What's The Car That Got Away?

Illustration for article titled What's The Car That Got Away?
Photo: Mercedes Streeter

Cars may be appliances of transportation for many, but for others, cars hold a place in our hearts. Sometimes you find “the one” and for whatever reason that car slips away. What is the car that got away for you?


I’ve told the story about the two Volkswagen Passat TDI wagons that I let go. However, I never really said why I let the mildly broken first one go despite knowing the fix would likely be easy.

I got the first Passat TDI wagon for only $600. The car had no rust, an interior with barely any wear and the cleanest engine bay I’ve seen in any used car. The catch? It had a turbo underboost problem. The seller blew thousands of dollars having his local Volkswagen dealership try to fix it to no avail.

I asked a couple of my VW mechanic friends about the issue and received two wildly different answers. The first said that the car likely just needed a cheap boost pipe. The other said that the camshaft lobes on my engine were trash and I needed to dump the car immediately.

I diagnosed the issue as being likely the former boost pipe, but I really wasn’t in a place where I had the motivation to replace even a free part. Between getting laid off and a failing, unhealthy relationship that I was in, I just wanted a car that worked. I got rid of the Passat for a car that didn’t immediately need any repairs.

I was crushed when its new owner told me that the fix was just that stupid hose. Thus far I’ve not found another Passat like it.

Do you have a car that got away? Are you still searching for that car hoping you’ll get another chance at it?

Staff Writer at Jalopnik and learning pilot. Smart Fortwo (x4), Honda Beat, Suzuki Every, AmTran Bus, VW Jetta TDI (x2), VW Touareg, Audi TT, Buell Lightning, Triumph Tiger, Genuine Stella...



I was never a Honda kid. I was a VW kid. I’m almost 40 now, so late 90's, right when the import scene took off. And the reasoning is almost silly. I was 16, buying my first car. I had $3000 or so socked away from working. I found a pretty nice 91 Honda CRX nearby for $3500. My father was going to lend me the $500 I needed, but we were at his work. He was VP/GM at a drag strip, so he couldn’t just leave as there was a race going on. I called about the car, said I’d take it but I couldn’t get there until later that evening. Around 7pm, called the guy to say I was on my way and he sold it to someone else in the meantime. I was pretty disappointed and irrationally, it put me off of Hondas. Instead, I put that money down on a new ‘98 VW Golf and the rest is history. I frequently wonder what I’d have been like had I gotten that CRX instead of the VW. Until I was about 30, all I owned was VW/Audi/Porsche until I got a Chevy Trailblazer to tow my VW race car. All cuz someone sold a car out from under me.