way safer to be around than the drunks and the texters.

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  12. I actually miss the simplicity of my first car, an AMC Gremlin. But I agree, cars for me are just a means to get from A to B. In fact I've taken a good deal of ribbing from people I know about my preference for small cars instead of driving something bigger.

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    1. When I was going to buy the red truck, I asked my dad if there was such a thing as a generic car, where I wouldn't have to pay extra for the brand.

      I think he might have regretted naming me after him when I said that.

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  13. My first car was a 25 year old hand me down Mustang too!!! Sadly, mine wasn't an ultra cool sparkly '65. Nope, mine was a relatively ugly '80.

    A truck with a fire starter habit is a PERFECT way to get out of always have ng to help friends move!

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    1. Haha. There seems to be a disproportionate number of Mustangs mixed in with the comments I'm getting this week. Must be a good first car...

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  14. You had a 1965 Mustang? Did you really? Yes, by the way, that is envy you hear in my words. When it comes to dream cars, a '65 Mustang is mine. Black with red seats. I almost got one once upon a time, then I got relocation orders to the middle of nowhere, so I needed a new car... got an Acura. After that, I've had an Eclipse a Jeep Wrangler, a tiny BMW, a huge Chrysler, another Acura... then I fell in love with a MINI. Still, one day, when I don't live in New York City, I will have a '65 Mustang... and I will drive it with the windows down... listening for hubcaps... and thinking about this post. :-D

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    1. Haha... I dream of a day when I don't need a car.

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  15. Mostly these days, I walk from place to place.

    It always ends that way unless you need a mobility scooter.

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    1. I had a dream once in which I had a leg amputated and my fake leg was a pogo stick.

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  16. I bicycle. Your Ranger sounds like every car in my family right now. Maybe i should have traded in before I hit 250,000 miles.

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    1. I've heard it said among old cars that life begins at 200,000.

      Ort that "250,000 is the new 100,000." One or the other.

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  17. Good old memories it seems. Warm greetings!

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    1. Not awful, absolutely. Thanks, Blogeratti.

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  18. Cool Mustang! My brother had a 67 Mustang! I love old Corvettes! Your cars have done you well! I drive a Toyota Rav 4 and I love her. Actually, my third one. Take Care Harry!

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    1. Thanks, Stacy. It's your third Rav4? That sounds like an endorsement!

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    2. Actually, the first Rav 4 I had, I was in the newspaper with it, (for the gentleman who found it for me). It was an article about his company and how he finds cars for people. He asked me if I would like to be involved. Of course I said yes! I guess this really sounds like an endorsement now! LOL!

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    3. That's really kind of cool, though!

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  19. Looove the 'highrider' cars of yore. This girl I went to high school with was given a '66 Mustang on her 16th birthday in '86. It didn't have a lovely stock color like yours did. It was banana yellow, but I didn't care. I was just happy to get a lift to school. :)

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    1. I would driven a Ford Pinto to school if it meant I didn't have to ride the bus for another year.

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