Ok, what is a world of cars? Hey, most of us have cars (those of us old enough to drive anyway), and those that don't usually want one. And if you're in the small minority who don't give a fig about cars, well, you probably didn't come here.

My first car (and the one I did the bulk of my learning in) was a '77 AMC Hornet sedan -- brown with a dark brown vinyl top. Although it was the least impressive car I've called my own (it was actually Dad's), it was also the fastest. The internal stop on the speedometer was at 130MPH, and I pegged it there several times. I drove that car until it dropped -- first I lost 3rd gear on the transmission (thus limiting the top speed to about 50), then I ran it into another car (I just bent the rt. front quarter panel back in place and bolted it down). When it wouldn't go into reverse anymore, it was time to replace it.

That was when I got a '78 Chevrolet Monte Carlo -- pale green with a dark green landau top. It wasn't nearly as fast as the Hornet, but it looked a lot better, and it had a working transmission. That was the car I took with me to Hospital Corps school -- and it saw a lot of action, let me tell you (mind you, most of that action was other people). This car was fine and dandy until the fuel pump gave out 200 miles from home. Fortunately, we were only 30 miles from my girlfriend's mom and dad, they rescued us, loaned us a car and tools, and I replaced the fuel pump. It lasted long enough to get us home. As I was installing pump #3, the push rod that pumped the pump disappeared inside the engine -- never to be seen again. So I go to Public Discount Auto Parts (PDA), and buy an electric fuel pump they say will work fine. Then I start having carburetor problems -- I rebuild 2 of them several times, and the car never does run right. Then, the electric fuel pump dies. I go to another auto parts store -- they hand me a pump 3 times the size of the one I had before. They say, "This one will work, but this one is better" at which point he puts a pump 4 times bigger than the old one on the counter. I buy the 3 times bigger one, and most of my Carb problems disappear (needless to say PDA parts went out of business). Unfortunately for the car, I had started working a real job by then, and didn't have time to fix several minor things that were causing reliability problems Sooo...

It's off to find a "NEW" car. I have only a few qualifications -- 16 valve or turbo charged 4 cylinder, V6 or V8, 5speed manual transmission, AC, AM/FM Cassette, and NOT BROWN or GREEN. Oh yeah, about $250 a month in car payments. The local Dodge dealer was hot to let me try any car on the lot, but he didn't have any that matched the above configurations. The Honda dealer was happy to let me sit in a car, but showed no interest in getting the keys. The Ford dealer ignored us completely - 20 minutes on his lot, and no one so much as said "Boo" to us. The Pontiac Dealer had just received a Grand Am GT, quad4 engine, 5speed, maroon, AC,AM/FM Cassette stereo, but the sticker price was just a little bit too high. Rather than accept the invitation to haggle, the salesman decided I was more of a LeMans GSE kind of guy, and takes me in to show me the ugliest car made in 1989. His big sales point was that it had a full sized spare. At that point, I should have walked over to another salesman and asked him if he wanted to sell me a car. Instead we went to the Chevy Dealer. He had a whole slew of V8 powered Camaros - correct options and good prices, but they all had automatic transmissions. In fact, he had only 2 cars with 5speeds -- a matched pair of Cavalier Z24's, dark red metallic paint, V6 engine, usual options, a price he was willing to deal on, and a willingness to get the keys. After what was undoubtedly a harrowing ride for the salesman (he said to drive it like it was already mine), we made the deal (which ended up only slightly less the Grand Am would have been). The only problems I had with that car involved the fuel system (a common problem with that car), and the next to useless service department manager I kept dealing with. Finally I found a guy who knew what he was doing, and from that day on, the car was great. But time passed, and my wife and I were thinking about a family, and the little Z24 just wasn't a family kind of car -- I wanted something a little larger.

