Friday, March 31, 2017

Could I ever have a "forever" car?

This is Carhenge. photo source: one

If you go to many car shows you may have spoken to several owners who will tell you that they have owned their car for years. I remember speaking with owners that had bought the car in highschool, now the guy I'm speaking with is in his Sixties. Why and how did he keep that car? Holding onto any old car for a long period of time is a lucky combination of desire, determination, and happenstance.

There are those that hold onto their very first car. This doesn't always mean that it has been in continuous use since then. Usually the car was used for a few years than it might have sustained a major mechanical failure that reduced it to a yard car. Or the car was passed down through a series of siblings until it usually suffered a similar fate. At this point many cars are sold or scrapped, but if there is an out of the way place to park/ store the car it might survive. The car might be forgotten and years later either the owner or one of the family of drivers might decide that he might want to resurrect the old bomb for nostalgia's sake. The best place to put aside a car like this would be a garage, barn, warehouse or outbuilding. In the city their are fewer choices and many languish in driveways, sideyards, backyards, or even just at the curb in front of the house. When I was growing up, I remember an old gent down the street who lived in a crumbling old Victorian farmhouse with maybe a half acre of the old orchard still surrounding the house. He had two old Buicks parked next to an outbuilding on his property; a 1949 sedanette, a fastback coupe, and a 1955 four door hardtop sedan. Did he want to sell them? Of course not. he was going to "fix them up some day." Fast forward fifteen years ahead and the Buicks and the farmhouse were both gone, replaced by a bunch of condos. I'll bet his heirs made out okay.

I suppose if the car in question was a more valuable or interesting car like an old Porsche or Corvette it may be treated better. It might be maintained or at least preserved until some future time when it might be restored. Life usually brings changes and we have to move ahead. As we grow up and become self sufficient and fully employed we need a car that is reliable to deliver us to work every morning. Then later we'll possibly need a vehicle that can transport our growing families safely. Money is tight and holding onto an old car that is just a cash drain looks less and less appealing. Besides we need the space in the driveway. So the car is sold, but the memories live on.

If we are lucky enough to have our financial situation improve over the years we might decide that it is time to reward ourselves. You can buy yourself a new car, a current used car, or look to replace the car that you have so many memories tied up in. In my own situation I decided to buy a hobby car, that was practical, an old 1975 Honda Civic. I went through a couple of old Civics before I decided that I really wanted a boatail Riviera.

There are lots of guys that buy a car needing a complete restoration and spend ten to twenty years in the process. They are patient and thorough. They budget the build and know that there is no way that the car will be finished for years. It's a constant project worked on steadily over the years until completion. I really have a lot of respect for those guys, especially since I am not one of those guys! I lose interest if I can't drive the car most of the time. I strongly believe in keeping a car in use and on the road.

I went through that long time ownership experience with my 1977 Sportster. There was constant maintenance, rebuilding and upgrading. Still the time came when I became bored with the bike. I actually keep some of my transportation, not recreation, vehicles for a long time, ten years or more.

I won't say that I have a bucket list of cars. In a previous post I listed some hobby cars that I would like to own in the future.

There are always articles about some wealthy collector who has an extensive assortment of old cars. Besides their valuable models they may have some cars that they held onto for sentimental value. Maybe, they can afford to have a huge collection of cars and this one, is just one of many. I wish I was in that position.

The problem with old cars is that they are OLD cars. Old technology. Lacking the amenities and comfort items that most of us consider essential for daily driving. It's was easy getting used to working a/c, effective heaters, cruise control, power seats, windows,trunk locks, tilting steering columns, and keyless entry. Navigation, Bluetooth, etc. Then there is the fuel economy. Most old cars only get between 15-20 mpg. at best! Not the twenty five to thirty five mpg. we now expect from a modern car. I won't even start a conversation on the increased safety and passenger protection of a modern car.

So you drive your new car everyday. Then when do you drive your classic?

