52 Ancestors #31 and 32 – "Youngest to Oldest" – My Car History!

The prompts for Weeks 31 and 32 of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge were “Youngest” and “Oldest.” I’ve been wanting to write about the cars I’ve owned for some time now and think this may be the time. I’ve searched my various albums – digital and print – for the past couple of weeks and found a few good photos. If I keep looking, I’ll never get this post written. I’ll just update the post if I find more!

My “youngest” car – 2014 Toyota Corolla
February 24, 2017
Saying goodbye to Mom’s car – 2004 Nissan Sentra
February 24, 2017

My current aka “youngest” vehicle is a 2014 Toyota Corolla. We purchased it in 2017 to replace the 2004 Nissan Sentra we bought from my mom. The Nissan truly fit the used-car salesman description of a car that was “owned by a little old lady who only drove it on Sunday.” My mom stopped driving early in 2011. When I bought the car from her, the 7-year-old car had only about 20,000 miles on it!

The Nissan purchase was a win-win for both me and my mom. I had tried to convince her to sell it for a couple of years. Mom was spending a lot of money on insurance for something she hardly used. She kept resisting, saying she felt better having a car in the driveway. What finally tipped the scale was that my 1997 Nissan Pathfinder got recalled. Apparently, it was “extremely unsafe” and unable to be repaired.

I really loved the Pathfinder! It was nice to be a little higher than other vehicles. Caitlin thought the Bose sound system was a good selling point. And it was “way cooler” than the 1993 Dodge Caravan that preceded it.

The 1993 Dodge Caravan

The Caravan. The symbol of suburban family life. The perfect vehicle for families with two kids. Each kid had her own row, cutting down on arguments. There were reports that the lift-gate might fly open unexpectedly. I wasn’t as concerned as my friend Stacy who wouldn’t let her kids sit in the back row. They were wearing seat belts, right? So, I figured they’d stay in their seats even if the back opened! The Caravan was pretty utilitarian without much character. Ours had a 6-disc CD changer so that was pretty cool. I only have two stories about the Caravan. One was the day Scott made the unfortunate choice to clean the inside of the van. Okay – there was a weird smell.  I probably should have investigated and cleaned it up before Scott discovered the cause. FYI – a cupholder full of week-old Coke-soaked French fries really stinks!! The other story might have been the impetus for trading in the van. While we never experienced the lift-gate issue, the sliding door suddenly decided to stop latching one day. Caitlin had to sit on the floor, holding the door shut the entire 6 ½ minute ride home from my mother’s house.

The 1988 Toyota Camry
Caitlin is showing off her backpack on the first day of school – 1994.

The Caravan replaced our first Camry.  I had been driving the 1988 Toyota Camry since surprising Scott with a blue 1989 Mitsubishi Max truck for Christmas in 1989. Scott had been driving the Camry which he bought in 1988. (That was the first of a line of Toyotas. He is now on his 5th Camry!) I was teaching at ACES in the “mods” (portable classroom) when Scott drove right up to my classroom door in a shiny white car.  There hadn’t been any discussion about buying a new car – too expensive. We were sharing one car since Scott’s brown 1978 Datsun B210 -brown (given to him by his brother, Gerry) had been stolen from the New Haven train station. The universe had spoken – time for a new trustworthy vehicle!

Scott was driving the new Camry and I was still driving the only brand-new car I ever owned, a black 1982 Datsun 310. In 1982, Scott and I were “on a break” and he was living in Florida. As a young, single woman, I was so proud to have negotiated the purchase by myself. I don’t remember how much it cost but I do remember the loan came with 19% interest! Now I know to check my credit score before I make a big purchase! This car was the first of a line of non-descript, functional vehicles. Previous to the Datsun, all my cars had personality!!

Too bad this isn’t in color. I looked “right in scale” driving
the yellow Honda Civic.

The Datsun replaced a teeny-tiny Honda Civic. I don’t even remember what model year it was. This was a car people would expect me to be driving – a teeny car for a teeny person! It looked like a bumblebee – bright yellow with a black stripe. The Hondamatic transmission had two speeds and you had to shift between them. No clutch though – that was the “…matic” part I guess. The only good story I have of the Honda is the day I was driving to work on Putnam Avenue and the car just stopped dead. Apparently, the “rubber band” (or whatever) that connected the gas pedal to the engine simply fell off in the middle of the road!

Proudly standing by my 1972 Plymouth Sport Satellite.
If you read my last post, you’ll recognize that vest!

