The Station Wagon (1978 Chevy Malibu) – This was the vehicle of my childhood. It had what seemed like infinite space in the back seat but what would now probably look tiny. On road trips, we would get to sit back there and watch TV and horseplay around in ways that would be ten kinds of illegal today. But it was awesome. Until the accident. It was replaced by Quakemonster.

The Old Dodge Colt or The Yellow Dodge Colt (1974 Dodge Colt) – I don’t remember much about this car. Pretty much whenever I was taken somewhere, it was in the Station Wagon. However, the one thing I do remember about it was that the window on the driver’s side didn’t work. It was replaced by The Dodge Colt.

The Quakemonster (1987 Dodge Caravan) – The first and last new car my parents would ever buy. It wasn’t quite so bad as a lemon. But it was in the same vicinity. A lime, perhaps. The car shook it like a burlesque dancer. Non-stop. It was the only car I’d ever really driven, so I thought it was great. Besides that, it allowed me to drive lots of people around. Also, at one point, it provided a very special competition between me and this girl for the front seat during a church youth group trip. That’s something I’ll never forget. It was replaced by the Aerostar.

The Colt or The Dodge Colt (1984 Dodge Colt) – This one came into existence right about the time of The Station Wagon accident, so much so that I can’t remember which came first. It was the same basic model as its predecessor, with the exception that this was a hatchback. But I can’t remember what it was. Other than that the window worked. This was the first car that was “mine” and the car that I first learned to drive a stick shift on. To date, it is probably my favorite car, though I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it’d had air conditioning. At some point I ran over a giant pothole and it was never the same again. Unfortunately, I didn’t have it all that long. It was replaced by K.C..

The Aerostar (1994 Ford Aerostar) – The family has this car to this day. It was bought used and never had the problems that Quakemonster did. It was particularly long with three rows and considerable storage space beyond. During long trips Dad would take out the middle seat and we had a lot of room for trips where two of us would take the seat and one of us would sprawl on the floor. So much room! That it was so tall helped see me through Hurricane Adrianne, for which I will always be grateful. That it was so narrow (and I was so stupid) once nearly got me into an accident where I came close to rolling over. I’ve been very anxious and even a little scared of losing control of it ever since. My fear of ever again driving a minivan stems from that event in this car.

The Convertible (1986 Chevrolet Convertible) – Mom always wanted a red convertible and when the time came, he got her a maroon one. Though it was Mom’s, I drove it as much as anybody else due to the car configuration. Driving a convertible always did unconscionable things to my hair and the Colosse heat prevented me enjoying it too much. What I did love to do with it was take late-night drives on the one local street that I could drive a whopping 55mph. I would just drive it up and down that street. I was quite the little rebel in that I would sometimes take my seatbelt off and breathe in the freedom for as long as five minutes in between stop signs and stop lights. This car had what I used to call a “slide and pop” problem. You hit the accelerator and instead of moving you would hear the engine rev and then it would pop and lerch. A couple times it did this it would pop and sit there and I would need to push it off the road. One time it caught on fire when I was going down the Interstate and that was how it died.

K.C. Craterface (1986 Chrysler Lebaron) – This was one of my favorite cars. We got it from my brother Mitch’s then-girlfriend for something like $2,000. In retrospect it was a bit larger than I like cars to be, but it was the first one that I got that hadn’t been handed down to me within the immediately family, so I loved it. And it is the first car I drove with air conditioning, though I was oddly conditioned to avoid using it even when I could (it wasn’t until the unbearable Trawler that I decided I would never go without AC again). The KC is short for Kansas City, a reference to its royal blue color, and Craterface was in reference to some hail damage it had received before I got it. Though it only seated four or maybe five, I managed to get eight people in there once. Ahhh, the memories. This one died when I was in an undesirable part of town. I managed to get it into a local high school football stadium parking lot and then either my brother or father picked me up. A couple days later it was pronounced dead.