I'm not an important, successful guy, but my time is taken up by work, family, and household duties. That leaves only a precious little time for enjoying my old car. Do I really want to spend it hot and uncomfortable or worse yet at the side of the road fussing with some mechanical problem?

Cars are inanimate objects that are frozen in time. They are what they are, despite modifications and updates done by their owners. The ownership of these old vehicles really says more about the sentiments of the owner than anything else. Humans are dynamic beings. We follow a curve of development and maturation that transforms our thinking and aspirations. Hopefully there is a progression in our lives and goals. (Unfortunately, there is also the possibility of regression!) We cannot or should not stand still and remain the same person forever. So how can we want and be satisfied with the same car "forever"?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be, maybe it never was.

I'm not picking on Hot Rod magazine specifically, current trends are what they cover.

I just received  my latest copy of Hot Rod magazine. It only took me a few minutes to leaf through the issue. "No more boring cars!" was boldly proclaimed on the cover several years ago. For awhile this seemed to be true. I bought a multi year subscription. Then the cars became the same old "resto-mod" muscle cars, Do I really care what the Ring Brothers are doing? Does this magazine even have any relevance to my interests anymore?

Or do I need to read any more articles on someone's favorite motor build ups? No, don't really care. This months issue has a '55 Chevy on the cover, "Is the world's baddest '55?", I don't care! Yes it is trick. Lots of money spent, and I'm sure that it's fast. But, come on, "55 Chevies are old news, at least in my eyes.

On the last page Freiburger writes a column that states that there are a lot of things going on right now in the Hot Rodding community that you won't see in any of the current magazines. Why? because the cars that are involved and the people doing the work don't exist in the magazine's demographic profile. They are younger folks that are messing around with cars that are not iconic to the 60's generation concept of what qualifies as a cool car. They are doing V8 transplants into Volvos and BMWs.

I think that today's young car loving folks are caught in a tight squeeze, caused by the tough economy and the desire to break away from their Father's ideas from the past.  There are lots of real cool cars available on the market, but the cooler they are, the more expensive they are. Thirty or forty thousand dollars is a lot of money for anyone. Heck, I don't think I could afford to buy a car like that. Buying a beat up version of a Sixties Icon really isn't a viable alternative. I found out that first hand just last year.  Besides who wants to pay an inflated price for some old guy's "American Graffiti" fantasies.

Yeah, I am an old guy. But I still missed the post war Golden Age of hot rodding by almost twenty years. I grew up in the 60s' and graduated from high school in the early 70's. I never, ever, saw a real pre war hot rod on the street during those years. I did witness the end of the Muscle car era. Saw  lots of older muscle cars and Lowriders. Since I grew up in East Oakland, not too far from the Hell's Angels' clubhouse I saw quite a few chopped Harley's back in the Sixties.

In many ways the whole Hot Rod thing is for many,  just nostalgia. Guys want to have the car that they longed for in their youth. When I was in high school I wanted two vehicles: a Big Twin Harley Davidson, and a 1956 or 1960 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Never got those at the time but a few years later I did own reasonable facsimiles of these vehicles. My Japanese Superbikes and my '64 Cadillac convertible.

Have you ever seen the movie "Pee Wee's Big Adventure"? At the end, we see Pee Wee and his girl friend at a drive in watching a Hollywood movie that was made about his adventure. The movie stars James Brolin and Morgan Fairchild as the main characters. Pee Wee's girlfriend notices that he isn't paying much attention to the movie. When she mentions it, he replies "I don't have to watch it, I lived it!"

Looking back on my Motor Head Resume I've had a pretty good run. It was never comparable to the life of AK Miller, Ray Brock, or Tom McMullen. Actually it was kind of ordinary and dull, especially in comparison to those who have been immortalized on the pages of magazines. But my life has one big advantage: I lived it! 

This is the May 2004 issue of Car Craft magazine. It is one of my favorites, ever. The cover article details how there are scores of very affordable, very capable, modern, "late model"  performance cars available for peanuts. These are cars that offered pretty high levels of performance when new, and even today can be modified to almost new car levels of performance. All for much less money than the purchase price for a old Muscle car project/builder.

