Auto-Biography of another Oppo

Like Steve, I like the idea of the automotive trip down memory lane, rather than the ranking of cars. So I am going to flatter him with imitation, and provide my automotive history to the delight of no one, but because I’ve been thinking about it, and finally got back to finishing this:

Not our car, but very similar . . . imagine the paint more faded.

1. 1980 Saab 900 (Auto)

I shared this Saab 900 with my two brothers as we made our ways through high school and college years. Not a turbo. Glacial pickup, slipping auto transmission, drooping headliner that we eventually tore off, and a faded orange color that was not all the rage among teenage peers. It kept us generally mobile, and by good fortune we rarely were in competition for the car. Some fun road trips, separately and together.


In the last year or two that we had it, the windshield fluid jets stopped working. I vividly remember that on some drives, in order to wipe the thin layer of crud off the windshield I had to follow vehicles actively kicking up grimy snow melt - which added to the crud if it dried out. Built character.

2. 1984 Volvo 740 Turbo (Auto)


A nice sedan handed down from my parents with good performance that I could use for long trips in college, and carting friends around locally. Generally well-behaved until one painful winter trip when the alternator died on the highway . . . and I learned the difference between needing to get the battery jumped and actually needing to call a tow truck because the alternator had to be replaced. On a holiday. In the middle of rural Ohio.


Soon after that experience I invested my meager student cash flow in a new-fangled gadget called a “cell phone.” That came in handy two months before college graduation when the in-tank fuel pump died. I correctly estimated that the car was worth less than the repair, and the Volvo dealership helpfully referred me to a junk yard that would buy it from me. The guy offered me $250 for the car, then when I went to sign over the title, would only give me $200, because he was shocked to find that the car still had the original turbo with over 200,000 miles (I think it was 215,000 when I pulled the plug).


3. 1993 Acura Integra GS (Manual)

I was okay letting go of the Volvo because I had already landed a job and had started part-time prior to college graduation, so I had credit! I was looking for an Integra, intending to get a used 1994 or newer, when I found this 1993 with about 40,000 miles on it. So much fun, yet economical. Loved the space inside for a small car, and the useful hatchback. My mountain bike fit nicely in the back with the front wheel removed. Fun to drive, and I finally had a stick-shift!


It really upset me when, a year after buying it, I got rear-ended on the highway and pushed under the Ford Ranger in front of me. It got straightened out (literally) and it was still a car that made me happy.

I put another 40,000 miles on it, and I kind of wish I had held on to it. Such a nice road feel, easily tossable . . . but, yes, front wheel drive.


I (fortunately) never got around to my ideas of fancy wheels, lowering springs, or aero kit, but I had the distinct impression that the young guy I sold it to fully intended to realize that vision.

In action with a pallet of sod in the bed

4. 2001 Ford Ranger XLT (4.0L V6/auto)


Because I was working in construction at the time, rehabbing a home, and still thought I was an active mountain biker (which was rapidly becoming less true) I bought a truck as my first new vehicle.


I got heavy duty springs on the Ranger with the package, because I specified the high output engine with 2-wheel drive and the auto (trying to accommodate my new wife with the auto, because even though she knew how to drive a manual, she didn’t like to). The truck could carry a good load for a little extended cab as a result.

Unfortunately this meant that the ride was not good when it was not loaded - which was most of the time. Straight-line was fun, but no handling. The limited slip differential that I specified helped a lot in the snow, but if I hadn’t moved south in 2005, I was about to get something all-wheel drive.


Fuel economy was reasonable, averaging about 18 miles per gallon, but as time went on and cars (and trucks) became more efficient, I was irritated by the fuel economy. Especially because as time went on I did not need a truck as often. It held up well for over 150,000 miles, until I traded it in for . . .


5. 2011 Toyota Prius (hybrid/CVT)


My main interest for this purchase of a Prius hybrid was to maximize interior space in relationship to miles per gallon, and I got exactly what I hoped for. Great when stuck in traffic and not burning fuel. Lots of room for people (no more suicide door access to the back seat like with the Ranger, woo-hoo!) and stuff, with a nice hatchback that meant it made a reasonable truck substitute.


But pretty quickly I grew to really dislike the seating position, the brake feel (regenerative braking kicks in, making it not linear), the road noise, and it almost magically made me want to drive sloooower. It was almost a peaceful thing, spell-binding, really.

The fuel economy that so convinced me to buy it dropped from an average of 49 miles per gallon to 46 miles per gallon when I put new tires on it that were not the OEM low-resistance ones (but which were very similar). That irritated me, even though I knew that percentage-wise it was not much of a change, and I was still getting great economy compared to the comparable non-hybrid.


I stuck it out and made good use of the car for over 75,000 miles until I traded that for . . .

Tail of the Dragon . . . not bothering with driving a Prius there

6. 2016 VW GTI (2.0T, DSG auto, performance package, lighting package, DCC adjustable suspension)


What can I say. The GTI is a great compromise for what I want right now in a daily driver. With time, my left knee has begun to object to heavy clutches, and I spend time crawling in traffic regularly, so I got another auto. But the car handles incredibly well, has enough power to make me grin, still can carry somewhat bulky objects, dog can easily go in the backseat, and I can carry people if I want to. And I am very satisfied with the fuel economy, averaging around 29 MPG. I feel like I have almost the best of all worlds.



But I still sometimes would like a nice light car with a stick shift and rear wheel drive for pure fun as a second car, since like so many on Oppositelock I can never be completely automotively satisfied with any one car. Of course.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter