Thursday, February 5, 2009
I’m kind of nuts when it comes to automobiles.
It’s not recent thing. My mother says that I used to fall asleep in my room playing with matchbox cars, and when I wasn’t drawing pictures of sports logos (or playing Statis-Pro, which is another story for another time), I was reading about cars, drawing pictures of cars, and altogether obsessed with anything that had four wheels.
I subscribed to Motor Trend, Car & Driver and Road & Track (as well Car Craft back in the day), and I loved to make charts, comparing the specs of my favorite vehicles, or build the plastic Revell models of Chevelles, Z-28s and GTOs.
And it hasn’t stopped. I just did the “25 random things about me” post that has gone viral on Facebook, and realized that I have owned 19 cars in my lifetime, which becomes batty when you consider that I have had a driver’s license for only 21 years. (I also admitted that I drove a car for the first time at the age of 12, hoping that the statute of limitations has expired on that transgression).
So, I thought it would be interesting to document my automotive history.
Every one of these cars has a story. Some of them are very boring.
Car #1 – 1973 Fiat 128 sedan
What I paid for it: $36
Year bought: 1985
Imagine a box on wheels. That was the Fiat 128. I bought this car from a woman in the next neighborhood over from mine. It was sitting outside of her house, parked from the last time she had driven in (which had been about a year before). No price, just a “For Sale” sign. I asked her how much she wanted for it, and she produced a Fairfax County water bill she’d just received. “My water bill is 36 bucks, so how about that?”
Now, to get it home, I needed some help. I was 14 years old – so no license – and the car wasn’t running. Other than that, I was ready to roll.
A friend took me back over to her house in his Pinto wagon. We tied a rope to back, hooked it to the Fiat, and made the cautious 20 minute drive back to my house. Armed with a Chilton manual, a new battery and a full bottle of Carb-Start, we had the engine running by 11 he next morning.
At that point, we realized that neither of us actually knew how to drive a stick.
We lurched our way up to an empty church parking lot (bear in mind the car had no tags, no insurance, and I was 14!). We soon discovered that the car didn’t have a fourth gear (bad syncro) In about an hour, we both considered ourselves proficient manual trans drivers.
The car was originally blue, but had been painted several times. I decided to paint it Arctic Orange, since that color was on clearance at Trak Auto. We got about ¼ of the way across the car before I ran out of money for paint, so the car ended up looking like a poorly-executed homage to the Denver Broncos.
I never had the car officially titled, since by the time I turned 16, I had gotten rid of it. I’d never drive on main roads – just through the side streets in the neighborhood – to play ball at the elementary school or the church.
My buddy and I had one epic near-miss on a snow day. There was probably about five inches on the ground (and it was still falling), when we decided we’d assess the Fiat’s handling capabilities on a side street lined on both sides with parked cars.
Not sure how I lost it. It might have been the bald tires, but that’s just a theory.
Several 360s and some spiritual intervention left us about six inches from a brand new Toyota Celica, and me probably in need of a freshly laundered pair of undergarments.
The car was unceremoniously towed away to a junkyard shortly after I turned 16, to make way for volume 2 – The Beetle.