By on May 28, 2013

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We have all been there, posing proudly with our car alongside some curvy country road on a sunny afternoon. It doesn’t matter if the car is new or old, is just going through the break-in procedure or is on its last legs, what matters is the moment. A photo like this is a powerful talisman against old age, wherever we go and whatever happens to us, we have simply to gaze upon it and we are transported back to that special time in our lives when the road was clear and the only thing we needed to be serious about was having a little fun.

The above photo was posted on Reddit by user “Slow_Dive” who found it left in a car at a pick-n-pull lot in Gillman, a suburb of Adelaide, Australia. It turns out that he wasn’t actually looking for Subaru parts, but when he saw the old “Vortex” as they are known down under, he just had to take a closer look. On the steering wheel of the car he found a photo of who can only be assumed to be the car’s previous owner with the vehicle in a better days and with the discovery came an unexpected flood of emotion. “Seeing it just sitting out in the rain, rusting away, being picked apart slowly made me just a little bit sad.” He wrote, “It made me think about where my old cars are and where all of our current cars will be, some day.”

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Its easy to walk through a wrecking yard and remain emotionally detached while look at the various cars. We seldom think about the lives that these vehicles touched, that they were all once desired bits of cutting edge technology and design that carried their owners through the highs and lows of their lives. Without their stories, they are just hulks waiting their turn for a date with the crusher. Thanks to this photo, however, this car has the context that all those other cars lack. It is easy to see that this bit of late 1980’s Japanese design had someone who cared about it, someone who cherished it and someone who enjoyed it until every last bit of fun was squeezed out of it. In time things changed, they always do, but while they lasted those days were glorious.

We’ve all been there, going through a box of old photos or leafing through a musty old album when we come across a photo of our younger selves beside some curvy piece steel that meant the whole world to us. How would we feel if for some reason that photo was lost? Take a good look at the photo and see if you know the person pictured. It would be nice to think that, with the power of the internet, we could solve the mystery of who this young man is. For now, there is still the chance for him to reclaim it.

For better or worse, the man who found the photo did not keep it. Although he used the serial number to research the car’s registration history, he was unable to come up with a name. Unable to connect the photo to an actual person, he opted to leave it where he thought it belonged, right there on the wheel of the old Subaru. If it can’t be returned that seems an appropriate place. Perhaps it will still be there when the car meets its ultimate fate, a final reminder of better days now past.

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Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking. According to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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35 Comments on “A Little Context From A Forgotten Photograph...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ve always had an interest in the previous life of my cars and where they ended up after I sold them.

    I didn’t care one bit when my N-bodies went to the crusher. I felt bad when I blew up my Grand Prix coupe because I knew the previous owner took good care of it. It would be rough to see one of my old Bonnevilles or my Diplomat in a junkyard though.

  • avatar
    lost1

    I am 58 years old and I have some snapshots of my 73 Z28 that I keep in my top drawer. The car was just a year old when I bought it and I spent a lot of years driving and modding that car, not to mention dating and a little bit of racing. I just have to stop and look at these pictures every once in a while and for just a split second I am back there again 20 years old and invincible. Good times .
    I sold it after the second gas shortage to a fellow gearhead and I can still remember the sadness I felt as I watched him drive it away.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    The ability of humans to ascribe emotional context to our inanimate possessions is a decidedly mixed bag. I’m certainly not the only one to keep some pile of sh#t because of some maudlin attachment, am I?

  • avatar
    zaxxon25

    Once when pulling the side mirror off a 93 Maxima that lost badly in a front end collision with a tree I spotted a litter of family photos in the back seat. Made me feel a strong pang of regret for those whose lives had likely been inexorably altered by the actions of that vehicle’s former pilot. There were also some pieces of unopened mail with name and address visible but I thought better of tracing down the owner, they certainly did not require any more information on the vehicle’s fate.

  • avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    After being smitten by the Honda Insight at the ’99 Tokyo Motor Show I looked far afield for my ‘citron’ green ’00 Insight back in ’04. Had to be green. Had to be mint. The Trader of Autos had a hit down in S. Texas on one so I skee-daddled down there with a pal in case it was as good as the drawling Texan on the other end of the phone line said it was. And there it was, 7000 miles from new and half what the dealer would have raked me over hot coals for.

    The former owner had been Baton Rouge’s 1st female police officer and this was her present to herself upon retirement … then she died of cancer. Her sons seemed a bit embarrassed about this oddball and not-so-manly car when they sold it, the big trucks in the driveway were a dead giveaway to their priorities. A deal was struck on the spot.

    I can feel her riding shotgun with me at times even though I’m not prone to such feelings. Nine years later it’s in mint condition and will remain that way. There was no photo under the seat or other memento but I’m glad to know my car’s story.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    The ephemeral nature of digital photography makes me think this reminiscence is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

    • 0 avatar

      I just spent a few minutes looking at pictures of my first car. Some of them had my ex girlfriend in them. It was bittersweet, to say the least.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Imagine the feeling of popping out the rear seat in your first car after it has been idled from use for the last 25 years or so and finding the remnants of your youth…talk about bittersweet…

      • 0 avatar

        When you get married, entire years of your life will suddenly vanish. You won’t be able to talk about things you did, trips you made, etc and allt he related photos will disappear without a trace.

