BY STEVE WINSTON
Reprinted from my blog on fiftyisthenewfifty.com
Most guys our age can rattle off every car they’ve ever owned.
But not me. I’ve owned so many that I can’t remember them all. But I do remember the stories …
My first car was a blue 1960 Studebaker Lark, inherited from my mother. I remember two things about that car. The first was that it was so slow you had to pray when you merged onto a highway. And the second was that one of my college suite-mates challenged me to “run” him in a race. His proposal immediately raised my curiosity—as he didn’t have a car. But he actually meant “run”… as in, he’d run, and I’d drive my car, in a 100-yard race.
I can still recall the crowd of guys gathered on the road outside our dorm … all of them rooting for him. I can still hear their cheers as he took the lead at the start. And I can still see him to my left, a frantic figure pumping his arms and legs. It was close the entire race. But—thankfully!—I edged him out at the finish line.
Then there was “The Jet.” The Jet was a blue 1966 Chevrolet SuperSport with a 396 engine and a convertible top, which I bought from my uncle. It was a monster! I took it on the highway to “run” whoever I found. I raced Firebirds. GTO’s. Camaros. Mustangs. Even an occasional Corvette. And I beat them all.
Unfortunately, though, all that racing caused the rings to blow out. So, rather than pay for a ring job, I put the car up for sale. Anyone who drove it could see the smoke pouring out of the exhaust. But it apparently didn’t matter that much to two servicemen who had hot dates that night … but no car. They paid me $1,500—in cash – and sped away to pick up their dates, black smoke shooting out behind them.
Then there was the used Volvo that broke down in the middle of the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys, and tied up traffic for miles in both directions. And there was the spiffy little English roadster (red!) called a TR250. One day, in the middle of winter, the heating/defroster system failed. The repair shop told me it would take a month for the parts to arrive from England. So I drove around in the dead of winter (in New York) without heat, with white breath coming out of my mouth, teeth chattering, and a windshield that froze over every time it snowed or sleeted.
I remember three rickety Ford Pintos, in the years after college; each time I bought one, I’d keep it for a few months and then decide to sell it so I could go back to Europe or the Middle East. I also had a beautiful new sports car from American Motors (remember them?), called a Javelin, in 1970. I sold a few months after I bought it … because I didn’t want to pay (my Dad) the $75 a month for it.
There have been Toyotas. Mazdas. Nissans. Volkswagens (remember the Karman Ghia?). A second Volvo (the one I own now). A Camaro. And Lord knows what else.
My buddies used to joke that they never knew what they’d find in my driveway when they came over.
My favorite car, though, was the Saab I drove from 1999 to 2002. A sleek, beautiful black job whose engine rumbled with a low, throaty roar when you started her up, and would cruise easily at over a hundred without you even realizing how fast you were going. And the dashboard? Like a jet plane. The interior had an array of funky features. For example, even today, you don’t put the key into the dashboard in a Saab; you insert it into the middle console.
Once I was driving around Vail, Colorado, with a friend from there. We passed the police station, which was full of police cars—Saabs! My friend explained it was because Saabs were fast and maneuverable, and they could overtake the bad guys on a winding Rockies road.
I love my Volvo. But I still think about that Saab, every day.
Steve Winston (www.stevewinston.com) has written/contributed to 17 books, and his articles have appeared in major media all over the world. In pursuit of “The Story,” he’s been shot at in Northern Ireland, been a cowboy in Arizona, jumped into an alligator pit in the Everglades, trained with a rebel militia in the jungle, flown World War II fighter planes, climbed 15,000-foot mountains, explored ice caves at 11,000 feet in the Swiss Alps, and trekked glaciers in Alaska. When he’s not flying around the world, he lives in Greater Fort Lauderdale.