A Brief History Of The Cars I’ve Owned
My first ever car was a 1984 two-tone brown Plymouth Horizon. I had just turned 16 and I bought it from my dad’s girlfriend’s father for $800.
The first week I had it, I lightly rear-ended another car. No damage on their car, so they drove off, but the cheap plastic grill on the Horizon was destroyed, revealing the radiator.
When I got home I took a piece of grated metal I found in the shed and fastened it with zip ties to the front of the car. I then proceeded to paint sharks teeth on it.
I ripped off the first three letters PLYMOUTH and it became the MOUTH mobile.
You never forget your first car.
When the Mouth finally died, I bought a 1982 silver Chevrolet Chevette for $750. I was still in High School when it died while I was delivering pizzas — I shifted into second and the shifter snapped off. I delivered the pizza in 2nd gear and made it home afterwards.
I borrowed my dad’s Girlfriend’s car to finish out my pizza delivering duties. I was off to college in a few weeks, anyway.
The Silver Horizon
I flew from Boston to Seattle and started going to school down in Olympia, Washington. I lived on campus and didn’t need a car. I lived carless for the first two years, but then a desire to move off-campus meant I was in the market for a car again. Again, my dad’s girlfriend’s dad had a Plymouth Horizon he could sell me.
So, a plan was hatched for me to fly back home, pick up the car and drive it from Boston to Olympia. Originally it was going to be my buddy Seth tagging along, but last minute plans changed and it ended up being my girlfriend at the time who took the ride.
Have you ever listened to Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville? There’s a song about a road trip turned ugly, with a lines like “it’s true I lost the map” and “it was late at night and we’d been driving since noon,” and in mind that’s kinda what our road trip was like.
We got back from the trip and broke up.
Two weeks later the engine blew on the Horizon.
“Never buy a car from someone you’re dating.”
That’s actually not true. It totally works out fine. Or did for me, anyway.
I bought a 1974 Maroon Dodge Dart from a girl I was dating for $800. It was a beautiful beast of a car compared to anything I’d owned before; wonderful bench seats, four doors, slant-six engine and a stunning single-speaker AM radio in the dash.
I loved that car.
But, in the end, I didn’t love the girl.
I kept that car for over a decade, but dated her for only a couple weeks.
The dart’s engine was pretty reliable, but everything else had started to go. I had a broken rear axel on the Dart and decided on a whim to just get something else.
I bought a 1980 Toyota Pickup for $1,000 and it ended up costing me $12 a mile. Drove it to Seattle from Olympia and it blew a rod on the way back.
I hadn’t sold the Dart yet, so I fixed it instead.
Things kept breaking on the Dart, though.
I couldn’t let go of it, but it sat in my driveway un-driveable. I was lamenting this fact with my dad on one of our weekly check-in calls and he said his new girlfriend was getting rid of her 1994 Dodge Neon. Another cross-country road trip was hatched, again with a girlfriend, but this time without any other drama.
The Neon was the newest, most reliable car I had ever owned.
I decided it was time to finally say goodbye to the Dart. I sold it, broken for $750. Net cost for over 10 years of the Dart was $50 — pretty good.
I held onto the Neon for a long, long time. I had that car when I got married and had my son. We even eventually gave it to my wife’s little brother (who was in High School) as his first car.
The Blue Dart
While the Neon was great, I missed the joy that a dart brought me. So, I entered the “multiple car phase” of my life. I was single, had a decent-paying job and living in Olympia in a house I owned.
I saw an ad for a $1,200 baby blue 1974 Dodge Dart. I talked him down to $1,000 (which still felt expensive for a Dart). But as I drove away feeling the joy that only comes from owning a 1974 Dodge Dart, I knew it was worth it.
So now I owned two dodges, a Neon and the Dart.
I also owned a 1976 Honda CB750 at the time, but, well, this is a story about all the cars I owned, not motorcycles.
The thing with owning multiple cars is once you start, it’s kinda hard to stop. You start justifying vehicles as purpose-driven items that you have to have.
So, I decided I needed a truck.
Should I buy one of those small, “reliable” pickups like the Toyota? Well, I still had the bitter taste of the $12/mile 1980s Toyota, so no.
Instead, I bought a 1967 Ford F100 pickup. I figured it had already lasted over 30 years, so it was proven reliable. And it was glorious. Just look at that thing. It had crushed velvet green seats, three-on-the-tree, and a two-tone paint job.
I had the truck, the dart, the motorcycle and the neon when I went on my first date with my future-wife. We decided to drive from Olympia to Aberdeen to have the best burritos Washington State had to offer. The Dart was made for dates — with it’s big bench seats and comfortable driving position there was a lot of giggling and light hand touching.
Our second date was in the Truck when we went to a Drive-in. We saw the Matrix 2 and she fell asleep half-way through. I was forced to endure that horrible dance scene alone.
When she moved in with me, she had a shitty two-door Dodge Shadow. The rear breaks only worked on one side, and every time you tried to stop, it’d pull one way. It was horrible, so she often drove the Neon when she had to go anywhere of distance. She took the Neon up to the mountain to try out for a snowboard team, and on her way up a cougar jumped out of the woods onto her car and set off the airbags, nearly breaking her thumb.
No, really, a giant cougar jumped out of the woods onto the hood.
Even after a run in with a wild cat, sprained, swollen thumb, she made it on to the snow board team. She’s kinda a badass.
The Neon still worked but smelled like gun powder and her car was too crappy to continue on, so after much research, I helped her buy (we weren’t married yet) and a brand new 2005 Honda Civic.
We got married and were about to have a kid. We decided that having a kid meant letting go of some things, and the Dart was one of them.
The Civic continued to treat us well for years. In our minds, this was a “keep forever” car. With Honda’s world-renowned reliability we were naive enough to think we’d be able to give this car to our newborn when he was 16.
Every time you say “we’ll keep this car until it dies” it actually decreases the life of the car by 6 months. We kept repeating the mantra that we’d have the Civic forever to anyone who’d listen.
My wife and son went snowboarding one weekend (not me, I’m not so big on “winter” sports) and I got a panic’d phone call that they’d been in an accident. The roads were snowy, someone came around too fast, rear-ended them and the civic spun around a few times and crashed into the side of the mountain. I got in the truck and rushed to get them. The car was totaled, but they were fine.
When your wife and kid are in a “they could have been killed” type of accident, you start researching Volvos. You probably can’t afford a Volvo — I know we couldn’t at the time — so you buy a Subaru Forester instead.
An extremely safe, all-wheel-drive car that’s more of a fancy station wagon than a full-on SUV is what we needed.
Soon after we bought the Forester, we decided to move to Portland from Olympia. We wanted to grow our business as well as have more than just five restaurants to choose from. The 100-miles back and forth proved to be too much for the old truck, and it died on the final load of moving.
We were now a one-car (and one motorcycle) household. We stayed that way for years. We lived close enough to the gallery that walking was easy.
Eventually, though, the siren-song of a car was too much for me. I bought my first-ever, new-car-just-for-me at the ripe old age of 38.
A red 2011 Volkswagen GTI.