With a second ice storm in Austin sandwiched around a gorgeous, 75-degree weekend, I am happily stuck here at home again and it's time to finally make use of the Opponaut status I requested back in November of 2013. Not really sure where to start but you have to start somewhere. I guess I don't have to worry about boring people since no one is going to read this anyway, and it's as much of a way to get myself back into writing as to talk about cars in the first place.
As you can tell by my screen name, I am a latecomer to the party. I didn't grow up helping dad wrench on the cars, or lusting after Porsches or Corvettes or whatever. Cars were both a way to get where you needed to be and something to hate, because they cost the family money we didn't have. To be quite honest, I was raised in very modest circumstances so nice/expensive/fancy cars were just not something that registered. I mean sure, I thought Countaches were badass just like every other young male in the 80's, but my family was driving malaise-era GM products and an old Bug with a massive rotted out hole in the back floorboard—perfect for a couple with three kids! Needless to say, these machines did not lead to any kind of fascination or obsession on my part.
The first car that registers in my memory was a hand-me-down to my parents...this guy:
Actual car not pictured, but it was the same color. I don't remember much about it other than being embarrassed about how crappy it seemed by comparison to my friends' parent's cars.
Next was the 1984 Pontiac Bonneville:
Ours was white, with a brown tonneau cover. Again, pretty forgettable other than an increased sense of embarrassment as we drove this heap until 1994, when I was a freshman in high school. The two biggest things that stick out about it: 1) it had a 5.0 v-8 (malaise-era, but still) and 2) my brother smashing into a tree late one night just a few hours after getting his license while doing donuts at a local campground. This jackass move on his part necessitated the purchase of my family's first-ever brand-new car: a Saturn SL-1 in maroon:
I remember that it was so bare-bones my mom didn't even opt for floor mats when she took delivery. In any case, I was so proud to be driven around in this thing that was actually from the current decade. It was ungodly slow with just 85hp, plasticky and cheap, and outdated the day we bought it, but on the plus side it was a five speed and I learned to drive stick in it. In any case, I really never had my own car in high school, hence the screen name "heycanigetaride", and neither did my brother, so with 16 & 17 year-old boys sharing this car, we drove. the. SHIT. out of this thing.
I bought myself a 1995 Wrangler a couple of years into college, which was just a big mistake as it was a 4-cylinder with no A/C. In Austin. It's not really worth mentioning beyond that.
Anyway, that pretty much explains why I had no interest in cars. With a lineup like that, who would? Also add to that the fact that my dad can do nothing beyond change a tire and maybe jump a battery, and the love just wasn't there.
So what brought me to Jalopnik? Way back in 2008, I was making shit money as teacher's aide and trying to stretch my oil changes out. Finally the local Brake Specialists decided to stop honoring the teacher discount card they provided and I just couldn't believe a 15-minute oil change should cost $35. So I borrowed my neighbor's ramps and bought some oil and a filter and my first ratchet and exactly one socket and the rest is history. I had been a long-time reader of Deadspin, and saw a cross-post about changing your oil or easy car maintenance or some such.
In the years since, I have moved on to such difficult, complicated repair jobs as changing a thermostat and oil pressure gauge, changing spark plugs, replacing a valve cover gasket, changing pads and rotors, replacing O2 sensors, and coolant flush and replacement (yes, the first part of that sentence is sarcastic). The crown jewel of my amateur repairs, though, is still when I single-handedly pulled the transmission out of my Mazda last fall when the clutch went. Unfortunately I had to call in the local shade tree to replace it when my shoulder was dislocated before I could finish the job.
While any real car guy probably gets a laugh out of hearing someone get excited about these little piss-ant repairs, it's been this journey of learning about and working on cars that has converted me into a jalop. I have two old, cheap cars with 320,000 miles and 26 years between them, so I get a lot of practice, but it's great fun. It started as a money-saving venture, and has since morphed into a genuine interest in and love for cars. I still hate those malaise-era GM's, though. Damn. Still an embarrassment 25 years later.
Anyway, that's about as short of an introduction as I can make. My writing is obviously quite rusty, but hopefully that will change with more posts. There is also another part to the story of my conversion to jalopnik: my father-in-law. But I will save that crazy south Texas chingadero for the next post, and it will include pictures of his classic cars to make up for all the ones in this post.
Lastly, if you are still reading at this point...thanks. Again, I'm not sure where exactly this is headed, but I know that I enjoy "wasting" a lot of time clicking through Jalopnik and Oppo and at some point it seemed right to join in on the fun.