Once, I sat down with my dad and asked him about all the cars he’s owned…
I’ve never really thought of my dad as being a gearhead. At least not a practicing one, anyway. I know he used to enjoy bodywork; building floating grilles or losing the chrome altogether, maybe getting together with the fellas to do a re-spray or even channel a sled or two, but aside from passing mention of some of his past automotive pursuits or vehicles, I can only guess. The other night, I sat down for dinner with my dad and asked him to tell me about his cars.
Note: The pictures here are not the actual cars my dad owned, but they are the closest I could find via Google based on his descriptions. I wanted to get an idea what they were and looked like.
1928 Ford Model A – black
He was 15, it was closer to 30. Bought for $50 (paid for with two $25 savings bonds), Dad borrowed $5 from his dad to cover tax, title and license. He told me there was this little tube on the radiator which floated or spun a dial depending on how fast the car was moving – this was the speedometer. One day, on the way to his dad’s farm south of Hutchinson, Kansas, he accidentally put his elbow through the driver’s window. Since it wasn’t safety glass, he got cut up pretty badly. Upon reaching the farm, grandfather (who I never met, by the way) told him his buggy would be staying on the farm as a work vehicle because it wasn’t safe. They turned it into a flatbed or something.
1936 Ford 2-Door Sedan – black
At 16, Dad ran away from home. Well, he drove away – in his 36 2-Door Sedan. Considering all the buzz in recent years surrounding the likes of manufacturers trying to sell us 4-door “coupes,” I wanted to know why this 2-door was called a “sedan.” As it turns out, coupes of this time period probably had a “rumble seat” out back. The 2-Door Coupe actually had the backseat inside the cabin. Something we take for granted today, ya know?
En route to Sterling, Colorado, with a friend they encountered road construction. As they were pulled off the side of the road, a dump truck pulled out behind them and proceeded to back up, pushing the rear of the car into a bulldozer. Damage to the Ford appeared minimal, but it turned out the exhaust got bent nearly closed. By the time they pulled into Sterling – at 5mph – the engine had enough and gave up the ghost.
1949 Ford V8 – lime green
Dad didn’t have much to say about this one, except that it was lime green. “After the war,” he said, “people didn’t want any more of those old, black cars.”
1950 Chevy Business Coupe – Cream over Robin Egg Blue (could only find black)
What’s this? Not a Ford? A couple years after running away to Colorado (where he stayed in high school and worked nights as a bellhop), Dad went back home to Kansas. The Chevy was his mom’s car. What made it a “Business Coupe?” There was no backseat. A door folded down, giving access to the trunk so traveling salesmen could access their samples and whatnot without getting out of the car. Dad tells me it was also an excellent place to fool around with the ladies.
1954 Hudson Jetliner – Cream over Robin Egg Blue
Dad liked the color scheme on the Chevy so much, he had his Hudson painted the same scheme. When he was done with it, it had pleated, blue & cream leather interior, an 18″ rear bumper extension with a continental spare kit, and a 15 foot antenna.
1957 Ford Fairlane 500 – black
Pretty damn gangster.
1962 Plymouth – “puke, beige”
Dad said this car “was a POS, but it had AC.” I didn’t catch if it was a Valiant like the one pictured above, but I just did a quick search for a beige POS ’62 Plymouth.
1969 Ford Fairlane 500 – Gunmetal Blue
Dad’s first NEW car. Lasted a long time, kept it for 80,000 miles. This one was spotted at a Canadian flea market in September 2011. I like the color and the lines of this one.
1973 Honda CVCC – brown
Clearly, my dad’s 73 CVCC looked very little like the one above, but it’s so seldom we get to see a done-up first gen Civic, I couldn’t resist when I saw this one. Bought new, Dad’s Civic quickly rusted out. Fortunately, Honda sent checks out to owners with this problem, which Dad used to replace the hood and fenders, and get the whole thing painted black.
?? Dodge Omni – blue
Is the Omni pictures a GLH? I don’t know, but it’s a 4-door and the color looks about how I remember it. Dad had this one less than a month before the transmission went out on it. Took it back to the dealership and got a K Car. (Worth mentioning, I learned to drive stickshift in one of these things, though the more Daytona-looking version.)
?? Plymouth Reliant K – blue
Aw yeah! Special K! Technically, this was Mom’s car. It was a dark blue with a tan, vinyl Landau top. One night, somewhere between Seattle and El Paso, we ended up getting side-swiped by a semi trailer as the trucker lost control and jack-knifed on an icy highway somewhere in Wyoming. The K car ended up in the ditch, but was surprisingly intact.
1977 Dodge Tradesman 200 – plum
This thing was epic. When Dad started this thing in the morning to go to work, everyone in the neighborhood knew about it. Classic Mopar 360ci V8 with chrome side pipes and Cragar SS wheels, it would be called a “pedo-van” today, but it was just a simple, badass van back then.
