Might be a strange thing to write about, but a vehicle is an integral part of your life, right? My very first car was a Vauxall Viva, a boxy little thing. I paid a whopping $100 for it and worked so lovingly on cleaning it from stem to stern. I barely had it a week when a drunk hit me on Queen Street in Brampton and totaled it. He was going so fast that it spun me around and when the car hit the curb my head went through the driver’s side windows. I just remember waking up covered in glass and I had no idea what happened. Because I was turning left into the Dairy Queen I was charged. When I eventually found a witness to the accident they told me the guy was fish-tailing all over the road and hit me from the wrong side of the road. Plus he was drunk, something the officer somehow missed. I learned later that he was at the end of his shift and just wanted to get home. It took years and many court dates to finally have it dismissed, but in the meantime I paid much higher insurance because I had been charged. The never gave me the money back when the charges were dropped.
My next car was a hoot! It was a bug. Can’t remember what I paid for it, but I do remember that the first time I went to the car-wash, the paint started flaking off. I bought big yellow stick-on vinyl flowers to cover it up and eventually the car was covered in flowers with all the paint coming off every time I washed it. You could see me coming a mile away. Eventually the gas line went and it was going to be really expensive to repair so it’s day had come. I was working at the bank and I think for a time I drove my parent’s car but the memory is a little foggy. I do remember I had a chance to buy my dream car, an MGB, from a rich kid who wanted the money to travel. He was asking an absurd amount, much less than the car was worth, because Daddy had given it to him as a gift for graduating. I needed my Dad to sign the loan for it and he refused. I never forgave him.
My first new car was a Mini. I remember having to drive it all over the place, not just to work and back, because my buddy Steve Vass from the bank and I had entered a rally and my dealer told me the car had to have certain adjustments done after a thousand miles. I drove and drove until it clicked a thousand and then had the dealer do the work just before we drove down to the start of the rally. It was hilarious because what we didn’t realize was that we had entered the Skylon National Rally, which is a grueling major championship race for mostly professional, sponsored drivers. We had to rush out and buy things like a fire extinguisher because this was mandatory. It was a crazy race, but we actually finished in Niagara Falls, hours late of course, but some hundred and twenty drivers didn’t finish, so we were sort of celebrities with the other drivers. I drove back to places I thought we had come close to buying the farm in the middle of the night and was terrified to see my skidding tire tracks right where we could have gone off the road.
I love that little mini and I actually upgraded to a Mini Cooper S a short time later. My original mini was a 1000 cc motor; the Coop has a 1250 cc motor, a big difference when the car body was basically the same. The problem with the Coop was that you pretty well had to be a mechanic to keep it tuned up and running right, which I was not. Reluctantly I had to get rid of it. When I was showing it this guy asked for a test drive. No one drove the car but me so I took him out. At the time we lived on Main Street. As I drove up Main at the speed limit this guy was mouthing off about what a waste of money the Cooper S was because it was “no better than the regular mini”. My blood was boiling at him insulting my car, so I dropped into a lower gear and turned left onto a street that I knew had two hairpin turns in it. We hit about eighty miles and hour as I approached the first turn and the guy went white. I think his fingers were denting my padded dash as we rounded the corner just about on two wheels. Anyone who has driven a mini knows it’s pretty well impossible to flip them, but this giuy didn’t know that. He thought he was with a crazy person! We rounded the second hairpin at the same ridiculous speed. I proved I could stop on a dime when we raced up to the stop on Main Street. I chirped all the tires as I pulled back into my driveway and told him to get the “f” out of my car and not waste my time. The blood had still not returned to his face.
I’m pretty sure that after the Coop I bought my first of many Hondas. The first one was a 1975 Hatchback. Chris was in hockey and played on three teams, so that car went everywhere, all over the country. We never had a second of trouble with it. It just ran and ran. I think if memory serves me, I traded it in on a Honda Accord LX for work. Shortly after that my salesman called me to say he had an “offer I could not refuse”. He said he had just had an EXi come in, the model above the LX and they would upgrade my lease at no cost. It was an offer too good to refuse. The EXi was awesome, with a sunroof, power everything, awesome stereo system and so much more. It was my perfect car.
Shortly after that my wife actually got her driver’s license. I think she was twenty-five. Crazy. We looked at a Hyundai at the time but I thought everything in it was so cheap. I remember the rods on the hatchback were about a quarter of an inch thick and I knew they would fail quickly. We ended up getting her a new Civic instead. It was a standard but she was okay with it, that is until the day she stalled it in the middle of the intersection of Kennedy Road and Queen Street. She panicked and I think flooded it, but she would not listen to reason and simply refused to drive it. I had no choice but to give her my “company” car and drive the Civic. It was such a hoot, but it’s amazing I didn’t get a gazillion speeding tickets in her. I would look down and I’d be whipping along at like 120 in an 80! I loved that little beast.
Then I got involved in something that no one on the planet “gets” – gerbil racing. A buddy, Jim Webb, and I had gone down to New York to meet the guy who invented the Rodentvelt Thoroughbred Raceway, an entertainment package that you ran in bars using live gerbils. I so regret that I have lost the video we had of us on Breakfast TV showing Ann Rohmer (an animal rights activist) how it worked. She loved it! Anyway, to accommodate the track, the gerbil “hotel” and the sound system and speakers we needed a truck, so I leased one of those monster vans with the raised roof, the captains chairs and all the bells and whistles. Cost us $800 a month, but we were booked solid and making good money. We played every Wednesday night at the Ole Triangle north of Brampton for a solid YEAR! We had a lot of fun but eventually it ran its course and we stopped making enough to pay expenses. I shipped the track back to New York.
This is when life took a big change. I had been out of the house for almost a year and knew my marriage was over. My mother had a cancer scare in 1991 and I knew I wanted to spend some time with her before she was gone, so I packed up and moved out West. My Mom and Dad had driven down with me from Westbank to sell the house and garage sale everything we could. I still remember the van loaded down so bad I thought it would never make it back out West, but we did. That was in July of 1993.
My parents went south to Arizona and I stayed at their house on the lake. One night I heard the van start-up and drive away. I knew it was coming because I had missed several payments and I knew I could not afford to keep it any longer anyway. I had just enough money to get a 1991 Jimmy, my first SUV and I loved that truck/car! I went everywhere with it, up in the mountains, pulling ski-dos; in the summer pulling my boat and taking me everywhere. I drove that Jimmy for years. I got the job at Shaw and they were paying me a car allowance so I traded the Jimmy in on a GMC Blazer that had 44,000 miles on it, but it was the top of the line, with leather seats, a disc player, sunroof and so much more. I drove that car to Yuma and back. It was pure luxury. I lost the job when Shaw closed and I could not afford the $450 a month payment. Dumb as it sounds, I don’t know what happened to it. I’m pretty sure I turned it in to the dealer.
I’m a little vague on the timing but I drove Tracy’s old van when we lived together. When I got the job at FBC I bought the worst car I ever owned, a 1998 Neon. Something was always going wrong with this car and it cost me a fortune. I finally parked it at the dealer and told them to take me home. I drove Ans’ car when I lived with her and then drove Dad’s Honda after he died. I sold that when it was about to fall apart and bought a 1999 Ford Ranger, my first real truck, which I loved. It was invaluable for the reno I did. When I planned to drive to Panama I sold the truck for more than I paid for it and bought a Honda Civic. When I ended up flying instead I sold the Honda.
During my time in Panama I never owned a car. I took the bus everywhere or walked. When I moved to London my friend Sieg helped me buy a 1998 Pontiac Sunfire, which today sits in the parking lot because I have no money for insurance or gas.