By on May 31, 2010

At this risk of stating the supremely obvious, we’re not enjoying a lighter-than-usual workload today in order to remember cars. The sacrifices of America’s warriors are the reason for remembrance today, as we reflect on the wrenching experiences that allow our flawed-but-wonderful experiment in democracy and capitalism to persist. But memory is a funny thing. Once you start looking back at through the jumbled scrapbook of past experience, unexpected artifacts come looming out of the fog.

My earliest memories of America at war, during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, remain strong: the yellow ribbons sprouting up like weeds, the menacing strangeness of terms like “Scud Missile,” the wail of Israeli air raid sirens broadcast into my family’s bastion of suburban privilege. Still a young child at the time, these memories mark a growing awareness of the world around me, and yet the memories that feature most prominently in my mind from that period are the comfortingly familiar ones. The smell of pine trees baking in the hot sun at summer camp. The taste of blackberries. The creak of swing axles, and the bucolic brumm of a straight six as the old yellow Ford pickup made its sedate progress towards the dump. Straddling the Hurst shifter and leaning into the curves, goading Dad to make the poor thing backfire while my sister and I screamed in delight.

To this day, nothing in this world reminds me of that or any other period of my life the way sitting in “Old Yellow” does, inhaling the smells of gas and manure, and absorbing every squeak and grumble. It’s a rolling memory machine, a warp-speed express to a world where war was a foreign presence, an atavism of history intruding on our perfect future. Somewhere in everyone’s past there’s a time and place that we can remember only in innocence. If we’re truly lucky, there’s still a vehicle that can take us there. What’s yours?

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53 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: What Car Do You Remember Best?...”

  • avatar

    Dad’s 81 Caprice. It was imported (GM assembled them here with the 4.1 V6), and bought used. 305 engine. First time I felt “power”. Fast, comfortable.

    Dad’s 75 Range Rover. Again, bought used, he had it like 4 years. Awesome. I still remember how the central shock absorber sounds when damaged, the ticking of the fuel pump, the @#$%&/ of my father when the points damaged (he had them changed with a Motorcraft electronic ignition after a year).

    Dad’s 75 Dart Sport. It was awesome when he replaced the stock 1 exit exhaust with a dual chrome tips (and with woody woodpecker stickers). We made him screech the tyres from time to time (mom didn’t like)

    My youngest uncle 72 or 73 Corvette. I never had a ride inside it, he was restoring it. I still have the original steering wheel of that car.

  • avatar

    79 10th Anniversary Trans Am. A co-worker bought one in the early 90s, and truthfully I thought it looked horrid. That front end! Ugh! But, the more I looked at it, the more it grew on me. Having just lost a deal on a mid-seventies Corvette (probably a blessing in disguise) I found another 10th Anniversary T/A for sale in the area. I bought it. Funny how it went, I hated the car at first glance, then end up buying one. Funnest car I ever had. 403 Olds and auto trans meant it wasn’t the fastest thing going, but man did I get compliments on it. I paid $2,900 for it back then, and it was by all accounts a very clean car, and all original. Sold it for $5,000 a year later, thinking I did pretty good! Now I can’t find another clean one for less than $25,000. Dammit!

  • avatar

    My favorite car from my youth was easily my Honda CRX. It was the first car I ever bought with my own money and the first car I ever had with a stick. Learn to drive manual on that car and never burned out the clutch. Had more fun driving that car than any other. Did crazy things back in the day like racing a 944 down the streets of Boston one night. Had a girlfriend in those days that was just as crazy as the way I drove that car. Been a fan of light sporty cars ever since.

  • avatar

    I’m probably one of the youngest here at 17, but I still have a thought for this.

    When my parents got married in 1991 they bought a Geo Prizm GSi with a stick. They bought the Prizm since it was cheaper than the Corolla, and my dad is of the frugal type so it had to be an affordable car. The most prominent memory I have of that car is sitting in the backseat scared to death when my mother would drive down Holly Hill Curve on the Levittown Parkway at about 60MPH in the left lane. She treated that thing like a sports car until she had to quit driving it due to a broken wrist. Finally two years later the clutch was on the way out and the engine had a nasty miss in it, so my parents sold it and bought their stick-shift Elantra wagon. Which my mother now takes down Holly Hill curve at 65 in the left lane. Thankfully Bristol Twp. keeps a cop hiding in the section entrance at the bottom of the hill now.

