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Cars

I was as crazy about all kinds of vehicles as my father was about airplanes. I built, drove and owned many interesting vehicles. Believe it or not, this page does not share the far more that I became intimately involved with through friends, college roommates, working as a mechanic, and helping in the four different auto shops that I helped start and partially owned.

Soapbox Derby Racer For some reason I was a fierce competitor, so it was not just good enough to compete, I absolutely needed to win. Losing was not in my vocabulary and just inspired me to learn far more and work much harder. I built a wind powered wagon and when a friend built one that went faster, I modified mine to be much faster. In the winter I got the biggest surplus parachute available and built the fasted wind powered sled train. Normally our first couple of sleds rarely even touched the ground. I built all kinds of ever faster push cars then got into serious competition with the Soap Box Derby. With lots of help from my father we built a soap box racer that won our City championship then won the State championship. I was totally upset when I lost at the multi-state sectional and was too old to participate the next year when I knew I could do better. I spent hours and hours studying every good racer to figure out exactly why they did so well.

Disneyland Autorama One of my first powered driving experiences was at the just opened Disneyland Autorama. Early on my father purchased considerable land in Southern California when land was very inexpensive. He planned on retiring there when he finished his twenty years in the Air Force. He built a custom home in Santa Anna, apartment building in Santa Anna, and continued to farm his orange groves in Anaheim. Officially California was our "state of residence" and home from the early 1950s on regardless of where the Air Force stationed my father. We went back home to Southern California a few times every year. When Disneyland was built right next to my father's orange grove we were really excited. The family had a ball playing on the Cups and Saucers ride and my father went crazy over the different roller coaster like rides. My favorite was the Futureland Autorama. Just before we left for an extend stay in Japan I just barely met their height requirement and managed to talk my dad and my mother to each do one go around their course with me. I loved it. When we came back after four years overseas I was very sad to find I was already too big and that "favorite" ride was no longer exciting.

Lawn mower Powered Go cart Meanwhile I put in some time driving little racers and a gas lawn mower engine driven cart I built with the help of my father. But I really learned how to drive at age 12 on our family ranch near Colorado Springs, Colorado. That ranch was an interesting story. My father and his best friend owned a home construction business in Denver. They thrived and when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, they went to Hawaii and helped rebuild. They were so upset by that "sneak attack" they both joined the Army. My father served in the Army Air Corps flying fighters over Germany then the Pacific. His friend served in the Army fighting in the Pacific. His friend married a beautiful Japanese lady who became my second mother and started teaching me Japanese. Their two daughters were like sisters and we called them my "cousins". When WW II was over my father and his friend reopened their construction firm and resumed developing home tracts. They did pretty well and my father bought a large D9-Cat earthmover so they could take on major projects. My father kept getting recalled back into what had become the Air Force. His friend continued to work their business. After his fourth recall back into the Air Force my father finally just decided to stay and put in a few more years to complete his twenty needed for retirement. His friend continued to work their business. Eventually his friend became the head contractor who built the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

WW II Jeep My father's friend convinced my father to put his share of their earnings into buying a large valley near Colorado Springs when land was very cheap. They used that "Cat" to level their valley for the horses and growing wheat. They also used that "Cat" to make a bobsled run going down the backside of the hills. Add a little water and that was a pretty crazy wild run. Rather than let it all sit dormant during the summer my "cousins" and I would fly down that bobsled run in our surplus WW II Jeep. Uncle Jimmy had changed out the rear end so it would not go fast in any gear (except neutral when we let it coast). I got pretty good at flying through the gears and making that thing hum. In retrospect I'm lucky to be alive as wild as that was for my first real driving experience.

Ford Falcon 1960 My first time driving on the roads was a bit like the way I learned to fly. It was 1962 and I was twelve. My father and I had just finished a trip down to Texas and were going to meet my mother and the rest of the family in Denver. We were on a paid private turnpike that let us drive fast, meaning 80 miles an hour or more. My father had been driving his 1960 Ford Falcon for most of the day and was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open. Suddenly he pulled over and told me to take over until we got off that paid road. He said it was lots easier than the bobsled run, watched me for about ten minutes then slept for hours as we zipped down that turnpike.

