Car dreams

43 comments on Car dreams
2 minutes
Beetle bug (crop)
Agfa Optima, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2011

When I was a wee lad I’d sit on the front stoop, look down the hill to the busy major artery below, and watch the cars go by. I’d watch for the Impalas and Furys, Novas and Fairlanes, Mustangs and Camaros. But I especially watched for the Volkswagens.

In those early-1970s days, when you said Volkswagen, everyone knew you meant the Beetle. I sure wished my family had one, because they were the coolest little cars.

As I got older, I wished we had a Mustang. Then later I wished we had a Renault Fuego, but those turned out to be wildly unreliable and I’m glad my wish didn’t come true.

As an adult, I really wanted a Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia. I came close to owning a cherry one, but it was a cash deal and I couldn’t pull together the scratch. Then it was a Corrado, Volkswagen’s sporty hatchback of the 90s. I test-drove a brand-new one, and it was fun, but I passed because one couldn’t be found with a manual transmission. I regret not going with the automatic now, as I could have afforded that car.

Then it was a Chevrolet Impala SS, the go-fast version of the last full-size, rear-wheel-drive, body-on-frame Chevrolet. Later I dreamed of owning an old Ford Pinto, believe it or not — I had one for a while after I learned to drive and I guess I was just nostalgic. And then I caught the Ford Ranger bug. I still feel drawn to them when i see one on the road in good condition.

But now I’ve come full circle and dream of owning an old Beetle again. I sometimes look for them on Craigslist or or eBay. I’d like a later one, from the 1970s, and I’d like it to have been restored. It’s shocking that they go for no less than 10 grand now, and 20 grand isn’t out of the question. But 45 years after the last new Beetle was sold in the US, a car that was considered disposable in its day, I suppose it’s not so surprising that the ones that remain command a premium.

I don’t know if I’ll ever pull the trigger on any classic. My inner skinflint always holds me back. I don’t know where I’d park another car, anyway. But it’s fun to dream. I’ll probably always have some car as an object of my desire.

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43 responses to “Car dreams”

  1. brandib1977 Avatar

    I would love to own a classic but my friends with classic cars seem to pour all their time and money into maintaining them. So I guess I’ll just live vicariously through them! I need my money for adventures!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s the thing that holds me back. I just want to drive and enjoy it, not spend time and money on it all the time. My fun car might be something like a new Honda Civic Si after it’s time to move on from my VW. I’ll just drive it daily.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        That sounds like a reasonable solution. Yeah, I want the fun part but not the work and and hassle!

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Never had the financial where-with-all to take on two cars, a daily driver and a dream-mobile, and up in the snow belt, that means a 2 3/4 car garage as well. When I was a wee lad, I would have killed for a Jag XKE, and almost made that come true in the mid-90’s, when I was going to pull the trigger on a clean version, with the easy to maintain 6 cylinder, for 16k. At the last minute, the seller thought better of it and backed out. Probably dodged a bullet. I still look longingly at the first gen Toyota Scion 2005 xB, the little square one. I owned one, and if I had the money to own two cars, I would have put whatever it took into it to keep in running. I still see clean Grammy driven ones around, and if I won the lottery, I’d have a fleet of them. Still the favorite car out of anything I even owned.

    1. fotosharp3820ea7ebf Avatar

      We’ve had a 2005 xB with a manual tranny (the most fun way to go IMO) for the last 10 years. It’s not the best freeway car for long distance driving, but it’s an awesome “little” car for around town with amazing interior room and carrying capacity for it’s size. And perfect for older folks who want a bit higher seat level to get in and out of the car. Unfortunately, we’ve had a couple unusually expensive repairs (for this car at least) but it’s got a reputation of having really good reliability.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Ditto, my xB was manual…easiest car to get in and out of I ever owned. Toyota wrecked the line when they made the newer version, sales tanked. One of the reasons I got rid of it was that it had very “un-Toyota-like” dependability..had mine for 180,000 miles, and had to replace the starter, water pump, EVAP system (which Toyota never fixed, it kept breaking, and I couldn’t relicense the car with it broken), and the poorly coated wheels got so rusty, it wouldn’t hold air. Broken wheel bearings as well. All these were problems I NEVER had with previous model Toyotas I drove into 200,000 miles! Not characteristic Toyota dependability, which is why after 50 years of driving Toyota, I switched to a Kia…I think they lost their way, unless you’re willing to spend 35k…

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I’ve owned 3 Toyotas. The first was a giant, wallowing minivan and it just had a lot of minor irritating issues. The second fried its manual transmission at 80k. The third I brought to 185k but it needed front end steering/suspension rebuild AGAIN and so that was the end of the line. I’m just not wowed.

          This stupid VW is the most reliable car I’ve ever owned.

    2. matt Avatar

      My Jag is the (pre-Ford) XJS (though I love the E-Type).
      I actually had one, 1985 XJS 5.3L V-12, for a while; but had to trade it in for a more reliable car when I started transporting my daughter more regularly. It’s the only car, all it’s problems aside, I regret selling… even though I know I made the right call at the time.