    My mom’s broken wrist also led to my dad selling his stick-shift ’85 S10 in favor of the ’89 4.3 automatic that now sits in the driveway so my mother had a car to drive. And that I learned to drive and got addicted to RWD on.

    Here’s a map of that curve for anyone that’s curious.,+Levittown,+Bucks,+Pennsylvania+19054&ll=40.162223,-74.833621&spn=0.002312,0.004163&t=h&z=187

  • avatar

    CCD1; I have had the same life with my old 85 CRX. I’m 33 now but man I wish I could get another. So many great memorys racing, girls, and character building as it too was the first car I bought with my own money.

    • 0 avatar

      A quarter of a century later, I’ve begun to look for a car that I could really love to drive like I loved my CRX. The Porsche Cayman is the natural choice for someone 50 plus, but the Porsche seems so grown up. There was an adolescent quality to the CRX which could border on juvenile delinquent. The Lotus Elise probably has that quality, but the CRX with its hatch was also a fairly practical car, an area in which the Elise is completely lacking. Other than something like the Mini Cooper, the RX-8 would probably come the closest of current offerings. Both the Mini Cooper and the RX-8 have that adolescent quality like they were made just to have fun and at least in my memory, that was what the CRX was all about.

    • 0 avatar

      ccd1: First car with my own money was an 84 CRX here. Also learned to drive a manual shift on it. Good times with that car.
      Sold it during University to help pay tuition.
      I’ve had an 04 RX8 for almost 7 years now. It still makes me smile every time I drive it as much as that CRX did.

  • avatar

    1978 Toyota FJ Cruiser based flat bed truck – all of today’s truck offerings seem somewhat delicate in comparison.

    1973 Datsun 240K – A sedan version of the 240Z minus the dual carburetors. A wonderful sports sedan that was years ahead of its time.

  • avatar

    My dad’s ’61 Econoline panel van – he used it for hauling his samples of tools to various manufacturers. It was a gawd awful colour of green, but it’s first vehicle that I have crystal clear memories of. We had a 57 Chev wagon when I was born, then we got a ’56 Buick, and by the time I was three we had the van and a Riley 1.5 saloon.

    That and the ’59 Chevrolet sedan my Gran had (she eventually traded it in on a ’65 Valiant, which she kept until her death in 1988). I have a crystal clear memory of this one too, as my mother slammed the car door on my hand when I was just a wee tyke, and they had to take me to the hospital in Hawksbury where my Gran worked as a nurse.

    What a freakin’ excellent post for a Memorial Day weekend.


  • avatar

    As they say, you never forget your first. The first car ever titled in my name; a 1965 VW Beetle. I bought it used because I needed my own wheels for a summer job, and it was the most cost-effective thing I could find. A car-knowledgable friend helped me pick it out since I didn’t know how to drive a stick. As the salesman did the paperwork my buddy diagrammed the H pattern for me so that I could drive it home, and over the next couple of years I learned most everything that I’ve ever known about manual transmissions, clutches, internal combustion engines and brakes from driving it and keeping it functioning. In hindsight, I realize what a primitive piece of engineering that it was, and that I was lucky to have survived my experiences, but I still get nostalgic when I (rarely now) hear one of those air-cooled 4 pot engines winding up to faithfully push its owner down the road.

  • avatar

    Stingray— Was he an angry looking woodpecker smoking a cigar? Thats a Clay Smith camshaft decal.

  • avatar

    ’81 Z28. Red, 4-speed manual, t-roof, power locks, power windows, last year for the 350 4-bbl. Upgraded the engine, exhaust, and suspension myself, pulled off all the anti-smog gear, then added a 200 watt stereo system (huge for those days, now cars have 200 watts+ stock!). I loved that car despite the financial pain – it always needed something done to it to keep it on the road. The way the compression slowed the car on downshifts like a boat anchor had been deployed out of the trunk, the wind in my hair on hot summer days cruising with the roof off and the music loud, taxis and bike couriers scattering out of my way when the engine note echoed off the downtown skyscrapers as I left a light. I miss that car…even though working under the dash was like solving a Rubiks cube made out of razor blades. So much blood :-). You’d think Chevrolet could afford to roll the edges of the sheet metal or at least round them off a bit!