Sport (1996 Ford Escort) – The first of our Ford Escorts, this little red car had the word Sport written on the side that enthused Dad to know end. I got Sport after K.C. died, though I think Dad had been driving it before then. Sport was involved in an accident when zoned out at the wheel. He was replaced by Rudat for less than insurance paid out on Sport. I was banished to the Trawler though.

The Trawler (1976 Chevrolet Caprice) – About the time that Sport was taken to the car park in the sky, my grandmother was no longer able to drive. So I got her car, which was older than I was. It was huge with a much wider footprint than any other car or van I’ve ever driven, which is why we named it after a boat. It only had AM radio and had no air conditioning, which was excruciating in the Colosse heat. The pleatherish seats meant that I had to take a change of clothes everywhere because my back would become a wall of sweat. The Trawler was a sort of punishment for wrecking two cars in as many months and it was frankly more than I deserved. Unfortunately, the lack of cruise control (and that it was the smoothest ride of any car I’d owned before or since) lead me to get more than a couple speeding tickets which did not help my safe driver cred any. Further complicating things was that there was no tripometer and the gas gauge didn’t work, so I ran out of fuel more than a few times. I can’t remember how it died, but it got sick enough that Dad felt uncomfortable with me driving it and so I got Rudat.

Rudat (1998 Ford Escort) – This was “my car” in a way that few others were. Dad had it for a little while before I got it, but once I got it I put 120,000 miles on it. It was the car I moved to Deseret in and it survived both Deseret and Estacado in style. It’s still around, actually, though Dad isn’t comfortable driving it far. Because I put so many miles on it, it is partially the standard by which I judge other cars. I consider Clancy’s car to be too wide even though it’s about the same size as K.C., which I loved. I consider Crayola to be too short because it’s an inch shorter than Rudat (both are too short, but I learned how to slouch in Rudat and had to learn how to slouch all over again in Crayola).

Crayola (1998 Ford Escort, 2-Door) – Though the same age as its golden sibling, the car doesn’t have nearly the miles on it. It’s a tad smaller than Rudat, which has caused me a little discomfort. If I pushed it, I could probably get many more miles out of it, but I’m not sure I have as much energy to devote to ushering along a dying car as I did with the everlasting Rudat.


Category: Road

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8 Responses to My History in Cars

  1. Barry says:

    A great idea for a post 🙂 I wish I could remember the make and models of all mine and my families cars over the years…

  2. Peter says:

    What’s the derivation of the name “Rudat?”

  3. web says:

    Hmmm.

    Mine (by comparison):

    The Green Monster – 1983 green chevrolet wagon. Was the family car for most of the late ’80s/early ’90s. Driven by me for 3 summers to and from my first “summer job” and at-the-time girlfriend’s house. Worked well, only fault was the one time that the thermostat froze and the radiator hose popped (easily enough fixed, we simply replaced the hose and thermostat). Eventually taken away from me and given to my grandmother when her car (also one of our hand-me-downs) broke down unfixably.

    The Brown Monster – 1988 chevrolet wagon, almost identical design. I got this one for the two years following the Green Monster, and then it was passed to my brother when I went off to college (despite begging my parents to let me use it at college). It lasted almost to 300,000 miles and my brother, not nearly a careful driver, killed it by getting into two accidents involving his driving too fast, plus icy patches and insufficient braking distance.

    The Red Monster – 1993 Mercury Wagon. Not nearly as good as the other two; had an intermittent head gasket problem and my father eventually got rid of it. It did get me to and from college the first trip.

    The Greased Brick – a “snub sized” van my parents got to haul my sister’s harp around. They still have it to this day. Top-heavy, annoying, no engine power to speak of… in essence it drives like a greased brick, hence the name.

