I’m married with children (No, I’m not Al Bundy. This blog is about cars), which requires that one’s life undergoes a carvolution (car evolution) over time. While lots of men would prefer to start with a hot car, things like money and the needs of wife and children must come first. Then there’s the daily commute, number of children (stop fighting; but she’s breathing my air!) and the safety in considering the wife’s opinion on the subject.
When my wife and I first met in upstate New York, we were just finishing college and had a total of nine-hundred dollars between us, supposed to cover her last semester of tuition (I had already graduated the previous semester). It must have been love, because we moved in together, I needed to get a job, and she gave me the money to buy a car so that I could do the job thing.
Being a clueless twenty-one-year-old, I purchased a used 1966 VW Beetle. To his credit, the salesman actually tried to steer me away from the car, but I was having none of that. After all, the car had a shiny new paint job. This was the beginning of my carvolution.
The VW worked long enough for me to get a job at the University of Rochester. Six months later, the brakes went (they had been packed, no longer legal), the rust worked its way through the new paint everywhere. The car came without a heater/defroster fan, the only defrosting occurring as the wind blew into the car while you moved forward. I have long arms, and in the winter I rolled down the driver’s window, reached out and used a plastic scraper to clear the windshield as needed.
So, with my first car purchase, I learned what the salting of snowy roads can do to a car up north. Fortunately, I’m six-seven with long legs, so when the brakes weren’t working very well I could stick my leg out the door and drag my foot. I went through a couple of pairs of shoes before finally giving up and trading in the car.
By then, I had earned enough money to pay my now-wife back and buy another used VW Beetle. This time I got a 1969 complete with a heater/defroster fan and functional brakes, a definite improvement in my carvolution. We did discover that any snow that collected on the hood of the car near the windshield would blow into the car when we turned on the fan. We spent many hours driving around with it snowing inside the car. This was quite festive at Christmas time.
We moved from the frozen north to New Orleans for a couple of years. During that time it was still just the two of us. We kept the VW and I bought a Honda 250 motorcycle for commuting to school. We parked it in the kitchen of our apartment at night; bad neighborhood. We ‘bike-pooled’ on it together to Tulane most days, weather permitting.
This phase of my carvolution took a turn for the worst the day a pickup truck, shotgun rack in the back, nearly ran us off the interstate. My wife decided it was a good idea to flip the guy off. He stopped and started backing up towards us. I was able to escape off an exit, and my wife agreed to restrain herself on the bike after that. After all, you have to survive to evolve.
We moved to Northern Virginia, where we added a new Toyota Tercel. We needed two cars, since one of us worked in Virginia and the other in Maryland. I kept the Honda bike, and actually drove it on the Washington Beltway commuting to work in good weather. Yes, I’m still here to tell about it, but not sure I’d pass a valid psych evaluation.
Those two cars and bike were great. They were simple, ran well, got good mileage. The VW engine was so simple that I actually rebuilt the carburetor myself at one point. Let’s just call that what it was, a miracle. I’m a lot more bookish than mechanical.
Then the first two daughters came along, and with them the dreaded minivan, a dark day in my carvolution. We needed the space to haul all of the baby stuff, as well as the babies. I have always been a car guy. To me, driving is more of a sport than a mode of transportation. Which is why driving a minivan seemed a form of torture, worsened by the constant screaming and crying of the children.
As they grew, the video players could only keep them entertained for so long. Then came the constant fighting, “She’s breathing my air”, or, “She touched me!”, or “I’ve gotta go potty”, usually followed by lots of screaming, taunting and hitting. I threatened repeatedly to stop the minivan, get out and run over myself, but that never seemed to help much.
My commute to work changed, and I had to drive the insanely crowded Washington Beltway to Maryland and back. We were living in the Virginia suburbs at the time. Every day, as I was cut off, given the finger, fought for exit ramps and raced to change lanes, I fantasized owning an Army tank. That would have been a logical step in my carvolution. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford the gas, as back then it had gone up over three dollars a gallon.
Then, the third daughter arrived on the scene. At that point, the minivan no longer worked; another step in my carvolution. We couldn’t get enough separation between the three of them. The constant fighting and bickering was unbearable. I begged my wife to run over me, but she’s mean, and refused to do it.
So, I bought a Ford Expedition, three rows of seats with a kid in each row, positioned at opposite sides of the vehicle. They were so far apart they could barely hear each other. I was so far up front I could barely hear anything from the back. At that point, child duty fell to my wife. I loved that SUV. It probably saved my sanity; at least I never tried to run over myself after that.
