The Cars That Got Away


I know I talk about my old pickup a lot here, but yesterday as I was working on that story about teens and their apathy toward cars, I couldn’t help but think more about the prize possession of my late teens and early 20s.

The 1984 Toyota 4X4 was owned by a friend of my dad’s in Oakland. He bought it new, and sold it in 1993, because his wife let him buy a new car every 10 years. It had 60,000 miles on it when I bought it. (He replaced the Toyota with a new 1994 Ford Explorer – I’ll bet he wishes he had that to do over again!)

Since I was desperate to find a mid-’80s Toyota, he gave me a good deal on it: $4,500. I flew from Spokane, Washington, to Oakland, California, with a friend, and we drove the truck back home, where I had the windows tinted, put on new 31/10.5 tires, shiny chrome wheels, a fresh paint job, and a custom stereo system. Every spare cent I had went toward my girlfriend or my truck.

In 1999, just as my truck was about to turn to 100,000 miles, it was stolen from a Seattle park ‘n’ ride public transportation lot. I was devastated… even more so when the police found the truck and asked if I wanted to go see it. I should’ve never gone! My baby was trashed. Her wheels and tires were gone, her frame was badly bent… perhaps worst of all, though, was the insult of finding receipts from a McDonald’s three blocks from where I lived.

Needless to say, the truck was totaled for a ridiculously low figure, and I never saw it again. Losing my truck set off a series of poor vehicle choices as I searched for one I could love the same way. I went through a 1994 Mustang, a 2001 Altima, a 2000 Tundra, a 2004 Pilot, and a 2004 X-Type before giving up, settling for a small commuter car, and realizing the feeling a teen gets with his first car is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Maybe I’m crazy for having such strong memories about my first car, but I’ll bet you have some stories about a car you wish you still had!

So let’s hear ’em! What car do you wish you still had, or wish you bought when you had the chance?



  1. I have a 2005 Civic 4 door, LX. Nothing custom, but I am saving up for a spoiler and new headlights (mine are yellow as ****) runs great, get to 60 in 7 seconds tho but I love it

  2. Toyota FJ-60, 1984 model, bought in 1990 with 83K k. Best expedition truck ever, with full load and some comfort still got us to Manaus, Brazil. I swore I would never sell it, left it at my parent’s when I went to College abroad. During my summer visit, my father made me sign an afidavid so he could “renew the registration”…”so you have a car to drive when you come back for Xmas”… but he ended up selling it to finance a Renault 21 (worse swap!) for my mom. The FJ-60’s are now classics, they go for about 16k in the US… that one was perfect, full off road package. I work for 4 years of selling chicken from a thermos truck to buy it…forgiven but not forgotten!

  3. I have not seen another sex icon in suv. After using my lovely discovery for almost 2 years i feel every college guy must have one. I am willing to trade my discoverer for lrx without a look back. But of course, basic models will have some missing features. Higher versions are really of great quality. I guess makers must look into quality of materials used in lower versions even if considering repricing.

  4. I had a little Civic hatchback in College. I had done some suspension upgrades and a Civic Type-R lip kit. It rode like it was on rails. everyday on my way to school I got to blast around the traffic circle! Good times…anyways a drunk driver ran a light and in one instance my car was totaled.

  5. My favorite car was my ’94 Ford probe. It was a “program car” which was the biggest mistake I made. I loved the car, moon roof, auto everything, low profile, awesome. Problem was it was an accident magnet. I got hit 3 times in one week, all not my fault.

    Another problem is that it was junk after 80K miles. It started shutting off in the middle of left turns. I brought it to the dealer a dozen times, finally called ford motors, and they hung up the phone on me. Left it with my parents after I moved to Boston. My sister totalled it on the highway. My father (may God rest his soul) loved that car and cried when they towed it away because he thought of me.

    While I wish I had that car back, I was disappointed that it fell apart after a while. Now I have a practical civic which has lasted me 9 years and 125K+. I also have a Ford F150 which has been good to me, but neither as fun as the Probe. RIP

  6. 1993 Honda Accord EX. I bought it used and the prior owner had put nice wheels on it and (for some bizarre reason) installed a black light on the interior when the actual overhead dome light worked just fine. The retractable moon roof was a joy since I hated (and still hate) A/C. The F22 four-cylinder never hiccuped, and the car was light enough that it accelerated wonderfully. The cruise control didn’t work, but I didn’t care, because I was driving, dammit, and could control my own speed.

    I lost it to an accident wherein paying to have it fixed was more than the actual value of the car. Bent front axle from getting my driver’s side front fender caught under the rear bumper of an early 90’s F-250. It was a teal sedan with a stock spoiler (no ricer for me, thanks), and I still browse wistfully on Craiglist for an identical car every once in a while…

  7. My favorite car I’ve ever owned was my 1990 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL. I bought it for $1500 off Craigslist. It had 250,000 miles, wouldn’t pass smog, and in cold weather the engine had a mind of its own. But I’ll be damned if that car didn’t have the presence of a Rolls or a Bentley- it was GORGEOUS. The body, paint, and interior were pristine; White with tan leather. When you’re a status-concious-yet-still-broke teenager in Southern California, that’s a pretty sweet deal.

    I finally understand what they say about Mercedes being “over-engineered”, as this thing was built like a bank vault. I only had it a few months before the cost of repairs exceeded what I paid for it (or could realistically afford), and it left me waiting for the AAA driver more than a few times, but I would buy one again in a split second.

  8. I miss my 1995 Nissan Altima. I bought it brand new, so the price was steep, but worth every penny. It was fully loaded with everything you could wish for. The gas mileage was wonderful and I adored the stereo system. My Altima was a shiny blue that just seemed to stand out from other cars. Unfortunately, I had a very fatal accident that ended my Altima. My Altima was crushed in the accident. I would highly recommend this car as my Altima saved my life. The structure of the car was very sound and withstood being hit head on by a semi truck. Love that car!

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