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’74 Ford Pinto Station Wagon - Hand me down from one of my two older brothers, with over 60k on the clock. When it was later revealed that Pintos exploded upon rear impact, my immediate thought was “And…?” Anyone who drove one knew the car was a POS. Slow, gnarly to shift, horrible handling, non-functional HVAC, etc. My father, A Ford man at the time, bought the car for the same reason everyone else did: they were cheap.
Ford Pinto Station Wagon - Yup, same again. When “mine” died from heat exhaustion, Dad simply did the hand me down thing again. No. 1 son got a VW Golf, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt. A lifelong insanity was revealed as I shod the Pinto with Pirelli P3s in an attempt to get it to handle. Oh, and put a Nagamichi cassette player in the glove box. Peter Frampton lives!
Mercedes 230E - Dad bought a 300 SEL 6.3 on European delivery and went mad for the brand (a madness that evaporated with breakdowns and bills). The 230 was another hand me down, this time from Mom. Solid. I mean stolid. Anything was better than the Pinto. Much better. Again with the tires. Killed the car when I was showing-off the Merc’s cornering prowess to friends- understeered straight into a curb, snapped the front axle like a toothpick.
Mazda RX-4 - My first car, really. Velour seats, gauges inside plastic housing that looked like… tits. A real sleeper in terms of thrust, although the cool factor was slightly limited by the fact that one my high school friends also had one. A bit of a gas pig, burned through three clutches. OK, I started messing with the transmission, sway bars, lightweight wheels, etc. 12B spin like a sewing machine. Some epic late night runs.
Mazda GLC (Great Little Car)- The RX4 pretty much wore out. And then I bought this 1.5-liter POS. God knows what I was thinking, something about fuel economy, practicality, college. it was just like my Pinto, except it didn’t break. I didn’t upgrade anything. Why would I? It eventually died in a head on collision on the access road next to Storrow Drive.
Mazda RX-7 (SA22C) – Oh yes. Yes, yes, yes! Great looks (white helped hide those hideous bumper strips), sharp handling, discs and LOADS of upgrades. Put one of those weird louver deals over the back window, ‘cause I’d moved to Hotlanta. The A/C couldn’t cope, and dropped power by 30 percent (ish). Push the A/C button in the middle of the fan knob (turning OFF the A/C) and struth! Mad Max’s turbo. Well, kinda. Sorta. Not.
Loads of motorcycles - Mostly Hondas – Moved back to Beantown and didn’t see the point of owning a car. Did see the point of having massive power on tap.
Mercedes 300CE (black on black) – After many years in London, swapping bikes on a regular basis, bought the little Merc for trips to the country. Solid as a tank, creamy six-cylinder power and plenty quick. Handled like… a Merc.
TVR Griffith - Yeah Baby! Although its looks were superbly, sublimely British, this was as close to a American muscle car as God ever let a foreigner get: superb engine note (5.0-liter Buick job) and unbelievably, ridiculously, unconscionably, tire smokingly quick. Hideous long distance cruiser: noisy, leaked, drafts, crap radio, the world’s heaviest clutch pedal, etc. And it didn’t like to start.
Mercedes 500SL - Yes, the TVR was so much of a PITA that I swung towards its polar opposite. A boulevardier’s boulevardier. Quiet, smooth, reliable. Speed limiter detached, Autobahns dispatched. With the right tires (here we go again), I was able to keep up with the new Aston through the twisties. Not much point to that really, but hey, we were both headed in the same direction.
Jeep Cherokee 4.0 - My first born arrived. The right hand drive Jeep was a rattly thing with awful brakes and dodgy handling. The ONE TIME it snowed, the car was in for service. Still… nope. I got nothing.
Volvo 850 T5 - World’s fastest station wagon, with Volvo safety as standard. What else did I need to know? Someone might have mentioned that it was a torque steer monster, and the turbo came on all Saab-like. But it was a bit of a hoot with lots of luxury and it never let me down.
TVR Chimaera (5.0-liter) – Once bitten, twice stupid. Scared the SHIT out of myself on many occasions. What’s not to like? Also didn’t start more often than not. I mean, than did.