Olds Vista Cruiser Ford Falcon 1964 I officially started driving like most others at age 15 1/2 learning in my parent's family cars. I learned all the normal rules of the road taking "Driver's Ed" in school then got lots of practice in my mom's huge maroon Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser as pictured on the left. That car let me learn how to parallel park in a vehicle that is as long as most parking spaces. My father promised to let me buy his 1964 Ford Falcon pictured on the right when I started college, and I loved driving that car. I ended up instead moving out with a pretty clean break instead and went without anything but my motor bikes for the next few years.

Renault Automatic My first car I actually owned was a gift from my father who was trying to patch up our differences. We had some pretty bad fights that resulted in my leaving home and becoming self supporting as a junior in high school. After my sophomore year in college he bought me a Renault. He drove a near identical vehicle in Europe and used it for running all over in late WWII before he transferred to the Pacific theater. This almost new Renault had one of the best engines in the world, the same Centrolux used in the formula race cars. It also had one of the worst and strangest transmissions.

It had an electric manual transmission that I swear was run by a team of very fussy squirrels. They went on strike if the car got too hot, too cold or they did not get fed and coddled enough. Seriously it had a four speed manual transmission that instead of a stick shift had a box of gears that actually moved a stubby shift lever through reverse and the four forward speeds.

To make this even more interesting the transmission coupled to the engine with a ferro-magnetic clutch. Most manual clutches have a big round disc that springs hold tight against the flywheel on the back of the engine. When you step on the clutch you pull that plate away which disconnects the drive.

Ferro Magnetic Clutch With a ferro-magnetic we have a whole different setup. It has two bladed plates facing each other where the blades nearly touch. One plate mounts through an input shaft to the engine flywheel and the other plate through an output shaft powers the the transmission. These round plates are sealed in a round tub that is full of grease filled with iron filing powder. This tub is surrounded by a big electromagnet. Turn off the power to the magnet and all spins freely just like stepping on a clutch pedal. Slowly add power to the magnet and the iron filings in the grease slip less and less just like letting the clutch pedal out until all locks up tight.

It was one of the craziest experiences in the world to sit in that car when it decided to shift gears. Each shift was unique and somewhat random. There were gears off the engine that spun a set of weights. The faster the weights spun the higher they would lift until they finally triggered an electrical switch. That switch would disengage the gas pedal which is unbelievably scary because suddenly the gas pedal does not work at all. Then after a little delay this same switch triggered turning off the clutch magnet so the transmission was disconnected from the engine. Then the still moving transmission also had its own little fan which triggered the squirrels. The squirrels were actually a little strange geared motor run off the now idling engine which moved the manual shift lever to the next position. Then the real excitement happened as the gas pedal control was returned and the clutch popped back to locked. If you did not let off on the gas then reapply the gas just right the car would slam hard into gear, sometimes before the squirrels had finished shifting. When that happened the car again turned off the gas pedal, disconnected the engine from the transmission and tried to go back into the prior gear. Sometimes it was going too fast to do that and bad things happened.

This was all far too complicated to work in real use. The car fell apart on the first owner after 800 miles and blew up on me at about 1200 miles. I could do nothing with it and even the dealer said they would not fix it and Renault refused to honor their warranty. I finally converted it over to a full manual transmission with regular clutch. It was then fun to drive and got great gas mileage, but everything about this car just kept breaking so I got rid of it as soon as possible.

