My Cars

2014 Nissan Rogue

I just bought it so there is not much to say except the Ranger nightmares are over.  The NIssan Rogue is expensive but worth every dime so far.

2008 Ford Ranger

Rather than belabor my problems and joy with various automobiles inline with my personal history, I decided to lay the car descriptions out here.  The 2008 Ford Ranger is so bad that I created its own web page.

1967 Dodge Coronet 440

My first car.  I was working at Chrysler Corporation in Detroit and I needed a car.  Taking the bus in Detroit is not a responsible thing to do – especially with my hours.  I started calling around.  I hate those old 6-button phones.  You had no privacy.  The entire office had lines that anyone can just push the button and listen in on.

I called various dealers and found no one would give me a discount just because I worked at Chrysler.  Almost no one.  A Chevrolet dealer would give me 20% just to get one of his nice new Chevrolets into the Chrysler corporate parking lot.  My second line called me into his office and said not a chance – Chrysler product or hit the highway.

I could not afford a new one at the going rates.  I found a dealer (on the recommendation of a co-worker) who offered me a two-year-old car at a good price.  Right.  It was two years old.  He said it had the 318 cubic inch engine.  It had the 287.  The engines are identical from the outside.  The 318 gets better mileage and better performance.  The car looked good.  He added a black vinyl roof – that was the really in thing in those days.  He added it also to the price.  But I needed the car and did not know about the small engine or the fact that it had been a drivers education car or …

While working at Chrysler, I took shifts at loading the warrantee database from backup tapes onto the new IBM installation.  This was the job of the IBM reps but I would take a shift just to learn.  It turned out that the download finished on my shift.  This was cause for great celebration.  It had taken 3 shifts a day for a week.  This was all Chrysler cars, all records, all everything.  The system was to have terminals in all Chrysler dealers across the country.  Hot stuff in 1967.  So, they called down Lynn Townsend (President, CEO), board members, and other executives.  I demonstrated the new system.  I asked for registration so that we could look up one of their cars.  They all had drivers.  I pulled out my wallet and pulled out my registration and typed in the VIN.  Up came all of the repairs on my car.  Strange many of the repairs were for mileage seriously high than the odometer said.  I had been defrauded.

I mean by this time knew I had the small engine.  They had sold me, at cost, the conversion to a 4-barrel.  Carb, manifold, gaskets, et al.  I never did get around to installing them.  One night I did but found the bolts were the wrong size.  It turned out that the Canadian bolts were smaller than the USA.  They expected me to drill them out.  Sorry, I had to go to work the next day.  It took to midnight to swap it back.

I knew I had an extortive loan but then getting a loan at all with no history was hard even then.

I did not know how many serious repairs the car had had and that the mileage had been rolled back at least 20,000 miles.  The executives were happy the system worked and worked well.  They had no interest in Van Dyke Dodge cheating its customers.

The car worked well.  It made many trips from Detroit to Milwaukee or Madison.  On one trip, to Milwaukee, I got up in the morning and started it up.  This was a Sunday and as I may have explained elsewhere, your battery can freeze in that level of cold.  Your oil turns to lead.  And once this happens, your car may not start again.  When it is really cold, when your first wake up in the morning, the first thing you do is go out and start you car.  Starting it at 4 or 5 in the morning gives it a chance to keep from the final death-freeze.  Those last couple of hours of the coldest part of the day are critical.  This day was really cold.  I was out there in my skivvies and my skin was sticking to the vinyl.  Serious cold.

At breakfast we discussed it  -- it was 30 degrees below zero and this was Milwaukee.  Milwaukee, being on the lake, is warmer than further North or West.  This was the day of the famous Ice Bowl Football game between Green Bay and Dallas.  It was 35 degrees below on the field.  I was driving back to Detroit during the game and pulled over to the side to listen to the last two minutes of the game.  All of us fans knew that Bart Starr would win.  We just did not know how.  In the last two minutes, he scored 3 touchdowns and we won.  The Dallas them immediately contested the game.  Strange they did not contest until they lost.  Since then all bowl and playoff games are held in the south or in covered stadiums.

