Reading RIfle's 60+ years of automobile ownership

LawBird thought it might be "pretty fascinating" to know about the 75 years of cars that I have owned; I don't think so but I'm ready to put into words a FanPost to see how few responses it generates from the VEB community. (It’s only been 60+ years, the last 15 being a single vehicle).

In the mid-1960s, I purchased my first car to get around: a 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire. It obviously was the best car I ever owned since it was my very first….like the first time you had (fill in the blank you dirty old men). I thought it was hot but a co-worker put it and me to shame when he easily won a short race on a deserted parking lot. Paul Newman I wasn’t but that’s another story (sat opposite him at Tony’s).

The Chevy Nova (vanilla white) got me from Boston where my girlfriend lived to western New York for undergraduate school multiple times. It was as plain as they come and there being poor radio reception and little entertainment on this route (no compact CD players), I had an 8-track (you can look it up youngsters) installed above the glove box. To say the device looked like an add-on would be an understatement - it literally stuck out of the dash in a way that safety experts would now say was hazardous. Rules and onerous government regulations were so much more relaxed in those days, not always for the better but clearly less intrusive.

Back to Boston full time for post-graduate school, I muscled up with an AMC Javelin V8 in British Racing Green. It was equipped with "4-on-the-floor," had dual exhausts, ornamental hood scoops and a racing stripe along the sides. It was sharp and fairly quick for its day. Its "claim to fame" if there be such accolades was it transported me and 2 others from Boston to San Diego in 53 hours. I had a final exam in Boston from noon to 1 PM on a Friday and had to start an elective in SD on Monday morning. Little did I understand the geography of the United States at that time as the 3rd participant was only going as far as Albuquerque, NM, a distance I thought was a stones throw away - heck there was only one state we had to go through (Arizona) so how far could it be. Remember, growing up in the northeast, you traverse 3 or 4 states in a simple drive from New York City to Maine in a few hours. I was so jazzed by the time he was dropped off, I did the final 750+ miles by myself. Earlier in the trip, the 3 of us rotated every 2 1/2 hours as the tank would need to be refilled at about 180 miles. Essentially we averaged a bit under 60 mph for the entire trip with stops included. After New Mexico, the real excitement was on a stretch of 2-lane blacktop where the speed limit read "Reasonable and Proper." Reaching 100 mph was exhilarating even though I had "buried the needle" many years before in my cousin’s Pontiac Grand-Am - unbeknownst to him. What got me a bit nervous, remember I was a stupid, indestructible 20-something male (much has changed with age, except the stupid somewhat!), was the sight of another vehicle approaching at what amounted to a closing speed of probably 200 mph - might as well have been in WWI biplanes. The lesson from this section of the trip was to turn the heater on full blast when you see the temperature gauge (no idiot lights in those days) rising quickly. Opening the heater vents didn’t increase cabin temperature, it was over 100ºF outside and without A/C it remained 100ºF inside. Safely in San Diego, my mentors neglected to tell me they would be out of town for a few days allowing us to explore the sights including their outstanding zoo one to rival the St Louis Zoo.

The Peugeot 504 was an interesting vehicle. Quirky in many ways but clearly unique. I would have loved to be able to afford the Citröen SM with its self-leveling feature and other stuff that made it a mechanic’s dream and owner’s nightmare. The Puegeot developed a cracked engine block so it was not going to be repaired.

I married into the next car, a Kelly Green Delta 88 convertible with white top that had a HUGE gas tank: we filled it up on 2 different occasions with 30.1 gallons of gas (probably cost $15-18 - hard to believe gas at $0.50/gal) despite a stated capacity of 26 gallons.

The intervening vehicles were rather nondescript until the first RX7. It was a powder blue hardtop which my wife later gifted me with a complete repaint in Ferrari Red - what a girl (my wife, not the car). I enjoyed the spirited drivability of this sports car. It was nimble, quick and had the unique Wankel rotary engine. I sold this car to the guy who did the heavy yard work on our home in Clayton the same morning I posted a "For Sale" sign. His daughter received it as a graduation gift.

The replacement for the 1982 RX7 was the recently introduced 1987 RX7 convertible that didn’t need a new paint job - it already came in a terrific bright red, Cardinal red you might say. I really loved this car. It had panache, beauty (a nephew said it "looked fast standing still") and the ever reliable rotary engine. During the time I owned the ’87 RX7, my wife got a 1987 Volvo 760T (kept it for 21 years and 200,000 miles) and we purchased a 1987 Jeep Cherokee for the inevitable winter driving that would not have been possible with the RX7. Eight happy years later as we planned to transit to the west coast, I sold the Jeep to a colleague and the RX7 to my boss who was also a friend and really wanted the RX7; I was glad to oblige. I knew its provenance and did not hesitate to sell it to someone I knew well and cared for AND was going to continue to be my boss as I planned to commute from California to St Louis for work - don’t ask! Unfortunately, 1 week before the sale was to be completed, a radiator hose blew that required me to get towed to the Lou Fusz dealership on Lindbergh. On inspection, a simple $100 radiator hose led to the replacement of 2 tires that were past balding (my bad) and one of the dual mufflers. So, $1,000 later the car was ready to hand over. I shudder to think what would have happened had the radiator hose given way AFTER the sale.

The 1996 Mazda MX6 and later the 1999 Volvo S70 were vehicles I needed when in St Louis and the Tampa, FL where I commuted to work for another 8 years.

Finally, and I do mean finally, as the 1987 Volvo 760T was starting to show its age, numerous repairs and its noisy 4-cylinder engine, we opted for a quality marque since the Volvo line, having been taken over by Ford, had lost its reliability, and chose a 2008 Lexus GS350. It has been a terrific car to own. We all know that automobiles are not an investment, that depreciation is rapid as soon as the car is driven from the showroom floor, but this car has been worth every penny, okay $48,000, that was spent. We hope to be driving it for many years to come - I just got my 5-year driver’s license renewal. We do wonder if there will be another gasoline powered vehicle for us in this insane state where electric cars have been mandated for 2035. Heck, I’ll only be 89 so should still be able to see over the steering wheel and reach the gas and brake pedals.

Thanks for reading (did anyone finish this gibberish?)

The list:

1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire (used)

1966 Chevy Nova

1968 American Motors Javelin 5.6L V8 (in 1970, Boston to San Diego in 53 hours)

1972 Peugeot 504

1972 Oldsmobile Delta 88 convertible (wife’s car)

1978 Honda Accord

1982 Cadillac Cimarron (sucked)

1985 Cadillac Cimarron (still sucked)

1982 RX-7 (I’d rather be rotary that pist-on)

1987 Volvo 760T (wife’s car for 21 years)

1987 RX-7 convertible (Red w/black top; speakers in the headrests)

1987 Jeep Cherokee (winters in St Louis)

1996 Mazda MX6

1999 Volvo S70

2008 Lexus GS350 - that’s all folks!!