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Our Cars
We've always been car people. Sure, occasionally we've needed more space and have been forced to own a family-truckster instead of the sporty drive we'd prefer. But when we're able, we've owned something with spirit, perhaps something with a folding roof that can be lowered to let in some sunshine.


First there was the 1958 MGA coupe, which I purchased new from the factory in Oxford, England a few months prior to my discharge from the Navy. The car cost $2,150. I drove this car (at high speed and over my head) along the Cote d'Azur coast road, terrifying both myself and my passenger. All too soon I had to leave it on the pier at Naples, and it was transported to the States on an MSTS ship by the Navy. By the way, 60-spoke wire wheels are no fun to clean.

Then there was the 1960 Corvair 4-door, because our family was growing and we needed more room. Never buy a car the first year it's introduced - big mistake! Had all kinds of problems. For example, the carburetor was insulated from the block by a phenolic spacer, and would get cold from evaporation of gasoline. The carburetor would choke with ice, so the car simply slowed on the highway and finally stopped altogether. They fixed it with an aluminum spacer that conducted engine heat to keep the carburetor warm.

Then we bought the only used car we've ever owned, a 1958 Austin Healey 100-6. Why? I'd always wanted one, and I justified it by saying it had a back seat for the infants. It had been owned by a girl, and had a pink fingernail polish pinstripe between the turquoise and the ivory, so we had it restored, repainted, and reupholstered, and it was beautiful. By the standards of the day, it was a low-slung brute. Unfortunately, Mary bent it, taking it off-road, down an embankment and into a creek. We couldn't get insurance after that. Fortunately, she wasn't injured.

Since we had to get rid of the Healey, we bought a new 1962 black Corvair Monza. Nice car, but we couldn't keep oil in it (it kept blowing out the oil pressure switch, which was too close to the exhaust manifold so that the plastic insulator was destroyed by engine heat), and it ate tires like jellybeans. Then the clutch cable sawed it's way out of the keepers and into the main wiring harness. Expensive! It had Positraction, and was good on the snow, though. I don't know why Ralph Nader killed it. A few more model years, and it would've become a great car.

Not a very good photo, I know, but we bought a 1965 Chevrolet Impala wagon, red with a fawn interior. Not too bad. Had a little problem when new: the fuel gage would stick at half-full. The lads at the dealership replaced the gage TWICE, and the sender unit once. I finally got disgusted, shined a flashlight down the filler to see the float was binding against the side of the saddle tank, so I used a broomstick to bend the float wire away from the side of the tank. Problem solved.

Then there was the 1969 Fiat 850 Spyder in Positano Yellow. I think it cost about $2,250. Unfortunately, the Italians aren't terribly swift about building a car to survive cold, wet weather, so it kind of rotted. And the generator overheated on the way to Connecticut, throwing molten solder everywhere and leaving me by the side of the road on Sunday morning. Other than that, it was a very nice car, easy on gasoline if not quick to accelerate. I sold it in Connecticut after Marty and I replaced the leaking head gasket in a freezing garage.

The Chev station wagon was five years old, so we bought a new 1970 Buick Estate Wagon off the lot. Gold, not the white shown in this photo. I'm partial to red and yellow, so I never did like the gold color, though Mary loved it. Maybe that explains why we have no photos. I can't remember much about this car, except that a drunk hit us in the driver-side rear door while the factory was on strike, so there was a delay repairing it.

About this time we bought a boat and trailer, about 3,500 additional lbs altogether. We needed something capable of towing, something with a heavy duty tranny cooler, heavy duty battery, auto-leveling shocks to keep the headlights from shining at the sky, etc. So we placed a special order for the 1976 Buick Estate Wagon. Red, not white as shown here. It had a huge 455 cubic inch V8 engine, so you know the gas mileage was terrible, especially when pulling the boat. We kept that car until about 1982, six years, a long time for us. Towed the boat to Florida twice. Got rid of the car in Connecticut when we sold the boat.