  • avatar

    I still have very vivid, very fond memories of my aunt’s baby blue Beetle. I can’t recall the year, it may have been a ’73 or ’75, I just recall it being one of the plastic dash, large taillamp cars with the “black banana” vents behind the 1/4 windows. I remember watching my aunt shift gears, making mental notes at an early age. I would soon begin using the shifting techniques (left foot in, right out, shift, left foot out, right in) while pretending to drive, and just watching her made it easier for me to learn to shift for myself when I became old enough. I remember the Wolfsburg crest on the center of the steering wheel, and wondered why a VW steering wheel had a castle on it. I remember the shift pattern on the ashtray, but never asked my aunt what it meant, and years later I learned. I remember one night on the backroads to her house I saw a blue bear’s paw pop up on the speedometer, and when I asker her what it was, she laughed a little and told me it meant the brights were on. That was another thing I didn’t understand for several more years. I remember the first time I opened the “hood”, finding it to only contain a spare tire and little else. I still remember the day she brought it home from the shop with a fresh Baja body kit, engine exposed but protected by a large cage that surrounded it. Finally, I still remember when she sold it. I cried about the loss of that car. That was an awesome little car, filled with memories, and every time I see a Bug, I am reminded of my aunt’s car.

    On a side note, my sadness about the loss of the Bug was short lived, as the replacement car was a dark green Datsun 260Z. Decked out in wire wheels and rear window louvers, that car was awesome! That’s another story for another day though.

    • 0 avatar

      My Dad’s 1935 Chevy farm truck. It had so many previous owners the title was like a rag. (In PA, the new owners name would be added to the old title.)
      I was about 8 years old (1946) when my parents went on a trip and left me to help my uncle do the farm chores. He had just returned from the war where he received 2 Purple Hearts at the Battle of the Bulge. (Hence the tie in with Memorial Day). After the chores we would go in the truck to my Grandmothers house for supper.
      The truck ran ok, but one could see the road through the holes in the floorboard. After shifting into high gear, my uncle would rest the gear shift handle up against the dash.
      Oh, the memories of 60+ years ago!

  • avatar

    I saw the world whip by from the back seat of dad’s ’78 Country Squire.

    I watched the roadside powerlines dip and rise. I learned all the different car makes from other traffic. I imagined I had a scythe and was cutting the grass with it as we sped along. I saw cows, crops, and farmers wearing suspenders. I drove with Dad to towns that seemed incredibly far-flung, but were only an hour away from home.

    But I also took in every single detail of that car: the action on the door handles & window winders; the sound of the 351 straining up the hill out of down; the weatherstripping getting sticky on hot days; the ignition buzzer…

    Great memories of a rather terrible car!

  • avatar

    I have only one other memory worth sharing. I was with a doctor friend who did some work for a local personal injury lawyer with a fetish for fast cars. It was around lunch time and we decided to go to lunch across town somewhere (town shall remain nameless to protect the guilty). The lawyer and my friend jumped into a Honda NSX, the lawyer gave me the keys to his Ferrari 355 convertible to follow them.

    We got onto the highway and the lawyer decided to be cute and try to lose me. He never came close. We were going over 100 mph and it felt like I was doing 55. If I were going before the proverbial firing squad and had one last car to drive, it would be that car on a warm sunny day. A great car at a great time in my life. Would never want to own one, but love to have a rich friend who gave the keys every now and then

  • avatar

    1) Sitting on my dad’s lap, steering wheel in hand at age 5(1957).
    1955 Buick Special, I turned the wheel onto our street on the way home from Dad’s music store.
    2) Sitting in the back seat of my uncle’s new 1963 SS409, having my head slammed into the rear seat speaker grille as he banged the upshifts.

  • avatar

    About 1968 I bought a well-used ’56 Chevy Sedan Delivery 6 cyl 3 on the tree. Didn’t have it long and an acquaintance had a fresh 396 from a wrecked ’66 Chevelle. It went in with a bit of modification to the oil pan, and a different tranny. The thing was crazy fast in a straight line, but needed an upgrade to metallic brake linings to stop it, and stiffer rear leaf springs to stop the rear axle from winding up. Solid vinyl bench seat, but I wish I had it now. Good times.

  • avatar

    My Aunt’s 1964 Galaxie XL500 convertible — it was maroon with a white top and interior and had the 390 with an automatic. The white bucket seats with that chrome-laden console were just so glamorous to me. I was maybe eight years old or so. Only got to ride in it twice, but I just adored that car… And my Aunt drove it like a bat out of hell, but with such casual ease and good humor. It felt like a rocket ship.

    • 0 avatar

      My grandmother had a ’64 Galaxie XL500 coupe — also with the buckets and console, and bright trim of all kinds everywhere. To a 5-6 year old kid sitting in the back it might as well have been designed by George Jetson.

