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The Way We Were - Big Chris

While I haven't had a list of tremedous vehicles I've driven, what I lack in quality I make up for in quantity.

My first two cars were Toyota Corollas.  I started with a 1979 in white with 4 doors and a 5-speed manual.  We got this from some relatives and my parents drove it for a year or so before I was old enough to drive.  Unfortunately, I don't own photos of most of my vehicles (or most of my childhood).  We didn't own a camera most of my life (crazy huh?) and it just was never a concern of mine to document these sorts of things.  The '79 was a great learner car.  It was a stick, and it was slow.  So I got good experience but was limited in how quickly I could do stupid things.  Eventually the clutch cable broke, and the car wasn't worth fixing with some of the other issues that began to crop up with it.

The second Corolla was a dirt brown 1978 2-door with the automatic transmission (was previously my grandparent's car).  The only option it had was a rear window defroster.  Both Corollas were glorified beer cans with wheels.  I give thanks I was never in an accident in them.  The only claim to fame for the brown car was that we sold it with nearly 300K on it for something like $500.  The body was shot, everything mechanical worked, but barely.  Suspension was laughable.  But 4 years later the same guy who bought it was driving it around town still.  You just couldn't kill it.  A cockroach of cars.

The next car I got was a 1984 VW Rabbit.  4 doors, tan everywhere, and epically slow.  My first front wheel drive car and my first hatchback.  It was as uninspiring as a car could get, but it served me well until the distributor broke off in the motor.  I regularly ferried about a half ton of offensive linemen home after football practice in this little car.  Rear bumper just barely above rubbing pavement.  Imagine three linemen in the back seat of a VW Rabbit.  Yeah.

Bob

I technically wasn't the driver of the Rabbit when it died.  My mother had been driving a burnt orange 1975 Chevy Impala (I later named BOB), but she hated this boat of a car.  So late Fall of my junior year of high school I swapped with her the Impala for the Rabbit.  It was a good trade. The Impala had come to us from my great-grandmother.  She had driven it for many years, but never put many miles on it.  Since she was widowed, the interior was pristine when we got it as a family.  It became our do-it-all car, pulling trailers, running handfuls of friends to sports practices etc.  When I got it we had already rebuilt the 350 once, and added air shocks out back.  I drove this Impala for the remainder of High School and the first 2.5 years of college.  It took me on some epic road trips, one of which was a non-stop drive from Cimarron, NM, to Sioux Falls, SD, with only me at the wheel.  Dual bench seats, and a trunk large enough for a mafia family.  The ride and handling could only be described as distant and floaty.  But it was an amazing car for piling in friends or gear.  I will forever be a fan of Impalas because of Bob.  Before we sold the body of BOB to a guy for a demolition derby car, we pulled the motor.  That motor still sits in my parents' garage awaiting a home.

Valentine's week 1995 I purchased The Homer - a 1988 Chevy S-10 with Tahoe package, extended cab, 4-wheel drive, topper, bed liner, sun visor and bug deflector.  It was decked out.  I owned Homer from 1995 until just this past Fall, 2012.  Homer made two trips to New Mexico from South Dakota, and another handful to Colorado as well.  I put a valve through a piston on Thanksgiving day 1999, and put in a new 4.3L crate motor that next spring.  Other than the transmission, I don't think there was a part on the truck I didn't fix or replace at one point or another.  It was a money pit, but it was my money pit.  It still pains me that I had to send it to the scrap yard.

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My first job out of college included a company car because I was driving 40-65,000 miles a year, and paying me mileage for that amount would've been incredibly costly.  I started with the worst single car I suspect I'll ever experience - a 1995 Ford Tempo.  It was a lemon from the factory, and I inherited it from a co-worker who chain smoked while dipping tobacco simultaniously.  So there was chew drippings everywhere, the incredible stench of stale Camels, and smoke haze on the windows so thick I had to use a razor blade to scrape it off when I got the car.  This co-worker was also a large man, so the seat was shot, and he was a fan of fast food, so what wasn't stained with chew or burned with cigarette burns, had various condiment stains on it.  At least that's what I hope those stains were.  This car spent as much time not running as running.  It was terrible.  I wouldn't wish a Tempo on my enemies.