This is the opportunity that's available to Today's bucks down hobbyist. Camaros, Mustangs, even Corvettes! Nissan Z cars, Toyota Supras, take your pick. Miatas. Big V8 powered ex police cars and trucks. Whatever you choose, the aftermarket is brimming with repair parts and high performance equipment. There's no need to stand on the sidelines and watch others have all the fun. The time is now. This is the Golden Age of performance. Be the hero of your own story and live it!

What car would you choose?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sometimes you just have to do the work. Where have I heard this before?

photo credit: steam

Just getting started can be the hardest part. I have posted that I had obtained a replacement transmission for my XJS last Summer. I had been putting off the job, I had things to do with my other cars. Last weekend I was going to switch spots with the Mustang which is parked at the curb, to finish the front end work. After I fired up the Jag, I found that the trans had completely given up the ghost.

I figured that now was the time. Besides, it isn't easy pushing two tons of dead Jaguar back up my downsloping driveway.

Putting the ramps under the rear wheels wasn't the best idea, I forgot I had to be able to rotate the wheels to remove the driveshaft. Back to jack stands.

I already have most of the handtools that I need to do the job. I bought an eight foot 10"x 2"  Douglas Fir board at Home Depot and had them cut it into one foot lengths. I can put those under the stands to gain some more height. Last Summer I bought a new low profile floorjack that eliminates the hassle of my old worn floor jack. Still this jack has it's uses which I'll share later. I bought some metal ramps. They only lift the car about eight inches. I picked up an engine support bar and a new transmission jack also. I bought all these things at Harbor Freight tools. Obviously, I don't get paid to endorse their products, but I know that a lot of guys buy their tools at HF. Some of their stuff is pretty good some is junk, but at least it's cheap and available. Most of it is good enough for the hobbyist but wouldn't hold up to professional use. Sometimes I wonder if their stuff is really all that low priced. I kind of wonder about their stated "compare at" price.  I do try to look at other vendors on the internet looking for comps, but I don't want to waste all my time on research. Besides there are always sales going on or coupons you can use.

Only the finest equipment is used. My new floor jack is on the right.
Having the right equipment makes all the difference.

If I need a particularly good quality tool I'll get a Craftsman tool from Sears. I needed a good fitting set of tube  wrenches since my HF set seemed a little loose. I didn't want to take a chance on damaging the trans cooler line fittings. These were some beautiful tools. Well made, heavy, polished with a mirror like chrome finish. They cost me forty bucks but are worth it. Yes, they are made in China. There is quality stuff from there.

I think that an automatic transmission removal is probably the worst job  that a guy can do at home. Unless you have a four post lift and the related equipment. The car has to go in the air, high enough to get under it and have enough room to be able to remove the transmission and jack.  Also most of the work has to be done under the middle of the car, on your back. Most other jobs are done around the outside of the car or under just the front and rear, much easier. This also introduces an element of real danger into the process, if the car should fall off the stands somehow, and you are underneath, things will become very unpleasant very rapidly! Generally the car has to be lifted much higher than can be accommodated by the usual jackstands. Wooden squares can be placed under the jackstands to gain additional height.  I put my tallest stand under the front crossmemember as an extra precaution. I will also use my floorjacks under the car while I am actually in the process of working on the removal.

Some wooden blocks under the diff, just in case.

Working on your back is probably the worst thing you can imagine, Just crawling under the car can be tough on the old back and knees. Sometimes you have to crane your neck to see up into the chassis and oftentimes dirt, oil, or other debris will fall into your face. I've definitely learned my lesson and wear eye protection.

So why am I doing this? Well, the job has to be done.  I had been quoted a range of prices for the work, anywhere from two to three thousand dollars. I don't have that kind of money to spend on what is a still a 1,200 dollar car. Even worse it seems that many mechanics start to salivate when they hear the name Jaguar linked with the word repair. While it is true that new Jags are bought by people of ample income, old Jags are bought by poor guys like me. Spend some time on the forums and you will get the idea that many owners have been taken to the cleaners by opportunistic repair shops.