      She traded in that car on a more sedate ’68 Galaxie coupe, dark green with a basic black interior. I remember that car very well because it was one of the best cars anyone in our family ever had. It was super reliable, incredibly quiet, incredibly roomy, and it returned very impressive gas mileage for a full size car. I really wanted her to save it for me when I could drive (1975). Alas, a couple years before that she traded it on a Montego.

  • avatar

    I learned to drive in a 1977 Peugeot 504 Station. My parents had bought it when the family grew aroound 1984 and kept it until they could afford something newer. It had a 4 speed manual on the column and a 1800cc 4cyl engine. Drivetrain was straight from a Peugeot 404.

    By 1986, it broke down weekly and was starting to rust bad. In 1987 it was replaced by a much smaller but much, much more reliable Mazda 323 station and 2 years later I got that 323 when my family got a Peugeot 505 Station to get back the 8 seats.

    In that car I learned a lot of what I now know about carburators and points, mostly trying to get that thing started in winter mornings. A lof of days the procedure included reversing down our rather steep driveway and dumping the clutch on the way down to get a self-push-start. Its a wonder how I never crashed the thing doing that.

    I have contemplated trying to buy it back, as it would now be worth pennies, but the rusting issues it has make me think its mostly dissolved into elements by know. Its plate is still in the registry though…

  • avatar

    Well, that ride in a 1974 Pontiac Trans Am with the SD 455.

    A true Super Duty version.

    The owner gave me a ride, headed for the local interstate on-ramp (a rural area with little traffic at that time…. 1974) and floored it.

    Power to the max. But, power unlike the 1969 Plymouth GTX with the high compression 440/ 4-speed or the 69 Road Runner with the 383/4-speed. Those were more “raw,” brutal in a way.

    The SD 455 was quieter, smoother. It was an automatic but the noise level was lower and the ride was smoother and other differences that made the entire experience just… different.

    I was amazed how quickly that Trans Am accelerated.

    A tad quicker than the 1965 VW Bug I got to use at times on weekends.

  • avatar

    I’m also one of the youngest here (one year less than Toyondai). The first car I ever rode in was my dad’s ’91 Camry. He bought it new for $8000 in 1992. It had nothing: no AC, crank windows, manual locks, no power steering, not even a clock. It was the only car he had with a manual (my mom doesn’t drive stick). I remember it a lot better than my mom’s 1995 Escort wagon. If my dad kept it, I’d probably be driving it.

  • avatar

    I’ve talked about my first (1982 Chevrolet Celebrity), my second (1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham sedan, and hell even occasionally my third (1997 Ford Escort wagon.) But it’s been a while since I mentioned my the car that likely started my love affair with big, luxurious, RWD, V8 powered, sedans. The first car my Grandmother purchased after my grandfather’s death in 1978. A burnt-orange 1979 Oldsmobile 98 sedan with a cream white vinyl roof and a moon-roof. Brownish-orange button velor interior, high flat dash, acres of fake wood trim, more plush than her living room and twice as fast. I don’t know what the old fella would have said about it given he never owned anything more luxurious than a Ford XL with an LTD trim package but hey the money was her’s now.

    She put 100,000 miles on that old girl with the only problem I can recall (and the one that she, at age 78, still talks about today) is that the motors for the moon-roof burned out every 30,000 miles like clockwork. I recall that car having spent many hours in the front passenger seat, staring at a glove box large enough for me to crawl into, the sensation of riding on a cloud, of being totally disconnected from the road, regardless of the condition it was in. She loved to push that barge fast around corners and up and down a few of Ohio’s gently rolling hills. Neither she nor I suffered from motion sickness, so to us it was all in good fun, like a free roller coaster ride! I still can’t drive, walk, or surf (internet) past a Town Car, Cadillac Fleetwood, Buick Roadmaster, Mercedes E or S class, or any 70s land barge without staring and trying to appreciate it’s unique qualities. Thanks, Grandma Donna, I’m obsessed!

  • avatar

    My cousins 1970 ford thunderbird 2 door with fastback roofline, the
    liquid smooth and quick acceleration from the 429 V8 – C6 tranny
    combo and very smooth and quiet ride was far above what I had
    experienced before – this was back in the mid to late 70’s. I think
    that it’s overall refinement would compare well to luxury cars of today.