My poor car got old with all of these trips.  But it lasted through my life at Chrysler, my semester back at Wisconsin and the start of my life at Bendix.

Stolen tapes

While working at Bendix, the 8-track player was stolen out of the car in the corporate parking lot.  Well, almost the corporate parking lot.  I discovered that the last row furthest from the building was technically an alley and the company presumed no responsibility for the alley.  I filled a comprehensive claim with my insurance.  Knowing that they required evidence of a break-in and there was none, I tore s light piece of rubber from the window seal as if someone poked a rod through the seal to get to the door lock.  The adjuster took several pictures of this slot and filed the claim.  They paid at 50% claiming depreciation.  I always wonder how many people (obviously not many) sue their insurance company over this.  I mean none of the tapes was more than 6 months old.  They paid the claim and canceled the policy.  I learned to not trust insurance companies.  This is a lesson I learned for life.

Broken Bolts

The first time I went to change my tires from a flat tire I discovered something: the bolts were rusted to the lug nuts.  I broke a couple of them off.  When I had the tire replaced, I had the bolts replaced.  The tires on the car had lots of tread but they went flat weekly.  I had a spare but several times, I had to be requested by a friend (Kathie Z) because I had another flat before I picked up the first.  This was out of hand.  I developed a libeling distrust of Goodyear.  But then again the tires were older than might be expected under serious weather conditions with no housing.

Firestone Tires

I bought a set of Firestone 500 tires.  Very expensive and I had to have one replaced – they prorated a tire with less than 5,000 miles by 50%.  They used a tread depth gauge and I did not know about the tread markers.  This is where the Firestone dealer measured the depth – of course it showed excessive wear.  They should have measured it anywhere but there.  I wonder how they made a profit on that.  I learned to distrust any tire dealer from that.  Other than that the tires lasted until I sold the car.

1970 Plymouth Sport Fury

When I was established at Bendix, it was time for a new car.  I had paid Gary and Steve and my dentist friend.  THe Bendix limousines were Chryslers, blue with black vinyl roofs and big.  They looked good.  I did not want to look pretentious -- only not to look second hand any more.  I went to the local Chrysler Plymouth dealer and started getting serious.  I am not sure how but instead of working with a salesman, I worked with the sales manager.  I do not remember his name but he remembered mine.

It turned out that he had been a customer of mine down the block from us on 106th street -- my paper route.  He was so pleased with my service that he sold me the car with minimal profit: all of the options were on the house.  He told me this after I had given him my option list and not before.  But then I had ordered every option in the book except show room finish 'A'.  Oh.  I did not order power seats either.  Whatever.

This was my dream car.  It lasted 90 days and then the warrantee expired.  I mean this car in 1970 cost $5,300.  It had every option I could want.  It had a few options that the dealer had not heard of and I had to order by number.  I knew all of the options from working at Chrysler.  This car was a behemoth: it weighed two tons.  Posi-traction rear end.  383 Cu. In..  4-barrel.  Torsion bars like baseball bats.  It was gun metal blue with a black vinyl roof.

I loved my new car but it had lots of minor problems that resulted in it being at the dealer almost as much as I had it at home.  A serious draft through the firewall.  Not bad in South Bend but when driving in the below  zero temperatures in WIsconsin, I needed a blanket over my feet.  They sprayed black goop everywhere in front and that was cleared up.

At about 85 mph, the tappets clattered something awful.  They insisted I drive it to show them since that speed was illegal.  They point out that solid lifters had that problem.  It was not dangerous.

The headlights were covered by rotating, motorized covers.  The problem was the SOuth Bend winters: they would cover with water, freeze, and then burn out the rotating motor when you turned on the lamps/  They replaced the motors once and told me that the next time was my problem.  In other words, a design flaw and no overload fuse became my problem.  Under/over engineering again.

Another interesting aspect.  I had a good relationship with my bank in Milwaukee.  There are stories about this elsewhere.  But now I needed a loan for my new car.  I called the bank and we worked out the deal.  Since I had ordered options unknown to the dealer, the total price was unknown.  When the car was delivered, I wrote a check for the amount of the purchase.  The dealer was in shock.  We called the bank.  My arrangement was that when the check came in, the bank would write a loan for the amount of the check and the next time in the bank, I would sign the papers.   Even in those days, this was unheard of.  But then I have good friends.

