"I told you about my car; let me tell you about my ride."

Orifice, "Fossil Fuel Sam"



Since I got my first car in 1989, I've had seven cars. Only one of them I never really got to drive. Most folks have only had one or two cars in this time. My buddy Sean has had at least twice as many as me, and he's got five now.

I like cars. I like to drive them. I like to poke at them. I like to look at them. This quickly translated into liking to own them, with admittedly mixed results.

Any sufficiently complex piece of technology will appear to have a personality. Cars are perhaps the most recognizable example of this. Engineers and other science types tend to dislike this mode of thought, but I find that embracing it can lead to faster solutions to complex problems. As they say, your mileage may vary.

The Cars

1974 Mercury Capri

You never forget your first car? I suppose not. I'll always pine for it, too. This is actually a Ford badged car, built in Germany, and imported to the US and UK. I bought it off of a friend for $350, and drove it for almost four years. Remarkably comfortable, considering how tall I am.

About halfway through my ownership of it, it caught fire on the highway. The fire in the engine compartment went out of its own accord (proof that life is not like the movies). I got it towed back to the house and enlisted a friend or two to help me replace the wiring loom, timing belt, and several gaskets. I then spraycan-painted the industrial orange color you see here (it was orgininally yellow, and the fire had "browned" it). It ran fine after that until I sold it for $300 (In retrospect, I probably should have kept it). The repair of this car led me to delusions of adequacy about my abilities, and on to project cars.

Two cool things I did with this car (besides bring it back to life). I replaced the rear package shelf with a stained piece of plywood holding a couple of speakers (the original shelf was totally shot). It looked pretty cool and sounded good enough. I also had to replace the ignition switch. I didn't end up doing it with original equipment, but instead running the wires to the hole where the cigarette lighter socket would have been and putting a keyswitch there. Since it was in the ashtray; closing the ashtray hid the switch.

Oh yeah, the stereo was also a Walkman (which I could remove), running to one of those Radio Shack "power boosters". Geekery abounds.

Image of the Mercury Capri

1986 Toyota Pickup

The Capri was sold when I had a chance to buy a more reliable car (or, in this case, a truck). Formerly owned by one of my Dad's professor buddies, this seemed like the perfect deal. It was, too. I barely took care of it, and it logged a little over 100,000 miles (slightly over 40,000 of which were mine). It seemed like nothing could stop it.

A BMW travelling at about 35MPH did the trick, though. I was rear-ended by a napping third-shifter in his BMW (he'd bought it used, and looked like he'd worked hard to get it. This must have been a big blow to him). The front end of the BMW absorbed most of the shock. Both of us were unhurt. Both cars were totalled (although I was able to drive mine home). Not the best way to start (or end) the day.

Here's another hint. If you're at all sentimental about your cars, take a picture of them before they get creamed by a BMW going 35MPH. Take a picture as soon as possible, because this happened to me twice.

Did I make any mods to this? I got some speakers installed professionally in the doors, and put a radio in the dash myself. I think I may have had a CB in there, but I could be wrong.

Image of the Toyota Pickup

1978 Triumph Spitfire

Boy, was this a bad idea.

I still like the idea of owning one of these, but I'm going to be much more careful about selection. This car had major body/frame problems from the get-go, things I couldn't fix without a garage (which I still haven't gotten). I loved the idea of this car, but had to give it away as a parts car. A hard lesson about inspecting used cars was learned.

I did a lot of things to the car, but never found out how successful I was. Ugh. The less said about this the better.

Image of the Triumph Spitfire

1988 Mazda B2200 Pickup

Loved, but sadly mistreated.

I got this after the Toyota had its altercation with the BMW. My parents wanted a new pickup truck, and got the latest model B2200 (I told them to get the one with the bigger engine. I was right); selling me this one. I drove it into the ground, which happened all too soon (in no small part due to my reluctance to change the oil on a regular basis. Another lesson learned).

One of the best things about this truck, besides its ability to tow the Spitfire, was the fact that it drove just like a car. The handling was (like almost every Mazda I've driven) akin to riding on rails. The Probe is even more well-mannered on the road.

I improved the stereo in this car almost immediately, with a set of "truck speakers" placed behind the seats. I also placed a locking tool box (I probably still have the key on my ring, dork) in the bed. I definitely put a CB in this one, though. I kinda miss having a CB. The engine was a nightmare, so I didn't work on it. It was this mess of carbeurated, pollution controlled madness.

Image of the Mazda Pickup

1988 Hyundai Excel

Well used, and ultimately doomed.

The Hyundai was originally Laurie's, but after she got her Miata, she sold it to some friends of ours. When they were done with it, I bought it back, intending to campaign it in SCCA autocross after making a rather common engine swap (the Excel is part compatabile with the Mitsubishi Colt, which can easily take a turbocharged Eclipse engine because it's the same block, with a larger bore and a turbo).

However, the mishap with Probe number two led me to press the Excel into daily driver service. The engine was on its last legs, burning quite a bit of oil, and eventually it just gave up and died. I pretty much gave it away on Craigslist.

I haven't found a picture yet and it makes me sad.