    Dad’s 1973 Chevy Suburban 350V8 2WD.Bought home one afternoon brand new,heavely damaged the very next day on the FDR pkwy in NYC after getting cut off by a tourist and ending up hitting the center divider. Dad was a painting contracter and in the crash 30 gals of white paint in the back broke loose and He ended up coming home looking like a ghost – luckily He was not injured. Truck was repaired by insurance – it would have been totaled if it was today as it had
    frame damage. After that it served for 12 reliable years as work and family car before succumbing to rust and the frame weld repairs started to become undone.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    A 1961 Econoline. It had been painted blue with a roller brush and never lost its hay smell despite intense cleaning sessions with Clorox. I traveled up and down the west coast in that van. When I finally went back to college it also got me through a quarter without housing.

    Alas, the university cops started paying attention. One evening as I was leaving campus I was stopped. I hadn’t turned my headlights off, and noticed that brake fluid was squirting out of my van’s grille (try seeing that in a regular car).

    The officer wasn’t at all interested in this odd discovery — he wanted to give me a ticket for a burnt-out rear taillight.

    That was a drag, but at least the officer’s timing was good. Early Econolines didn’t have dual-master-cylinder brakes, and I was about to go down one of the steepest hills in town.

  • avatar

    Oh, the Peugeot 404 wagon, hands down. What I wouldn’t give to have that car in good condition. We took delivery in Paris when I was 12, and drove it around France, and much of the rest of Europe for a year, and then, when the thing was 4 yrs old I took my first legal drive in it. There’s going t be more in these pages…

    Ed, looks like your mother (I’m assuming, and I think I’m pretty safe to assume) is a great gardener. And of course, that is some truck. A truck to haul truck?

  • avatar

    My Dad’s Salmon Pink, large block V-8 powered 1961 Plymouth station Wagon with push button transmission and that elliptical steering wheel. It could haul ass and haul goods like no other vehicle!

    In second place is my first car. A rather boring 1967 Valiant sedan with the indestructible slant six. I bought the car with about 50k and sold it at 90k. When I left graduate school in 1979 I saw the car and asked the owner how many miles. The car had 150k and was rusting out but the engine ran smoke free.

  • avatar

    1953 Ford Mainline two door flathead V-8, three on the tree. Baby blue. Can’t remember interior color but it may have been gray. Only options were heater and radio. My father was frugal too and this was about as cheap as they got. (Guess the 6 cyl was a little cheaper.) Only car we had until 1960 Ford wagon, also bottom of the line. As many have mentioned above I abused the flathead pretty severely. Only problems ever were overheating which was common on this engine. Lots of wonderful memories that will not be recalled here!!

  • avatar

    The car I remember best isn’t the only I remember most fondly. Mom’s ’63 Fairlane wagon is remembered best because we had it the longest. Many cross country trips and a few trips to Canada gave me time to become familiar with it. It was the first in a seemingly endless series of wagons. I recall my uncle showing me how to tell where the wires go on the distributor by reading the numbers on the intake manifold. I remember my brothers and I resting, unrestrained, in the “way back” as Dad piloted it down the highway at 65 mph.

  • avatar

    1963 Oldsmobile Cutlass. My first car. I paid $75 for it in 1973. All it needed was the universal joints replaced.

  • avatar

    Back in the seventies my family had a VW Squareback wagon… On trips back home from visiting the relatives I LOVED to crawl over the back of the rear seat and curl up on the floor on top of the engine compartment. (way before the days of seatbelt laws) Anyway, the thrumming of that engine, the slight smell of oil and the warm floor always lulled me into state of blissful slumber!

  • avatar

    The car I remember best is a 1962 Studebaker GT Hawk. This was my first car which I owned from 1981-1989. My parents bought this car for me when I was in my junior year of high school. We found it at a local used car lot for $1,000. At the time it was just a 20 year old used car. It had the usual Studebaker rust, but was mechanically sound and drove well. I loved how this car looked, and I loved having something so unique.

    I have some photos of my Studebaker on Flickr.

  • avatar

    All time favorite has to be my ’69 Mach 1 Mustang with the 351 V8. I added a few tweaks including functional ram air into a 770cfm dual pump Holly sitting on top of a Shelby high rise cross ram manifold, Koni shocks, heavy duty sway-bars front and rear, high energy ignition, and some other stuff. The car had a beautiful exhaust note and handled fairly well when pushed down a windy (but smooth) road. On a rough road, the suspension was so stiff that the back end would start to dance around. I still think this was one of the best looking Mustangs and was glad to see the theme repeated in the modern version.

    A close second was my ’65 Corvair Monza which was a lot of fun to drive.

