Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Cars in my Life

I started driving at about 12 years old when we moved to Ontario, NY on 35 acres of land.

We had a 1948 Oliver tractor, and a 53 Ford pickup truck, we used on the property. I cut my driving teeth on these two vehicles first, off the road. The poor truck, which we nick-named "The Beetle" had many scrapes and dents thanks to my ineptitude in driving, but, I did learn to drive.

At about 16, one day, my sister fell while in our back garden and broke her leg. I did not have a drivers license, but eased her into the back seat of Dad's 59 De Soto, and drove her into the village to the doctors.It was late spring with the yards still pretty wet and I drove the car right up to the doctor's office door, leaving muddy tire tracks in my path. The next visit to the doctor, revealed cut telephone poles, staked and lining the edge of the parking lot! Oh well!

My first real legal drive on the road car was an old 61 Volkswagen. I paid $ 300.00 for it and it was tired. I loved it to death. Faded red, rusty floor pans, 6 volt, no heat, I could drive it for two weeks without a fill up. After Dad deeming it unsafe, he bought a 65 Dodge Coronet 440 from our neighbor, handing me the payment book and wishing me luck with it. It was barely two years old. To an eighteen year old, it was kinda boring in contrast to the ole VW. Soon afterward, I found an old 1957 MGA roadster convertible in Rochester for $ 200, and towed it home with a hunk of rope, my friend, Lonnie in tow with my new toy. It had no top, it would not start, but I bought it anyway. We began the long tow trek home to Ontario from Rochester. Unknown to me, Lonnie, instead of keeping the car in neutral, put it in high gear while I towed it home. Right in the four corners of Webster, I heard a loud bang and looked in the rear view mirror. I could not see Lonnie or the MG; they were shrouded in a thick cloud of black smoke. the car started! As the smoke cleared, there sat Lonnie at the wheel of the MG, a big grin on his face. He put the car in neutral, and we continued home to Ontario, the MG, idling roughly. It only ran on 3 of the four cylinders, having a cracked head. I found a used head at a junk yard, and it now had all four cylinders banging! The car was more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I drove it about a 1 1/2 years, till I went into the Navy.

Once I settled in Norfolk, Va. in the Navy, I bought a 1962 Rambler. This was the one and maybe only piece of crap car I've owned. It smoked from bad rings, and broke down on a regular basis. Among the more famous break downs, I recall the single strap holding up the gas tank breaking, tank scraping on the road. Another time, while in the morning traffic jam on route to the Navy base, a tie rod end let loose, making it impossible to turn the steering wheel to the right. The single U-joint assembly broke one time, leaving me stranded again. I was forced to drive it for a couple years till I could afford something better.

Than came the 1968 Camero Rallysport, with the hidden headlights, 327 CI and Muncie 4 speed transmission. Very cool! By then, I was slowly learning how cars worked, and fixing most of what I was capable of. I guess I got more than a few speeding tickets in that baby! I had it almost five years, and just got bored with it, moving on to a 1968 limited edition MGC with a six cylinder engine they only made one year. being a fan of the British sports cars, I loved it dearly. I was not the first owner, not the fourth, but about the fifth owner to have that, and was forced to fix all the things the previous owners did not! It needed something done to it on a weekly basis. Being a limited edition auto, parts were hard to come by and it might sit for weeks, waiting for some stupid part. Another problem with it was, it was a two seater convertible, and I was married with two kids. Picture a wife, two kids, and 11 bags of groceries jammed into it! So the time came to get an additional car for family use too! I got a 89 Ford Galexie, purchased from a neighbor in my apartment complex. He had taken great care of it, and it served me well. Oh, and it was automatic, so my wife could drive it. So we had the MGC, and the Ford. After a long wait for parts for the MG, and I had it running like a top, I decided to sell it. A young Ensign in the Navy fell in love with it. His problem was that he had to sell his car before he could afford mine. I looked his over; a 1967 VW convertible, very well maintained. WE made a swap, he paying me money as well for the difference, and I was the proud owner of my second Volkswagen. What a great care free car it was. Peppy, sporty, a full back seat for the kids, a top that went up and down without calling on the neighbors to help stretch it into place (like the MG!)