MGA Twin Cam I had a girlfriend and needed some wheels that worked. In poor starving student mode I bought from one of my shop owner friends a newly rebuilt MGA sports car. With babying my friend figured it would get forty or so thousand miles. Although by no means as fancy, expensive, or fast as some of my other toys, it became one of my favorites. It was just plain fun to drive. It lasted about twelve thousand miles and blew a piston ruining the engine. I upgraded it to 1600cc engine then a twin cam engine that made it lots faster. For a short while I even put a rotary engine in it but that also went boom quickly so put back in the twin cam. I also added flashy chromed spoke wheels. Similar to my Renault this car would not pass a repair shop, but in between repairs my dog Shadow and I drove all over Northern California back roads. Shadow was a big black female Belgium (German) Sheppard and a terribly demanding passenger. She would stand in the seat with her paws on the dash and head in the air stream. She would bark at me if I went much over 45 MPH as that was too much wind in her face. I planned on keeping it nearly forever and did manage to make a lot of fun changes that made it far more reliable. I finally still got tired of fixing it and sold it to a young man who went crazy over these cars.

Volvo P1800 Before you decide I am totally crazy, tired of the MGA repairs I bought a Volvo sports car similar to what "The Saint" drove. Then Volvo made some of the safest longest running cars on the road. Volvo used a heavy duty tractor engine that was so tough most Volvos easily went two or three hundred thousand miles with no major repairs. Although I bought mine with few miles on it from a minister, it was in bad shape. He used to be a race driver before he found God and had set this car up to be raced with changed carbs, wheels, racing brakes, special suspension, racing transmission, and rear end. He ran out of money after a couple of races and could not afford to make the inevitable post race repairs, so put the car up on blocks. It had sat for nearly four years on blocks before I found it and talked him into selling to me.

My Volvo P1800 It had very few miles but needed the engine, transmission and rear end all rebuilt, plus a new interior. I redid the engine and rear end myself and traded use of this car for a summer in exchange for a friend rebuilding the transmission. My friend drove it all summer long and then did not want to give it back. He offered to buy it from me for what I had invested and I said no, that was the car I picked out and wanted for me. I hired the custom upholstery shop that specialized in Mercedes sports cars to build me a very unique and pretty tan upholstered interior with very comfortable supportive seats. I continued to improve this car with little touches for the entire time I owned it. It not only was my commuter car, it also spent a good many of my weekends taking me and a few of my friends all over the back roads on car rallies. We got very good at following clues and getting through the various courses quickly. Inside the car were dozens of awards from winning these rallies. I really babied this car. Its a tough tractor engine and my being an early user of synthetic oil let this Volvo give me over 450,000 miles of reliable service. In spite of it being a daily driver it won some show awards plus Volvo featured it in their then versus now ads. It was fun and a bit sporty to drive. My father used to tease me that this fire engine red Volvo looked like it was speeding even when parked. I kept this 1963 car from 1968 when I bought it through 1994 when a careless kid crashed into the front. I ended up being double heartbroken. My insurance company and two body shop owner friends said it could not be saved. I put it in my drive thinking I would fix it myself, but after months of not getting to it, a fellow came by, said he owned a body shop and also said it just could not be fixed. He wanted my car for parts to fix up another. I accepted his modest offer only to shortly after see it being driven. That fellow fixed the frame, fender, door, hood and front then sold it at a big profit.

Buick 1950 While waiting that summer to get my Volvo back I needed a reliable car that would hold many. I was lucky enough to get a 1950 Buick from one of my high school teachers. It had a big straight 8 engine and three-speed manual transmission. This was another amazingly wonderful car. It ran so quiet you could not even tell it was on when idling. It was so smooth you could balance a nickel on the hood. It got a real 22 miles per gallon in spite of being a very heavy tank. That big chrome bumper assembly outweighed a VW bug so my friends used to tease me that I needed to go clean the "bugs" out of that grill on a regular basis. When the Volvo was up and running I sold it to a friend's girlfriend. Twenty years later I got a call from a CHP officer asking if I would be willing to sell him the car. It turns out this gal never registered it and abandoned it on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. I gave that officer a sale receipt and he fixed it up like new and showed it off to me one day. He was amazed to find that the deputy commander of his organization was one of my good friends and honestly thought he had taken advantage of me. I just wanted that great old machine to have a good home and be cared for.

