Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cars I have known and loved (and hated)

When I was a kid I was kind of a car nut, and I can still name the make, model and year of just about any car I see from 1960 - 1972. I can tell the difference between a '63 and a '64 Pontiac without even thinking about it. When you're 10 your brain soaks up and retains all kinds of stuff. Sometimes I wish I had learned French or something else somewhat useful.

Here are the cars that belonged to me and immediate family members, in order of the coolest to the crappiest.

1. Alf's 1966 Red Chevy Impala convertible "Alice". It had red interior, a white top, and add-on cruise control. It took him across the country and back a couple of times, and he got into all kinds of trouble in it. I remember his story about when in Pittsburgh, a cop asked him to step out of the car and a cascade of beer cans tumbled out.[1]  He always loved that car, but it was eventually sold to a guy in San Francisco who turned it into a low-rider.

2. Alf's 1963 Green Triumph  TR-3. No one would argue that old British sports cars are cool. Especially British Racing Green ones. This one, unfortunately, was full of rust though.

3. Alf's 1978 Blue Nissan 280Z. This was the car he and his new wife were supposed to use to drive from the wedding to the reception, but they locked themselves out of it, so they rode in the back of my friend's pickup.

4. Dad's 1958 Yellow Chevy Impala 2-door. My hazy memory of this car was the really cool pull-down armrest in the back seat.

5. My 1992 Red Dodge Daytona. I know there are many non-Chrysler fans who would object to my naming a Daytona a cool car. But, dang it, it was fast! It was light, had a V-6, and followed the Chrysler tradition of accelerating like a monster upon a touch of the accelerator. It was also my first car with A/C.

6. Mom's 1963 White Pontiac Catalina 4-door. My most vivid memory was smashing into the pointy taillight with my bike.

7. Mom's 1976 Blue Olds Cutlass Supreme. I always thought it was beautiful, but Mom had a problem with it because Dad went out and bought it without bringing her along. She wanted the white one!

8. Mom's 1960 Silver Chevy Bel Air 2-door. The fender got smashed, we gave it to Uncle Bobby, he fixed it, we wished we had it back.

9. Dad's 1955 Blue Buick Skylark. I have no memory of it, except it was a "3-holer" rather than a "4-holer".

10. Mom's 1971 Beige Buick Electra 225 4-door. 4-holer! It had one of the biggest passenger car engines GM ever built[2], and it was fast. Also single-digit gas mileage.

11. My 1997 Maroon Chevy Lumina 4-door "Alice 2". There was something hipster-cool about a car with a bench seat and a steering-mounted shifter lever.

12. Alf's 1972 Gold VW beetle "The Turd". I'm always a little conflicted about whether old beetles are actually cool or not.

13. Dad's 1966 Green VW beetle. It had a steering wheel, glove compartment, shifter, blinker lever,  lights and wiper knobs, window cranks, speedometer and gas gauge. That's it.

14. My 2005 White Pontiac Vibe. My present car. Minimally cool, but probably has the best gas-mileage-to-cargo-space ratio ever.

15. My 1993 White Chevy Camaro "The Great White". This was my mid-life-crisis car, and unfortunately was a totally non-bitchin' Camaro. It was underpowered and sluggish, and the tires were ridiculously expensive.

16. Mom's 1989 White Olds Cutlass Ciera 4-door. She finally got her white Cutlass, but it was less cool than the blue one.

17. Dad's 1982 White Honda Accord. Not cool, but very practical and reliable.

18. Dad's 1994 White Dodge Neon. Not cool, but practical and sort-of reliable.

19. My 1981 Green Dodge Omni 2-door "Tara". I hit a pothole in Cleveland one day and destroyed the transmission. After it was "fixed", it lost reverse, so I had to be selective about where to park the dang thing. Also the locks froze up in cold temperatures so entry was through the hatchback. People wearing nice clothes did not like this, especially after the time it took to find a parking space that did not require reverse. 

20. Alf's 1963 Beige Ford Falcon. The lights dimmed when the windshield wipers were on.

21. Dad's 1975 Lime Green Chevy Monza. This car was cool looking (except in lime green), but was exceptionally junky. It was built on the Vega platform, which is universally considered the worst American car ever made. It needed engine service all the time, and even when it was running as well as it could it was sluggish and had a clunky automatic transmission. The interior was Saturday-Night-Fever white vinyl. This car is why Dad bought a Honda even though he was a "GM man" and never thought he would buy a Japanese nameplate. I still shiver when I recall the time I was 17 and I decided to crank this thing up to 80 MPH, with friends in the car.  Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

He gave me a stolen street sign from that trip that says "Head in only". 

2.  I think the largest engine in a regular production car (post-WW2 anyway) was GM's 500 c.i.d 400 h.p. that went into Cadillac Fleetwoods and Eldorados.