After a couple years with the convertible, there was still a need for a second car, and I found a beautiful 1972 VW camper. We now were a two VW family. The camper was perfect for any driving condition. With screened in windows, curtains, table, sink, foldout bed, cupboards and stowage galore, it was heaven, whether driving to work, the beach, or taking it on vacation. Eventually, wife # 1, took the camper, left me with the kids and was seen no more, leaving me with two kids and a very tired VW convertible. It was however, easy to work on, and I managed to get many many more miles and a year or two before retiring it to service. Even when I sold it, Kelly, my youngest daughter, actually was the driving factor selling it. While I was at work, she made a sign for the window, and I came home one night, met at the door by the kids, who tossed $ 700 up in the air! It had sold the first day it was advertised, purchased by a sailor who only had a motorcycle, and needed a car too!

About that time, my girlfriend, later, wife # 2, got her income tax refund and wanted to get a car. She was hell-bent on looking at a French car, I can't even spell. A friend of mine, working at a car dealership had just called, informing me that they got an older car in trade that the dealer was going to auction off, being too old to sell. For $ 431.00, tax, registration, everything, turn the key, we got a 1967 Dodge Dart, we affectionately named Nelliebell. Another goldmine for a car. We drove Nellie for time out of reckening, till the interior, literally flaked away, and still got $ 70 bucks for her! With the VW convertible gone, I also got a 68 Ford Falcon for $ 100. It had a 3 speed on the floor, but reverse did not work. I backed it up by sticking my left foot out the door and pushing it backwards. I drove it a while till the first cold day and discovered the heater core was shot. For $ 100, it was a good ole car though.

We were back to one car, Nellie Bell. We needed two like most families. We planned on going to Florida to visit my in-laws and find a southern car to bring back up. My father in law called one night before we went down there. He said he had found a car and went ahead and bought it. He loved it and if we did not want it, he would keep it. It was a 74 Chevy Caprice, the last year of the HUGE cars! He was right, the car was nice. It was loaded, 350 engine, power everything. We drove it many years.

About that time, Nellie Bell was tired, really tired, and we looked for something else. Actually, the Caprice had given us good service, but was ready for the demolition derby too.

I found a 1978 Volvo 240 DL, the first of many Volvos for me. It was owned by a nursing student from California, no rust, and ran great. It was a hand me down from her father, another Volvo man, and well taken care of. She was firm on her price, and we bought it for $ 1500.00 Two days later, my wife and I took it to Cape Cod. Our first Volvo, we named Olga. We passed Olga down to our first daughter, Lisa who drove it for a while too. About that time, my wife and I were going through separation and I bought a 72 Volvo, I named Shven. I got Shven for $ 490.00, because it had a clunk in the rear somewhere when you shifted it. I drove it with the clunk for many many years before getting the clunk out. Shven, was a worthy car by any means.

One day, my friend Ron called and informed me that my car needed to be replaced and offered to sell me his 1990 Chevy van. The van had an oddity for going through U-Joints on an all too regular basis, but was a great vehicle. It had 368,000 miles when I retired it!

When Dad turned 97, the family talked him into giving up driving, and he gave me his 1994 Buick LeSabre. Being the black sheep of the family, I thought it was too much of an old man's car, and sold it to my room mate, who thought it was just fine. I then bought a 72 BMW 2002, and my ex gave me her husband's 87 Ford F150 pickup. I drove the BMW in the summers for about three years, and the truck all year. Whatever they say about Fords being bad, is just not true. It was a great truck, all the greater for it was free.

Eventually, the BMW needed work that my old back was not up to fixing, and I sold it and the truck.

I bought an 89 Volvo, Gustoff, which I still am driving. Gustoff, just turned over 249,000 miles last week! Good car!

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