Probably the biggest reason that I'm doing this is because it's what I do, or have done, for a very long time. There's no way that I can afford to have any hobby cars unless I take care of them myself. I really can't afford to have a shop do all the work. Maybe some, but not all. And for some reason I've convinced myself that if I can't do the work than I shouldn't have the car. As I've mentioned before it's getting harder for me to do the physical side of this activity. So at least I could cut back on the number of cars that I'm dealing with. I used to dream about having a house with a couple of acres where I could have a nice shop and space to house a little collection of cars. Reality has settled in and I think that fewer cars are in my future-at least owning them at the same time.

Since the car is in my garage I have the luxury of taking my time. At least my neighbors don't have to watch me crawling around under my car in my driveway. It also allows me to work out of the weather, which has been awful wet lately. My back was bothering me quite a bit last month after dealing with my Mustang's suspension and that gave me a good excuse to drag my feet. Weeks went by before I felt good enough to resume work. It is always something.

Adding a drainplug makes changing the fluid a routine event.

I have prepared the replacement transmission by changing the filter and installing a drain plug in the pan. The tranny was amazingly clean inside, I don't think that there are many miles on it. I decided to change the front pump seal as it is easily done at this time. My plan is that as the original trans comes out, the replacement will be installed immediately in it's place. It makes sense as everything is already in position, but does anything ever work out as planned?

On the other hand finishing up the work on my Mustang was almost a pleasure. First I had to jump start the car, then placed it on the battery tender while I did the rest of the work. I just had to replace the tie rod ends and steering rack boots. The biggest problem was how to support the car when I removed the wheels. I have two sets of jackstands but I'm using both on the XJS. I had considered buying a new set, but figured I didn't want to spend the money. So I jacked up the car and supported it with my big wooden block, then used a ramp under the opposite wheel. When I finished up the left side I put a ramp under the wheel, then jacked up and supported the right side. After I was finished I put the ramp back under the right wheel. Since it now had both ramps under the wheels I decided to drive the car down the ramps. It worked out pretty good. I think these will be useful for oil changes.

I tried to be as careful as I could, trying to replace the tie rod ends in the identical position. I was somewhat successful as the steering didn't pull to one side but the steering wheel isn't centered  properly. I will have take it in and get the alignment redone. I've still got to replace the rotor shield that got mangled up.

The steering is now nice, quiet and smooth,and returns after turning a corner. Best of all no more pulling upon braking. I had to wash several months of dirt, bird crap, those horrible little leaves, and general filth off the car after the deluge we had these last few months. Now that the car is fixed and clean, it's time to drive it for awhile.

Yes, I had planned to sell  it but now I'm going to wait a bit. This has been a good car. I've had it for almost five years. It has been reliable because I made the decision to make a commitment to it, and do the necessary repairs.  It's at the point where it's not worth a whole lot of money, but it is worth a lot to me. It's an easy to maintain, no drama machine. I think I'll hold onto it until I decide how I feel about the XJS. (If I ever get that car on the road!) I could do worse.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The 1973 California 1000. Epic Ride Number One.

All loaded up and ready to go! On my way to adventure.

I mentioned in an earlier post, that this was the first long motorcycle trip that I ever took, and I did it solo. It wasn't just a ride, it was a rally. For me of course, it was more than a run or rally it was an adventure. There were checkpoints, route maps, and a time limit, fourty five hours. There was that distance- one thousand miles! Hey, this was the equivalent of the Mille Miglia, and I finished it successfully. The very definition of epic.