As already shared my throw pillow business went gold and I sold it getting quite a bit of cash. I put up the money for a good friend who had built my race motorcycle to start an automotive repair business. His partner wanted to work on European sports and race cars while my friend only liked to work on American made vehicles. They fought constantly and I soon ended up sponsoring the friend and became half owner of a second shop. This left my friend hurting without enough mechanics. He heard of a program where skilled immigrants were available if you would sponsor one. I ended up sponsoring a fellow from Yugoslavia who spoke almost no English, but was an incredible mechanic. Within a year this new worker asked me to help him get started and I ended up with another half interest in another shop. That fellow hired two more immigrant mechanics who were brothers to work in his shop. Again within a year I sponsored them getting another half shop ownership. In repayment for helping them get started each let me have first choice on vehicles that their customers abandoned rather than pay their bills. As you can see below these made for a very interesting car collection.

Jag XK120 One of the first cars I got from my friends for helping them startup their repair shops that actually paid anything back to me was a pretty beat up old white Jaguar XK120. I spent nearly a month doing body work and replacing panels. I also put in a whole near new looking interior from a junkyard. This car had a big six cylinder engine that was smooth as glass. After fixing it looked pretty sexy. One of my computer programmer friends bought it from me. He walked or rode his bike to work. He still lives in the same place and works at the same place, so still walks or bikes to work. He also still drives this same car. Although he fully admits that it is "British junk" he still loves this car like a child and has turned it into quite the show piece.

Austin Healy 3000 For a short while I also owned an Austin Healy 3000 sports car. Although many think this was the best of the British sports cars, it was another piece of British junk just like my MGA which would not pass a repair shop. Mine which was identical to this pictured vehicle had the same Borg-Warner transmission as my Volvo P1800 with overdrive but had a bad engine that was designed with main bearings that were too small, plus an undersized oil pump and a far too small radiator for our Sacramento valley heat. This car went moderately fast in a straight line but unlike either my MGA or Volvo would not stop or turn. After rebuilding the engine I let it go.

Jaguar XKE My next experiment, a Jaguar XKE sports car I got from one of the shops because it looked so pretty. It turned out this was exactly the same engine, transmission, electronics and radiator that caused me so much trouble with my Austin Healy. I realized that keeping this thing running was going to be a second career. My young cousin was crazy about this car so I gave it to him. At first he thought I was the nicest guy in the world, but after he owned it for a bit and had gone through two engine rebuilds, he decided that he never wanted anything to do with British Motors garbage again in his life. He ripped the original engine out and put a small block Ford V-8 engine and transmission into this car. That made for a real hot rod with way too much get up and go. Unfortunately it still would not stop or turn so he put in big American made racing brakes plus a whole new suspension system. He still drives it every few months and says it is part of what is going to give him a good retirement as these are now worth quite a bit, especially with his conversion that looks invisible until you open the hood.

Maseratti 3500 GTI 1964 My next experiment was a fixer. I still shopped at Travis AFB and found a 1964 Maseratti 3500 GTI that an officer had picked up in Europe and decided to sell. It needed lots of work, but I figured with the shops and "free" labor I could get it working well quickly and make a few extra dollars, plus it would be fun to drive for a bit. It was a pretty nice car that went fast, turned well, and stopped well, but even an oil filter cost over $100 compared to $3 for a domestic car. It was ridiculously expensive, there was no local source for parts, and frankly had I not found one in a junkyard to scavenge parts it would have never been finished. It took a couple of months to do about six hours work because parts were so hard to come by, but the result was stunning. I sold it for a nice profit with mixed emotions. It really was a nice car, but ridiculously expensive to keep running right.

BMW 2002ti By then I was starting to make some money so spoiled myself with a real machine. I bought from one of my shop owners a BMW 1600. He made me a great deal because the interior was trashed. It was a pretty boring box and just not zippy enough so after I replaced the interior I sold it to a friend and bought an identical looking BMW 2002 that also had a bad interior among other problems. Again after adding some sweat equity to replace the ruined interior and repair its mechanical problems I soon sold it and moved forward on my plan to be able to get the car I really wanted. The intermediate step was the pictured BMW 2002ti shown. Its fuel injected engine and upgraded suspension made it a wolf in sheep's clothing, but the prior owner badly abused it so it needed tires, shocks, brakes, new muffler and rebuilt transmission plus whole new interior and full paint job. I did well enough on the prior two BMW overhauls to pay for all.

