single frame: Cars of my past


Cars of my past
Olympus XA
Kosmo Foto Mono

I haven’t owned many cars in my time but until these two I never missed one when it was gone.

I really loved that Toyota Matrix and I was sad when I had to let it go. It had become a beater worth maybe $500, and it needed a repair that cost twice that. When you own a beater, you think long and hard about every repair because the accumulating repair money would soon buy a better car. You learn to live with most broken things. But in this case, the broken thing made the car a safety risk. Goodbye, Matrix.

I wasn’t excited about the Ford Focus when I bought it. The price was right and it met a critical requirement of carrying me, the kids, and the dog. But then I found out that it handles like a sports car, cornering tight and flat. It had decent oomph for an economy car. I threw that car hard down twisty highways. I loved driving it. But it was getting up there in miles, and my son needed a car, so I sold it to him and bought a used VW Passat. The Passat is a surprisingly good car, perhaps the most reliable and competent vehicle I’ve ever owned. But it just isn’t fun like the Focus.

My son had the Focus for about a month when someone ran a stop sign and put an end to that poor little Ford. My son was uninjured. His stepdad found a great deal on a used 20-year-old Saturn with just 30,000 miles on it. Between the insurance payout and the price of the Saturn, my son came out $500 ahead. Not bad!

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19 responses to “single frame: Cars of my past”

  1. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    Cars! I have been scanning old photos going back to my teens, and found photos of most of the cars I have owned over the years…material for an upcoming blog post. In my case if I still had some of them my retirement would be much more luxurious, there were one or two that have since become very valuable classics. Hindsight is a wonderful thing ;)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve never been so fortunate as to own something that became a classic! I’ve always owned really rather ordinary cars.

  2. J P Avatar

    My 07 Honda Fit is on the ragged edge of becoming a beater and also has some of the driving characteristics of your Focus, so I seem to have taken your emotions relating to both of the cars in your picture and rolled them into one vehicle. I dread the day when something bad will happen to it and I’ll have to let it go.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Here’s hoping the Fit hangs on for many years yet!

  3. DougD Avatar

    Yeah, I miss our old Focus, newer one is less fun.
    Even with $500 in his pocket I’d say your son came out behind because GM !

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Ah, not a GM fan I see! I have to admit, I’d be hard pressed to buy a GM these days.

  4. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Sad post, because I just had to trade in as “salvage” my 2005 Toyota Scion xB box, one of my most beloved cars! 186,624 miles! Anyone interested can google the story of the “new vs. old” Scion xB, where Toyota came along and “fixed” the early model refrigerator box in 2008, which then everyone hated! They never sold more per year than the last 2006 “square box”. They “americanized” it, when no one buying it wanted it “americanized”. Best sitting, best driving, best utility car I ever owned!

    I would have kept fixing it forever, except that Toyota cheaped out on the metallurgy and quality so much, it would have cost me half the cost of a new car to fix (I still would have done it if I was rich or won the lottery). As a long time Toyota driver (my first was a used ’73 in 1975, first new in ’77), stuff went wrong with my xB that had never gone wrong with my previous models at the same mileage.

    My alternator, water pump, and starter all failed within a 1000 miles of each other, around 140,000 (never happened with my previous, in fact, never happened as long as I owned those cars into the 180,000+). The wheel rims rusted to the point that the tires would not hold air, and the hubcaps would roll off! You see Toyotas all over town with no hubcaps now! It’s interesting because I park next to a 1999 Echo with pristine wheels, and I’ve seen a four year old Yaris with wheels worse than mine!