    The Boat – a 1985 Cutlass that I bought with a summer’s worth of wages when I finally couldn’t take not having a car at college. Plenty of room, double-padded seats, large cargo space… unfortunately, the engine had quite a few problems. I wound up replacing the alternator belt three times and the distributor cap once. It also quit on me twice. The first was in the middle of nowhere on the way home from a christmas stopover at John Fustle’s parents’ place (there had been a media party I’d been invited to nearby) – head gasket blew out. It survived a flood, though it began rusting after that and I’m not sure how much longer it could have kept going had it not died in the middle of nowhere on a road trip. The one upside was that I got to buy my current vehicle for probably quite a bit less than it would have cost me in any dealership remotely nearer to civilization.

    The Stang – my current vehicle, ’97 Mustang. Acquired with only 40,000 miles on it, and I’ve now run it to over 145,000. Hoping to get at least to 200,000 before I decide to trade in. I’ve put one dent in it by bumping a basketball pole (trying to get out of my driveway without hitting someone else’s car) and there’s some minor internal cosmetics (aging plastic) to work on at some point if I can ever find the parts cheap, but otherwise it’s running fine.

  4. David Alexander says:

    I could come up with a similar drawn out list, but I’ll quickly note that I have fond memories of my dad’s 5-speed ’82 Toyota Corolla which he had for a number of years. He’d bring me to work in it, and that probably fostered my roadgeeking habit. He also owned two Dodge Colts, one brown and one blue, both of which I thought were cool, and unlike Trumwill’s Colt, both came with air conditioning (despite being from the Caribbean, my dad hated the heat) and the blue Colt came with automatic. I sorta ended up learning some basic driving skills on that car. Afterwards, my dad entered mid to high level car service industry here in New York and drove a succession of Lincoln Town Cars until he passed away a few weeks back…

    In contrast, my first car was the original green Saturn which despite wheel and body damage to one wheel and the rear left panel of the car, the car was somehow more appealing to car thieves than the other luxury cars parked on the block. I’m currently in a newer Saturn that’s been pretty good to me so far, but is slowly showing signs of age. My brother in contrast drives 2001 Toyota Celica which despite having 150K, happens to be rather fun to drive due to it’s great handling and peppy little engine. Plus, it has a sunroof…

  5. David Alexander says:

    I should note that the two Dodge Colts were of similar vintage to Trumwill’s. In fact, I can kinda picture the junky stereo location right now…

    Admittedly, I do find it interesting that the two hosts here still drive cars from the mid to late 90s. Just in my little cul-de-sac, I can’t find anybody with a car dating older than 2002, and just a cursory look at an intersection ends up painting those with older cars as de facto losers or failures. Mind you, I suspect that NYC Metro’s high wages means that stuff like cars is cheaper due to our greater buying power compared to other cities with lower costs of living.* Admittedly, it feels kinda embarrassing to have an 10 year old car when everybody else has a nicer (and sometimes luxury) car, but I just can’t spend that kind of money at this point…

    *Especially if you have low fixed costs like a mortgage from before the real estate boom or a high paying unionized job…

  6. trumwill says:

    Barry, I actually had to ask my father about some of it. Mostly years, but in one case a make and model.

    Peter, after Dusty Rudat. The sand-wheat color made me name it after something sand-based and I was always fond of Dusty.

    David, that’s a really interesting point about how cars can be relatively inelastic when it comes to cost-of-living in locations. Unlike daily necessities, price differences can’t diverge too much from one area to the next cause people can just drive out to the country when it comes time to buy cars in a way that would be pretty inconvenient for milk. I like being the kind of person that drives older cars, though I have to confess I am getting a bit weary of it. Sorry to hear about your dad.

  7. Transplanted Lawyer says:

    How do you get that cool impressionistic look for the pictures you’ve had in your past couple of posts? Is that something you’ve done with photoshop or is there some tool a less sophisticated user (translated: “me”) can have access to and use?

  8. trumwill says:

    I use a few programs, including Photoshop (Elements), GIMP, and Paint.net (the last two are free). Mostly it’s a matter of finding and applying the right filters, though there is usually some altering of the original picture (and filter settings) to get it to look right. Increasing the contrast, for instance, or brightening/darkening images or changing the color balance and things like that. It’s really fun to play around with.

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