BMW Bavaria The BMW 2000ti soon sold for enough to let me upgrade to a BMW Bavaria which was the same car except bigger with lots more creature comforts. I again bought one that someone had walked away from their repair bill. This was my dream car and exactly what I thought I wanted. It turned out to be one of those be careful of what you wish for as you might get it. Mine was so new there were no after market or junkyard parts sources so anything that went wrong required buying parts from the dealer. The only BMW dealer in our area had the market locked up and charged more than double what I could buy the same parts for in San Francisco or LA. Moreover, after years of driving a sports car, this car was not near as much fun to drive. After just a few months of ownership a fellow came up to me in a parking lot and said he had to have my car. I ended up selling for a very nice profit and frankly never missed it at all. I just kept driving my old red Volvo P1800 sports car.

Jenson Interceptor Again another car came to me from my shops after an owner walked away from the bill. This Jenson Interceptor had a very clean bright yellow body but trashed interior, engine and transmission. Our shop had completely redone the engine but that still left lots to do. I found a wreck with a near new transmission and put that in, then drove this down to Tijuana to a shop I had used before. There they put in an incredible leather interior. I then put it up for sale and it sold immediately again for a nice profit.

68 Mustang Here is a picture similar to my 1968 Shelby Mustang fastback that I bought new with four friends to race. One of the three failed to come up with his money, so three of us owned it. The other two did not have the money to do the normal repairs and rebuilds after every race, so it soon became mine alone. My Shelby Mustang was built to race. It came with no interior. We stripped it to a bare frame, acid dipped it to take as much weight off as possible, installed a crash frame and roll bars, Recaro seats, racing brakes, Hurst four-speed racing transmission, dual Holley racing carburetors, Stebro exhaust system, racing gauges and repainted it back to the same Shelby white with blue racing stripes shown on the top of the page. We also added an oil-cooler and all kinds of other stuff. I raced it for a couple of years back in 1968 and 1969. The only problem with having a race car is they are expensive. After every race I had to replace brakes. After about three races, sometimes more often I had to rebuild the engine. The transmission rarely lasted more than about four races. Although I made great money from my bar restaurant and radio station, I got tired of all the time and money it took to rebuild this beast, especially after one of my partners messed up who did not have any money to make repairs. It was a fast car but not fast enough to get some sponsors with deep pockets. I finally quit putting money into it. I put it up on blocks in a friend's barn in Woodland. Even with all the racing conversion, collectors go crazy over these cars and it is now worth a small fortune, so I decided to reclaim it. I know it sat there for nearly forty years, but that ranch got sold and nobody knew what happened to my car. It never got re-registered at least in California, so I have no idea where it finally went.

lincoln 1969 After I let go of my big Buick and the BMW Bavaria I wanted a reliable road machine that I could run between Sacramento and LA. My father was having a lot of health problems and I found myself going to LA two or three times a month. One of my auto shop friends had just rebuilt a Mary Kay light pink Lincoln Continental with rear suicide doors that open backward. Again the owner declined to pay his repair bill so it became mine. I had just done a big favor helping to setup a young Hispanic friend in an upholstery business. The car interior was a mess. My friend "pimped it out" with white artificial fur headliner, tuck and roll fur interior with dingle balls around the front and back windows. I used to love to take that "pimp machine" out on dates. The lady who later became my wife was professional model who in 5" heels was about 6"4". I would put on the most obnoxious leisure suit possible, wildly patterned shirt and my cool feathered cap. She would put on a bright red leather miniskirt, matching 5" red heels, nice silk blouse and big floppy hat with over sized sunglasses. My date and car always turned heads wherever we stopped.