We can do this again.  After accepting the offer for the new car, my sales manager informed me that the delivery date would be unknown as the Belvedere assembly plant where they made these Plymouths was on strike.  THis set me back but what the heck, there was a choice here?  So I called friends at Chrysler who gave me the number of the assembly plant.  I checked every couple of days to see how things were going.  In fact the strike ended quickly and I was told that my car had been made and delivered to the dealer after little more than a week's wait.

I called my friend at the dealer and asked when I could pick up my new car.  He told me that the strike had only ended 3 days before and there wa s no chance that my car would come in less than a month.  I insisted it was in his lot and he checked.  I had the car that afternoon.  He called me a week later and asked if I could do the same thing for other cars he had on order.  Since I had not done anything to get my car other than make status requests, I had no idea what to tell him other than "sorry".

Now I ran into an Indiana thing and in those days I had an attitude.  I had very strong beliefs in right and wrong, was adamant about them, and was vocal about them.  The Indiana thing?  I forget the name.  Oh.  Intangibles Tax.  This is a tax on any money which does not exist.  This is why it is called intangible.  OK.  The tax is on the amount of a loan, for example.  I pay sales tax on the amount of the car.  I pay intangible tax on the amount of the loan.  If I remember correctly, and I may be wrong, the tax is due every year.  The amount of sales tax in Indiana is low but with the intangible tax, the total taxes are much higher than in Wisconsin.  Since I bank in WIsconsin and the loan is in Wisconsin, I register the car in Wisconsin and pay Wisconsin taxes.  I use Gary Leive's address in Wauwatosa like I always do and no problem.

1970 Buick Opal

After the demise of the Plymouth, I needed a smaller, more economical car.  I took the bus to Milwaukee and stopped at Lou Ehlers Buick.  The salesman was a young guy who produced the Opal GT.  He also drove me to Madison when I agreed to buy it.  The car  came in several very bright colors: red, yellow, orange, lime.  Maybe something else but I do not remember.

I took delivery the following week and off I went.  The dealer asked about the salesman who apparently had disappeared with money due both ways.  In any case, this was a strange car but it also took premium gas but got closer to 30 mph.  This would go a long way in resolving the gas credit cards and I could drive on the highway well.  I did have to get used to the idea that the car had no back seats -- only a little storage area.

This car had serious, not minor problems.  Weird problems.  The rear axle leaked.  I started carrying a gallon of axle fluid with me.  Multiple trips to Buick dealerships in Milwaukee and Madison could not cure this.

The muffler hung across the back by two rubber bands that would pop off every time I hit a bump.  At $3 a copy, this amount to a lot of money.  I tried to wire them on but this did not help.

The worst problem was the carburetor.  It took a long time to figure out the major problem with the carburetor.  It was an Indiana thing.  The car drove fine everywhere but Indiana.  That is, it drove fine in WIsconsin.  In Indiana, I would drive down the road and it would stall with the engine dying.  Dead.  I would open the hood and find nothing wrong.  The car would then start up OK and I could repeat the process.  Finally, my friend, Chris, discovered the problem.  We switched cars for a week: I drove his Volkswagen.  In order to maintain its extremely low profile, the carburetor and intake manifold were extended to the passenger side of the engine.  The hood had a little rise for this.  Cute.  The problem is that with this distance, the carburetor did not get enough engine heat.  In the damp, cool, almost freezing climate of Indiana, the carburetor throat would totally close with ice.  The car would stall, the stopped engine would melt the ice, and we could do this again.  Venturi can explain the ice if you you do not understand the process.  There is no cure except to not live in Indiana.

The carburetor had other problems but this was the major design flaw.   The Madison dealer replaced it once but eventually the car was traded and the new owner got to deal with the design error called Opal.  Oh.  Another thing.  The car came with a little can of touch up paint.  Why?  The cars were all different colors.  The Germans made no attempt to make them all the same.  They claimed it was because some were made in Germany and the rest made in Belgium.  It was the Belgians fault.  Right.