Ferrari F355B - Nice, if you like that sort of thing. Me? I used the Ferrari as my daily driver. The smell, the sound, the handling. But my GOD did it cost me money; the F355B spent at least half its time with me without me– in the shop. (I used to call myself a Ferrari visitor.) Rust? In a modern car? Yup. Ran up the miles, spun it twice and had to get rid of it before the catastrophic bills became cataclysmic.
Ferrari F550M – I loved the way it looked and LOVED the in-gear acceleration. And they were on sale. But the car was damned. First, the entire transmission had to be replaced. Then, everything else. When I, uh, danced with an Subaru Impreza Turbo on a series of long sweepers, I realized the Ferrari’s high speed stability was dubious. I decided to get out of the car before I killed myself.
BMW 540i Estate - Bought it for her indoors. Easily the most luxurious car I’ve ever driven. Heavy? Very. Thirsty? Extremely. Lovable? Thoroughly.
Porsche Carrera 4 - I bought it from the Ferrari dealer. I remember saying on the test drive, “Why the Hell did I ever buy a Ferrari?” I drove the snot out of that car and never, ever had a “moment.” I could do epic, ungodly things with the C4. OK, IT did them. But I loved it. Turns out the bastards sold me a crashed car, though.
Jaguar XK1200 – Decided to have one built from the ground up by Guy Broad, using a 4.2-liter six and a breakaway steering column. Gorgeous car that needed a lot of work (uh, Guy, the seat’s just come loose). Just starting the fettling process when I drove her on a snowy afternoon. Took out an entire English village. Divorce prevented me from pursuing perfection. The one that got away.
BMW M5 - Separated me from the family hauler, I had to get something more kiddie friendly. Phenomenal car: smooth, quiet, powerful, graceful, comfortable, understated, elegant, burbalicious. A luxury car around town, a supercar in the twisties, a ‘bahn burner on the open road. The M5′s Achilles heel: recirculating ball steering; almost had a [another] head-on whilst adjusting the HVAC. Other than that, perfect. Just perfect.
Audi S4 Avant - I forget why I got rid of the M5. A painful time in my life. My internet career started very badly indeed when I revealed (on pistonheads.com) that I didn’t know the difference between an S4 and a RS4. Oops. Never mind. The S4 had the best seats I’ve ever sat upon. It was comfortable, luxurious and semi-sporting. Well, sporting enough to lose my license, anyway.
BMW M3 (E36) – Moved back to the states and celebrated with this masterpiece. Custom ordered in Estoril blue. Another perfect car, save the fact that the back seats were too cave-like for the kids. This became a REAL issue when Sam fell pregnant.
Porsche Cayenne S - I knew Porsche’s truck was a brand abortion, but I wasn’t going to let professional prejudice stop me from getting a great deal on an all-American SUV (for us, anyway). The throttle lag drove me NUTS. Sad to say, the Cayenne was nothing special- except when it snowed or we went off-road. Holy shit, what an unstoppable machine. I think we left the pavement twice.
Porsche Carrera 4 - Something for the weekend sir? Excellent car, but the thrill was gone. Can’t explain it. Water-cooled engine’s OK with me. Handling just as foolproof as before, only more so. Fast? Yes, very. But it just didn’t feel special. No… fun.
Honda Odyssey - Finally embraced the minivan, and why not? On those occasions when all four girls are in attendance, or carrying big box items, or bikes, or dogs, or girls, stuff AND dogs, it can’t be beat. Poorly-built: creaks and rattles, things break. But the V6 is perfectly adequate, the tranny shifts like a dream and the drop-down TV is a godsend. (The art of conversation is dead. Long live the art of conversation.) Only real beef: bought it before MP3 compatibility. Seriously. That sucks.
Porsche Boxster S - World’s best sports car. No complaints. Well, it’s too damn noisy for long distance travel. Considering a Bentley Arnage T, a Maserati GranTurismo S (when the new one arrives and then depreciates) or a F360.