Now we're in Connecticut. It's cold and snowy, so no sports car. Perhaps to counter the poor gas mileage of the huge Buick, we wanted a compact. The wait for a Honda was 6 months, so we settled instead for a red 1978 Chevette. Big mistake! It was a total piece of junk. We didn't maintain it very well, because we didn't like it. The oil turned to sludge. The shocks made the car bouncy, bouncy. It became unsafe, and the kids called it the Deathmobile. Needless to say, GM didn't continue to build it for many years.

We didn't want to repeat the Chevette mistake, so next time we held out for a Honda. We got Mary a turquoise 1981 Honda Accord, which she liked very much. While bringing me a chocolate sundae, Kristin managed to spill chocolate syrup on the driver's velour seat. We thought we were in BIG trouble, but by dint of furious scrubbing we got the stains out.

We liked Mary's Honda so much that I ordered a metallic-blue 1982 Honda Accord. It came in as silver, but I took delivery anyway. It was a nice car, but the silver paint checked under the clear coat, and there was nothing I could do about it. Neither of the Hondas had air conditioning, which made them difficult to sell when we later moved from Connecticut, where you really don't need A/C, to Florida, where you do.

When we first moved to Florida, Mary decided she wanted an Oldsmobile. We bought this 1988 Oldsmobile Ciera. What a piece of garbage! In order to replace the battery, you had to remove a fender brace. It took two people to replace a headlamp. The heater core shat coolant all over the passenger carpet. It had a refrigerator paint job, dull and listless from new. I was happy to see it go.

In Florida, I was negotiating a newer Honda, but Mary happened by and brought me to my senses. Instead I bought this 1991 Mazda Miata. Great car, nearly bullet-proof. I named it "Petunia", and kept it in pristine condition. Later, we were instrumental in forming the Central Florida Miata Club, and spent many a Saturday driving Florida roads in caravans comprising typically seventeen Miatas to see Florida attractions. There are few Florida roads we haven't driven.

To replace Mary's Honda, we bought her a pearl 1995 Nissan Maxima right off the showroom floor. She was intrigued with the Maxima because she drove a rental, and really liked it. The neatest thing about this car was the Lexus wheels, which is the reason I wanted the one on the showroom floor. The worst thing about the car was that the pearl paint really showed the love bugs, which swarm twice a year for a month each time.

About three months prior to her retirement from DOT in late 1998, Mary bought a blue 1998 BMW 528i and named it "Fritz". After her retirement, we took about a month to tour the US, taking it in a counter-clockwise direction. We put 10,600 miles on that car during the tour. Frequently we'd look for a laundromat and car wash near each other - Mary would do laundry and I would wash the car. Mary created a scrapbook with all the details. It's amazing how tired of eating out you get on a month-long tour, and you long for a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I'd long lusted after every yellow BMW Z3 roadster I saw, so finally I ordered a Dakar yellow 2000 BMW Z3. We drove a rental car to take delivery at the factory in Spartanburg, SC. We drove their performance track in a similar car, abusing their tires and learning to stand hard on their brakes while steering. I especially enjoyed their skid pad. I keep the car, named "Goldilocks", covered, even in the garage. She doesn't get many miles, and we call her "the Garage Queen".

We needed another sports car like a fish needs a bicycle, but I bought a yellow 2002 Miata and named it "Buttercup". Now we had three sports cars, so I sold Petunia with some regret. She was eleven years old at this point, and was getting long in the tooth. The engine and tranny were fine, but the plastic interior parts were getting a bit brittle, and some of the electronics were borked. When Mary became involved with her free clinic work, we hadn't much time for the Miata club any more, so we sold Buttercup, leaving us with just one sports car, the BMW Z3.

And then Mary wanted to replace her 1998 Bimmer, so we bought her a blue 2004 BMW 530i. People who knew the car and the care we'd taken were standing in line to buy the 1998, and she easily sold it. As of late 2010, we still have the 2004. Mary has bonded with it.


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