1964 Chevrolet Biscayne

This was Carole's car.  She got this from her father while she was single.  It had its problems too but I really do not much remember it.  Since it was her first car, I am sure Carole can tell you more about it.  It needed at least a new starter motor and battery.  It was good for Carole because it had lots of front floor room and so she could drive it with her damaged knee.  After we got married and lived in Madison I convinced her to give it back to her father.  The expense of maintaining two cars was more than we could afford.  Carole got really good dashing around town in the little orange Opal.  Shortly after we gave up the Chevrolet, we bought the Dodge van.


1971 Dodge Van B200

The Dodge  was 'our' car.  We sold the Chevy to Carole's dad and traded the Opal in for the Dodge Van.  We lived on Johnson street at his point and there was space in the back for the van.  The Dodge dealer was on the other side of State street -- not too far.  The salesman was new and had no idea what he was doing.  I had no idea how different a van was from a car.  We ordered the B200 with no options at all.  Well, almost no options.  It had windows all the way around, a front t passenger seat and a radio.  It had no power steering, no power brakes, and had a rear end that made it impossible to drive in third gear under 40 miles per hour.  It was bright blue.  From day 1 it was a Chrysler product: it had serious problems.  I complained  about it to the dealer.  The dealer did not care.  I called Chrysler home office.  They said bring it to them.  I did.  I got to Highland Park and the guy I had talked to was not available.  Nobody was available.  I drove it back to Madison.  At 12,500 miles we paid for a valve job.  500 miles off warrantee.  Of course, the dealer threw out the bad valves  before we picked it up.  We had the valve job done at the Plymouth dealer because we did not trust the Dodge dealer.  Carole had lived at the Dodge dealer for months waiting for all sorts of minor repairs for an empty truck.

We quickly learned that the absence of power steering made driving the car very difficult.  An add-on power-steering unit was very expensive and we were told not very reliable.  We should have been told but the salesman did not know any more than we did.  To park the van took standing up and both arms to turn the wheel.  Brakes were  not a problem: you just pushed harder than usual. Carole's Chevy had not had power brakes and she was used to this.  Her leg was fixed and strong and not a problem any more.  Thank you God for Dr. Okigaki.


We visited Len and Gloria in Detroit with our new car.  Empty except for our camping equipment.  We went to the Detroit Art Museum and parked within sight of the entrance.  While there the truck was broken into and all of our belongings stolen.  We reported it to the police. The side vent window was broken.  Our clothes were in a pile on the floor but everything else was gone.

We had made up an inventory list for our trips and gave this to the police as what was missing.  When we got home we found that Carole had left many items behind and were not lost.  I called the Detroit police to reduce their list of missing items.  They told me to forget it as the insurance company would make us regret  being honest.

Our Mini-RV

We fixed the van up with camping equipment.  This took a couple of years and kept getting better.  We put curtains up behind the driver-passenger.  White with multi-colored polka dots.  I made the curtains and put pockets at the bottom for holding miscellaneous items.  We used those springs you can buy to hold the curtains in place..  We  put curtains on all of the windows.  The front doors were very large and very heavy.  On the side and the back were sets of double doors  that were much easier to use -- especially if you used just one of them and left the other one latched.  So we primarily  got i and out the side door.  Carole had no idea how much I loved her acceptance of this as our family vehicle.

I added headrests from J. C. Whitney to protect our necks and to make driving long distances more comfortable.  Big white headrests.

I bought a gas refrigerator and installed it by the second side door.  A propane tank underneath and a wood frame around the refrigerator with a heater built-in to the front panel completed the inside of this.  I pulled the window and replaced it with an orange plastic sheet with a vent.  We then put this window in the rear.  The truck version of the van (rather than the passenger version) had non-opening windows in the rear.  By swapping windows, we got much better ventilation.  I mention this here because the refrigerator had problems.  Back in those days RV refrigerators hd to be lit with a long rod with a wick on the end.  You put lighter fluid on the wick. lit it, and held it to the pilot lamp at the rear bottom of the refrigerator until the thermostat snapped and permitted the gas to flow.  Today this is done electronically.  When we opened windows in the RV, the refrigerator would be blown out.  That is, unless we opened them in the right order.  Carole re-lit the refrigerator many times on our travels.