The Rally started out at Harley Davidson of Los Angeles on Figueroa St. at midnight. The bikes were going to line up in a parking lot across the street from the shop. I got to LA so early I was the only bike in the parking lot. I felt kind of silly sitting there by myself so after an hour or so, I rode off and found a little Mexican restaurant to have dinner at. When I returned there were now two bikes waiting in line. I wasn't about to lose my place and remained there, and was now one of the first three bikes in line. The riders all chatted and many were surprised that I was only 18 yrs. old and had cut school to make the run. There was also a lot of speculation about my bike, since it was a two stroke. Among touring riders a two stroke motorcycle was considered as being inferior to a large displacement four stroke motorcycle. Well things were changing, and my Kawasaki could run with any of the 750cc and larger bikes. There was some doubts expressed as to it's suitability for this run, especially since this model had been marketed as a drag racing Superbike and not a mellow tourer. I actually took a lot of good natured ribbing from the other riders along the way. I must have heard the words "buzz bomb", "lawn mower" and "gas guzzler" numerous times that night. There were  inquires as to whether I was going to have enough fuel range in the tank to make it through the check points. I answered that last question by showing them the spare gallon can I was carrying in one of my saddlebags. It did come in handy, but not in the way they thought.

There was a photographer from Motorcyclist magazine there and he took a picture of the group and of me as I stood by my bike that evening. I had wrapped a towel around my face and neck and I had my genuine imitation leather vinyl motorcycle jacket on. This was  a great jacket, it had the crossed lapel zipper just like Johnny from the Wild One. This was a pretty good jacket. It had a quilted lining, it was waterproof, and it was windproof. I wouldn't be able to afford a real leather jacket for years.

This picture appeared a few months later in the magazine in one of the front column articles covering the event. I used to have a copy of the Magazine squirrelled away but lost track of it over the years. I was quite the budding motorcycle celebrity, with pictures in two Nationally distributed magazines within the last two years!

Harley saddlebags and a luggage rack, what more does a touring bike need?

My mount for this adventure was my trusty 1970 Kawasaki Mach III 500cc two stroke triple. This bike had been very reliable for me and I had outfitted it with turnsignals, dual rear view mirrors, and a luggage rack. The best addition was provided by my Mom. My parents used to go to the swap meet at the old Alameda drive in. One day, a couple of months before the trip, she showed up with a pair of old Harley plastic saddlebags. I think they came from a Panhead Duo Glide. I cleaned them up, painted them white after patching up some cracks and holes with some tape and silicon sealant. They came with the stock mounting hardware and I was able to modify them to fit securely on the back of my bike. Now it looked like a real touring bike! Thanks Mom!

I remember heading east on two lane back roads once we cleared the metropolitan LA area. This was quite a memorable night, hundreds of motorcycles roaring off into the night, a long trail of red tail lights leading off into the distance. This was a totally new experience for me- I was along way from home and I had never ridden down these roads before. One of the names that stands out in my memory was Redlands. I had never taken off on a ride of this magnitude and it was real rite of passage. Somewhere east of Hemet, up in some hilly territory I remember that the roadsides were covered with snow, and it was foggy and damp. I came upon a group of stopped bikes gathered around a scraped up Honda 750. The driver was standing around, looking a little embarrassed, luckily the only thing injured was his pride, and his new Honda. The bike had gone down and slid on the left side, grinding a small hole in the left casing that housed the alternator. It was weeping a small steady stream of oil, and of course we were miles away from a bike shop and it was still the middle of the night. I told the rider to lay the bike on it's right side and I washed off the cover with a gas soaked rag, then dried it off. I was carrying a tube of silicon seal and applied a thick coating over the metallic wound. I was pretty certain that this would dry and form a rubbery scab that would stop the seepage. The repair would take a least a half hour to set up, so I took off after wishing the rider good luck. I never found out if the repair had been successful or if the rider finished the rally.