The Credit Union was having a big auto loan sale and contest (the winner got their car for free -- a guy who spent almost $30,000 on a mobile home won) so we went looking. We had a flyer from the local Ford dealer (apparently this time they would be willing to talk to us), and I was all but drooling over new Thunderbirds, so we went for a look. It turns out new Thunderbirds were quite expensive, even on sale -- especially if you wanted an engine capable of handling the sheer bulk of the car. So with deep regret we go elsewhere -- namely the Pontiac dealer, to see if maybe they're finally willing to sell me a Grand Am. They are, but at a price that was almost as high as the T-bird. We go look at Dodge's, and while the Intrepid is a very nice car -- it's fairly expensive, and I wasn't quite ready for a Sedan -- although a LeBaron might be nice..... On to the Chevy Dealer -- He has a dealer demo Lumina Z34 on the lot, perhaps the only car I was more interested in than T-birds -- but even a year old demo was way too high. There was a very nice Baretta GT -- very low miles, well cared for -- very low price. I'm all set to buy it, when my wife throws a fit. So I throw one back and we leave. Later she explains that she knew I wanted something other than a Baretta, and she didn't want me to just settle for it. Ok, I can dig that. There was one place we hadn't gone to yet, and I'd heard good things about it -- so -- we drive 30 miles to a dinky little town called Illiopolis, to visit a small family run Ford dealership called I. Graves Motors. We walk in, announce our desire for a car. While the owner of the dealership takes my car for a test drive, his son sits me down in front of their computer link to Ford, and we design my T-bird -- V8 engine? , ABS?, traction control rear-end? .. yes, the remote keyless entry is nice .. Ok, CD or Cassette (I didn't own any CDs, we went cassette), Analog or Digital Dash (call me old fashioned, I like dials), Sunroof? Too much money .. There's a new color, just introduced, called sunrise red -- Ok, what the heck. He gets his print-out from the factory, and he and his dad go back and crunch the numbers -- $12,000 and my old car -- the sticker was $18,400! We said yes of course -- went to the bank, got the loan, then had to wait. Graves sells cars so cheap, because they order most of them for the customers, saving on a huge chunk of overhead. Unfortunately I ordered mine just before summer shutdown -- and had to wait a month to get it. When it arrived, I gave a check for $12,000 and my old car & title, and off I went (meaning there was no extra's like dealer prep, tax, license or the other nonsense). At 102,000 miles (and almost10 years) later, it had required 2.25 set of tires, 1 set of plugs, new brake pads, 1 fuel pump relay, a coolant bypass hose, upper and lower radiator hose, 2 transmission fluid changes, 3sets of wiper blades, and other assorted oil and filter changes -- but time caught up to the old Bird. Can anyone say New Transmission?

My dad bought a new truck -- well, not a new truck, it was a whole year old. Being a forward thinking kind of guy I told him that I'd be happy to take his old one of his hands. So, a week later he calls and tells me to come and get the truck. I go and spend a hundred bucks or so on getting the title transfered and plates for it. A week after that my brother-in-law calls me and asks me if I'd be willing to sell him the truck. Seems he ignored the previous owner's advice to keep the transmission fluid filled, and his truck had bitten the dust. I tell him no (after all, my car was making wierd, troubling noises (and 3years later still is, though it keeps running)). I have had to replace the ball joints and a tire, after a trip across a railroad crossing caused my right front wheel to point in random directions. But for a 16 year old toy truck, it held up remarkably well.