The Honda was the first of my “smallish” cars. Before that, I drove some massive vehicles. I must have looked ridiculous exiting my 1972 Plymouth Sport Satellite. The body was blue with a black vinyl roof. I do know it freaked people out when they were driving behind me. It looked like no one was driving! This car was HUGE! It had a pretty big engine too. It didn’t take much to get it up to 100 mph on the Merritt Parkway. (I may or may not have done that once – I don’t advise it!) The Plymouth had sweet 8-track. There was a bracket set-up which allowed you to take the 8-track out of the car and use it in your stereo system at home. One day, while my car was parked in the dirt lot behind Davis Hall at Southern Connecticut State College, some moron broke into the car and stole the 8-track. Jerk – you couldn’t even use it without the special bracket!! The other story about this car occurred during a trip with my sister, Kathy. We traveled from Connecticut to Vermont (3 miles from the Canadian border) for a job interview. (I didn’t get the job. My friend Susie did. Luckily we had decided to follow each other on the long trip.) On the way home, the weather took a nasty turn. At some point, the windshield wipers stopped working. No worries! I “Macgyvered” a solution. I tied our shoelaces together, ran them through the inside of the car and tied the ends to the wipers. Kathy did a great job of pulling the laces to make the wipers work until the blisters got too bad. We had to abandon the car in White River Junction, VT. Susie picked us up and we drove as far as we could in the increasingly bad weather. By the time we hit Meriden (just 20 minutes from home!) driving was just too treacherous so we checked into a Holiday Inn to wait out the storm. By then we were smart enough to listen to the radio and discovered we had been attempting to drive through what turned out to be Hurricane Belle, a Category 3 hurricane!

Wacky Pack stickers from 1973
Sadly, I haven’t found a picture of my 1965 Ford Galaxie 500.
Imagine this car with gold paint and tiger upholstery!
Source: http://www.mjcclassiccars.com/1965-ford-galaxie-500

The purchase of the Satellite was necessitated by the demise of my previous car, a 1965 Ford Galaxie 500. My stepdad, Alfie, crashed it into a pole in the Hamden Plaza during the Memorial Day parade (year unknown!) The Galaxie was the first car I bought with my own money. In 1972, I bought my very own car from the brother of a schoolmate. Oh, how I wish I had a picture of that car! Truly a classic! It was gold with a black vinyl roof. The upholstery was yellow and black tiger fur. And it had…. wait for it…. An 8-track!!! I have no recollection why, but I decided the dashboard needed a little sprucing up. So, I covered it with Wacky Pack stickers (courtesy of the drug store where I worked.) After some time, that seemed “immature” so I recovered the dashboard with black and yellow flowered contact paper. (Actually, I pretty much contact-papered everything I owned at that time!)

The car was full of “personality.” The driver’s seat was held up by a wood block. It was very important to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times. If the block happened to slip out while you were driving, you’d find yourself totally reclined if you weren’t holding onto the wheel! Making a left turn could prove interesting at times. If you took the turn too quickly, the driver’s side vent window had a tendency to fall out. Oh, and there was no heat! That wasn’t an issue really. Unless you and your two best friends decided to visit your brother in Vermont in the late fall. Just so you know, you can stay pretty toasty warm sleeping in a car overnight if you had good sleeping bags! That was quite the trip. If I recall correctly, we started out by hitting a parked car in the Hamden Mart. I left a note but never heard from the owner. With no money for a hotel, we decided to sleep in the car.  Boy, were we surprised when we woke up in the morning and discovered we had parked in the middle of some guy’s field. (Note: It was 1973! I don’t suggest trying that in today’s world!)

I became a pretty good “mechanic” during the years I owned the Galaxie. Back then you could actually repair your own car. I learned what cotter pins were (to hold things together) and how to adjust a throttle so the car
would start. (You stick a flat-tip screwdriver in it then turn the ignition.) I also learned a lot about failing brake lines (Todd Street in Hamden is not the road on which you want to learn that lesson!) and “vapor lock” which was a constant source of the engine stalling.

My first car – a hand-me-down Plymouth station wagon.
That’s my brother Dean in one of his many “costumes.”

In retrospect, maybe the Galaxie wasn’t the best replacement for my first car. The very first car (the “oldest”) I ever owned was a Plymouth station wagon. I don’t know what model year it was – maybe 1963 or 1964? I was gifted the car (in 1971?) by my step-dad when he upgraded to a Ford Country Squire station wagon. (8 kids – no seat belts. Fun times!) When Alfie gave me the car, he said, “This car is named for you – it’s a PlyMOUTH!” Well – I did talk A LOT!!  The car was affectionately referred as the “Flintstone-mobile” because you could see the road through the rotted-out floorboards. At least until I had a cookie sheet welded to the frame! This was the car I first learned to drive and the one I drove when I went for my driving test. Like most vehicles back then, it was a good-sized car. I had to sit on a pillow, with the bench seat pulled as far forward as possible. Maybe that’s why my driving test consisted of only a trip around the block. The inspector probably couldn’t wait to get out of the car once he saw that pillow!

I got my license in 1971 as soon as I turned 16. I’m 63 now, so I’ve been driving for 47 years.  10 cars in 47 years. That’s an average of a new car every 4 ½ years. I’ve had the Corolla for a year and a half now. I wonder what I’ll own by 2021? Maybe I’ll finally have that Jetson’s flying car we’ve all been dreaming of since the 1960s!!

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