I remember as dawn approached I was feeling very cold, hungry and tired. I stopped  at a diner for some coffee and food. I was feeling a bit depressed and when another rider asked how I was doing I must have sounded pretty glum. He tried to cheer me up by pointing out the obvious; that daylight was approaching and it was bound to warm up and if we just kept at it, things were likely to improve. His little pep talk made me feel that I was a part of something, a grand shared adventure. After this conversation I did feel better, I became totally invested in this rally. After eating I went outside and lay down on my motorcycle, my back on the seat, my legs on the tank, and my feet sticking out past he handlebars. I managed to sleep for almost an hour than I felt energized enough to hit the road.

Riding with two Honda 750s and a BMW. Rest stop in the desert.

Desert near Lucerne Valley.

 As is usual in most events of this type, as a solo rider  you will eventually form into small groups with compatible riders. I remember that I formed a group with a couple of older fellows riding a Honda 750 and a BMW big twin. I thought of the BMW rider as Mr. Fox, (Skunk?) because his riding vest had an embroidered fox patch on the back, I never asked what that meant.  These two were probably in their early thirties, but actually pretty much everyone was quite a bit older than me!  My Kawasaki was plenty fast and easily able to keep up with this pair, and our riding styles must have been quite compatible. I had been riding for a couple of years by this time and I felt pretty confident in my ability.

Near Lida Summit, Nevada. Elevation approx. 7,000ft.

Just out of Searchlight Nevada

I remember passing through the Twenty Nine Palms/ Joshua Tree Monument area. We came across a Honda 500 four rider who had run out of gas, funny. That bike was supposed to be much more fuel efficient than my two stroke. I gave the grateful rider the extra gallon I was carrying, since I now had confidence that I had enough range without the spare fuel.

Near Crescent Peak, Nevada.

Of course since this event occurred almost forty five years ago my memory of the exact sequence of events is kind of sketchy. Luckily I recorded some of the scenes with my Instamatic.

As it turned out, I had done a little journaling  when I put the scrapbook together. The following  narrative was included:

My first real tour- 1973 California 1000 April 14th.
1,000 miles in 45 hours or less. Successfully completed!

This was quite the ride. Rode down to LA. At midnight I was the third in line to leave. Up into the San Bernandino Mountains to Big Bear Lake. Cold extreme fog, rain,snow and frost on the road! Down to Lucerne Valley to Twenty nine Palms. Through Amboy and Goffs to Searchlight Nevada. Over Crescent Peak to Baker Ca. Into Death Valley. Shoshone, Death Valley Junction, Furnace Creek to Scotty's Castle. High Speed run with Honda 750s and 500s, Sportster  and Suzuki 500. Rode across Lida Summit (elevation 7,000 ft.) into Oasis Ca. and down to Big Pine. At Lone Pine, lots of bikes,rows and rows! Wow! Down from Lone Pine into the Panamint Valley. Trona, Red Mountain, and ended up in Adelanto. Lost my wallet on the last leg of the run. Had enough money hidden in boot. Spent night in Plamdale, rode home that Monday.

This was a ride to remember! I even got my picture in Motorcyclist magazine. Only one problem with bike, carb vent. one thousand mile range on oil tank. And I did it all by myself!

Checkpoint at Amboy.

They laughed at my "Ricegrinder", Until I gave a gallon of gas to a Honda Rider!

Most of the run occurred in the Southwestern desert of California, there had been rumors that we would end up somewhere in Nevada, but that didn't happen. We definitely didn't end the run in LA. I recall that I finished the run at around 5:30 or 6:00 in the afternoon. I must have left my wallet on top of the pump at my last gas stop, but luckily there wasn't anything of value inside except my driver's license and maybe ten bucks. I had stashed another hundred bucks in my boot, so I had plenty of money for gas, and dinner, though I decided that I had better get a place to get some sleep.

This was quite an undertaking. Riding from my home to LA was about 350 miles. Add another thousand to that for the rally, and then another 350 miles home. A total of 1,700 miles. I had left home at around 6:00 in the morning, arrived at the starting point around noon, then didn't get any sleep until I grabbed that hour nap before dawn, lying on the bike. After spending the night in a motel. I completed the ride home.

Back home! Safe and all in one piece! 