Ferrari 308 This next one is probably my most expensive car by far and it was a nightmare. A young foolish actor bought this Ferrari with their GT308 body and a custom V-12 twelve cylinder engine. The only problem is the difference between just right and revving the engine high enough to blow up was only a fraction of an inch of gas pedal. He blew it up just outside of Sacramento and had it towed to one of my friend's repair shops. It took three months to get all the parts to rebuild that engine and when presented with the bill he walked and gave my friend the pink-slip. My friend gave it to me and I was the "coolest" guy around for the few weeks that it lasted before I blew the engine myself. I got it all fixed and changed the throttle linkage so there was a full three plus inches between idle and wide open then sold it for almost as much as it cost to repair. Had I paid for labor it would have lost a bundle. I was happy that it was gone and that experience totally killed my desire for any more crazy cars.

BMW 320i When I got married as a wedding gift I replaced my new bride's VW Super Beatle with a new BMW 320. That car was a rocket ship that went fast, handled well, and stopped quickly. The first night we had it home we learned that BWM really stands for BREAK MY WINDOW! Yes, someone smashed out the vent window, then ripped the stereo out of the vehicle. The thief cut himself and bled all over. I got an emergency repair done and we took it on our honeymoon. Soon after we moved into our new home a careless worker drove his insulation truck into that car. The car was hurt pretty bad and my wife suffered lots of soft tissue injuries. After repair it looked good and continued to serve us very well. She loved to drive that car and nearly wore it out in less than three years.

BMW 318i Expecting our first child we decided to upgrade from a two to a four-door car. She still wanted the class and zippiness of her BMW so I bought her a new BMW 318i four door. That was the first year for that vehicle model. It had major problems with its injection system, computer control, and with the engine building up deposits. It constantly stalled and would not accelerate when given a little gas. During the nine months we owned that car it spent at least seven months in the shop. It lumbered along with one problem after another. The dealership who was voted the best in the area totally refused to take care of any of us with that model as all of us had cars that were not working. I had to threaten to sue to finally get them to make repair. They had to replace the computer control and the injection system. By then we were so tired of all its problems we just dumped it for a huge financial loss.

Volvo P1800ES I was so upset at losing my Volvo sports car to that 1994 accident that I went out and bought another orange one which I fixed up like new including brand new engine and transmission. This was the same car as my Volvo P1800 but in their ES station wagon sports car version. It proved far handier for carrying around stuff and I loved this car equally as well. After six years of near perfect service my ex-wife convinced me to sell it. I almost never drove it after getting my Mercedes and she never was able to drive it. The Volvo was very heavy with no power steering and only partially powered brakes, plus she was too short to see over the dash with its very low slung driver's chair. It now lives in San Francisco and was totally redone to become a show car.

Volvo Turbo Wagon Our daughter was born with some health problems and needed to spend lots of time at the hospital. That created a huge problem because the BMW was constantly broken and we only had two cars. My wife could not drive my car because it was a heavy Volvo sports car with no power brakes, no power steering, and she was too short to see over the dash. With her having to be a stay at home mother we had to have a car that worked. She wanted something far safer because after her accident she was never again comfortable in her BMW. There was then no safer production car on the road than the big Volvo station wagons. I got her the big turbo charged Volvo wagon thinking she would enjoy how well it accelerated. It did get up and go, but she hated the way it handled. She said compared to her BMW it was a large barge that would not turn or stop. We only owned this car for a few months before I so tired of how much she disliked it that I replaced it.

Toyota 4Runner 1990 With her staying at home mom we enjoyed traveling and camping with our extended family. A few years prior we upgraded to a larger home with a three car garage. Our plan was to let me use that third garage bay for my woodworking tools. I was not informed of the real plan. The real plan was to replace my Volvo sports wagon with an off road vehicle that we could use to get into camping places that we could otherwise not get to. With lots of assurances that this would be her every day driver, I bought us a new Toyota 4Runner. It was the first year where they replaced the plastic top with a hard metal top. This was a pretty bare bones unit that I had upgraded with the heavy duty manual transmission, oil cooler, and over sized radiator which meant it could comfortably tow in spite of only having a four cylinder engine. She drove it for a few weeks and decided it was too big, too awkward, and told me it was going to become mine. I said no, but was ignored. As a result it sat in the third bay of our garage gathering dust. It only got taken out when we needed to carry something large or go camping then it was mine to drive. After ten years it only had forty thousand miles. We ended up replacing it with a 1999 4Runner that had an automatic transmission that our daughter could drive.

