Cars I've owned

Have you ever tried to remember all the cars you've owned over your life? If you're only about 25 I guess it wouldn't be that hard. And if you've only ever owned a few it wouldn't be hard either. I'm 64 and I've owned a number of cars. So I'm going to try an list them as close to chronological order as my feeble memory allows. It's kind of confusing.

1949 Chevrolet 4-door Torpedo Back - I'm pretty sure this was the first car I ever bought. Probably paid about $20 for it and never really drove it. I think I was 14 when I got it. Bought it from someone who had it parked in the garage in the alley behind the Rankin's place. It never looked this good.

It was pretty much a piece of crap but it kept me busy for a few months until the first freeze with water in the block - split that block almost the whole length just a couple of inches beneath the cylinder head.

1953 Ford convertible

I never did actually drive this although I got it started a number of times. I think I did in the flat-head V8 by running it on lighter fluid dumped down the carb. For some reason I had a whole case of lighter fluid.

1959 Ford Convertible

Bought this from a used car lot in Willimantic, somewhere near McDonalds. Can't remember how much I paid or why I wanted it so badly. I drove it for a while but something must have happened to the engine (either a 332 or 352, can't remember) because I remember trying to take the heads off with a 3/8 ratchet set. Didn't work. I think it was "sold" to Sanborn's.

1957 Ford 2-door sedan
I can't remember where this came from. It wasn't a very good car. I remember my Uncle Gibby telling me I should "jack up the radiator cap and drive a new car under it." That was cold but probably true. This is the car Doug Fraser and I ran away in.

1962 Ford ex-Connecticut State Police unmarked car

There was a time when ex-State Police cars were the least expensive performance cars available. Connecticut always drove Fords. Can't remember who I bought this from but what a beast! 390 four barrel, 3-speed manual transmission, cop everything. Had the cast iron "headers", cross-bolted mains and solid lifters. Everything on it was super sized - the front brakes were 11" by 3", alternator was 100 amp, exhaust was about 1/2" larger diameter than normal - everything was special order. I wish I had this now.

1957 Ford Ranch Wagon
I bought this from some guy on Rte 44 in the Twin Hills area. It had a 292 with automatic. It was this car that made me realize how difficult a Ford Y-block was to tune up. Distributor at the back of the engine tilted over, plug wires running down the back of the cylinder heads through looms to the plugs. And then I found one spark plug seized in the head so I changed seven. Traded it in on the next car. Owned this car when I started work at Sloan's Garage in Vernon.

1961 Ford Sunliner 
This car was on a used car lot down the road from Sloan's. I originally stopped in because they had this '61 Corvette. I test drove the Vette, a two-four barrel 283 with a 4-speed but I couldn't afford it (I think they were asking $1,100!). The Sunliner called to me. It was a 390 with a 3-speed manual and floor shifter. I loved this car but it really was a piece of crap. It never started in the winter. But damn I looked good in it.

1961 Falcon wagon 
Don't remember where this came from but I do remember that I had it when I went to the private school in West Hartford (after I quit high school the first time my mom got me into this "special" school for "troubled" kids- I think I stayed for about a month before getting a full-time job at Moriarty's). The Falcon was another in a long line of pieces of crap. It has so much blow-by and so little power. Two things stand out in my mind though. The first was I out-ran the Coventry PD's '67 Ford cruiser down a dirt road (taking out a mailbox in the process) and coming downhill on Buena Vista Rd after being at my sisters and realizing the road was glare ice. The bald tires wouldn't stop; I put the car in reverse and tried to slow it down that way and it just kept sliding downhill. So I put it in drive, floored it and hoped no one would hit me as I entered Main St/Hwy 31. No one did.

1956 Ford
Mine was black and white almost like a cop car (I don't think it was). It was a 272 with a 3-speed manual. My mom used to try and keep me from driving it as punishment. She'd take the plates off but I'd just make some cardboard plates (in Connecticut at that time if you lost your plates you could make paper ones until your new ones came in). Next she took my keys including my spare keys. I had a spare ignition switch with keys. Later on, after we moved to Avery Shore I was going to install a done up 352 I had into it but I sold that. Instead I bought a used 332 with a 3-speed manual. Had some run ins with the local cops with the '56 - just after putting the engine in I got stopped for driving without a hood. The cop was going to cite me but he couldn't find the section. As he flipped though his book I saw the section and pointed it out to him. He let me go. Later my friend Stan and I were out driving around at about 1 am in the summer. The cop (my arch enemy Ballard) asked what I was doing. "Driving." He turned to Stan and asked him. "Driving with Bruce." He also let us go.


1967 Fairlane GT 390 
The great love of my car life. I was working at Moriarty's when it was traded in. Some farmer must have used it because I remember looking it over before I bought it and it was full of straw or hay. I think I paid $1,400 for the Fairlane. It wasn't this blue but a Robin's Egg blue. I love that car - 390 GT engine (335 hp) with a 4-speed. Like many kids I tried to make the car "better." I changed the 4-speed for a close ratio one, which meant the driveshaft would fit but I actually had one that worked. Changed the shifter to a Hurst. And then I made the fatal mistake of taking out the original, tiny tachometer that was mounted on the dash (ended up with a wiring fire). But the Fairlane was quick in a straight line and I loved it. I traded it for the Mustang because I had to get out from under the payments due to a youthful indiscretion.

