I have had the pleasure (or frustration?) to operate a number of different cars in my 19 years of driving. This post is to be a chronological photo memorial of all of these vehicular companions. I will only feature here the vehicles in which I spent a substantial number of hours driving, so there are a couple omitted because I didn’t really “get to know them” that well.
1988 Plymouth Sundance
The Sundance was my first car, all the way back in 2000 (seems so long ago). The car was one of those cases where it would be far quicker to list the things that worked on it than to go through all of the things that didn’t. This was my only photo of it, partially because the prior owner’s damage to the passenger side was quite extensive and it at least looked like a half-way respectable vehicle from this angle. I drove it for a few months before moving on to something a little more substantial.
1993 Chevrolet Corsica
The Corsica was the first I owned that was more than simply a conveyance. As the photos show, I had done some cosmetic customization before parting with it. A lot of great memories came to being in relation to this car. I played quite rowdy with it for about a year before wrecking it into the back of a stopped Silverado whilst cruising at 55 MPH.
1992 Ford Econoline
I spent the next few months getting around in my late mother’s van. This was one of the two vehicles I used while learning to drive, so it wasn’t much of a stretch for my Dad to release it to me as it had been collecting rust in his driveway for several months by that point. It was a beast to drive, but my friends and I made use of it’s capability to haul large volumes of things and even to tow on a few occasions.
The thing was big enough that I probably could have just lived in it instead of renting…
1994 Honda Civic DX
The Civic was a fun, tight-driving little car. 2,000 pounds, 102 horsepower, manual transmission, and no power steering (by design) — it still ranks among my favorite cars. I called it Righteous Fire. I ended up selling it with 150,000 miles on it to a friend who drove it another 80,000 miles. As reliable little cars go, this one was quite a winner, even if I wasn’t sure of it at the time.
2001 Ford Focus ZX3
The Focus replaced the Civic because I felt genuine concern about reliability for the first time (even if that concern was later determined to be unfounded). I was getting to the life-stage where I was in a serious relationship, thinking about starting a family, and really didn’t want any surprises.
It was still a few years before I truly realized that surprises are just the way life is. In any case, the Focus was a rather frustrating little car. The clutch action was inconsistent and the brakes were noisy. Further, the 2,500 pound car’s additional 28 horsepower (relative to the Civic) just wasn’t enough to keep it fun long-term. I eventually came to feel like it was a noisy, sluggish, boring little car with attitude problems. I drove it 18,000 miles before trading it on our next car.
2003 Saturn Ion
Now married, my wife and I traded the Focus on the Saturn Ion as a honeymoon gift to ourselves. This is the first car we bought together and signaled the first time since learning to drive when I did not have a car that was wholly my own.
I really liked the overall presentation and function of this vehicle. It was the top-of-the-line model with all of the bells and whistles. Weighing about 2,800 pounds and motivating itself with a 140 horsepower engine, it still seemed substantially quicker from a stop than the Focus and rode a lot nicer. I wouldn’t say it was “nimble,” but it was certainly competent.
It was not without it’s issues, however; from the beginning the transmission had the infamous so-called “shift flare,” and it was in the shop once at less than 12,000 miles (under warranty) for issues with a bad belt tensioner. My wife and I kept this car for a few years before trading it, but I did in the meantime buy another car just for me.
1978 Chevrolet Caprice
Of all of the cars in my past, the Iron Bastage is my absolute favorite. At 3,800 pounds, the 140 horsepower V8 engine did occasionally feel a bit underpowered from a stop, but at highway cruising speeds it was a dream to drive and still had passing power to spare. Everything on it worked and it averaged about 12 MPG — not terrible for a car of that vintage.
I drove it for several years and kept it stock the whole time. I eventually gave it up because of financial trouble ending in a bankruptcy — times of desperation, I suppose.
2006 Mazda Mazda5
This car was sort of an impulse buy as my wife and I tried to settle into life with a small child. It had some minor electrical gremlins that we could never quite duplicate for the technicians, but was otherwise a decent mini-minivan and I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase another if they still sold them.
The was, however, another unfortunate casualty of our eventual bankruptcy.
1999 Ford Escort ZX2
The Escort was not a noteworthy vehicle in any respect except that it was extremely cheap to operate and was surprisingly fun to drive. Though cost-savings was my excuse for buying it, the financial situation was not really stable enough to support it and it, too, fell to the bankruptcy.
This particular specimen was equipment with a manual transmission; producing 130 horsepower and weighing only 2,500 pounds made this car easy to toss around town. As a cruiser, it rode just fine on the highway but lacked any ability to make passing maneuvers.
1990 Dodge Dakota
As the bankruptcy took hold and our vehicles were surrendered, my wife’s parents gave me this Dakota so that I would be able to get to work. It wasn’t worth much and it wasn’t anything special to look at, but it did its job. The smoke cloud it would produce from time to time was amusing, and nauseating, but it didn’t seem to matter how much oil it burned — it just kept on going.
Well, until it didn’t. Some sort of linkage issue between the shift mechanism and the transmission eventually broke and it was not worth spending money on it as it was literally rusting to death, dropping metal bits on the driveway in between drives.
1988 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser
Another gifted vehicle, this one from my wife’s grandmother, the Oldsmobile replaced the Dakota as my daily driver. While not overly powerful, the engine could pull strong off-the-line and had plenty of passing power for a vehicle weighing in at 4,000 pounds. It was clean inside and relatively nice outside, although the wood-panel stuff was showing more than its age.
It does make sense that this car is one of my favorites as it shared the platform of the decade-older Caprice, which hadn’t seen any substantial change. It was just a hair too large, though, and suffered badly from body roll in turns.
2003 Dodge Grand Caravan
The Caravan was a family-oriented purchase on the outbound-side of bankruptcy when the finances had begun to recover. I drove it for about four years, during which time it needed it’s transmission replaced. It was one of the most expensive vehicles to own as a result of that and the fact that we overpaid (both actual cost and finance charges) for it. That said, it did fill a need when it worked.
Below is a quick ranking of the vehicles I have driven:
While I’m not sure this post really expresses anything meaningful to anyone else, it has been a fun little thought experiment for me. I hadn’t realized that, including my present vehicle, that I had owned 18 different cars (my current one is omitted from the ranking), 15 of which are featured in this post because I felt at least some attachment to them. On average, I have purchased (or otherwise acquired) a different vehicle once every 15 months.
Kind of seems ridiculous, actually…