I built cupboards to go along the driver-sde wall.  We had a porta-potty behind the drivers seat.  I built a bed/table to fit across the back. This caused me problems as I drilled a hole through the floor for screws to hold the table brace.  I drilled right through the top of the gas tank.  Re-soldering these holes was an all day project.  Drain the gas, fill the tank with water, empty the tank again, solder, torch it dry, replace the gas.  Whew.

We mounted the spare tire on a brace on the back door.  We installed blue shag carpet throughout and installed a white vinyl ceiling.  I put a half inch of foam above the vinyl.  This protected our heads from injury on the low ceiling.

After we moved to Phoenix, we had the roof repainted white to help with the heat.  Before Bree was born, I had an AC unit added.  In fact, much of the above work was completed in Phoenix.  Translucent window screening was not available yet but they had come up with a  perforated Mylar screen that was black on the inside and reflective on the outside.  This had limited visibility but was very effective in keeping out the heat and stray peeping toms.
Bree's baby carrier fit very nicely between the seats on the floor.  With an added seat belt, this was really great.  I mean she was visible and almost out-of-reach of the driver and secure.  We could see and talk with her  and when stopped touch her.  The seat also fit into the passenger side when only one of us was with her.

What was really great about this after we got through our repair problems was the gas mileage.  We could drive very comfortably at 80-85 miles per hour.  55 was a problem because the drive train would not smooth out until we were doing at least that.  In city we only used first and second gears.  We used third after 45 and were not comfortable until 65.  With 75-85 mph we got about 20 miles per gallon.  At 55 we got 14-15 mpg.  This meant that we had a van ideal for traveling but not so good for around town.
From Phoenix, Carole could pick me up early from work and we could be in LA before midnight.  We could get a good night's sleep and be ready to go in the morning.  We would then have Saturday and Sunday to enjoy Disneyland or whatever  and drive home Sunday night.  I could start, Carole could finish, and  I would have a good sleep before going to work on Monday morning.  Three-day weekends were better.

American Family Insurance

Our insurance company at that point was American Family.  The broken window was not enough to exceed the deductible.  The missing property fell under our new homeowners/renters policy.  Did they ever try to screw us over!  Wow! They depreciated everything by at least half.  We had been married less than a year: all of the camping equipment, cassette tapes, personal items were less than a year old.  50%.  I argued with the agent over the missing tools: you cannot depreciate hand tools.  He had the itemized list of tools and I asked him to go to the Sears store and replace them with what they had paid us.  He got us an additional amount for the tools.  Because of the police recommendation, we came out close to even.

Federal Siren

This had been the third breakin to the van in three months.  Previously the only thing stolen was an owners manual.  After the third breakin, I went down the street and bought a Federal police car siren.  I called the police department to find out what they used and bought one just like it.  I installed the siren as a burglar alarm: open any of the doors or the hood and the siren started wailing.  A relay made sure it wailed after the door was closed.  The speaker was mounted next to the battery:  if you raised the hood and tried to pull the battery cable you risked permanent hearing damage.  To make sure that I had no problem with the police, I wired the relay to a lock switch on the front right fender where the little Chrysler star emblem had been.  Nothing was ever stolen from the van again.  We usually left it unlocked to protect our windows from being broken and always set the alarm.  This was many years before those little electronic siren modules became available.  Professional burglar alarms were expensive and the modules that were available were not very loud.  I presumed that someone trying to rob our van would want to hear a police siren as much as he wanted an angry  pet panther inside.

Venice Beach

Carole, I, and George went to visit Jeanne in California.   She lived in an upstairs apartment with railroad tracks next to it.  Between the tracks and the building was a large empty lot where people parked.  In the middle of the night a group of very large people started trying to break into the car.  George was growling and this did not dissuade the burglars.  This frightened me very much.  These people were trying to break in and were aware that we were inside.  About 50 yards away someone got out of a step van with a shotgun and frightened the burglars away.  We re-wired the siren so that it could be set off from inside the car:  to hell with local laws regarding sirens in private vehicles.  I would not permit my wife to be endangered in that way ever again.