The bike? The bike ran flawlessly. Because I was touring, not racing, fuel economy was in the high twenties. With a four gallon tank, range was probably around 120 miles. This was before the first Arab oil embargo and there were plenty of gas stations open twenty four hours a day in most towns. It was pretty comfortable, and of course being a young buck of eighteen years didn't hurt a bit. Looking back at it all, it must have been a leap of faith for my folks to have permitted me to make this trip. If my Parents had objected I wouldn't have gone, at least this year.

As it turns out I revisited this rally twice more. A couple of years later my Buddy Rick and I had planned on taking the rally, but it was cancelled at the last minute. We hadn't checked to confirm and arrived in LA to find that it had been cancelled. So Rick and I did our own version of the 1,000 mile ride. We decided to ride up State Route 395, the spine of the State, through Big Pine and past Mt. Shasta.

I did participate one more time in an official California 1,000. I don't remember the exact year, but it was on my '77 Sportster 1,000. It was fun, and a bit of adventure. But like many things in life, the first time is the most memorable.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I'll bet you wish you never sold that car! (Insert the vintage car of your choice.)

Photo source:
My own '66 was not this rough, but I'm sure many guy's first cars were.

If you are a car guy and have owned a whole lot of older cars you may have heard this statement from some well wishing person. I would say that most of these people have never purposely owned an older collector or hobby car. They may have owned an older car back in the day when it was the only thing that they could realistically afford. There wasn't anything that was especially special about that car, it was just a car.

When you have been regaling your family, friends, or co workers with some tale from your automotive crypt you probably have added a little polish to the ownership experience. It's understandable that you have forgotten some of the problems that are endemic with the ownership of an old worn out machine. Nowadays that particular model of car may have become a sought after collectible, and you wanted to lay claim to your brush with fame.

Of course you probably never thought that this car was ever going to be worth a lot of money. It wasn't worth a lot of money at the time, if it had been, you never would have been able to afford it! At this time it was just a used car. Sometimes a very well used car. Can you say Beater?

You know what that ownership experience was like. Either you had a brief enjoyable fling with an intriguing old car before the crushing reality of decrepitude descended upon you like a ton of bricks, or you bought a non running boat anchor and nursed and cursed it back to some semblance of "health".

Either way you enjoyed the car as best as you could, and truth be told, you probably did enjoy it. I know that I did. In our youthful naivete we could overlook all the problems and just appreciate the fact that we actually owned one of the "cars of our dreams."

I have owned quite a few different cars over the years and as I let one go to acquire another, I can't honestly say that I regretted moving on.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I think that a non enthusiast might form a different bond with a certain car for primarily emotional reasons. I've read a lot of articles where folks will reminisce about their first car, the car they dated their future wife in, the car they brought their kids home from the hospital in, their first car bought as Newly weds, their first new car, etc, etc, etc.  There are lots of reasons for feeling nostalgic about a car and they are all perfectly valid. We can associate a certain car with a certain period in our lives and that makes it special. Special enough to to try to regain that moment at some future time. I read quite a few stories in Car Collector magazine that were written by Thomas Murray along these lines. Usually the protagonist was trying to reconnect with a hazy romantic memory from the past, or even trying to rekindle an actual old flame in the present!

I remember a commercial where someone's adult children tried to find their Dad's old 1967 Chevy, and give it to him as a retirement present. Of course the Old Guy breaks down and cries with the first vision of the old bomb rolling in on a trailer. Maybe. I think a '67 Chevy was never anything to get too excited about even back then, and especially now- and my Dad even had a '67 Bel Air wagon at one time that I drove occasionally.

Maybe I'm just a heartless lout. If I look back in my past, what cars would I find, and what relationship did they have with my life's journey?