Toyota Camry 1998 With her unwilling to drive the 4Runner and spending far more money than I earned from both my management job and teaching, our expenses needed controlled. To help with the automotive costs I bought her a brand new Toyota Camry with all the upgrades. This was a great little car that worked well. This car got the space where my tools went, and my tools got put into a pile against one wall. Unfortunately, she again had a problem where someone turned left in front of her and crashed pretty bad. Fortunately our daughter was not inside. The insurance company supposedly got it fully repaired, but it was never the same after the accident so it got sold and replaced with a newer vehicle.

Mercedes 300 SD Before giving up the Volvo sports car I needed a road car. I then oversaw thirty five State offices located between Crescent City near the Oregon border and San Diego near the Mexican border and needed to visit each at least once monthly. That left me on the road constantly. I bought a near new turbo charged monster Mercedes Diesel SD. It was a dream to drive on the freeways and got a real 30+ miles per gallon. It also seriously upset my bosses because at that time I was in charge of California's Smog Check program and that machine put out some serious smoke when accelerating. Today with our much cleaner diesels it does not smoke at all. In three years I put over 250,000 miles on it. I sold it to a friend in 1990 and it is still running like a champ with over 450,000 miles.

Toyota Camry 2000 The replacement new Toyota Camry was an exact twin except for logos to the new Lexus our next door neighbor purchased. I even had the chromed rims added for a little extra sparkle. It was an incredible car that served us very well. In fact, I ended up selling it to a co-worker and his daughter is still driving it with now over 200,000 miles with no major work.

Dodge Grand Caravan One day I came home and found a new Dodge Grand Caravan minivan in our drive. I was livid but the purchase decision was already made and I had nothing to do with it. We had to have a minivan to carry around our now two children and take them to their far too many structured activities. We also had been doing lots of traveling and some camping, so wanted a vehicle that would work well for that. That was the worst car I have ever owned. It often went to the shop a few times a month. It had major steering problems, suspension problems, brake issues, cruise control issues, broken electric windows, and constant problems with its electric fuel injection. Sadly, the dealer kept trying but they never were able to really fix anything.

Toyota Sienna The Dodge Caravan had to go and its resale value dropped to under half of its purchase cost when it was driven off the new car lot. Interest rates were going crazy so as a promotion to help them sell more cars Toyota came up with their zero interest finance plan. I picked out a new Toyota Sienna with all the goodies and it followed us home. We lost over two thirds of what we paid for the Caravan. The Toyota Sienna XLE minivan was a dream in comparison. We went up and down the west coast many times, used it to haul Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, swim team, baseball, and soccer players. It took our family camping all over California. All it ever required was normal oil changes, scheduled services, and tires. It continues to run well.

Toyota Solora After going through pure torture with the BMW318 and Dodge Grand Caravan we decided that my car had to be upgraded to one we could both drive and that was big enough to carry us when the other car was not working. With many tears and much upset I gave up my Volvo sports wagon and replaced it with a new Toyota 2000 Solara SLE coupe. This was my first new car ever and I babied it carefully making sure it only got the best synthetic oil and was well maintained. This car served me very well for four years as my daily commuter then became my son's car for college. I got it totally refurbished last year with new paint and he still drives it. Its big six cylinder engine makes it a bit of a hot rod, but it is so heavy it does not have that nice sports car handling. Still, I am comfortable it provides good protection in case of an accident and is economical enough for him to drive lots.

