The other day I was thinking about the cars I have owned over the years and my love of cars in general.
I believe this love of cars is rooted in the fact that as a kid, my parents never owned a new car. For the most part, we had clunkers that my dad bought at local used car lots. He would have them repaired to keep them going, but they were always several years old.
I remember once as a kid we were on a pretty long trip to visit relatives when the car we were driving just quit running. It just so happened that we were near a car lot so my dad traded that piece of crap in on another one that wasn’t much better. What used to bug me though was that friends and neighbors, whose incomes were likely no more than that of my family, were able to afford a new car every now and then.
I remember the annual new car introduction when I was in junior high school. My best friend, who lived down the street, and I would walk several miles to “car dealer row” and collect brochures on the latest cars and drool over them in the showrooms. It was fun to day-dream. I knew that one day, I would buy myself a spanking new car. I guess deep down, however, I realized that I would have some pretty average cars along the way.
Before reminiscing about The Cars I Have Owned, I want to say that I never bought anything that I couldn’t afford or that meant my family would go wanting in any way. That said, here we go. (In most cases, these are photos I gathered online of a cars like the one I owned. We probably have photos for some of them tucked away somewhere, but who knows where.)
Special Note – When I started to put this together I had no idea how long it would take or the length of the post, because of the amount of content. Therefore, I have decided to break into separate posts. This is part #1.
0 – 1957 Lambretta Motor Scooter
This obviously isn’t a car, but it is the first motor vehicle I ever owned. When I was 14 or 15 one of my friends had a Vespa motor scooter and another a Mustang, which was like a miniature motorcycle. I wanted something like that too, so my dad took my to a local dealer to check them out. When I first saw the Lambretta, my jaw dropped. It was gorgeous. I used most of the money in my savings account to buy it. I don’t really remember now how much I paid for it, just that I loved it so. I could write pages about my adventures with my Lambretta, but will save that for another time. Mine looked just like this one, except it wasn’t two-tone, just light grey.
When I was in junior high school, two of my friends had Model A Fords that they bought for next to nothing. We would work on them and drive, illegally, around our neighborhood. None of us ever got caught. Anyway, a car like this one sat across the street in our neighbors driveway for years, just gathering dust. I talked them into selling it to me for $15.00.
My father and I pushed it home, put some gas in the carburetor and jumped it from the battery in his big ½ ton Dodge panel truck. The old Chevy started almost immediately. Boy did it smoke though. I remember it had a big dent in the left front fender and the upholstery was all ripped. Guess what, it was faster than the Model A Fords. I sold it to a friend about six months later for $30.00.
I think I paid about $100.00 for this nine-year old car. I got it a couple of months after getting my driver’s license. It was nice looking and big. I polished it often and it looked great. I remember it had a switch on the floor that would change radio stations when you pushed it. Pretty neat, huh? When you started it, the engine was perfectly quiet. After it warmed-up, however, the hydraulic valves got pretty noisy and made a clicking sound. I tried several things to quiet them down, but nothing worked.
I paid about $250 for this used car and bought it from a guy who owned the gas station I worked at on the weekends. It was the cheapest model they offered in 1953. I put a floor shift kit in it, painted it fire engine red and had black naugahyde tuck-and-roll upholstery installed in Tijuana. I sold it to a friend to get part of the money I needed to get my next car. I never had any trouble with this car, but Brad said he did and thought I stuck it to him. Things were never quite the same after that. Guess I learned something from that experience.
This was the first car I owned that was truly fast. I bought it from a classmate in college for $600.00. It was what we called a “sleeper” back then, because it looked stock. However, it had a powerful police interceptor engine with three two-barrel carburetors and racing transmission. For it’s day, it was very fast. I really loved that car, but it was not something that a responsible married person would drive. So I sold it after getting married and regretted doing so for a very long time. (This is an actual photo of my car. Click Here to see more.)
Can you imagine what it was like go from a super-car to a Ford Falcon? When I look back on it, I can’t believe I did it. Actually, the Ford Falcon was a wedding present from my wife’s parents, so what could I do.
Here is a photo showing what our friends did to our car while we were at the reception. They weren’t too bright and used magic markers. I tried cleaning the stuff off during our honeymoon in San Francisco, but could never get it completely out. We got an Earl Sheib paint job and painted it metallic blue. Actually, it came out pretty nice.
A few months later, we almost died in this car. We were heading South along the coast between Newport Beach and San Diego when a guy started to make a U-turn and stopped on the highway right in front of us. (There is a freeway there now.) We were doing about sixty when we plowed into the side of his brand new ’64 Chevrolet Impala. It was like hitting a wall. Our little Falcon literally bent in the middle from the impact. We had no seat belts at the time, so my wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat, could have been killed. Luckily, the impact through her down below the dash. She could have instead flown out the windshield. There was blood everywhere.
Because of this accident, Georgia required a lot of dental work over the years, the cost of which dwarfed the settlement we received from the other drivers insurance company. Looking back on it, we should have gone to court.