I then briefly drove a 1996 Chevy Cavalier.  It was so non-descript that other than knowing I drove it, I have nothing to say about it.  It was during the Cavalier that I was able to order my first new company car - a 1998 Dodge Stratus.  Forrest Green with Tan interior, and I opted to pay extra out of pocket for the larger 4-cylinder engine.  I loved the Stratus.  It ran well, handled consistently, was quiet, comfortable, and reliable.  Outside of hitting animals with it (primarily phesants since I lived in Central South Dakota) it never had anything go wrong with it.  It was a Dodge I'd own again.  And that's saying something.

When it was time to sell the Stratus, I inhereted another co-worker's car. This time a 1998 Ford Contour.  This wasn't a bad car other than the smell.  My co-worker had left about 10lbs of steak in the trunk one hot summer day. That day turned into a week before he went back out to the car and realized what he had done.  By then, you can imagine what had happened.  His solution was to just drive with the windows down a bit.  That was unacceptable for me.  So after about a week's worth of work, I was able to get *most* of the dead body smell out of the car.  But it never fully went away.

A 2001 Ford Focus in a beautiful deep blue replaced the Contour.  I was skeptical of the Focus, but it turned out to be a really good car.  For an entry level car it was well equipped, and there wasn't anything specifically I could complain about on it.  While it wasn't remarkable in any way, it was functional.  It was a tool that did it's job well, and sometimes that is enough.

When I left that career to go to seminary I had to turn the Focus in, and it was then that The Homer became my daily driver once again.  When I got my first job in ministry and was commuting 180 miles to my church, my brother loaned me his 1994 Honda Accord.  Not a bad car, though it was pretty worn out by the time I got it.  It ran reliably, and got FAR better gas mileage than my old truck did.  Once we moved to the town where my church is, I gave the car back to my brother, and returned to driving my truck.  

Van

This worked fine until we were expecting our son.  The S-10 while being an extended cab truck is effectively a 2-seater.  And infants shouldn't ride in the front seat. So my father-in-law, who was in the market for a new minivan, gave us his old one.  A 2001 Dodge Caravan.  When we got it, it was on its third transmission, and that transmission never really inspired any confidence either.  The list of things I fixed on it is the length of my arm.  I techinically still own the van, but haven't driven it since this past Easter.  To its credit, the van is the most comfortable and most utilitarian vehicle I've ever owned.  Pull the bench seats out and you can throw an amazing amount of stuff in the back.  With the 3.8L V-6 it has a lot of power and tows quite well.  I was not a fan of minivans prior to owning this one, but would own one again.

My final (current) vehicle is a 1995 Ford Ranger.  My parents gave this to me this past Easter as it was just sitting in the garage going to waste with them.  They have an F-150 and two Honda Accords, so the Ranger just wasn't going to be used.  With my van on its last legs, they gave it to me to use. And at Christmas they gave me the title as well, so now I own it.  It is as bare bones as it can get, and eventually I'll do a full write up for it here at Car Lust.  Thus far, other than it being far smaller than I'd like, I'm quite pleased with it.

I've left off the list most of the motorcycles I've had, but will point you to the 1982 Honda Goldwing that I currently ride as the tip of that iceberg.

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--Big Chris

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I really like the first Chevy S-10s. Hopefully next year's Colorado will be a worthy successor. The first indications seem to point that way.

Trivial I know, but I always thought the last year for the Tempo was 1994 (if memory serves, its replacement Contour came out in 95), but it might have been available in 95 as a fleet model.

My only firsthand experience with a Tempo was that it was my driver's ed car in high school, a brand new 85 model, and I felt privileged to be one of the first students to be able to drive it (only had about 300 miles on it), and it was the first "new" car I'd ever gotten to drive. Yeah I know, a motorhead like me getting excited over a Ford Tempo just doesn't seem right, but hey, I was only 17 at the time...

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