Totyota 4runner 1999 I gave my daughter a near new 1999 4Runner which she drove for high school and college. Not long after we got her the 4Runner a silly kid cut her off and both of our children were involved in a multiple car accident. The 4Runner left them well protected, and unlike all the other involved vehicles it survived so well that they were able to drive off with only minor damage. We replaced the front bumper, grill and bent hood to repair it like new. She drove it for the first two years when away at college. It did not fare quite so well when a tree decided to grow right in front of her car. The lesson was one of wet roads are slippery. Again she was able to drive away unharmed with the car working fine until I again could replace the bumper, hood, and grill. When she came back home and commuted to college she mostly left her 4Runner with me and stole my 2004 Solara SLE coupe that I also bought near new. The 4Runner was finally retired in 2012.

Toyota Solora With my sports car gone, my Mercedes retired, and my son driving my 2000 Solara, I spoiled myself with a near new 2004 Toyota Solara. This one came fully loaded with everything and a bit more that the dealer added. It was setup for the dealer's son, he banged up the rear end and his dad decided to sell and put that boy into a small tank instead of such a sporty car. Their loss was my gain as I got a car with only 4,000 miles that was near brand new for about half the cost of new. The repairs were done with all brand new Toyota parts, so nobody can tell it ever had a problem and it drives wonderfully. Unfortunately, my daughter discovered this is true. Not only did she start taking it to commute to college, when she moved to San Francisco her 4Runner got left for me here and she took my 2004 Solara. I finally decided to just let her keep it and sold her 4Runner. It is of course still my job to keep this Solara insured and pay for any maintenance

Toyota Highlander 2007 Tired of being stuck with my daughter's always dirty 4Runner I spoiled myself with a near new 2007 Toyota Highlander. Its big six cylinder engine makes it quite peppy and unlike the 4Runner it has very responsive steering and brakes quickly. These are built on the same Camry frame also used by the Sienna. I am most pleased a how much it carries, how comfortable it is to drive, and how little it takes to keep it working well. If I were to do anything different it would be the limited model with a few more creature comforts plus would also be a four wheel or all wheel drive. Those get a little worse mileage, but the traction is better. This vehicle is so light and powerful that on wet roads it can easily misbehave.

Toyota Sienna 2014 Max & Lucy Max & Lucy came into my life. Not really sure how or why, but I adopted a very elder brother sister pair of small horse sized purebred Great Pyrenees dogs. Max has a dogie version of MS, so is really struggling with little things like being able to get up, walk, or make it through the dogie door, and Lucy has the same but not nearly as bad. The dogie door is a long story in itself as it took me three months to find a place to custom make a big enough door. Regardless, love them very dearly and brought them into my life. The bad news is lifting 181 pound max into the back of my Toyota Highlander was really tough especially with his help. Lucy at 121 pounds I could manage with help and a loading ramp. Max was not stable enough to use the ramp without two people pushing and spotting. Something had to give before my back went. It was my wallet. After doing careful measurement the mini vans were the lowest meaning the shortest run up the ramp. With lots of good experience from Toyota, going for the Sienna mini van was an easy choice. these are so popular that prices stay insanely high. Finding one from a private party in good shape with low miles and a good price impossible. Having been in the automobile business most of my life in one way or another, I can still buy wholesale cost. The dealers were asking so much for used vans with as much as sixty thousand miles that they were charging more than I would have to pay wholesale. With much consternation, we bought a new one. It is beautiful, quiet, comfortable and does the job well. It is also big and something we only drive when we are going out on puppy therapy. Now after more than a year we still have not put 3,000 miles on it. It should last a very long time.

Mercedes Sprinter Camper Although I keep paying for two Solaras and a Sienna, my main driver remains my 2007 Highlander SUV. I've never owned my dream car, a Mercedes convertible sports car and have been toying for years over fixing up a Mercedes version of the Sprinter van into a camper with full satellite and Internet. There are woodworking clubs all over the country that would like me to come talk, plus there is a traveling woodworking road show that the owners would like me to follow them for three months a year and speak at each of their shows. Although I'd really like the Lexus sports car I strongly suspect our next vehicle with be another Toyota Highlander or near identical Lexus RX because these SUVs are so convenient, reliable and still economical. I know better but am getting old enough that a little insanity is expected so will not be surprised if a Sprinter van or sports car follows me home some day...

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