My cars have ranged from classic (like this 1955 Packard Patrician)
to mundane (like a 1977 Buick Le Sabre.)
My computer’s screensaver is a slideshow of most of the cars I’ve owned in the last decade. As I was watching it go through the slides yesterday, I started thinking about all the cars I’ve owned, and what it might say about me.
Evidently, I’m not partial to any one country. I’ve owned seventeen American vehicles, seven British, three Japanese, two German, and one Italian. The French cars I’d want to own, such as Delahaye, Bugatti, Delage, and Talbot-Lago, are all way out of my price range. There have never been any Korean cars that have floated my boat.
I’ve had ten cars from General Motors – a Buick, an Oldsmobile and eight Chevys. Three Chrysler products have called my garage home. Ford has contributed one Blue Oval-badged vehicle, two Mazda Miatas, a Mercury Capri, and a suicide-door Lincoln that I never got to enjoy driving outside a parking lot due to bad brakes.
A 1955 Packard was my oldest car. A 2006 Toyota Avalon is my newest. Overall, I’ve had three cars from the ‘50s, five from the 1960s, seven from the 70s (most from 1970-1974,) seven from the 1980s (because they are cheap – meaning good investments at this point,) six from the 90s, and two from this millennium.
The fact that I’ve owned sixteen two-seaters definitely says something about me, of course, what it says is that I can’t quite admit to myself that I have two daughters that need to be carted around. Prior to my youngest daughter entering the world, my oldest logged many thousands of miles riding shotgun in Corvettes. I used to pull into those baby seat check stations outside Toys ‘r’ Us from time to time and giggle as the volunteers tried to convince me that the Corvette must have a tether anchor somewhere.
Fifteen cars have been convertibles or roadsters. Three have been targa tops (aka t-tops.) I’ve only had two cars with sunroofs, because at 6’4”, the panels usually rob too much headroom.
My first four cars had automatic transmissions. Even though I learned to drive a stick when I was sixteen, I didn’t own a car with a clutch pedal until I was in my late twenties. (My first manual tranny car was a 1968 Triumph TR-250.) My wife can’t drive a stick, which explains why the last two new Corvettes I’ve bought have been six-speeds.
Overall thirteen cars have come equipped with an automatic, including two Corvettes and a Miata that were all bought used for a song. The rest of my cars have been stick shifts. There were seven four speeds, seven five speeds, and three six speeds. I’ve never owned a three speed manual, although I’ve spent many miles rowing three-on-the-tree and standard-floor-H-patterns. No pre-selector gearboxes either, but I can probably kill two birds with one stone by buying a good French Citroen.
The overwhelming majority of my cars have been rear wheel drive. Four cars have been front-wheel-drive, three of which I still own – two of which are daily drivers for my wife and me. I’ve only owned one four-wheel-drive vehicle – a Ford Expedition, also the only SUV, and by far the worst post-1980 vehicle I’ve ever owned.
Most of the cars I’ve bought have been front-engine. I recently jumped into mid-engine vehicles with a Ferrari 328 GTS. I also fixed-up and drove a 1970 Porsche 911T, a rear-engine car. I still don’t understand why people have always been so scared of the 911 snap-oversteer, because I found the car easy to control during tail-out maneuvers.
On the topic of engines, I’ve owned 190 cylinders. There have been ten four-cylinder cars (all inline – with only one mounted transversely,) five six-cylinder cars (one inline, one flat and three V6s,) and fifteen V8s. Only two have used turbochargers – both four cylinder cars from the 1980s.
The fastest car continues to be my 2002 Corvette Convertible, which tops out at 168 mph (top up.) This is also the car with the best gas mileage (34 mpg on the highway!) The 1969 Corvette Convertible with a big block accelerated quicker – delivering reliable 4.60 sprints to sixty mph. Interestingly, the fastest feeling cars have been the three Triumph TR-3s. The slowest car was probably the Packard, although my ’77 Le Baron and ’77 Buick Le Sabre were pretty damn slow despite their V8 engines. The biggest sleeper is the 2006 Toyota Avalon, which runs 0-60 mph in near identical time to my Ferrari at six-seconds-flat. In its day, though, my Dodge 600ES Turbo that I’ve driven since new has embarrassed a solid number of Camaros and Mustangs.
With all the experiences I’ve had, I can honestly say that cars continue to get better, faster, more comfortable and more reliable. Styling is always a point of contention, but modern cars are no less distinctive than in the 50s or 60s, and they’re certainly better looking than the late 1970s.
Looking back, there is only one car I’d like to have back: the 1955 Packard. Otherwise, I’m happy with the eight cars that continue to contribute fun to my life.