As the girls grew and became old enough to drive, we bought each of them a used car. We bought the eldest a used Nissan sedan, which she wrecked in the high school parking lot the first week. The second daughter got a used Toyota sedan, and hit a deer after two weeks.
Our third daughter, seven years behind the second, was given a Honda Fit. She never wrecked the car, but I constantly heard, “Dad, I step on the accelerator, and nothing happens.” Those things had small engines. I kept telling her she needed to feed the squirrels under the hood once in a while. I’m not sure she believed me.
Finally, pure car bliss. All three girls had grown, and were off to college and/or work. I immediately went in search of the perfect car. I spent so much time researching and test driving cars that this time, my wife threatened to run over me.
I settled on a BMW 3 series sedan. I thought it was appropriate to allow my wife to test drive the car too. We started with the 300 HP straight six cylinder. She floored it on the interstate; the g-force almost took my head off. Her eyes got as big and round as silver dollars with pure pleasure, and we went with the smaller engine. My wife likes to go fast, but I didn’t want to spend my twilight years in traffic court. This is where she joined in my carvolution.
She decided she needed input into the color of the car. She liked the regal gray sedan parked inside the showroom, with black leather interior. It seemed fine, until we took delivery, in the sunshine. When the sun shined on the paint at a certain angle, the metal flecked gray paint magically turned purple. So we drove around for four years in a purple car. She lost her color choosing rights.
We got the four-wheel-drive version of the BMW sedan, smaller engine with six-speed manual. That car was amazing to drive. I owned it for four years, and had a blast. But, I am totally OCD when it comes to dings and scratches on new cars. My wife got to the point where she would make me drop her off at the mall entrance before I parked the car a mile away at the back end of the parking lot where there were no cars or large pickup trucks to ding my doors.
Then the car-volution got a little strange (stranger?). I had a friend who bought a Subaru Outback, so I test drove one. I loved the incredible stability of their AWD on snow, gravel and especially rain. I was getting older, and safety seemed like a good idea. So, I traded the BMW for an Outback.
I loved that car. In fact, my youngest daughter (21 at the time) and I took a 7600 mile, 30-day trip around the country in it. We had a blast, and the car kept us safe and performed like a champ. I know it’ll do over a hundred miles an hour, because in Montana I woke up from a nap to see the speedometer pushing 120. When I asked my daughter why we were going warp speed, she said, “I always wanted to know what it’s like to do a hundred.” I didn’t take any more naps.
My wife also fell hard for Subarus, and she got a Forester. She usually thinks of cars as an inconvenience for the sole purpose of getting from one place to the next. But, she loved that car so much I wasn’t even allowed to drive it. That surprised the heck out of me. She was now involved in her own carvolution. Good for you, Subaru.
So, this is the carvolution that my family and I have gone through over the past forty years. The story continues, although this time I might have errored slightly (don’t tell my wife I said that). Our Subaru dealer found out I once had a BMW, really like to drive, and he pointed me towards a WRX.
I test drove a 2018 with a six-speed manual and immediately fell in love. I especially loved the way the car corners. It will enter a curve faster than a Porsche 918, and the AWD drive is awesome. I spent lots of fun-filled hours playing dodge the deer on those wonderful curvy southern Virginia country roads.
However, this is where my carvolution went off the rails. First, my wife decided she wanted to be a beach girl when she retired, and we moved to Florida…absolutely no curvy roads at all where we live. Still fun to drive, but not as much fun in a straight line.
More important, I didn’t do my research very well with this car purchase. As it turns out, the WRX apparently receives more speeding tickets than any other car sold in the U.S. If you don’t believe me, just ask the South Carolina state policeman that pulled me over a couple of months ago. I was only doing 75 in a 70, but it was a WRX.
I think it has more to do with the fact that most WRXs are driven by young men due to the reasonable price range. When the officer looked in the car and saw my 68-year-old-carcass, he felt sorry for my wife and just gave me a warning.
My wife recently mentioned that Subaru has a new large SUV, the Ascent. It reminds her of her old Forester, and she is of the opinion that it might be safer for us to travel on the interstate. Sounds like if she has her way, my carvolution might get back on track, or be replaced by hers. At least nobody’s run over me, yet:)
If you liked this blog article, you might also enjoy reading PLEASURIA: Take as Directed (Koehler Books), available at bookstores everywhere and on Amazon at http://bit.ly/pleasuria. I’m giving all my after-tax profits from the book to two children’s charities, Holly’s House and Darkness-to-Light.