  • avatar

    I don’t have to remember the best car I ever had because it’s sitting in the driveway right now. My 2007 BMW 335 coupe is the most satisfying car to drive I have ever owned, and I’ve owned a lot of cars.

    The second best car I ever had is in the garage to keep out of the weather. It’s a 1950 Hudson. I bought it in 1972, when I had been married less than a year. My new wife looked at the car when I dragged it home, and said, “gee, that looks interesting. Does it run?” That’s when I knew I had made the right choices in both wife and cars. I still have the wife, too.


  • avatar

    In the summer of 1964, I was about 6 years old and got to accompany my parents to pick up their new 64 Olds F85 Cutlass. It was a dark green 2 door hardtop with dark green bucket seats and a floor shifted auto and tach on a console. The 330 V8 with a 4 bbl allowed my mother to occasionally smoke an unsuspecting Chevelle or Fairlane from a stoplight.
    My mother drove this car until she got a new 72 Cutlass. The hobbyists love the 72s, but I always preferred the 64. AM radio, lap belts, and no air conditioning. My sister and I spent part of the next summer stuck to the vinyl back seat on a trip to California via Route 66.

    My favorite car, however, was my grandma’s 55 DeSoto. It was a pink and white Firedome sedan (yes, it had a hemi). She had bought it used about 1959 after she got in a wreck in her 51 Kaiser. Every time we visited grandma, I spent at least 30% of the time with the DeSoto. This was the one with the PowerFlite automatic shift that stuck straight out of the dash (much like some modern minivans).
    It is funny that even though she got rid of it when the starter failed in 1967 (and I was on the final ride) I still vividly remember that car. The door handles that you had to push in with your thumb to pop the pull handle out, the black and white dash with the big round dials, and the trunk lid that had a pushbutton release which grandma never locked. She lived in a small town. Come to think of it, her keys were always over the visor, too. The more I write, the more I remember. Like the huge steering wheel with a necker’s knob towards the bottom and the compass stuck to the windshield. Forgive me for running on here, but I am about 8 years old right now.

    Thanks for the invitation to whiff the fumes of nostalgia.

  • avatar

    My ’67 SS 396 Chevelle; no power steering, no power brakes; 4 speed Muncie and that was it. Bought it in ’73 for the princely sum of $975 and sold it in ’77 for $1,200. Took out an entire row of azaelas on Seminary Road in Towson, MD under full-throttle; just sort of lost it. What a stump puller!

  • avatar

    I have 3 that stand out..
    Dad’s 84 Olds Cutlass wagon(G body), it was a light yellow/woodgraiin exterior Tan/dark green interior with a 3.8/2004r. It towed our boat every weekend without fail, it didn’t like it but it did it vor 6 years straight before having to be retired..

    Dad’s and my ’73 Chevelle. Dad, myself and my friends built that pig into a hell of a street car.. When we were done the only steel body parts left were the roof, quarters and rear bumper, the rest was all custom fiberglass.. Yes, I know now how unsafe it was..

    My 86 Omni, I swapped in a GLHS turbo mill and a Daytona trans. Looser blue with looser blue interior.. The only thing that gave the car away were the Centurian wheels and 3″ exhaust dumping out the side. My god that car was fun!

  • avatar

    Easy. The family’s 1968 Chevrolet Caprice.

    Grandpa bought it new to pull his boat in MN. I remember seeing it when we visited when I was maybe 4.

    Dad bought it from him in ’74, and I grew up in the car from that point on. I’d lie flat on the rear window shelf (!) when we’d take family trips during the summer, or curl up on the floor behind the front seat and sleep to the warmth of the exhaust and rumble of the 327. Dad used it for his daily driver and to pull our camper on summer trips.

    It became mine in 1986 – Dad secretly had it repainted and tuned up and cruelly sent me out to the garage to get something at Christmas and i was so stunned I fell back into the snow. I thought it was long gone, scrapped.

    I drove that car for the next 15 years – replaced the tired 327 with a rather healthy 396; replaced just about everything over the course of 140k. High speed hoonage during the period of ‘no speed limit’ in MT was great fun. Amassed another handful of ’68’s during that time for parts and future projects. All gone now.

    Sold the car to a guy I knew who wanted to restore and drive it. He promptly traded it in (!) for a new Tahoe, I believe it was, and the car skipped from owner to owner around here for the last ten years. I haven’t seen it in a few years but recently may have figured out where it is, and I have a fiendish desire to get it back and restore it.

