The first car I ever owned was a 1966 Triumph Spitfire I bought for $250 bucks. If those were pesos, it was still a bad deal. It had an engine less powerful than a hand- held blender from Sears and a heater that was perfect if you were Frosty the Snowman and hated heat, or lived on Venus where it’s 700 degrees, everyone else froze. It didn’t rust for a simple reason: there was no room for more rust. A girl I was trying to date once fell through the rusted passenger seat floor onto the road, causing lots of sparks, screams and no further dates. After I nailed some plywood under the seat, it was good to go until the plywood rotted, and then I had a rusted Triumph that smelled like my tree fort with rotted plywood; Not a great date car. The steering wheel was broken and had about ten inches of play, forcing you to constantly correct the direction of the car. I once got pulled over because they thought I had been drinking. When the policeman realized it was just a major safety violation, he let me go with a warning, which I ignored since I was sixteen. I still can’t believe I ever sold that car.
My next great car was a 1966 Chevy Biscayne with a cracked engine block that I bought for two dollars. It leaked 5quarts of oil a day, so everywhere I parked ended up looking like the Exxon Valdez just ran into an iceberg. That car needed its own Hazmat team and in today’s world, would be considered an EPA Superfund site. It also leaked anti-freeze like a soda fountain and overheated every quarter mile. I once drove it 300 miles to Washington DC in ten degree weather overheating the entire way with steam coming out from under the hood like a locomotive. Meanwhile inside the car, my hands were frozen to the steering wheel with no heater. That car might have been worth one dollar. I got ripped off.
My 1965 Triumph TR-4 never actually ran, making it the best running car I ever had. It had one spot of metal left on the glove box door with no rust. I sold it to an ex-friend for $50 bucks and a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum. He also never got it running. It would be easier to locate Blackbeard’s treasure than get that Triumph running.
My 1976 Triumph TR-6 once had a fire under the dashboard while I was driving in Washington DC traffic, which I put out with a wool sweater. Strangely, nothing seemed to change, and the car actually ran better afterwards. The sweater was a total loss, but made a great fire extinguisher.
My 1967 Plymouth Valiant cost me $195 and might have been the best deal since the purchase of Alaska. It had no power steering, which made it just a bit harder to turn than the Titanic. It also had no power brakes, which is just like having “normal” brakes that work great until you are trying to stop. I actually completely lost the brakes once, and had to stop by running into another car. Luckily that car was only worth about $250 bucks and the insurance estimate came to ninety-eight dollars. I ended up paying him off with some leftover deli meats. The Plymouth had an amazing AM radio perfectly designed to listen to static and horrible local ads from Cincinnati and the Paul Harvey show.
My high school car was a 1967 Ford Fairlane 500 2-door that was rusted so bad under the front seat that when I hit the gas the entire seat fell completely backwards. My friend told me to place a large wooden speaker behind the seat, which worked perfectly, except for the twelve inch rusted gap in the floor that allowed snow to blow in during winter, and rain during the spring. That car was like a science experiment for human endurance and I was the guinea pig. The driver side rear suspension broke, which made the car lean to the left like I weighed 450 pounds. Sparks would fly out like the Bat mobile when I hit bumps and my passengers had to cling onto their door to avoid ending up in my lap. If you had enough people sit on the passenger side, it almost leveled the car out. On the up side, that car also had a great AM radio.
Now that I drive cars with FM radios, heat and brakes, it’s just not as much fun but I suppose a bit safer.