Monday, August 29, 2005

Baby, you can drive my car

The Big Three American automakers are doing their part for skyrocketing petroleum prices by reintroducing a trio of classically styled muscle cars: the Dodge Charger (the pride of Dukes of Hazzard fans everywhere, assuming people who watch The Dukes of Hazzard actually have pride), the Pontiac GTO (now the initials stand for Gasoline Too Outrageous), and a revamped Ford Mustang, a throwback to the original pony car.

This story put me in mind of the cars I've driven over the years. Travel with me now down my own personal motor vehicle Memory Lane...
  • 1968 Buick Skylark (powder blue). The Blue Bomb was my first car. Previously owned by a little old lady who only drove it to church and bingo, or so the guy who sold it to me wanted me to believe. A tank of a car with power to burn, as I discovered the day I plowed it into a highway sign at about 75 mph and blew up the engine.

  • 1976 Chevy Vega Estate Wagon (lemon yellow with faux woodgrain paneling). A hand-me-down from my father, and easily the most embarrassing car in automotive history. The Vega was notorious for rusting on the showroom floor. Even without that, it is impossible to look cool driving a car that looks like the nerdy little brother of Chevy Chase's Family Truckster from National Lampoon's Vacation.

  • 1974 Plymouth Gold Duster (gold...duh). Now this was a car: A high-performance Slant-Six engine, metallic gold (all right, so it looked more like bronze, but still...) paint, and a vinyl half-roof designed to look — in the words of the commercial — "like it came off a gold reptile." A honey to drive, right up until the day it threw a rod through the engine block and transformed itself into the world's hottest-looking lawn ornament.

  • 1983 Renault Alliance (white). Winner of the Motor Trend Magazine Car of the Year Award, which goes to show you how clueless the editors of Motor Trend are. Cheap in every sense of the word, the interior of the Alliance was crafted out of plastic so thin you could almost see through it. A useless piece of junk that gave me nothing but trouble almost from the day it left the showroom. Dorky-looking to boot.

  • 1986 Chevrolet Nova (medium blue). Not the sexiest car on the road, but it ran like a top. The latter-day Nova (afterward known as the Geo Prizm) was in fact a Toyota Corolla in Chevy packaging, built at the New United Motors plant down the road in Fremont, California. The only car I ever leased, I was a trifle sad to let it go at the end of the contract.

  • 1988 Ford Probe GT (white). The Jeopardy! car. I bought the turbocharged Probe with a chunk of my original Jeopardy! winnings. Originally, this purchase was supposed to be a Mazda RX7, but when KJ and I discovered that our firstborn was on the way, the RX7 and its microscopic rear seat became an impractical fantasy. Easily the fastest car I ever owned, the Probe blew up 35 miles from home on a stormy night when I was returning from a speaking engagement in Sacramento.

  • 1994 Mercury Sable (white again). The Sable was the Probe's emergency replacement. In short, it was the best, most affordable option at the dealership to which the late great turbo beast was towed. A lemon from jump street, we had to replace the head gasket in this monster three times (it died once on the lower deck of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on the way to an A's game) before I totaled it driving home from chorus rehearsal on the morning of our 15th wedding anniversary.

  • 2000 Mazda MPV ("sand mica," sort of a metallic tan). The insurance settlement from the Sable's demise made the down payment on my current ride, the anti-chick magnet that identifies me unmistakably as a suburban dad. Flawlessly dependable — I've put over 76,000 miles on it without a hitch or glitch — and handy for ferrying my barbershop quartet back and forth to gigs.
KJ's current car, incidentally, is a steel blue Chrysler PT Cruiser. It was her gift to herself for surviving radical mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment back to back to back. A gift well earned, to my way of thinking.

2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger landileigh offered these pearls of wisdom...

i feel lucky to have known two of the aforementioned cars. and was around the day you got the ford probe. man that was one smoooooooth car. sorry to hear of its demise.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Joel offered these pearls of wisdom...

U are not helping in my (possibly) choosing a domestic versus an import as my future car. (By the by, you may want to look at the new Mazda5: mini-minivan that actually looks, IMO, pretty kewl.)

9:54 AM  

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