Firestone Tires

Because I really liked my original Firestone 500 tires bought for the Dodge 440 in 1967, when the van needed new tires, we bought some of the new Firestone 500 radial tires.  A really bad mistake.  Before we bought the tires, Carole took the car to the local Goodyear dealer and had the wheels aligned.

We then went to the Firestone dealer on 35th avenue for new tires.  When she came home, the van drove terribly.  It pulled to the side and the wheels thumped.  The dealer wanted to charge us for a wheel alignment.  Fat chance.  We took it back to the Goodyear dealer and he showed Carole that one of the new tires was visibly out of round and one other had defective tread.  The Firestone dealer refused to correct the problems.  We had charged the tires on the new Firestone credit card -- remember that Visa and Master Charge were just coming into existence.  I refused to pay the Firestone charge bill.  The Firestone store manager called me at work.  He informed me that he and the Vice President of Greyhound (where I worked) went to the same church (Mormon) and that he would have me fired.  From what we knew of the Mormon church, this was a real possibility.  I called the home office of Firestone in Ohio and asked for the president.  I related the problems to the person I did get to talk to.  The next day I got a call back and was told to take the car to a different Firestone dealer on Indian School.  This fellow was most cooperative and immediately replaced the two bad tires.  This fellow soon got his own dealership up on Cave Creek and we continued our business with him.  Within a year or two he had replaced 8 tires.  I discuss this more on our trip to Dallas -- 4 more went bad.  This was in 1977 with the first bad tires made by Firestone.  They kept replacing the tires but they made us believe that we were the only ones having problems.  We found out later that these were just bad tires from a bad company.  They did it again 20 years later.  I think the name Firestone should be erased from the world.


When Bree and I drove to Dallas, we did not know what we were in for.  We blew a tire in New Mexico and when we arrived in Dallas, Firestone replaced all 4 with their new 721 radial tires.  The tires were then the least of our problems.  Within the first year so many things went wrong with the Dodge that we had to sell it.  The radiator brackets broke.  It needed new shocks -- Dallas potholes really tore the poor thing apart.  It got so that I could not keep up with the repairs -- time wise or financially.

1976 Datsun 510

When I got divorced, this was the only property that my wife insisted upon retaining. 

1977 Fleetwood Southwind -- May 1979 

1982 Datsun 200SX Hatchback

My first almost perfect car.  A plastic trim strip needed replacing.  The radio antenna needed trimming (yes, they did).  The wheels needed aligning.  The headlights needed aligning.  After multiple trips to the dealer service, we compromised'  I trimmed the radio antenna (little screw under one of the knobs) and corrected the headlight aligning.  He replaced to trim strip and after 4 visits got the wheels aligned properly.  After that the car was perfect.  It could drive comfortably at 120 mph but you had to figure this from the tachometer because this was during the time that the government restricted the speedometer to 85 mph.

The hatchback was a problem.  First I bought the Mylar reflective solar stuff.  This did the trick for the sun but because of the hatchback angle, made rear viewing impossible.  I got a really nice set of louvres for the rear and steamed off the Mylar.  I think I cut one of the defroster wires as the rear defroster never worked quite right after that but when you live in the desert there is not much need for the defroster. There are many types of hatchback louvres.  This is one time when I got something right.  The side brackets slid tightly into the window frame sides.  The louvres themselves were some sort of strong aluminum alloy that snapped into place in the side brackets.  These were aerodynamically curved to not need any center support and actually made the car handle better at higher speeds.  Other brackets / louvers rattled and clanked - these were absolutely silent and I could see out the back again since they also eliminated sun glare off the window.

We took vacations in the SX.  The hatchback area took all of our camping equipment -- including the ice chest..  All cars should be as good as the 1982 SX and what Datsun evolved it into was a sin.  I loved my SX but after a couple hundred thousand miles and really bad dealer repair service, it needed a new engine and the inside plastic was severely damaged from living in the high heat of Arizona and Florida.

