My first car was a 1980 VW Rabbit that had belonged to my mother. I bought it off her for the princely sum of $200. It was baby-shit tan, fuel injected, with a four-speed manual transmission. A little terror of a car, frankly. I drove it like the she-devil it was until I happened into a head-on collision with my friend Trevor (he coming to visit me, me going to visit him; we met in the middle, as it were), and the damn thing never ran right again. It’d still go down the road, but was at least 50% down on power, and no one could figure out what was wrong.
A series of VW Beetles followed, most half-rotted away from Vermont road salt. The one I drove the most was a ’74 that had a bad fuel pump, so Trevor and I rigged up a gas can in the back seat with gravity feed to the Weber carb. Worked pretty good; I just had to be real thoughtful about the butts of the clove cigarettes I favored at that point in my life. The car also lacked operational floor brakes, but the cable-driven emergency brake worked just fine, so I drove with one hand on the wheel, and the other alternating between the e-brake handle and the stick shift. And the boom box in the rear seat, right next to the gas can. Got a good year out of that rig. I think that was the one Trevor and I painted with the name of our nascent carpentry/odd jobs business: Troglodyte Construction. You should have hired us. We worked hard and real cheap.
Somewhere in there mixed with the Beetles I had a ’75 Cadillac with a 501 under the hood. A real boat. Like my Mother’s old Rabbit, I bought it for $200, which was a big step up from the $75 I paid for the aforementioned Beetle. The Caddy had what I think was a blown head gasket, and a bad alternator, so for the summer I owned it I was rather limited in range. I’d wake up, install the battery that had been on the charger overnight, drive to my construction job (mysteriously, Troglodyte had failed to take off, and I found myself working for a manic-depressive who took frequent breaks to sit in the woods and cry), add water, pull the battery and put it on the charger, and do the whole thing in reverse come quitting time.
Then I had a Buick LeSabre I named Putris. Fast, that car was. Had a 350, I believe, but seemed faster than that. I outran a cop in it, or dodged him, at least. I was going real quick on a main road, probably had something on me that maybe I shouldn’t have, and he was coming the other way. Turned on his siren and swung around, and I hit the next right hand onto a gravel road and just put it down. My hands shaking like crazy on the wheel, trying to not look in the rearview mirror too much; I was either going to slip him or not. Which I did. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. I didn’t always make the best choices as a kid. Probably still don’t, come to think of it. Though these days I generally try to avoid criminality.
A bit later, I got a sweet little Mazda pick-up. Two-wheel drive. Stick shift. My first rig that cost more than $500. I think it was $3000, and my dad put $3000 in an account as collateral against a bank loan. And when I paid off the loan, he let me keep the money. Totally unexpected, and at that point probably more money than I’d ever had in one place in my life. I’ll never forget that
What else? Oh, yeah, a ’78 Subaru I bought from Trevor’s dad. A $400 rig if memory serves. Stick shift, had to pull a little lever to engage 4WD. Motor blew within a month or two, but not before Trevor and I took it jumping a time or two.
Dodge D100, circa 70-something. Three on the tree. This is what my wife and I built our first house with, and improbable as it seems, I think we might’ve paid $200 for this one, too. Bi-color. Blue and green with just a smidge of pink on the inside of the bed. Two-wheel drive. Loved that truck like all get out.
Later, a series of Subarus. Not my favorite cars, to be honest. They drive great, but parts are crazy expensive, and they eat head gaskets like nobody’s business. Oh, and wheel bearings; they’re bonkers for wheel bearings. Gas mileage is pretty marginal, too. Still. Nothing like a Subaru on a Vermont gravel road in winter.
Other rigs: Numerous Ford F250’s. Like four of them, at least. One F350, a Powerstroke, the only diesel. A real nice early 90’s Chevy K3500 with a 454 and stick shift. Awesome truck, though wicked thirsty. Eight mpg on a good day. Just in the past couple years, I’ve traded trucks a couple times. I had a really nice ’90-ish F250 I loved, but it wouldn’t tow worth a damn and I was offered a $1000 more than I paid for it, and so it went.
Now have yet another F250, a 2004 with the V10 and a really nice flatbed. It’s a Lariat edition with these crazy-comfy leather seats that adjust in a gazillion directions and I like to settle in and pretend I’m far wealthier than I am. The car is a Kia Soul. It’s a pathetic little rig that can barely hold 70 on the highway, but I sorta like it because it looks ridiculous, was cheap, gets amazing gas mileage, is a stick shift, and has been reliable as a brick.
If this weren’t getting so long, I’d write about my motorcycles, too. But it is, and there were lots of those, so that’ll have to wait for another day.