The Cars Of Our Fathers (Or Father In Law, In This Case)

Ford 1936

This post was inspired by Jim Cavanaugh’s moving Father’s Day homage to his father’s 1969 Ford LTD. The original idea was to list all the cars my father ever owned, but then you’ve heard the stories about most of my father’s cars already. The last time we visited Stephanie’s dad, I got him to list all the cars he’d ever owned. It’s long, eclectic, but has a pattern, all of which of course fits his personality. So I’m going to list his, and then feel free to list your Dad’s, or father in law, if you like.

Larry Squires’ first car was his Dad’s ’36 Ford coupe. Whether it was a three window or five window, I don’t know. And exactly how he came to have it, I’m not sure. But he drove it from his home in Salt Lake City to San Francisco, shortly before the war (if I remember correctly) where he now lives once again, after many moves (and cars).

Ford 1939

Larry served in the Merchant Marine during the war, and the years shortly after the war when he went to college and before he met Stephanie’s mom are a bit of a mystery. We know he was married briefly then, and apparently the only car during this period was a rather tired ’39 Ford coupe. Stephanie’s mom Dolores remembers the tail end of its ownership.

MG TF Roadster_Front_2_1

The memories of the MG are much more vivid, as Dolores learned to drive in it, and Stephanie remembers riding in it as a very young child. Larry went into Maritime Insurance after he graduated, and bought the MG around 1952 or 1953. No one can confirm it, but I’m assuming it was a TF because they all remember it having wire wheels. He had a good paying job, and like so many Americans at the time (especially on the coasts), he got sucked up in the rampant sports car fever. That it wasn’t exactly a practical daily driver for a family with a child gives you some insight into Larry’s personality, as well as explains many of the cars he bought. Thinking about the wife and kids was apparently low on the list of priorities, if there were any.

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Well, with a second kid on the way, the MG just wasn’t going to do. So it was replaced by a Simca Aronde (CC here), not all that unusual a car for San Francisco during the great import boom of the fifties. I couldn’t get much detail from Larry, but presumably, it was troublesome, at least after a while, because it gave way to something much less exotic.

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A ’57 Ford Fairlane replaced the Simca, around 1960 or so, and we know it was red and white. And by the time it was replaced, there were three kids. And this was during the time Larry ditched his well-paying insurance gig in LA and went back to graduate school, for a Masters in English Lit. Today, someone would be considered certifiable for doing that. But that was a different time.

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A used VW Beetle of uncertain vintage replaced the Ford in about 1963, right about when Larry’s fourth child was born. A rather curious and impractical choice, considering the circumstances. Stephanie has very vivid memories of a camping trip up the north coast of California in cold fog and several bouts of car sickness from siblings play a key role. Fun times, undoubtedly.

Mercedes 220S

Larry got his English Lit degree in the summer of 1964, and immediately received numerous job offers(!) from various universities and colleges. He accepted an offer from Humboldt State, in Arcata, on the north coast of California. He treated himself to a late-fifties Mercedes 220S, with beautiful leather interior, genuine wood, and a sunroof. It was one of only two Mercedes in all of Humboldt County then. This car will go down in the Squires family memory as the only car Larry ever bought that they actually liked. And in typical fashion, it was soon replaced.

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Not surprisingly, the elderly Mercedes turned out to be a money pit, and a student of Larry’s really wanted it. So it was replaced by “The Shitty Little Chevy”; a used two door stripper Chevy II that Larry described as ” a tin can lined in Saran Wrap”.

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Around this time, Larry’s dad died, and he inherited his green Falcon (similar to this one I shot in next-town-over Eureka, CA). Briefly, the Squires were a two-car car, but the Falcon was soon sold off in favor of the Shitty Little Chevy.

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Larry got involved with TM (Transcendental Meditation) quite early on, and went to India to be trained as a teacher by Maharishi in 1968. A few years later, the whole family packed up and traveled with Maharishi in Europe for the better part of a year, in Italy and Spain.  When they returned in the summer of 1972, Larry picked up something in a familiar vein, a used Plymouth Duster. By this time, the older kids were teens, and quite used to being stuffed into the back of compact two-doors. At least the Duster was fast; presumably it had the 318 V8.

During this time, Larry was having an extended (and public) affair with one of his students, and that finally resulted in a breakup, the very summer the Duster appeared. So the Duster went off with Larry and his new wife, and Dolores and the kids went back to Spain with Maharishi.

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A VW Rabbit became Larry’s next set of wheels.

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In 1978, Stephanie and I took our first trip together up to Humboldt County and Arcata, and we saw Larry driving a brown Datsun 310 just like this, as she was showing me her old neighborhood. They weren’t yet back on speaking terms, so I only got my first glimpse of my father in law as he drove by us going the other way. But that long freeze soon thawed.

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A Datsun pickup apparently fits in here somehow.

vw jetta_mk1_red_36

Then came the legendary 1980 or so Jetta Mk 1 Turbo Diesel. This was perhaps the first year or so that the turbo-diesel was available, and what a difference it made. I drove this one a visit to them, and was very impressed; one could feel a genuine little push in the backside when the boost came on. And it still got 40-45 mpg. Unlike almost all of Larry’s many cars, this one had a very long life, because he gave it to Stephanie’s youngest sister when she was in school, and then her brother got it, and kept it running for many years on. It may have been pushing twenty years when it finally fell out of the family. Tough little car.

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A Nissan Sentra fits in the time-line here, but it might have been his wife’s.

VW _Passat_sedan_B3

A B3 Passat arrived with him one day at our house when he came to visit. He let me take it for a ride, and I was suitably impressed; both by its roominess, its handling and performance, thanks to its VR6.

Saturn 1996-1999 _SL2_--_03-16-2012

A Saturn graced his driveway the next time we went to visit him. Cheap interior.

mazda 626 1999

According to them, a Mazda 626 fits in here somewhere too, but I don’t remember seeing it. If you’re getting the impression that Larry changed cars often, it’s true. And they changed houses just as often; literally just about every year. And these were all bought and sold. Stephanie once counted 19 houses in 20 years that they lived in growing up. And that kept going until pretty recently. The real estate agents undoubtedly loved him…

subaru _legacy_gt_wagon_2001

Then came the Subaru era; something like four of them between the two of them (I haven’t been including his wife’s cars). I know Larry had at least two Legacy wagons, and she had one as well as an Impreza wagon. Or something like that. This largely overlapped the years they moved to SLC, after Larry retired.

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And here’s where it ends, and a fitting finale it is: a gen1 Prius (bought used). And his wife bought a Civic Hybrid (still has it, I assume). Is there a pattern in all these? Californians are often stereotyped as trend-setters, or is it trend-followers? From the original sports car wave, to import sedans, VW, Mercedes, Japanese cars, VW diesel, Saturn, Subaru….Now it was time to save the planet. And a smattering of cheap American cars that were expedient in their time.

Larry is no longer driving, so the Prius was the end of the road auto-wise. But he’s still enjoying San Francisco, having moved back there a couple of years ago.