    But the thing that really killed me (and would have expense-wise), was that all the wheel bearing were shot (never happened on anything I owned at this mileage before), and to replace with OEM parts, would have been pushing $3000 dollars! I’ve heard of people owning the later series xB that had their wheel bearings go before 100,000, and they replaced them with after-market parts, shot again in 10,000 miles!
    In addition, the EVAP system failed every 3 years or so, This is the system that filters the air coming out of the gas filler cap. Toyota never had a “fix” made (and no, it wasn’t the gas cap seal), so it was just a chronic problem (lots of web-sites telling you how the fix yourself, but still 600 bucks worth of parts every three years). Also the exhaust system was a problem, 1300 dollar part, which I had jury rigged at a muffler shop, but could not do anymore, I would have had to cough up the money! All together, that’s over 7,000 dollars on a car with an engine with 186,000 miles on it, and a clutch needed in the next year or so.

    What did I buy? I wanted a clutch model Honda Fit, but the local Honda dealers would not get me one, and would not honor the True Car “average purchase”; in fact, unlike my pals in bigger cities, True Car is mostly used here by the dealers to generate sales leads, they don’t plan on honoring the pricing! I found a dealer that did exactly what I needed, and am now driving a clutch model Kia Soul, bottom-of-the-line.

    I miss my Scion xB “box” every-single-day….

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh yes, the xBox! Marvels of space utilization.

      My first wife was a giant Toyota fan. She influenced me to buy three Toyotas — and none of them lived up to the reliability hype. One of them lost its transmission at 90,000 miles and it was a $3500 replacement bill!! I switched to Ford after that and then to VW.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Gotta say, they really crapped out after 2000, almost everyone I talked into a Toyota back in the 80’s, bought another in the late 90’s, early 2000’s, and now they are all driving Subaru’s today! Funny because 30 years ago, Subaru was a nightmare! Even the Toyota dealer I’ve been going to since the early 80’s, is under new management, everyone I knew is gone, and they’re offering questionable service, and are pushy about what you “need” to do on the car.

        The 4 years I was in Indy, Tom Wood did alright for service by me, and I was happy when it seemed like they followed me right up to Zionsville! (down the block from you). It’s the product, now….sad….

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Tom Wood Toyota is literally right behind my house. 😟 I used them occasionally at their old location and they always treated me right.

  5. tbm3fan Avatar

    I actually have no pictures of my 1980 Civic Wagon that I had till 1986 when I bought my 1986 Mazda 626. I believe I have only one picture of that car. I had four company cars, while in college, a 71 Squareback, 73 Audi Fox, 74 Duster, and 76 Nova. I liked the Duster and have several pictures of it but none of the rest. So of four new cars I bought in my life I have almost no pictures of the ones now gone but plenty of the two I still have. those two being the 1968 Cougar and 2004 Focus. I will be buying no further new cars for the rest of my life but will continue to use what I have. Any new car goes to my wife, who is less amused by old cars, and so she has a 2018 Mazda 3. So the household breakdown in one for her and nine older ones for me.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I wish I’d photographed my ’96 Mercury Sable at all, and my ’98 Toyota Sienna more than once. Those are the only cars I don’t have photographs of, to speak of.

  6. Roger Meade Avatar
    Roger Meade

    I fully agree on the Focus. I had a 2005 ST with a five speed manual. A very fun car to drive. The interior was so/so, but it was reliable and could get 35mph on a road trip. I sold it three years ago to a friend. He still has it, but it has terminal rust problems. The salt/sand mix the road crews use up here in the winter is very hard on cars- especially unibody construction.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I wish mine had been a manual! Also, I wish mine could get 35mpg! I averaged 26.

  7. brandib1977 Avatar

    My parents have a Focus that started out as their “good car” and eventually became my dad’s work car. It’s like an ‘02 or ‘03 and still going strong!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Nice. Mine was an ’07. It was still running fine when I sold it to my son.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        They seem to be made well!

  8. Aaron Avatar

    Jim, if the opportunity arises, put a Mazda3 on your shopping list. New or used. Not much back seat room but I think you’ll find the fun factor comparable to your Focus.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Nice to know. The current 3 sedan is nice looking, and the hatch is passable in looks. I wasn’t enamored of the previous generation’s looks at all!

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