My late father had an interesting car history. Like most everybody, his cars changed to suit his needs and his budget as he progressed through life.
Easily the most awesome car he owned was a 1966 Austin Healey 3000 Mk III in (what else?) British Racing Green. So you like Miatas? Of course you like Miatas. Everybody likes Miatas. It is, in fact, the law to like Miatas. Well this (and other British roadsters like it) is the ur-Miata, the original article.
Image credits: (Top) classiccargarage.com, (Above) Mark Vorgers
It’s such a tiny, light little thing, with a curb weight of 2,500 lbs., and yet this was considered one of the “big” Healeys. A classic Front-Rear layout powered by a 2.9L inline six, this classic roadster was quite the speedster in its day, though obviously not fast by today’s standards.
My dad’s first car was the now-famous 1949 Mercury 8 Coupe. Determined to leave his parents house after highschool at 18-19, he put off college and got a job as a travelling home audio salesman. He bought the car used (in 1953-4) and it took him all over Ontario, a province the size of France and Germany combined.
Image Credit: Street Rodder Magazine
His second car was another one destined to become famous, a ‘55 Chevy. As he had gotten another, better-paying full-time job, it became possible to buy A Brand New Car. The Chevy got him through college, as he had decided to get some schooling (engineering, specifically) to improve his lot in life.
After college, in the early 1960’s, the economy was doing well and there were lot of engineering jobs. It was clearly time to retire the Chevy and get a new car.
The Mustang was a famously successful car when it was launched. My dad was one of the many who were taken with it, buying it in its first year of production in 1964. But I suppose it was a short-lived affair, because a couple years later he bought the Healey.
At this point my dad, now married to my mother, was looking to buy a house. And there was this schoolteacher who lived in the neighborhood that constantly bugged my dad to sell him his Healey. Notes on the dash, ambushes in the street, the lot. So my dad did, reluctantly, and used the proceeds (he sold it for close to what he paid for it, about $2500) as a down-payment on the house I would later grow up in.
He still needed a car, and wanted something a little...less primitive. If you can believe it, he DD’d the Healey year-round, and found, unsurprisingly, that the tiny heater and canvas roof made for a cold ride. Not to mention a light RWD car riding on primitive 1960’s era skinny tires wasn’t exactly the greatest in the snow. So he made a more modern, practical choice and got a 1974 Camaro RS. Some people come down very hard on one side or the other of the Mustang vs Camaro question, but my dad could have cared less about that. This Camaro, incidentally, is the first car I rode in, as I arrived on the scene not long after he purchased the car.
Hence his next car. There comes a time in a man’s life when he must stop driving an Austin Healy and start driving a 1979 Dodge Aspen “Volare” station wagon. He kept this malaise boat for only 2 years and traded it in for another, slightly less-worse malaise boat, a 1981 Buick Century wagon.
The mid-eighties arrive and in my child-like innocence I try to convince my dad to get a Chrysler Minivan, because they were so cool and all the cool kids (parent’s) had them. Or maybe! We could get a Jeep Cherokee?!? Jeeps are awesome!
Nope. Instead he buys a 1986 Buick Century. This eventually became my first car when I was 18-19. Good times with her. A lesson here for you younger Oppos: your first car can still be your parents hand-me-down lamemobile, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with it. Naturally I hooned the shit out of it, despite its FWD layout, 2.6L weaksauce V6 and rear-drums. Made many cottage runs to friends places in this car, including one epic run where I carried 7 people (six on the benches, 1 in the jump-seat).
But do not despair if you believe that my dad was doomed to driving boring cars for the rest of his life.
You’re a grown-up family man but who says you can’t be that and have a sports-car? What if someone were to make a...four door sports-car?!? Powered by the same motor that was in the 300Z, the 1992 Nissan Maxima SE was the first performance-oriented car I drove and was, obviously, just a little better than my old Buick. Curiously, despite the return to performance he didn’t get it in a stick. Unfortunately I didn’t get this car as a hand-me-down because he couldn’t afford to really give it to me: he had driven it little (being semi-retired at this point) and since he took care of his cars it was in mint condition. Thus its trade-in value was too high to pass up.
He was originally going to get the Volvo S90. I eagerly offered to test drive one and report back to him. The dealer, who was busy doing other things at the time, just let me take it out by myself. Whoo-ee. RWD turbo sweedish meatballs oh yess. My dad had an eye on an “executive demo” model which I was wary of, but wtf did I know? The demo was buggy and he actually returned it in a few days. Couldn’t nail down a good deal on another S90, and, rather unfortunately, got the FWD S70. By this point in my life I’d driven older Audis, Bimmers and Mercs but this was the first brand-new European sedan I’ve driven, and I saw why people pay a premium for a new Euro saloon.
And so we come to his last car, upon which he rode off into the sunset. If we think of the typical last car a man might own, we might think Buick LeSabre, or Mercury Grand Marquis.
I suppose my dad wasn’t your typical man, then.
It gets more a-typical, because he only bought the 2004 Mini Cooper S is for two reasons: it fit into the stupidly narrow garage, and my mom liked the color (pictured above, minus the racing stripes). That color was only available on the Cooper S, so that’s what my dad got (he would probably have been happy with the base Cooper).
I wonder what he’d think of my Acura TL. Sadly he didn’t live to see me be able to buy it.
Thanks for reading! I always like hearing about people’s car histories, hopefully you enjoyed my dad’s.