    I remember every sound, every smell, every feel of every surface of that car.

  • avatar

    My grandparents had a 5th Generation Lincoln Continental. I freaking loved that car. Everytime you made a sharp turn in it my sister and I slid from one side of the car to the other :P

  • avatar

    1956 F100, red, 223 I-6, 4 speed, short box. My Dad arranged the sale from a friend for 10 cords of wood. I’d just turned 16 and it was the summer of ’71. We pulled out of the high grass and towed it for a block to get it started. An amazingly straight body with a real worn engine that would knock the rod bearings on a hard turn. Another engine pulled from a station wagon at a wrecking yard and purchased for a mere 15$ solved that problem. The hood was faded bad so I painted it flat black. 20 mpg on the highway. Hauled my motorcycle all over hell and gone. Drove the beach (never got stuck, and that was a miracle). Towed trailers, boats, etc. The battery box was a little iffy and one day on a short left, the battery fell over and damned near set the truck on fire. Our horses learned the sound of the truck deaccelerating (an odd suspension squeak) on a curve such by the time we hit the gravel road to the pasture, they’d beat us to the feeding shed. I remember hauling stub piling, cranberries, fertilizer, apples, fire wood, hay (stacked wide and high), seaweed, and I never forgot the low whine of the granny gear crawling up the logging roads. A truly great truck. Somewhere I’ve got a pick of it parked between the ribs of the sailing ship Solano.

  • avatar

    1972 four-door FIAT 128. Goshawful primer-over-dark-green paint.

    Bought for $500 with a blown engine in about 1980. $500 more got me a workable X1/9 engine, and another $500 in miscellany got me a working car. Clunked oddly during the maiden voyage; I had neglected to tighten the front wheel lugs. :-) Feeble SOHC engine; no torque, but the redline was 6250, stratospheric for a 1970s vehicle.

    I fixed everything as it wore out, including rebuilding a transaxle, front wheel bearings, setting valves with shims… The valve clearances were spec’d in mm, but my cheapie micrometer measured in inches, so setting valves required a stock of shims, a clipboard, and a *calculator* for conversions.

    Girlfriend (now Wife) and I drove it for years, putting over 100K on it. Junked it, still in good working order, due to severe rust and body damage (somebody shortened it in traffic).


    • 0 avatar

      Funny you should mention that because I bought a rusted out 128 sedan to steal the engine for my convertible. The car was a rusted heap. The headliner was falling down. But it ran and only had 68,000 miles on it, about half of what my convertible’s engine had when I put a rod through the side of it. If I recall, it cost me all of $300 bucks.

      I stripped down the engine (the valves were coated with layers of fossilized oil) replaced the seals and a few other wear items, ported the head and dropped it back into the convertible. I swapped out the points for an electronic ignition system (the great thing about the Fiat was the car was basically the same from year to year so it was easy to put newer parts on the older engines.) Drove it another 50,000 miles before having to sell the car because I got married and had kids.

      That car never left me stranded…but then I kept a tool box and various spare parts, fuses, and electrical tape in the trunk…and used all of it.

      I didn’t realize how much I missed that old car till I started looking for a replacement this summer. Been driving a Miata for a week and am remembering how every drive can bring a grin on your face. The Miata is a bit better sports car, with it’s double wishbone suspension, but much less roomy. That Fiat had a pseudo back seat and huge trunk. Thank goodness the Miata is reliable. I’d never be able to cart along all my old Fiat tools in it’s tiny trunk.

  • avatar

    My family was all-Pontiac by the time I was 9 – a friend of my parents’ was a Pontiac sales manager – but the one I ended up with at age 18 at the end of ’74 was bought used: an antique bronze ’66 Bonneville convertible (389 4-barrel, the usual setup) that had been a parade car once in a while but generally sat unused. It had 37,000 miles on it and cost $850. I drove it until summer ’91, when I realized that I’d never be able to undertake a frame-off restoration of a 222-inch-long, 80-inch-wide car, and moreover that I wouldn’t have the means to care for it once it was restored. I found a buyer for it along with my parts-car front fenders, etc.; it still ran great, even on unleaded. I only wish I’d met my wife before I sold it – although I sometimes attribute my extended adolescence to having had that car for so long; that is, perhaps I couldn’t have met her while I still had it.

    One especially nice feature (besides the a/c, power windows and top) was the leather-and-vinyl 6-way power front bench seat. Especially nice for going to a rural spot and parking with the top down (and a suitable companion).