    3. Jim Grey Avatar

      When I bought my Ford Focus, I kept the car it replaced, my Toyota Matrix. I had cash for the Ford thanks to an unexpected windfall.

      The fellow who runs the site about old cars that I write for has a white xB, his “X Box” he calls it. Loves it.

  3. Theron Avatar

    Porsche 911. An early one, say, 1964-69. I’m really not sure why.

    1. matt Avatar

      Because those are the prettiest ones.

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sounds like great fun!

  4. matt Avatar

    “I wished we had a Renault Fuego”
    “I dreamed of owning an old Ford Pinto”

    So many “I can’t believe I just read that” in this post, Jim! :D

    “I passed because one couldn’t be found with a manual transmission”
    I completely understand this. I recently went on a hunt for cars still sold with manual transmissions (owning an automatic for my own daily driver is not to be considered). The pickings were meagre and several I wouldn’t consider owning (Hyundai’s offerings, for example). It’s bleak for those of us who enjoy it.

    My daughter learned to drive on my 6-speed Jetta, and I think I’ve unleashed another manual-transmission snob into the world. :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We owned a 1983 Renault Alliance, Motor Trend Car of the Year Edition, and we loved it. After 70k miles it became unreliable, but by then my Fuego dreams had passed.

      I loved the stupid Pinto I drove for a while. I was 19, though, and not wise.

      I’ve owned nothing but automatics since I needed to shift to owning family cars, and it turned out driving an automatic wasn’t terrible. That Corrado with an automatic was a ton of fun, and I should have bought it.

      But I still hope to buy a manual transmission car for my next daily driver. Honda Civic Si or something.

      1. matt Avatar

        Yeah, I get it. There’s not much logic to car lust, for certain. Renaults were sort of exotic in the day, I think, with all their French quirkiness — especially compared with the relatively awful offerings of American car companies of the day.

        I’ve never heard anyone say they lusted after a pinto, though. That’s a new one me. :D

        I, for one, would happily own a bunch of old British oil sieves because I like them. I’m not immune to the car-lust brain dysfunction.

      2. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        My KiaSoul 2020 was manual transmission, dealer was able to swap with another dealer for it…cheap. In my town, the “Kia Boys” have made a career out of stealing Souls, but usually not the manual tranny cause they can’t drive it! I did a lot of research before switching from Toyota to Kia, and read a lot of professional car magazines touting the idea that the Korean car makers are now offering superior cars to the cheap Japanese offerings. I wouldn’t be so dismissive of the Koreans.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Margaret has a 2017 Soul+ and we both like it. I sort of wish they’d build an XL version with more room in the wayback, and I wish the CVT wasn’t so wishy-washy when you punch it from a stop. Otherwise, it’s fun and quirky and for a modern car has good visibility.

        2. matt Avatar

          I think the Korean’s offerings are spectacular for a certain demographic. If, for instance, you are interested in getting an engine, 4 wheels, A/C, CD, shiny lights and such for not much money, Hyundai/Kia (same company now) is for you.

          They don’t drive particularly well — in the sense of actual driving: cornering, speed, wheel-to-driver communication, etc like the German cars do. The ones I’ve driven have not been all that comfortable to me. I dismissed the Korean offerings based on my driving preferences and likes; but I can see why they’re popular.

          1. Andy Umbo Avatar
            Andy Umbo

            Main thing for me is dependability with zero repairs! I can say my six speed manual Soul slags around the corners about as well as anything ive owned or driven, except for my Triumph GT6 Mk III, and the Miata’s I used to rent…otherwise, it’s as drivable for my body, as anything Ive usually driven….

  5. tbm3fan Avatar

    I am always dreaming about adding another car to the stable. Currently on the lookout for either a 92-97 Town Car, 98-07 Grand Marquis or Crown Vic with low mileage and have seen some recently. Also the Buick Park Avenue as I already have the 04 LeSabre. Just looking to the future as I am never buying a brand new car for me again. Won’t pay the price and don’t want something purposely made hard for me to work on.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I had a line on an MGM a few years ago, a square bodied Panther. It was nice, but surprisingly small inside so I passed.

    2. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo

      TBM, I spent a lot of time renting those mid 90’s Town Cars and I love, loved, loved them! I once put an entire bank of photo shoot equipment in that trunk, and it still closed, with plenty of room for art directors in the cabin. My brother in law, who was an executive director of a science museum, told me once that getting a 30 year old maintained car is virtually zero carbon impact over a brand new built car (of course, not the gas).

  6. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I had a ’69 Camaro RS in high school. If I had moola, I would want another one.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      No doubt!!

  7. DougD Avatar

    Apparently I loved VW beetles before I could talk! And I have one today, but as you know it’s a mixed blessing. Just placed another parts order with Wolfsburg West yesterday and I’ll be crawling around in the driveway all summer fixing it.

    An old VW is one of the best classics to own though, parts availability is excellent, they get good mileage so you can actually afford to drive it, and they seem to genuinely make people happy!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      And a mere mortal can fix them himself.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        I still maintain that those early V-dubs were never “dependable”, as much as they were my cheap and easy to repair! They were never laid up for long, that’s for sure!