        Hopefully the rapidly advancing art of photoshopping will allow you to keep the car and lose those who are suddenly persona-non-gratis.

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          I am blessed with a wife who is unaffected by those memories and events, and in appreciation of that I try not to abuse her wonderful tolerance.

          And this lends me the serenity to reciprocate when the situation is reversed – and with her it’s easy to do.

          This past Saturday was our 17th anniversary.

          I don’t see how I could be more fortunate.

  • avatar
    kmoney

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrBS7Gt0k-g

    Mercedes benz commercial “resurection.” One of my favourite car commercials, deals with this exact topic.

    • 0 avatar
      Scout_Number_4

      That is an excellent ad. My favorite MB ad I only saw a few times–it featured old racing footage, but had been CGI’d such that all the people in the film appeared to be singing the same song. Wish I could find it somewhere….probably would help if I could remember the name of the song. Anyone know what I’m talking about?

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    The very car of this picture was my company car in my previous life:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/iran-khodro-looking-to-build-cars-in-iraq/#comment-2055160

    I wonder what happened with it.

    My Isuzu Impulse RS got hot rodded shortly after I sold it (I guess the owner pulled a tad too much fuel from the curve), and its original engine went kaboom. Then the owner was going to build a monster out of it.

    And, would you believe I haven’t wandered into the local wreckers? Shame on me.

    I can see a Magna, a Daihatsu hatch and a Camry in that pic.

    • 0 avatar
      jjthegreat

      I had an impulse rs. Production volume of about 2.5k in north America! Best car I have ever had. I took a bunch of photos on the second day I had it and put them in a collage type of frame. Its sitting up on my mantle shelf right now and I look at it every other day and it reminds me of awesome times gone by. Now I’m into modified Saab’s. In terms of putting a smile on my face, They do the job almost as well!

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        RS was more like 800 cars. Total Impulse volume was within the number your said.

        I had an XS too. Lighter and capable of higher RPMs, I liked it better. Although the RS pulled like a locomotive going uphill, never ran out of breath.

        The XS was particularly loyal. Very reliable and whenever it broke down, it ALWAYS took us home.

        And I bought my first Saab down here. Hopefully next one will be a turbo one.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Before Carfax stopped doing unlimited reports, I’d look for my old cars through the VIN while shopping for the new or new to me car. Nothing truly interesting, just to see where they wound up. It made me a bit sad to see that my Focus had been in an accident.

    I’ve had the same thought, looking at some tired, worn out car still on the road. Especially luxury cars, no matter the marque. At one point, that was somebody’s pride and joy, possibly an extravagant purchase. Maybe it was the last car someone bought new. Someone happily drove it off the lot, all shiny and clean.

    My senior picture was of me and my Earl Scheib dark green 81 Regal. It limped to the picture site due to a failing head gasket. It was given to me on my 16th birthday (in two tone green) by my grandparents. Both the car and grandparents are long gone, but I miss both to this day for many reasons.

    Our Mazda 5 was bought off the Internet. We flew one way to the Bronx in NYC to pick it up, drove it home that day. The fuel cap broke the first time I put gas in it about 60 miles from home (a common issue with the type) It was one of the last “adventures” my wife and I had before kids. It brought home our twin boys from the hospital. Besides being an awfully fun little box, it will be hard to send it down the road when the time comes.

    About two years after my Dad sent our 88 Legend down the road, with a bunch of electrical gremlins and 150k (as well as 7 previous owners) we received a phone call from the local impound yard that they had our car. Seems it had been impounded after being illegally parked for a long time. An old registration card was wedged in the seats with his information. After explaining the situation, that was the last we heard of it.

    Not so much sentimental, but our 92 Camry was rear-ended. It was hauled away and fixed. About 2 months later it was stolen. About a week or so after the car was declared a loss, an ad in the local paper appeared with the V6 powertrain for a 92 Camry. It couldn’t have been a total coincidence, could it?

  • avatar
    Mattsterzz

    I have to find a way to Adelaide to get that thing. I only recall seeing one once in NZ. I’d love a Vortex for my first car.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I have some where , a photo of me @ age 15 standing next to my old 1960 VW # 117 DeLuxe Sunshine Roof Beetle in 1971 , I had long hair and a beloved Eisenhower Jacket ~ indeed those were some fun times .

    I wish I had ‘photos from New Hampshire in 1967 when I saved a rusted out Ex U.S.A.F. 1959 Ford F-100 pickup trck from a soggy field ~ it really wasn’t _too_ rusty , in 1968 (IIRC) New Hampshire use aluminum for the license tags so I collected a bunch and made my self a new floor , then it was happy motoring for that young farm boy =8-) .