1965 Mustang 
 Somewhere I actually have a picture or two of my first Mustang. It was this style, gold in color with a black vinyl roof. It had a solid lifter 289 with 3-twos, Mallory dual-point distributor, headers and curiously a 3-speed manual transmission. I later put in the close ration 4-speed from the Fairlane (a top-loader) which didn't work out as I hoped because the top-loader was physically much larger. In order for the shifter arms to work without jamming on the transmission tunnel I had to flow the 3/4 one upside down. Ended up with a very odd shift pattern with 4th and 3rd being reversed on the H. Took this car to Canada. Eventually sent it back to CT to be sold.

1963 Volkswagen

The first car I bought in Canada. Bought it in Ottawa. VW's were darn good in the snow and it snowed a ton in Ottawa that year. But VW's are that good in the cold unless they had a gas heater (a little blast furnace mounted almost on top of the gas tank). Drove the VW from Ottawa to Manitoulin Island (over 800 miles round trip) where we camped on the shore of Lake Huron, taking a road that wasn't meant for non-4WDs. On return to Ottawa I decided to go to the Can-Am race at Mont Tremblent. The road to the track was dirt part of the way and on the way out my rusty VW's body collapsed onto the accelerator cable severing it. One hundred miles from home with no working gas pedal! I wedged a piece of wood between the throttle lever and stop on the carb and drove home. Sold the engine to some kids from the US for their VW bus.

Mini
Then I bought a Mini. Great design, lousy car. It had the hydrolastic suspension. Like most it leaked. But that's okay because Mini's were not meant for winter no matter how well they did in the Monte Carlo Rally. First they were too low to the ground and with the 10" tires they were easily high-centered. Second a monocoque body with zero rust protection is not all that great where they salt the roads. 

1949 Chevy Panel Truck
This was the last vehicle I bought while in Ottawa. Got it from some guy who had worked on the engine but never got it running. I brought it to life but should have taken the engine completely apart and gone through it. Some bearings were tight so it never cranked over like it should have and the rings were shot. I drove it around Ottawa for a few months before we moved to Toronto. We actually moved in the truck (about 270 miles) and probably went through 4 or 5 quarts of oil. By this time it wouldn't start without bump starting so we had to park on a slope whenever we stopped. But we made it. Sold it for a bit more than I had into it.

1971 Toyota Corolla Sprinter
Originally this was "our" car but I drove it most of the time. It had that little 1200cc "slant" four and a 4-speed transmission. Over the years I owned it I think it blew the head gasket four times - twice I had the head machined and twice I sanded the head. By the time I sold it I had to put premium fuel in it to keep it from pinging. I had it painted bright yellow by a friend, tricked out the carb (altered it so that the secondary opened quicker), built a front spoiler, and hand made a "performance" exhaust. It was fairly quick, often beating out 1600cc cars. 

1976 Toyota Hilux
We had two other Toyota Corollas before I bought this truck but they were ours, not mine. This was the first new vehicle I ever bought. I had a lot of good times in this, took it on a few vacations including Cape Cod. It was also in a couple of accidents (not while I was driving it) and the paint never matched after.

1962 Mercury Breezeway
I bought this when I worked for Woolco, a department store chain. It belonged to one of the assistant store managers from Winnipeg. It did not have the retractable rear window; it was fixed. It was a 352 two-barrel with automatic. Nice old tank that just ran and ran. I gave it to my brother when he was in Chicago but there was something weird about the VIN and he never could get it registered.

1964 Dodge
I don't remember why I bought this car, must have been a good deal. It was a 4-door sedan, 225 slant six and Torgueflite. I adjusted the valves, changed the oil and filter, did a tune up and drove it for a few months. I gave it to my sister in Upstate New York.

1972 Volkswagen
Another car I can't remember where I got it. I'm pretty sure it needed a clutch when I bought it and ball joints. I did the clutch but had to sub out the front end. Drove it for a few months until we bought a new Honda Accord and I got the next car to drive.

1974 Toyota Corolla SR5
Probably my favorite Toyota. It was pretty well used when it became "mine", I think it had about 110,000 on it then. Like many cars of its era rust was a big problem. By the time I gave it to my brother it had well over 130,000 miles. I'd replaced the two front fenders with fiberglass ones, welded patches all over the place, and replaced the exhaust a couple of times. It still had two of its original tires and original rear brake shoes. These cars are collectible now.

1956 Ford Ranch Wagon
My friend Mike Thomas brought this back from Colorado. It was two-tone, red and white roof. I had wanted a 2-door but I got a 4-door. It didn't have an engine or transmission when I got it. I bought a rusted out '66 Fairlane 390 GT automatic for the engine and transmission. "Rebuilt" the engine (rings and bearings on the garage floor), changed the trans valve body to a later style that allowed manual shifts and installed them into the '56. I had the car painted a merlot in place of the red. It ran fine except for a vibration I could never chase down. I sold the car to someone in Connecticut for about $1500.


