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Personal History : Cars…

Posted in Blog, and Personal History

I’ve had a lot of cars over the years; in fact, I’ve been accused of changing cars like some people change pants…

It all started with a friend of the family, John Zwygart (sp?) or “Johnny Z” to those that knew him – Vietnam vet, motor head, and general wild man who lived up in the hills and was somehow associated with my dad.

He used to ‘borrow’ me in the early 70’s and go get icecream or burgers, and I’d sit on his lap and steer his ‘vette while he worked the gas and brakes… It made my mom furious, but we did it all the time.

He also drove a really amazing Harley, and here’s an old circa-1974 Polaroid of me sitting on it — lollipop and leather jacket included.

In 1976 or thereabouts he bought me a Brigg’s and Stratton powered trike for my birthday. It was red pipe-framed thing, single seat, with the engine on a centrifugal clutch driving the right rear wheel. I got to ride it exactly one time; I drove it into a fence across the street from the trailer on Francis street… I was fine, the trike was fine, but my mom had completely freaked out and was not fine.

For the remainder of its life that trike it was chained and padlocked in the back yard so that mom could tell Johnny Z that I still had it – and then skirt around the fact I wasn’t allowed to even sit on the thing.

Anyway, time passed and I eventually came of age to get a license…

My mom insisted on giving me lessons, which entailed about 3 minutes of warnings followed by me flawlessly executing her route – even the parallel parking. She knew that I was into cars, but had forgotten that I’d been ‘driving’ since I could hold a steering wheel thanks to Johnny Z.

And that takes us to my first car in 1986 – a 1969 Toyota Corona.

I split the cost of it with my parents, which wasn’t hard considering it was a whopping $300. It was metal flake blue, but the paint was an Earl Scheib job and they didn’t strip the wax off of the factory white paint… So, the blue paint was literally coming off of the car in blue sparkly confetti as I drove it down the street while I owned it.

It was a 4-door with some huge yet anemic straight 4 and a two-speed automatic that collectively made for a car that couldn’t get out of its own way most of the time. But, when it’s your first car you don’t care.

I drove the Corona around until I left for the Navy, and then as soon as I was settled on the base in Groton I picked up a cream-colored 81 Chevy Citation from another sailor for a song – he was shipping out to Bangor and it would cost more to move the car than it was worth, So $50 later I owned it… It was a total basket case though and about a month after I bought it the transmission grenaded right here.

So, I found another car for sale on-base from another sailor in a similar situation, a red on red 1978 Chevy Chevette for $100. This car was my first ‘mod’ and it got the paint restored, new inch wider black and chrome rims on lower profile tires, home-brew ‘ground effects’ made from 3″ wide vinyl floor moulding, new instrumentation, new seats, new exhaust, and my first high end stereo work that centered around a clarion head unit, infinity speakers, and a collection of pioneer amps.

And about a year later I traded the Chevette in on my first “new” car, a 1989 Chrysler LeBaron coupe. It was a dark copper color with light brown interior and I drove the wheels off of the thing. It was the car I had when I met my future ex-wife, and it was used to make at least a dozen 250-mile round trips from New London CT to Framingham MA and back to move her from her ex’s parents place or visit her friends.

Many of those road trips were done to the “Transformers: the movie” sound track, Queen’s “It’s a Kind of Magic”, or the self-titled Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album.

The LeBaron was replaced with an ‘85 Chevy S10 when I got out of the Navy in late 1990. I was moving back to Colorado and needed to haul all of our crap across country, and a pickup was the best choice.

The first year or so out of the Navy was a total blur; I had like ten different short-term jobs, moved half as many times, and tried desperately to get my life in order around my ex running off every six months and the tech crash of the early 90’s.

The S10 was replaced by a 1988 Nissan 300ZX after I landed a job at EDCON in ‘92, mostly because EDCON was paying me $60k/yr… But with my ex burning though all of my income on her boyfriend, and the relationship problems that caused, when I lost the EDCON job I had to give up the 300 ZX by the end of 1992.

The 300 ZX was replaced with a late 70’s Ford LTD I picked up as a handyman special and I limped it along until I landed the manager job at Townview Plaza in mid 1993. This is also when I hooked back up with my ex briefly …

Townview Plaza was right across the street from Mile High Stadium, and I made friends with the owner of the towing company I used to haul off illegal parkers every home-game. He ran a used car lot on Federal and gave me first pick of anything I wanted for what he had in it.

I quickly replaced the LTD with a similarly handyman special 1977 Fiat X-1/9. This was the car that we refer to as being ‘hippie powered’ because as a 2-seater ‘Icedragon’ (from the BBS) and I would drive up to pick up ‘Shaman’ (from the BBS) and he’d have to ride in the frunk (the x-1/9 is mid-engine and the trunk is actually under the hood). When we’d come to a stop in town, he’d stand up out of what looked like the engine compartment to stretch – and freak out everyone at the light.

The Fiat had vapor lock issues that I was having a hard time resolving, so it was set aside to be worked on when I traded a hard drive (yes, really) for a 1981 bronco-orange Volkswagen Rabbit in early 1994. The Rabbit passed on after a couple of months though (the rod for the butterfly valve in the carb sawed through and dropped into a cylinder on I-25 – I was able to coast over to the side of the highway, which is where the car was left)

I managed to get the Fiat running well enough to be a good trade for a burgundy ’84 Mercury Marquis.

This is what I drove when, in late ’94, my ex and I split up permanently and I left Townview Plaza to start my life over and pursue what I spent so many years learning to do; computers. I landed a job at Intelligent Electronics (I.E.) for third shift assembly where I built IBM “EduQuest” machines, and moved across town to a mobile home in north Aurora.