  • avatar

    My fondest memory is riding in the “rumble seat” of my grandfather’s 1928 Ford Model A at highway speed. No seatbelts, speedometer, or much of anything, but I remember it seemed like we were going warp speed. I remember the temperature gauge on the hood ornament too. It could keep up to the econoboxes of the ’80s no problem at all.

    He also had a 1940 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe Coupe. I can still smell the exhaust from the straight 6 and remember waiting for the floor-mounted radio to warm up. I could stand up inside that car as a kid.

    I miss those cars…

  • avatar

    Here is my first time leaving a comment here, but I could not resist since I was just talking with mother about a similar subject. For me it is my mom’s old 1987 Cream colored Ford Escort GL. Many a trip to Washington DC or Atlantic city as a kid in that car on memorial days, our designated day for road trips. I spent more time in the 1992 Sundance but I was older by that point and not so carefree.

  • avatar

    Most memorable car – 1985 Olds 98. I had convinced myself that the GM 3800 V6 was the main reason to buy the maroon colored, crayon smelling, vinyl roof beast. Well that and the belief that it would last a few yrs without costing me too much.

    I was somewhat correct in that it wasn’t too expensive to maintain, but it was not a solid car by any measurement. Sloppy steering, wallowy suspension, poor brakes. It was fine in a straight line, but that was it.

    A month before I sold it, I smelled gasoline but couldn’t figure out why. After a day or two of this, I lifted the hood and noticed a puddle of gas accumulating on top of the engine. Not good when you live in Tucson and it’s 110 on a mild day in summer.

    I fixed it and sold the car just after I graduated from U of A.

  • avatar

    Three cars: The ’68 Country Squire LTD wagon (390/4bbl) which hauled us around for years. TEN passenger seating, and you could load plywood sheets (or four squabbly sons) in the back. Caught fire twice… finally blew a head gasket and Dad sold it (I think he was weary of repairing it at that point).

    There was also the ’69 F-100 Custom Cab “Styleside” (baby blue, 240 straight six). This was Dad’s truck, and I have many fond memories of it (learned to drive in it). It’s my truck now, and still gets regular use on our farm – both my nearly-adult sons learned to drive in it. Thinking about doing an off-frame restoration so my grandchildren can learn in it, too.

    Lastly was my first car, a ’71 Vega that started out as Dad’s daily driver before I got it my Senior year in HS. Was burning a gallon of oil every two weeks at that point – one of my first projects was to swap engines for one which had steel sleeves installed. Drove that car all through college, repairing pretty much every sub-component in the car at one point or another (the 140 also got replaced by a 3.8L Buick). Finally traded it in (with over 220K miles) on a Samauri – kinda wish I had kept it now.

  • avatar

    During some of my teenage years, we had a 1977 Cougar wagon (which I now understand was a somewhat rare beast). In 1987 we took this car, which came to be known as the “family truckster,” on a family vacation from Ohio to Colorado. Somewhere in western Kansas or eastern Colorado, we blew a rear tire. A mere blowout probably would not have been noteworthy by itself, but while self-destructing, the tire punctured the fuel tank (which I seem to recall had just been filled). So we were stranded in pretty short order.

    Since we were in the middle of nowhere, what got us going again was a duct-tape-and-baling-wire solution: re-routing the fuel pickup from the tank to a 5-gallon gas can in the back seat. I’m sure the temperature was in the 90’s (typical for Colorado in the summer), and while the car was equipped with A/C, we had to roll down all the windows to avoid asphyxiation by gas fumes. I’m pretty sure we had to stop at every gas station between Julesburg and Denver, as the car probably got 10 MPG while towing a camper. But we did eventually make it there, in probably the most memorable family vacation I’ve ever had.

  • avatar

    1972 Chevy Suburban, hauled our family all over the deserts and mountains of California. Big, dumb, simple truckster that was pretty much unstoppable. I got T-boned by a Toyota in it, killed the Toyo and barely dented the Suburban. And when I started dating, it had all the utility of a van without the sleaze factor.

    Number 2 is a bright red 1980 TransAm, with T-tops, the 225 hp Pontiac 400 cu in V8 and a four-speed. Wasn’t mine, belonged to a college buddy, we drove it to school from California to Missouri in 1982. V8s with 4-speeds were nearly impossible to get in California due to the stricter smog regs, but my buddy’s dad owned an aerospace company and I’m guessing he had connections. We drove it to Florida for spring break, so I can say I crossed the country in it. When you put the hammer down that thing flew.

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