NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

August 29, 2013

How many cars have you owned?

As I See It
Tim Fowler

---- — Every Thursday night a group of us gather for “Thirsty Thursday” at the house of a longtime friend, affectionately know as “Gram Haley,” for finger food and libations.

As you would expect when a small crowd gathers, many topics of discussion arise, from world events, local politics, sports, boating and sometimes even reminiscing about the days of our youth and the things we “got away with,” being mindful that a few younger ears are hanging on every word.

Well, this week was no exception, but somehow the conversation with the men got around to counting up all our vehicles we’ve owned since having a license.

I have to admit that it was a nice walk down “mechanics row” to remember all the classic ones and the clunkers that I sank what seemed to be a life savings into.

I guess we all have looked in that rear-view mirror with regrets and uttered, “If I only knew then what I know now.”

My first was a classic in its day. A 1962 red and white Olds Jetfire that I bought from my cousin Wendall for $50. It had very high mileage and was OK for around-town driving, but it met its demise when four of us attempted a ski trip to Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley, Maine.

Needless to say, it was not up to the task. It made it as far as Ogunquit before the engine started to knock. We managed to limp off the highway and back to Kittery before it finally gave its last knock.

No. 2 was a 1965 Plymouth Fury III with a slant six engine. People my age and older will attest to the reliability of this proven machine. This time we made it to Saddleback! In fact, when we got up in the morning and found the temperature around 12 below, my friends’ parents’ car, a brand new VW Super Beetle, failed to start, so we hitched the battery cables from the old, that fired up with the first turn of the key, to the new and bingo!

No. 3 was a 1963 VW Bug I bought off my friend’s father. 32 mph and gas was 33 cents a gallon (can you imagine that?). I threw in a dollar’s worth of gas and I was golden for the week.

The fourth was also a classic in its day. A turquoise green 1965 Plymouth Sport Satellite, with a 383- cubic-inch motor that had 325 horses under the hood. I had a lot of fun with that one. Also gave me my first speeding ticket!

No. 5 was the one I wish I still had to this day. A candy-apple red 1969 Ford Galaxy Convertible. That vehicle was a pleasure to drive. It had a ton of room in the front seat. It was like sitting in your living room.

No. 6 was a 1974 Olds 442 convertible. I seem to have been going through a “soft top” stage for a bit?

No. 7 was a 1971 Scout “two-seat” hard top. It could push snow for such a small vehicle, but Scouts were known for rusty bodies. It was also old and I was constantly working on this one to keep it alive.

My friends got a kick out of one of my troubled weeks with the Scout and as the story goes, I drove to the drive-up window to cash my paycheck. The teller handed me the envelope and pleasantly wished me a “nice day.” My flustered response was, “That’s easy for you to say? You don’t own a Scout!”

No. 8 was a 1978 Chevy K-20 pickup that I bought from Volpone Ford back in 1979.

This one was a real workhorse. Many times I pulled other trucks out of snowbanks while mine seemed to be unstoppable! I got all my worth from this one as I drove it until it could drive no more.

No. 9 was a turquoise and silver 1996 Chevy Z-74, figuring I had great luck with the previous Chevy. It came stock with a five-speed stick. I put some dual exhausts on it, which gave it a nice “bark,” as they say.

It was also a fun vehicle to drive. I didn’t want to give up on it, but things started to go wrong. Dashlights began to fade, the gas gauge didn’t read correctly and, once again, New England’s salty winter roads took its toll on the body.

And finally No. 10, which is my current 2002 GMC Sierra extended cab. Probably one of the better riding trucks I’ve owned. It’s nice to have the extra room in a truck, but I find that it’s just too easy to throw stuff in the back.

So there you have it, folks. I got my license in 1970 and have had 10 vehicles in 43 years. What’s that average out to?... one vehicle about every four years?

I’ve never bought a brand-new vehicle, so I guess Detroit’s present financial debacle must be on the shoulders of people like me, huh?

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Tim Fowler lives in Newbury.