  8. Simon Hollander Avatar
    Simon Hollander

    Here goes: In 2000 I bought a 1985 Porsche 944 from a close friend who had bought a new Porsche Boxster. He had maintained the 944 meticulously and took it off the road entirely during the winter (he always had a second car that he referred to as a utility car). I sold it for $1000 more than I paid for it, but the in-between years were colossolly expensive. I was a regular customer at a local Porsche specialist and even became part of his inner circle of Porsche customers, all of whom had several collector cars (except me). They were the tallest people I ever knew, when they stood on their wallets. But I digress. As a result of this association, however, I got to drive several Porsche 911s, Boxsters, a 968, an original Mini with right hand steering, and a Ferrari 550 Maranello that some poor, unknowing customer was storing at my specialist for the winter. That car scared the absolute hell out of me. When I retired, thirteen years ago, it was time for a sensible daily driver. Due to space constraints (my wife has to have a car, too, you know?) I sold the Porsche and bought an Audi A4. That 944 was one of the cars I wished I still had. I would have liked to retain my ’07 Mustang, my ’08 VW R32, and, in the hand-me-downs-from-my-parents department, our 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Boy, that was a CAR!! An Oldsmobile from when Oldsmobiles were really Oldsmobiles!! I currently drive a 2019 Mini Cooper S and dream about having more room so that I would have an excuse to buy a Miata. Or a Triumph TR6. Or…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Spoken like a true car guy! I love the line “tallest people I ever knew, when they stood on their wallets.”

  9. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    They were great little cars! My dad had one for a while when I was young and I enjoyed driving it. They can go anywhere that a 4WD can go, and they are simple to maintain! My wife’s parents bought one new in the UK during the 1960 and brought it with them to New Zealand, owning it for more than 20 years….she drive a New Beetle now because it reminds her of them, unfortunately the originals have become rather expensive. Funny how things change over time isn’t it!

  10. Erik Conrad Avatar
    Erik Conrad

    As a kid dad drove a 62 bug that he had bought new then traded for a 72 bus which he traded for a 75 Dasher wagon (which was the car I learned to drive in 83.) After the divorce mom kept the 75 and dad bought a 78 Dasher hatchback
    Now he drives a 2001 rave green pearl (I looked it up) GTI. It has something like 25,000 miles on it and he is so proud of that car. He enjoys telling me every time he takes it to the dealership for service how much the guys there rave about it.
    Me? I drive a Mazda, I never developed his love for Volkswagens. Probably because that 75 Dasher was garbage.
    And I don’t know how much he got for that 62 but no doubt it wasn’t enough. Times sure have changed.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My dad was a Ford man through and through, even when they were crap, like his Windstar minivan. Sometimes people just get blind to their brands!!

  11. Peter Miller Avatar
    Peter Miller

    I loved cheap Japanese cars in the 70s, because the seats would recline and I would fit. Apparently I have a long torso and most cars now are miserable to get in and out of. Most favorite car of all time was a Toyota Previa, followed by two Toyota Avalons. More Corollas in the family than I can remember, most of which had sticks.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What was it about American cars that the seats didn’t used to recline? So frustrating.

  12. Kevin Thomas Avatar
    Kevin Thomas

    In high school I dreamed about either a 1957 Chevy Belair (56 was acceptable too) alternating with a 70’s Chevy pickup (that was a thing in Austin in the mid 70’s, both for the goatropers and the longhairs). I could have bout a Belair – they were running $300 most any week in the want ads – but never pulled the bullet. Now, I enjoy power steering and automatic transmission too much 😁
    Late 80’s Jaguars we’re sure pretty, but not gonna hunt one down these days. Now it’s about utility, which means a nice SUV.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, I need my cars to be useful now, too. I had three four-door hatchbacks in a row and they were very useful.

  13. J P Avatar

    Every single day of my life there has been something I would love to own that I do not. A VW has not often been high on that list, but it gets there occasionally. I had some relatively close contact with Bugs back when they were common, with rides in them from time to time, usually parents of friends. Marianne is the one with VW in her blood, as she drove almost nothing but for her first decade of driving because her father ran a VW repair business.

    My list keeps getting shorter, but I would still like to experience a Studebaker.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      One thing that makes the beetle practical for me is the huge parts support and ease to fix it yourself.

      1. J P Avatar

        It turns out that Studebakers are much the same in those respects. :)

  14. Aaron Gold Avatar

    Jim, I got to live your dream for a day:

    I have a few more photos of the ’49 on my Flickr page.

    I also drove a pristine ’73, freshly restored and in VW’s collection in Germany (didn’t write about that one). What I love about the Beetle is that you really feel like you are not merely driving, but manipulating the machinery. It’s a similar feeling to the Model T, which I’ve been fortunate enough to drive on a couple of occasions.


    1. Aaron Gold Avatar
      Aaron Gold

      Oh, and here’s a related story you might find interesting — one of my favorites that I’ve written.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        What a terrific article! No wonder it’s a favorite.

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      What a terrific companion! Gives a lot of credence to VW’s claims then that they only changed the beetle to make it better.

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