1985 Volkswagen Jetta Base (1.6 NA diesel)
Unreliable as fuck, slow, but it was my first car, damn it. And, I actually wanted this one - felt like running it on homemade biodiesel would be a better bet than a Geo Metro or Ford Festiva, and even back then, a CRX HF was as unobtainium as these.
I was wrong, but hey, I met some great friends along the way.
Fate: Crashed it three weeks after getting my license.
1988 Honda Civic DX
After crashing the Jetta, I needed something to get to work. So, a complete piece of shit $500 Civic. Burned lots of oil, the automatic wasn’t in great shape, and it was mostly iron oxide by volume, but hey, it got me to work.
Fate: I hated it, and didn’t need it any more, so... someone actually paid me slightly more than scrap value for this thing.
1986 Volkswagen Golf Diesel
This is one of the best pictures I can easily find of it, although it wasn’t actually fully assembled (grille missing) - this was a shell I got to swap my Jetta’s powertrain into.
Fate: Ultimately, though, I ended up giving up on it due to unreliability and just general suckitude, and it got parted out.
1992 Mazda Miata
This thing was really still beater-grade and I paid too much for it, but even then, it was probably the cheapest car to own that I’ve ever had, and outside of my Prius, definitely the most reliable. Salvage title, bad head gasket (and running on 3.5 cylinders), but still fun to beat the shit out of.
Fate: I was kinda getting tired of it and started looking for a TDI... and then the next day it lost its timing belt tensioner. I kept it for a while, but it was in bad enough shape that I decided to give up on it, and sold it to a scrap guy. He was talking about maybe actually keeping it and putting a V8 in it when he saw it, but it was late... I’m pretty sure come the next morning, he would have seen why to not put a V8 in it.
1999 Volkswagen New Golf GL TDI
This was going to be my first nice car. Quick, I’ll give it that - by the time I had RocketChip Stage 3, big injectors, and an 11 mm pump on it, it was hilarious to drive (and also not smooth) - but it wasn’t exactly nice. And, on my short commute, it just wasn’t doing well, especially in winter (with the legendary cold-bloodedness of the ALH, and then the blown heater core). And, I found that it was no Miata in the handling department, and the hype about the ND Miata caused me to get the itch to get a cheaper used Miata to replace it - I wasn’t worried about driving one in winter, after all...
Fate: Sold it to another TDI enthusiast who was on the bubble of fixing it or parting it out, and he ended up parting it out.
2000 Mazda Miata LS
...unfortunately, I got (what appeared at the time, anyway, to be) a nice Miata. That had never seen salt. And had 14k mi. (I mean, really, it was actually a decent one, but it had had a bad respray, and all of the leather degraded very rapidly once it was actually used.)
So, I ended up suffering through a winter with no heat in the Golf, to keep the Miata out of the salt. (Which actually wasn’t as bad as it sounds, because that thing didn’t warm up on my commute anyway.)
Also, I found on a 2000 mile roadtrip in the Miata that I really, really don’t like wind noise as much any more.
Fate: Sold to Carmax after I realized that I almost never drove it, and gave up on dealing with Craigslist tire-kickers
2016 Toyota Prius
So, the Miata that I bought was never really supposed to be the permanent solution - I was either going to replace it with a ND and then something utilitarian (realizing the Miata-only life, even though I’ve lived it, wasn’t really for me), or something new and efficient and keep the NB around as the fun car.
I warmed up to the idea of an electric of some kind (I’d have to ask to get a place to plug in, though, and I was unsure about whether that would be practical), and the Gen 2 Volt seemed promising, based on reviews, and the specs. There were whispers that the Gen 4 Prius was actually not bad, and there was a Prime version coming that would have enough range, and more efficiency than the Volt. And, the Model 3 was about to be announced.
But, I didn’t want to go through another winter with the Golf, or put the Miata through a winter... so it was really down to a Volt or maybe a Prius Prime. The local Toyota dealer was near work, so I decided to test drive a Prius... and, wait, this is actually... good? What the fuck? And that feeling that the Prius was good persisted even after I got back in the Miata to drive home? What the actual fuck?
...the next day, I test drove a Volt. Yeah, I was probably 2 miles into the test drive, and I knew I was not going to buy a Volt, ever - suspension tuning was all wrong to the point of inducing nausea, outward visibility was worse than in my Miata, and the interior ergonomics were somehow off.
For shits and grins, that weekend, I drove a Model S, too... and I mean, it wasn’t bad, but really, I probably wasn’t getting a Model 3, I knew all about Elon time (and I didn’t know that it was going to be a sedan, instead of a liftback) - for that matter, the config I’d want if I were getting one isn’t out yet (LR RWD without premium interior, because I prefer cloth interiors), about two years after I wanted my Golf replaced.
So, I ended up buying a Prius. That happened.
And then I found that it was good enough that I wasn’t driving the Miata. Is it as nimble? No, but it’s far, far closer than my Mk4 Golf ever was, while literally consuming half of the fuel of the Miata. (What scares me is that I almost don’t miss manual transmissions (although a couple weeks ago I did “downshift into second” in the Prius...))
Fate: It’s my only car now.
2007 Honda Helix
I figured I should get some fun open-air replacement for the Miata, and this is what I decided on - I was licensed for a motorcycle after taking a MSF class years ago, after all. And, more efficient than the Prius even, let alone the Miata - maybe use it as a sunny day driver?
Fate: I, uh, haven’t actually ridden it since buying it, it’s been in my storage unit...