Bridgestone versus Michelin

Typical of many Japanese cars, this car came with Bridgestone tires and no road hazard guarantee.  When one went flat, I bought a new one, Bridgestone with a road hazard guarantee.  The car handled well but when the next Bridgestone went out, I bought a couple of Michelins and put them in the front.  The difference in handling was a real "wow"!  Same size but the Bridgestone sidewalls are almost totally inflexible making the ride hard (and hard on the suspension and passengers).  The Michelin sidewalls were much more flexible and changed the SX ride from a stiff sporty car to a family ride but with the handling improved.  I then bought additional Michelins as the Bridgestones went out.  None of the Bridgestones lasted for their warrantee period but then the warrantee did not cover road hazards and the things kept getting flats.  During the lifetime of the car, all of the Bridgestones got irreparable flats.  The one tire I bought with the road hazard warrantee lasted for over 100,000 miles but was replaced 4 or 5 times.  The Michelins?  I had to replace a couple after 50,000 miles -- most lasted longer.  I know, driving on 3 Michelins and one Bridgestone did no one any favors but to me the Bridgestone was a joke and I enjoyed watching it fail and getting a new one.  I kept it on the left rear since it is the right rear that need the good traction and you never mismatch front  tires.  After the SX, I always bought Michelins for any car.

1989 Dodge Minivan

Until I met the Ford Ranger, this was the worst engineered car I thought anyone could deliver.  It cost over $500 repairs on any trip we took.

Stupid engineering?  The electric rear door ONLY operated if the ignition were on.  Not accessory -- ignition.   The only time in my life that I locked my keys in a car was when I needed to get in the back, put the keys in the ignition, popped the hatch, closed the door, got my stuff from the back and closed it.  Poof.  Locked out.  There is much more but I do not have the time right now.

1992 Camry LE V6

I doubt that there is a better car anywhere.   My first perfect car: nothing was wrong when I bought it.  Nothing ever went wrong -- until my daughter got it.  Then the transmission went out -- bad timing but I really think the dealer that I took it to forgot to replace the fluid that they took out.  I took the Camry to Capital Toyota (San Jose) to perform maintenance to make sure that the car was in good condition for my daughter.  I should have listened to my friends about Capital Toyota Service -- one friend had to buy a new car after getting service at Capital.

1991 Toyota Tercel  -- Green -- March, 1994

The history of this car is wonderful.  I met a wonderful friend, Amynah Vadsaria, for whom it was her first car.  I bought it when I found my daughter, Megan, was consistently late or missing classes due to the random bus schedules of Santa Clara County.  I mean we were on a straight run down one street from our apartment to the high school and at 6:30 in the morning the bus ran so unreliably she would not get to school by 7:30.  Megan went to San Jose High School, San Jose City College, and San Jose State University.  She needed the car.

Shortly after Megan got her license she made a minor mistake and got sideswiped by a pickup.  This scraped the sheet metal and lost a mirror.  I took the insurance money and made the second mistake: I had the entire car painted by Maaco.  This was obviously a mistake 6 months in as the shine started to disappear -- and I paid for their 'better' paint job.  By two years, the car was totally oxidized and had no shine at all.  Megan took  exceptional care of her car as did its previous owner, Amy. 

When Megan bought her first new car, her Corolla, she donated the Tercel to me.  When I got it almost two years ago, I was not so nice:  I cut two big holes in the front bumper for a tow bar and ran a wiring harness from the front bumper t the rear lights.  While trying to knock the car sideways to affix the hitch to the RV, I instead knocked a large dent in the front fender.

In May of 2005 I managed to jump the car into gear while towing it and blew up the engine.  I got peanuts from the insurance company but peanuts are better than nothing.  I replaced it with my other Red Tercel

1999 Fleetwood Flair

This could take a section all by itself.  But for now I shall keep it short. Fleetwood has filed for bankruptcy.  In the 2009 economy this is not unexpected -- many other RV manufacturers have also done so.  We can blame our friend GWB for the economy but going bankrupt could not happen to a nicer group of people than Fleetwood.  I previously complained that the only way to get RV quality to an acceptable level would be for Toyota to get into the business.  That's what it took to get Ford up to par.  GM and Chrysler never made it.  Blame who you want.  Blame the union.  Blame the engineers (I wouldn't), blame anyone.  American product quality is why we buy Japanese products.