    We’d purchased it from Ayers AFB in Ayers ,Ma. for $25 a year or so before then .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Now you made me look for my old cars. One, a 74 911, that I sold for $5K was re-sold for $8K and is now for sale at $12K. Somehow it shed 100K miles in the process.

  • avatar
    Speedster356

    This article sure touched me. I love the history on inanimate objects. I rarely give up on my stuff and exhaust all possibilities to maintain, repair or rebuild before replacing something. I know you guys in the U.S. consider most cars as disposable appliances due to the high maintenance and repair cost, but it is a real shame though…

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Not all of us do…

    • 0 avatar
      racer193

      I have used up my last three cars to the point that I could not rightfully send them on to another person and fixing them was not feasible, so they where sent to the crusher. Odly enough my 86 suburban was stolen from my brothers yard while I was in the hospital. It was the one that really looked all used up but still did everything I asked of it faithfully. I wounder why someone wanted it more than I did, and wish I still had it.

  • avatar
    AJ

    Thanks for the story!

    I don’t know that I want to know what happened to my old cars? Although my first car was pretty much junk when I sold it, I had great times with that car. I’m sure it’s been long ago crushed, but one never knows?

    My father-in-law has a restored ’70 Challenger that had been severely wrecked by the second owner (it had originally been a Chrysler executive car). Well while showing the car at a show one time, he ran into the second owner that I’m sure wished he had kept the car…

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’d love to find out the fate of my beloved Goldwood yellow 1964 Chevy Impala SS convertible I sold to a sergeant for his daughter almost 40 years ago! It was a California car, had the original tags; CJZ-688.

    It’s always fun to tear apart a used car you just bought, not only to clean it up to your standards, but to look around for clues and money to see what the previous owner(s) may have done and how they kept the car.

    Hopefully, you won’t find anything you wish you didn’t discover!

  • avatar
    lon888

    Earlier this week, I dropped off my car to a paintless dent repair place to have some hail damage removed. Off in a corner was a Toyota FJ Jeep undergoing restoration. A buddy that I worked with about 10 years ago had one of these but sold it in the late ’90′s. I got to looking at the car and through the newly applied beige paint, I could see red paint, the same color as my buddy’s. I continued to walk around it when I found the most damning piece of evidence. It still had the 1990 Colorado license plate on the front of it. If I only knew how to get in contact with my buddy…

  • avatar
    julkinen

    I haven’t been good at selling off my old cars. With the Bluebird I used to drive, it went to a mechanic who drove it for a little while and probably junked it. The 323 I got afterwards ended up languishing on a forecourt for months, before getting sold to some absolute idiot who beat on it for a couple months and completely ruined it. I found it abandoned on a garage corner later on, that guy had busted the gearbox and sold the 323 on for parts.

    This past weekend, I sold my Sapporo to a car collector who has 17 cars from the ’80s. I had even considered selling it cheaper if it would go to a good home, and ended up finding a good buyer who’d take care of it like I did. It’s in good company now, so I won’t need to worry.

    When I inevitably sell my BMW, I’ll need to do that before I form a too tight a bond with the car. BMWs always get beaten to bits if they’re just run-of-the-mill models.

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Mama

      Most of my previous cars suffered terrible fates upon leaving my ownership. My first car, a Tahiti blue Spitfire was hocked during my sophomore year in college to pay tuition. I *really* didn’t want to sell it but the kid who bought it assured me that as he was “the son of a doctor” that he’d have the $$ to keep it in good fettle. A few years after graduating I spotted a haggard lookalike in a nearby city. I pointed it out to my girlfriend, “I had one just like that in high school” I said as we stopped to take a closer look. The car looked like it had been literally hammered on all surfaces, the top ripped, the interior trashed … then my mood sank when I spotted my high school parking permit sticker still on the back bumper.

      This story repeats with detail changes for my 240z and my Scirocco. If I had a way to research I’d like to know what became of my immaculate RX7 GSL-SE or my ’72 Westfalia…

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    This reminds me of a dilemma I have. I’m 21 and quite attached to my current and first car, a 93 Regal Gran Sport. Its not a very common car, I rarely see any others. I’ve had lots and lots of fond memories being a crazy teenager in it. Crashed it pretty good a few years ago but I spent the money to fix it back up.

    As far as 90s GM cars go, I believe its quite handsome.

    I love the car, but because I’ve been so passionate about cars my whole life, I find myself hungry for something else constantly. I don’t have much money, and I’m very fond of my Buick, but I browse Craigslist everyday and it makes me want to sell my car.

    Should I hold onto my first car for as long as I can or trade up when I have the money? There’s so much I want to own, but I’ve heard horror stories, such as the ones on this page, of people who wish they’d never sold their first ride…

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    The picture with the sky through the windshield makes me think of R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming”.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    A friend of mine got in a wreck with his W-body Buick. I take a trip to the local junkyard and what do I find? A dead ringer for my friend’s Buick, with wreck damage.

    Not sure if it was his, W-body Regals aren’t uncommon, but it sure looked like it.


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