1974 Volvo
My mom gave me this car. It was pale green. It had over 100,000 miles on it when I got it. Fuel injected, 4-speed manual with overdrive. Nice car but when things go wrong - The heater fan motor seized and I had to take half the dash apart to get to it. In the middle of the night about 30 miles from my destination the fuel injection went full rich and filled the crankcase with gas. But you know in a cold, snowy Canadian winter there was almost nothing better.

1972 Dodge Duster
I bought the Duster on my first foray to California. 225 slant six automatic. Drove it back to Toronto from San Jose. Just after stopping for gas on the eastern side of Lincoln, Nebraska the alternator went out. It was January. I limped it to a motel, found an auto parts store, bought an alternator and two wrenches, and I was on my way. It served me well for about six months and then I sold it for a profit.

1989 Mustang 5.0
I bought my 5.0 while I worked for Honda Canada. 5.0s were bargain cars back then. I think the total price for mine was about $16,000. Towed a trailer to California when we moved back in December 1990. I kept it until about '95. This might be the favorite car I've owned.

1965 Mustang
I am really sorry I let this one get away. I had it for probably 5 years and put a lot of work into it. My hope was to fashion it like a FIA coupe. It was a 289 automatic when I bought it. I got a nice 5.0 from the SFPD for free (theft recovery), bought a T-5, found a '59 Ford 9" rear end (bolts right in), redid the whole suspension front and rear. It ran but I never got it finished and eventually sold it to someone with the money and will to finish it. I rue the day he took it away.

1965 Ford Ranchero
Bought this for cheap from a shop owner in SF. He'd liened it. It had a 289 2-barrel and 4-speed. I have no idea what transmission it was - it looked like a BW T-10 but just a little different. Needed way too much work, mostly rust repair. I drove it off and one for about three years and then sold it for a small profit.

1965 Ford Galaxie 4-door sedan
Bought this one from a tow yard - salvage title. It had a 352 four barrel and was pretty ratty although solid. Let my brother use it for a bit and the brakes went out. Thankfully he didn't hit anyone. Eventually sold it to a guy who was going to run it in the Double 500 (a 500 km rally for cars that cost no more than $500) painted in Gulf-Wyer colors. 

1987 Toyota truck
This is my actual truck. I bought this in 2001 I think from a girl in San Francisco for $900. It was running on 3 cylinders and she lived on one of SF's hills. Wasn't sure I'd get it home. It had one burnt valve. I replaced the valve, lapped in all the valves, put in a new timing chain, guides and tensioners and it's run like a champ since (I still have it). It had around 180,000 when I got it, the odometer stopped working three years ago at 209,000. The original 4-speed trans has been replaced with a 5-speed. It got some rust from it's time in Pacifica and the sun is taking its toll here in Vegas but I think I'll keep it. Was offered $1,500 for it last year.

1971 Ranchero
Bought this from a then friend of mine. 351 Cleveland, 2-barrel, automatic. Nice car but not a California original and the Pacifica salt air got to it. Like this year Ranchero about the best though. 

1972 Ranchero
Bought my '72 from a guy in San Bruno. Nice solid car but the engine was weak. Blew the right head gasket once and about a year later I severely overheated the engine (temp gauge/warning light didn't work but no excuse). I had a really nice 351C 4-barrel engine with a C6 to put in it but by that time I was hurting financially. Sold it to another guy in San Bruno who screwed me by never transferring the title and DMV lost the release of liability.

1987 Toyota Celica
Bought this in a time of need - I was almost carless (at least drivers) - paid $400 for it. Kept it for about four years. Pretty good little car. Someone stole the intake hose once and that pissed me off. It had a/c, power windows, cruise - the works. Sold it to some guy who wanted a safe car for his daughter.

I'm sure I've missed one or two cars. If I remember them I'll add them in. 






















Comments

Cindy Meitle said…
Wow! In my 21 years immersed in the inner circles of the collector car realm, I have never heard of a Ford Sunliner! She's beautiful! Kudos to you as you've had some wonderful cars...a lot of Mustang's I see. I predict that VW bugs are the next big trend and rates are going to skyrocket. I also can't believe I'm saying this, but Ford Ranchero's and El Co's are right behind. Thanks for sharing, I love seeing what kind of cars people have owned, it's usually quite a mix and each car tells great stories about special times in our lives, just like music. Cindy
Cindy Meitle said…
Thanks for sharing, each car we've owned is like a song, immediately taking us to special memories and I love to see the cars people I know have owned...always a unique mix. I have been in the collector car realm for 20 years and never heard of a Ford Sunliner until you post today. Amazing. She's wonderful! Too bad you don't have a few of these cars anymore. I predict that VW's bugs are going to be the next big trend followed by, and I can't believe I'm saying this, El Camino's and Rancheros.
Anonymous said…
Mercury did not make the Breezeway until 1963.
Bruce Hotchkiss said…
Well Mr. Anonymous you'd be partially right. The '62 I owned did not have the Breezeway retractable window but a fixed reverse slant window. It was a Canadian model.

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