Fleetwood.  Other than the general quality of materials was below par (I know, Flair is the bottom of the line), the manufacturing is reminiscent of the 1950's cars.  Shoot they had to replace the entire right side panel of the RV and it took them two months.  The windshield was replaced three times -- all because of improper installations.  How do you mess up a windshield installation?  You can see everything there is to see.

It was advertised with a 7-liter engine.  It is really 6.8 liter.  Ford sells a 7-liter but this Flair does not have it.

So Fleetwood is going under.  I could cheer but I won't.  I would rather they went under as people bought other brands because they heard about Fleetwood quality.  As it is this economy is making a lot of choices for people that they really would rather not have made. 

1996 Toyota Tercel -- Red -- June, 2005

I bought this second hand when my first Tercel died.  It was not well taken care of but very nicely detailed when I bought it.  The main seal leaks and there are multiple scrapes and dents.  I am hoping nothing more serious is wrong with it.  I added my tow bar and am waiting for tow lamps (not a wiring harness this time) to be delivered.  It tows and drives well.  If the dents and scrapes came from an accident, I think it would neither drive nor tow straight.  It goes very straight.  SOmetimes it shifts sort of hard.  Maybe I made a mistake.  I shall find out.  I need to replace the brakes and both front turn lamps (one was already broken, I broke the other).

The one thing I do not like about the Tercel is that they do not have a headrest.  They have a vertical extension that comes almost to the top of my shoulder blades but my daughter will always have a bad back because of her being rearranged and the car not having a headrest.

Rented Cars

I have rented various cars in my lifetime. I shall not enumerate all of them here.  A couple comments: I hate GM cars.  They put a ridge across the top of the seat that cuts across my shoulder blades.  My Dodge Minivan had this too. This ridge makes me hunch over.

The Japanese cars do not do this.

P/T Cruiser:  This is housewife's shopping car and should not be considered seriously for any travel more than 5 miles from home.  The Cruiser is a reconfigured Dodge Neon.  The high center of gravity makes it unstable on the highway.  But then the gas mileage is so bad (23 mph) that you would not take it on the highway for fear of increasing your mortgage debt.  The seats have the typical Chrysler dimensions.  With no back support and a rigid shell and soft center, if your are taller than 5' 10", you will develop neck cramps from leaning forward away from the top of the seat frame.  You are going to lean forward anyway because the curve of the roof comes so far forward that you have to duck just to see the overhead street signals.  Sort of like the 1947 Dodge.  Again, trips around town only present a problem when you run the red lights.  For cross-country, bring some of those instant-hot pads to relieve the neck cramps.  The car is built for transporting lots of little things: kids, groceries, etc.  The perfect car for a visit to Wal-Mart.  Otherwise it is just a very expensive, cute little  toy.

Chevrolet Malibu:  A poor man's Nissan Altima.  It rides well.  It has cute little computer gadgets but for the money you could buy a real car.  To me the best Chevrolet ever was the 1960 Impala or the 1959 Bel Aire.  They have gone down hill from there.  The original Malibu was great.  Now the Malibu just seems like they want to be in the came but came up short.  Good mileage.  Good highway driving.  Comfortable.  It has a key fob controller but it only does the normal Detroit things and you know it could do more if it wanted to.

Nissan Altima:  Obviously I saved the best for last and maybe that is the problem: it is the first of the three that I rented.  I sort of got spoiled.  Great mileage.  Very comfortable.  Electronic gadgets: keyless ignition.  Automatic door locks.  Insane security system.  Insane?  If you do not start the car shortly after getting into it, the horn starts beeping.  I am sure there is a way around this but it certainly is a nuisance when you are traveling long distances.  For example, I stop at a rest area.  I get out and go to the rest rooms.  I return, get out the map to examine my next segment and just about the time I have the map centered, the ticking starts.  If I do not start the car shortly thereafter, the ticking stops and is replaced by the rhythmic beeping of the horn.  At 3:00 pm, the neighbors just look at me strangely.  At 3:00 am, the looks change from curious to hostile as people are rousted from their restless sleep.

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Written:  2003      Updated:  December 26, 2009      Back To Top