An Unlikely Old Friend

My dad was a car guy. Unfortunately for us both, he wasn't also a money guy.

As a teenager my dad had an old '57 Chevy. When my mom met him he had a pre '68 Pontiac GTO. I was too young to remember the exact year, only able to relive it through photographs of myself sitting at the wheel on his lap. Sadly he wrapped that car around a telephone pole before I would be old enough to appreciate it.

His next car was a '72 Chevy Nova with a factory 350. I'm sure it wasn't fast, but to a young kid in the late 70's/early 80's it was hot - midnight blue metallic, black vinyl top, white interior, big wide white-letter tires, dual exhaust, and a jacked rear-end. I thought it was the hottest thing ever. When I was older my uncle informed me what a piece of crap it truly was. Of course I was let down. Didn't matter though, I was already a car guy - another car guy with Hot Wheels money.

My family never really had a lot of money growing up. In many ways I still don't (thanks housing market). Only recently have I made enough money to own more than one car at a time. I currently have three. Nothing to write home about, but as I only have a one car garage, it's a fleet.

Over the years I've owned a wide variety of makes and models - '85 Mercury Lynx L, '85 Mercury Cougar, '85 Saab 900S, '89 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, '99 Kia Sportage, '88 Saab 900T Convertible, '73 Ford Mustang Coupe, '01 Porsche Boxster, '97 Subaru Legacy L Wagon, and a '77 Mercedes-Benz 450SL.

Some have been my choice and others have been a consequence of how much money I had at the time. I'm not an old guy (35), but now that I look back I experienced much more joy driving my $900 '85 Saab 900S, the cheapest car I've ever bought, than I do today with my $25k Porsche Boxster. The Porsche is much nicer, is in far better shape, handles much better, has more power, has been cross country, been wrecked and repaired, and I have owned it much longer - I've been through far more with it. However, the Saab was a lifesaver while the Porsche is a luxury.

At the age of 22, and broke after paying my way through school, I had an outside sales job and no car of my own. Not a great combination, so I needed something cheap and reliable. Yes, I naively thought that to be possible. After looking at a lot of well-used Ford Escorts and its other fine American-made contemporaries (keep in mind Hondas were too rich for my blood), I changed tack from something relatively sensible to something more my speed. I proceeded to look at a lot of battered old 3 series BMWs and other miscellaneous European marques. Most I couldn't afford and all were wrung-out with nothing left to give.

I regrouped again and went to look at some old Volvos and Saabs. The first I went to see that day was the 900S. Silver two-tone, burgundy pin-stripes, burgundy cloth interior, and a non-leaking factory sunroof - a godsend at my price point. The car was straight minus a driver's side door dent, and the interior was in good shape other than the sagging headliner and faded rear seat headrests (not uncommon). I was sold. Talked the owner down to $900 from the $1k asking price and walked away with the keys quite pleased with myself.

Unfortunately I had failed to notice the audible gear whine from the Saab's transmission which 15 months later would undo itself. I limped home that day with only third gear remaining, parked on the street outside my apartment and sat for a few moments. Between thinking about how screwed I now was and what I was going to do next, I reminisced over the times we'd had together. I knew I wouldn't be fixing the transmission, which would easily cost more than the car was worth, so this was very likely the end.

I was now 23 without a car, and had no money to buy another. I felt like I'd lost a friend. I had parked that car on the street in midwest winter, far too often digging it out of the previous evening's snow fall and pre-dawn snowplowing before I went to work. In return it started right up and kept me warm all day. I drove it to get ice cream with friends in the hot humid midwest summer with the windows down, and the sunroof open since I had no working AC. That car never let me down until it suffered its final gear-grinding death and even then it got me home.

Owning a Porsche is a dream come true for me. I never thought I'd be able to afford one. Will my next car be a Porsche or some other prestige auto? I'm not so sure, maybe down the road. No, I think my next daily driver will be a pre '93/94 Saab 900 of some flavor, maybe an SPG - get another one before the good ones are all used up and gone. Not because it's my dream car or I couldn't afford better, but because I love them and no matter how much hotter the latest flavor of the month sports car might be, or how powerful the newest affordable American muscle might be, they won't bring me the happiness of an old friend.

This piece was written and submitted by a Jalopnik reader and may not express views held by Jalopnik or its staff. But maybe they will become our views. It all depends on whether or not this person wins by whit of your eyeballs in our reality show, "Who Wants to be America's Next Top Car Blogger?"