While at I.E. I quickly went from line assembly to line supervisor, to Q.A., to I.T. – each with associated pay raises… I’d also gotten a roommate who also worked at I.E. and we were carpooling using his Jeep Wagoneer, so I sold the Marquis and bought a 1968 VW beetle as a new project car.

After 6-7 months at I.E. I was hired away by Action Computers on Colorado Blvd. to build their repair department with Chimles (from the BBS) in mid 1995. Fortunately, the Bug was in a state where I could drive it back and forth reliably.

I was head-hunted in early 1996 to return to Intelligent Electronics where I assumed control of their network operations, and I basically ran all of the technical aspects of the company until Ingram Micro decided to buy the place in ’97.

It was in 1996 that I also picked up a 1974 Porsche 914 as the next project car.

When Ingram purchased I.E. I was left with a choice; move to Memphis or find another job. I’d been talking to Scott for a couple of years and we’d even met up at a couple of conventions. The company he worked at, Amerind, in D.C. was looking for a network guy and Scott could put me up while I shopped around…

So, I sold off everything I could and gave the rest to my roommate, and hopped a flight to Maryland in late ’97.

I worked at Amerind for a couple of months before we struck out on our own and formed “PFM Technologies” where we created pure fucking magic for anyone willing to pay us. From our farm in Rhoadesville VA we created some of the most amazing things for everyone from various state departments to surrogates of three letter agencies.

Given the stupid money we were making I picked up a 1967 Ford Mustang to hotrod (that I later gave to Ken – a business partner – and a herd of deer totaled it), and a 28-foot Scarab offshore racer.

Then the tech bubble burst and Scott and I moved to the yacht we had in Balitmore. I sold everything in late 2001 to get some liquid capital, and traded my Scarab for a burgundy 1991 Chevy Caprice to move my worldly belongings in. The Caprice went from Baltimore to Marianapolis Prep in northern Connecticut to Denver, then to Vail, and back to Denver…

I had that Caprice through early 2004, when I gave it to Robin and Tad to help them out of a jam. It was stolen out of their driveway about a month later…

The next car was a blue ‘87 Honda Civic I picked up on my second ill-fated sojourn to Virginia to take over a tech school… The whole endeavor was a comically bad failure though. Dan, who was financing the project, knew that I’d basically sold everything I owned and flew across the US to try and make his school idea go, so he gave me the car as a bit of an apology, I think.

I signed the paperwork for the Civic and its more than 170,000 miles on March 15th 2004.

Unfortunately, the Honda was pure mechanical crap and a literally three days before making my escape from Virginia, Dan swapped it out for a forest green 1994 Toyota Corolla. I signed the papers for that on April 26th 2004.

I started at my current place of employment in August of 2004.

The next car came from helping Scott escape Virginia a year and a half later. I flew out to Richmond on December 26th of 2005, hopped into his ‘spare’ black 2004 turbo PT Cruiser, and arrived with him in his ‘other’ black ‘GT’ PT Cruiser at 9am on December 28th. For this (and getting him a job at iBeta) he signed over the ‘spare’ PT to me, and I signed over the Toyota Corolla to Jae, my roommate at the time, as a Christmas present.

I drove that PT for several years – it was actually a really great car, but it wasn’t so great in winter and Scott was now on dialysis three times a week – so I decided to pick up something guaranteed to get to Davita despite Colorado’s wacky weather. Enter the 1976 Jeep Cherokee I affectionately named “The Warwagon” on November 16th 2007. The Warwagon would become a 360ci V8 powered, two feet of ground clearance, six thousand pound monster during the time I owned it.

The WarWagon at the farm in Conifer.

In 2009 the PT was totaled by a lady in a red Jaguar in far too much of a hurry. I sold the PT for scrap and a few months later sold the Warwagon to buy a red soft-top 2010 Jeep JK Rubicon – my second “new” car.

One of the few pictures I have of the JK. Taken at Lamar while on a road trip around south eastern Colorado.

The Jeep was great, but I hooked up with an old flame in 2012 and she didn’t like it, so I traded it in on a much more stylish pearl white 2012 Chrysler 300 ‘S’.

Beautiful car, just a bit too sedate for me…

The 300 lasted until 2014 – or about a year longer than the relationship – before it was replaced with the far more economical, inexpensive, and entertaining white and red Fiat 500 ‘Abarth’

The day after I bought the Abarth, in the south parking lot at work.

I modified that Abarth into a 1900-pound, 230 horsepower track-day monster… It was quite possibly the second most entertaining car I’ve ever owned.

Then I had my midlife crisis and, on a whim, decided to purchase a ‘magnetic black’ 2016 Nissan 370Z Nismo on January 7th 2017.

Taken in the north lot at work. Yes, I spend a lot of time at work…

The 370Z also got a serious wrenching from me and while less bonkers then the Abarth was still a stupidly quick and agile car. The biggest problem the 370Z had was it was so achingly pretty I was almost too paranoid to drive it — I’d have to park it amongst mere mortals on occasion and I dreaded coming out of a store to a scratch on that flawless paint…

The bigger problem was that I now had two fire-breathing racecars in a state that spends over half the year covered in snow and where all wheel drive is really a requirement… And I just purchased some property down in southern Colorado where the roads absolutely require ground clearance.

So, I succumbed to adulthood and sold the Abarth and then traded the 370Z in for a pearl white 2018 Nissan Murano AWD “Midnight Edition” in July of 2018…

All in all I’m pretty happy with the Murano. It’s still fun to drive, but also gets 40mpg on the highway. It’s stylish and full of super comfy leather and advanced electronics, but still extremely capable in any weather and road surface…

I might actually keep this one for a few years. 😉