Many people are sentimental about their first car. I am not. Mine was a '66 Mustang coupe bought for 300.00 in 1975. 289 V8 and a four speed transmission. It's kind of surprising that the paint was totally faded after only nine years. I never really wanted this car. My Dad didn't like the idea of me buying an old Cadillac of some type so he suggested that I look for a young person's car. So I bought the Mustang but I kept my eyes open. I found a '64 Cadillac convertible on a car lot one day, and bought the car that I wanted. While I did buy another old Mustang coupe a couple of years ago, I din't buy it for nostalgia. I wanted to try my hand restoring an old Pony Car on the cheap. Turns out that it wasn't going to be cheap enough. So I sold it, and I don't miss it. Don't want another old Mustang again either. For that matter I don't find myself pining for another old Cadillac either. (Well maybe).

If there's any car that is tied to a memorable time in my life it would have to be my '77 Coupe de Ville. First of all, I bought it when I graduated from college and I had dreams of an expanding future. Second, it was actually a dream car for me. It was the peak of Cadillac evolution at this time, the best model they had ever made, in my opinion. Smaller ,tauter, more fuel efficient, but still retaining the Cadillac identity. Fuel injection was even an option at this time. Third, it was the car I was driving when I met my Wife. There were a lot of things that I liked about the car. This car was only three years old so it was in beautiful condition. It was great to drive, looked impressive, and it made me feel pretty good too.

photo source: GM advertising

But it was a product of the times. I kept the car for about five or six years and traded it in for a brand new 1984 Mercury Cougar, our first new car. A nice enough car, but I wouldn't want one of those again either.

Since I was also a rabid motorcycle fan I also had some bikes that were significant to me. My XLCR went through a lot of changes over the years and I held onto it even when I got my first Big Twin. I held onto it even after I got rid of my Electra Glide, for a total of over twenty years. My Buddy Rick, who bought a new bike every five years or so at the time, thought that it was kind of cool to have this long time "relationship" with the old Harley. Yeah, what did he know, he was riding a new Road King! I had gotten pretty tired of the old Sportster. I kept it well maintained, but the state of the art had advanced, I just didn't have the money available to move up to a newer bike. So the verdict is that it would be thumbs down on another old Sportster. (Again, maybe not!)

The biggest problem is usually how to hold onto one of your old cars. For one thing, you usually need the money to get a better car that actually runs. Lot's of times the old car isn't worth much, and you really don't have much money tied up in it. So maybe you don't really need to sell it. Then, where can you put the thing? Cars are big, do you want it taking up space in your garage or driveway? Or taking up your spot in the parking lot? Or in front of your house? I remember back when I was living at home with my folks, that someone down the street had bought an orange Jaguar XJS. I remember seeing it parked in different spots until one day it was parked at the curb, and never moved again. It sat there for a couple of years until one day, it was gone! There was even a Jaguar E type parked in a driveway about a half a mile  away. That sat there under a cover for probably ten years. (How come it's always a Jaguar, in these stories?)

Sometimes these unwanted cars end up in a sideyard, or even someone's backyard. They might stay there for a long time if your neighbors don't have a problem with that. Best of all is if you can put it in your grandma's garage or a relatives warehouse or barn. I've got a co worker who told me about his wife's Aunt and Uncle who have had a partially disassembled Model A in their garage for over forty years! (And no, they don' want to sell it to me!)

photo source:weburbanist
"Ran when parked"

Sitting around unused, partially disassembled, covered or uncovered, doesn't do the car any favors. Even sitting in covered cold storage leads to a lot of deterioration. Sometimes the mice get into it, with predictable results. Even if you keep the vermin out, you can't keep the State of California out. Unless the car was placed on non operational status, those registration fees just keep on piling up. Non completed transfer fees still have to be paid. It takes a long time for the car to "fall out of the system", no matter what those Craig's List sellers have told you. If it's out of the system the fees are computed as the last three years, with penalties, plus any uncompleted transfer fees. It can add up to quite a bit of money. Sometimes it renders the car an unsound financial venture for a future buyer. I once had to split 800.00 in past fees with the buyer of one of my old Datsun Z cars just to make the sale.

Maybe that's why we sold that old car, instead of hanging on to it!