Chevy Chevelle – red
Dad told me it was a 63, but I definitely remember the twin round tail lights and washing machine-looking wheels. He bought his Chevelle from the guy across the street for $600. It was awesome, but he flipped it a couple months later for a couple bucks.
1986 Toyota Hilux – red
We’d never make it to the magnetic North Pole in a stripped-down, base model Hilux, but damn did Dad love his little red ‘Yota. He had a rear bumper, passenger side mirror, and tape deck installed, and drove the piss out of the little pick-em-up truck that could. Something very special about the Hilux that the newer Tacoma just doesn’t have.
198? Chevy Conversion Van – beige
Dad traded the Hilux in on a brand new conversion van not unlike the one pictured above. Somewhere in the house, there’s a picture of my dad in his Class A uniform standing next to his van the day he graduated from the Sergeant Majors Academy in El Paso.
In an ironic twist of fate, we moved to Detroit, Michigan, and the van was stolen the second night we were there.
1988 Toyota Hilux “Custom Cab” – white
Good news though. With the van gone and cash-in-hand, Dad picked up a brand new, Toyota Hilux Custom Cab. It was white, 2WD, and awesome. Dad bought this one new, had it shipped to Germany when we moved there, and it ended up driving to France and Switzerland, among other places. Then it got shipped back to Long Island, New York, and finally ended up in Kansas.
In 1997, I loaded up four friends in it and drove from Wichita, Kansas, all the way to San Antonio, Texas, to attend a friend’s graduation from Air Force basic training. Great truck. Probably still someone’s daily driver.
1991 Ford Sierra – red
While we lived in Germany, Dad had a company car. It was a bright red Ford Sierra. NOT a Cossie by any means, but it was still pretty nice. Whenever Dad would pick me up for lunch at school, we’d race ahead of everyone walking over onto base to grab something at the food court or zip down the street to “Wolf’s Steak Stube” for a grilled steak ‘n’ onion hoagie.
1987 Buick Somerset Regal
At some point around there, Dad got Mom a Buick Somerset Regal. It had a cool, digital dashboard. It had a smooth ride. It had an engine that sounded like a washing machine full of empty beer cans.
1980 Audi 80
This is pretty much the car I learned to drive in. Ours was a pale, barely shiny yellow, with a peuse green interior. German Domestic Market, it had no AC and a radio with a dial and push-button presets. Interestingly enough, though GDM, it was an automatic – somewhat rare.
I ripped the rear bumper off one night pulling into a tight garage and, before we moved back Stateside, it had developed serious motor/transmission mount issues, causing the entire rear end of the car to crank up or down when shifted into reverse and then drive. Still, I was 15 years old and driving in Germany.
1990 Plymouth Sundance
Dad still had the Custom Cab, but now that we were back in the States, Mom needed a new car. She got a Sundance. Remember the Dodge Shadow? The Shelby CSX? This was nothing like those cars. It was an economical commuter car with a 3-speed automatic.
My fondest memories of this car involve seeing country mailboxes pass by the windshield as we did slow, Scandinavian Flicks through the country. It was like sisu but with none of the honor.
1998 Plymouth Neon
I graduated from high school in 1995, found out my 88 Grand Prix was paid off (thanks Mom & Dad), and sold it. I used the money to buy Mom’s Sundance, which I traded in on my 1997 Eagle Talon. Mom & Dad used the money to buy Mom a new 98 Plymouth Neon Expresso.
I don’t care what anyone says – the first gen Neon was an awesome car. They make for great race cars, too.
Sadly, the Neon was stolen after a couple years in Phoenix. The police recovered it, Dad bought it back, and then it was stolen again. In the end, due to some paperwork mistakes with the insurance company, Dad got a total of like $5,000 after buy-back on his now 10 year old Neon.
1979 Toyota Corona
Dad used some of the money from the final payout on the Neon to buy himself a decently maintained Toyota Corona. What a neat car this was! Same 22R engine the Hilux(es) had, 5-speed manual, and rear-wheel drive. It had all kinds of bells and whistles (that no longer worked), and the paint job was a little sketch, but it’s the only Corona I’ve ever seen in person.
Sadly, the Corona puked its head gasket in a Wal-mart parking lot one night. Dad sold it to the tow truck driver and never looked back.
2004 Chevy Cavalier
Today, Dad’s driving a Cavalier pretty much identical to the one above. He tells me he likes it, though I kinda wish we could have found him another Neon or Hilux. I’ve asked him if he’s thought of getting a picture of this thing tattooed on his arm, but he didn’t get the joke. (Whew!)
So there you have it, all my dad’s cars, more or less in order.
I had found myself thinking about how cool it is that our love for all things automotive brings us together online – from all over the world – but our cars can also bring us together right here at home, too. Have you ever thought about building one of the cars your mom or dad owned when they were your age?
I’m thinking I’d really like to build a ’54 Hudson Jetliner one day…