list: Cars I’ve Owned
Pink convertible. Still one of my all-time favorites.
Pearl-white Dodge Aspen with vinyl interior the color of sun-dried tomatoes, with a dark and complicated floral print on the seats and backs. Low miles, flawless, and garage-kept. Bought used just for me after I got my license.
Pale-gray four-door Mercury Monarch with maroon crushed-velvet interior. Incredibly smooth and shiny exterior. Interior fabric that was unpleasantly cloying to the skin when sat upon on a roasting August day in Orlando. A hand-me-down from my father, who upgraded to a silver Cutlass Sierra.
Rust-brown VW Rabbit with tan vinyl bucket seats. Manual transmission. Quick and pert. I let it run out of gas. I ruined the clutch. Bought for me probably after a lot of begging and complaining about not wanting to drive my Dad Car (the Monarch) to high school.
Burgundy Cutlass Sierra. Two-door (two massively long and heavy doors). Matching maroon velvet interior. As a freshman in college, I drove my five-years-younger brother to a screening of the movie The Young Sherlock Holmes, as I had passes to see it and review it for the school paper. We left our house approximately 15 minutes before the movie was due to begin, and the theater was 30 minutes away. We arrived on time. The car was never the same after.
First half of 1988
Pale-yellow VW Bug with black convertible top and matching yellow door to the glove box. My dream (not the color, but the car). No air conditioning, but powerful heat operated by levers next to each of the two black bucket front seats. Tape player in the glove box that saw a lot of action from my B52s cassette. Purchased after I returned from a junior-year semester in London feeling especially nonconformist. My college job was working filling X-rays and reports in the radiology department of a big hospital downtown. On our lunch breaks, I persuaded my older coworkers to let me drive them with the top down, hairdos be damned. I still remember their smiles. Most of them had kids and sensible cars and not much disposable income. Somehow I felt like we escaped all of that for an hour, even if we were just driving to the local Wendy’s.
Second half of 1988 through 1990
Beige VW Golf with handsome brown tweed interior that has sadly been phased out by Volkswagen, plus a hand-cranked sunroof, with the crank nearly tucking into a small well designed just for that purpose. A hand-me-down from my mother, who kept her cars (and keeps everything she owns) in showroom condition. The car had great pickup, and I had a twenty-something’s capacity for patience and common sense. I got many a speeding ticket in it.
1990 to 1991
Triple-white VW Cabriolet. Manual transmission with a leather-wrapped gearshift and steering wheel. Purchased used from an affluent, perhaps spoiled guy in his late 20s who never cleaned it, underpriced it, and just wanted it to be out of his floppy hair. I knew it was a good deal. As soon as the purchase was complete, my brother and I embarked on an intensive detailing of the car, eventually restoring it to its fresh, toothpaste-white glory. And it was great. But this was also my first car payment, and the anxiety about owing money soon overtook me. The car and I parted ways after maybe six months. But I sold it for about a thousand bucks more than I paid. So there.
1991 to 1992
1972 VW Beetle, the blue-green color of the ocean, with tan interior and a wonderful large acrylic steering wheel in black that really made me feel like I was “driving.” Four-speed. I had returned to Orlando after six months in NYC, where I was sharing a 1-bedroom Upper East Side apartment with three other young women. I was the only one among us who had ever had an apartment of her own, so I came with furniture and dishware and strongly felt ideas about how a household should be run, and they came with secondhand mattresses and a couch found on the sidewalk. Conflict ensued. A generous cousin of mine gave me $3,000 to move to San Francisco, which he said was like “a small New York,” and instead I went back to Orlando. I didn’t agree with him about SF, and I had some unfinished emotional business in Florida. I used his check to buy this car and get an apartment. He forgave me.
1992 to early 1993
Yellow Geo Metro convertible with black top. Two-door, four-speed, and so little horsepower that I had to turn off the AC if I wanted to merge into traffic. Driving on a bridge on a windy day meant getting pushed around the lanes, especially if an 18-wheeler passed. But I enjoyed the heck out of it nonetheless. It was like a little toy and so basic in its design that I couldn’t help but appreciate that it offered precisely what was needed (an engine, seats, lights, a steering wheel, and some simple dials) and nothing more. I drove this car till I moved to NYC for what would be the next 25 years, and my parents bought it for my brother, who persuaded them to pay to have it professionally painted black.