Other transportation options? We got rid of my wife's '90 Grand Prix SE -- she had scoured southern Illinois and south-eastern Missouri before picking that little beastie out. She has an interesting story about it, but that's for her to tell. Apart from a drivers side window motor and switches, a siezed up alternator (caused by leaking fluid from a burnt out power steering pump) and some involved brake work -- it was a fairly good car as well. After a visit to her parents, and their detailed grilling about the condition of the car, they decided to get her a new one. So they got her a 1998 Grand Am SE -- maybe not quite as nice as her old car, but the cassette player worked, it had a rear defroster, 4 doors (making the task of getting children in and out that much easier), and it had 92,000 miles less on the odometer. Then, after a particularly rainy afternoon, she managed to put it on it's side in a rain flooded ditch. Aparently there's a state law that says if any vehicle is immersed more than 1/3 it's volume in water, it must be totalled -- and since it was almost halway filled... She drove my Tbird for a month while we looked for another car, finally settling on a 2000 Taurus SES. Not a bad car, until the kid hit the back corner of it in a parking lot a week after we bought it -- over $4000 in repairs. It ran OK for quite a while, but when Sharon's mom passed on, she left her a 2002 Buick La Sabre with a lot more options and a lot fewer miles on it

Well, time passed, things change -- and the the T Bird transmission finally did die. I was using Sharon's Taurus a lot after she got the Buick, and the TBird was just sitting in the back. I had some money ahead, and we were planning on selling our old house once we moved into our new one, so I decided to find something newer. A few months earlier Sharon had pointed out an ad for some program return PT Cruisers, so we went and looked. The only one that really stayed in mind was a silver one with the front visor, rear wing, and a flame job. Well, a few months later when I finally decided to replace the TBird, they still had the hot rod Cruisers, so I decided to go for it. That was when the transmission in the Bird finally croaked -- I was lucky to get the car into the dealer! I left with a '05 Pt Cruiser, just waiting for me to tinker with -- once the weather gets warmer.

You may have noticed up above the subtle use of the past tense when referring to the old Ford Ranger. Turns out, during my last spark plug change I ended up cross threading at least on of the plugs, resulting in an already weak and underpowered 4 cylinder becoming an even weaker and more underpowered 3 cylinder. We needed a new truck, especially with our preparing to move into a new house. I had been scouring web sites for months looking for what I wanted. I had pretty much decided on a Toyota Tacoma X Runner -- a really nice truck, with 2 minor problems: it was pretty hard to find, and it didn't come with an automatic transmission. The only other trucks I was seriously considering were Dodge Dakota's (the rear jumps seats in a Ford Ranger are a complete and total joke, GM's idea of a larger engine was a 5 cylinder, and the other Japanese trucks were way over priced). I built a truck on the Dodge website, and a search of dealers found one that was a 95% match to what I wanted. So I checked out thier inventory, and found something even better. Now I have an arctic white '06 Dakota SLT Sport, with the high output V8, premium interior sound (and Siruis radio), big chrome wheels and tires, overhead console, and security package. I had the boss put on a fiberglass bed cover and stainless steel nerf bars, rhinoliner in the bed, undercoat and sound proofing. Pretty nice...

The only other motorized transportation we have is my old '87 Kawasaki KZ305, that I bought shortly after I got the Z24. It sat next to the house for 2 years, for want of a $132 part. I finally bought a part from a different bike for half that, and it seems to work fine. I do seem to end up messing with the carberators each spring though, and it's gone through another battery (making a total of 5 since I bought it), but it starts right up, and runs like a champ. It's also going to be up for sale soon. After riding it for 18 years I decided it was finally time to get a real bike. I was originally considering a Yamaha VStar 1100 Silverado, but thought, it's the off season -- if I can get a Harley for the same price as a Yamaha, why not try? So I now have a '95 Fatboy, white on teal, saddle bags, windscreen, passing lamps, S&S carb, Vance & Hinds longshot pipes, floorboards -- very nice.

So what's next? Well, the Buick is getting some years on it, though the mileage is still fairly low. We'll probably be trading it off while it still has some value in it -- but that choice is up to the missus. For me, the bike and the truck are set (OK, I still want to put a class 3 hitch on the truck) -- but the cruiser... I finally have my project car. I'm getting new wheels and tires for it this spring, already have foglights to install and some interior detailing stuff. I've found ideas for improving the intakes, and perhaps a new exhaust system and suspension parts too. I'm thinking some sort of 8ball theme.

I'll let you know...

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