My Cars of a Lifetime: 43 Years of Mostly Mundane Motoring

 

After reading many CC contributors’ extensive COALs, I decided to chronicle my own car ownership. I think I can condense it down to one post. I won’t include any of the 15 or so motorcycles that I’ve owned, but I will mention my parents’ cars, as they owned just four in their combined lives, three of which overlapped my time at home, and their choices strongly influenced me. For my lead picture, I’ll  start with the first motorized vehicle I drove, though it belonged to a friend.

I think I was 11 or 12 years old, 1968 or ’69,  and don’t remember too much about this go kart, though I suspect it had a Briggs and Stratton engine and  I seem to recall hitting a few things. But let me back track a bit. I grew up in a college town in California which was a hotbed of foreign cars, or “imports” as they were typically called then, and I came home from the hospital in my parents’ first car, a 1954 Hillman Minx, which I think I remember. I have pictures somewhere, but that generation of Minx was featured here http://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-european/curbside-capsule-1951-hillman-minx/

The first car I can really visualize well was the olive-green Volvo 544 which my parents bought on European Delivery, in the UK, in 1960, and was shipped back to the US in the fall. We were a family of four, with a large dog that went everywhere with us, but we crammed into that Volvo for many vacation trips, and here we are near Lake Tahoe in 1961, with a CC-worthy  ’57 Ford in the background, and perhaps another older Ford behind the Volvo.

 

Another trip to the UK in 1964 brought with it a new Volvo, this time a 122S wagon. Here it is on a train that took us through a tunnel in the Alps. Interestingly, there’s another 122S behind us. Ours was fitted with fender mirrors well out of reach of easy adjustment, halfway up to the front of the car. But even if they had been closer, adjustment required a wrench. But hey, there were two of them, not so common in those days. The car also had 3 point shoulder belts in front, but no seat belts at all in back. My mom added the rear belts sometime in the ’70’s.

Unlike the 544, which stayed in the UK, this wagon traveled all over the Continent and Scandinavia before coming on a ship to the US. I remember this car well … riding in the way back, no AC, two parents who smoked … and then learning to drive in it and sneaking out to zip around the East Bay hills. A canyon-carver it was not, but it survived my sister and me, and lasted as my parents’ only car for over 250K miles, until 1986.

I was lucky enough to be driving it when it turned over 100K miles. No 6 digit odometers in those days.

My mom (my dad never learned to drive after coming to the US) replaced it with another Volvo wagon, a 240 4-speed with electric overdrive that she drove until a year or two before she passed away, nearly 300K miles. When I was old enough and had saved some money, my choice of cars was highly influenced by my upbringing. Though I lusted for a particular silver Corvair Turbo convertible for sale down the street, my budget was $500 and the Corvair was out of my price range ($800?). I even followed a lead on a neighbor’s ’56 Chevy convertible, for well under my budget, but it ended up staying in their family.

In the end, I test drove a B16 Volvo 544 and a 2 stroke Saab 96 (do you see a pattern there?) before settling on a 1965 Volvo 122S. Grey, like my parent’s wagon, but a 2 door which also featured the updated interior, wheels and grill which remained unchanged until the Amazon’s final model year. Like the wagon, which I had been maintaining since I was about 16, the sedan had twin SU’s and the long shift lever. Unlike the 122S sedans, the pre-1965 wagons like my parents’ car had drum front brakes, so the front discs in my new car were quite a revelation.

Here’s my 122S hanging out with a celebrity, at a historic event at Sears Point Raceway in 1976. I had removed the stock dog dish hubcaps for  a sportier look, what we called “bare nuts” in those days. Within a few months, I pulled all four coil springs and cut off an inch or two with an abrasive wheel. The car seemed to run pretty straight, so I assumed the alignment was good, or at least equal on both sides, and added homemade 1/4″ camber shims to each front upper control arm mount, to compensate for the added understeer from the oversized front sway bar I picked up second-hand for $10. I hit the local autocross circuit and proceeded to grind neat chamfers on the outside corners of my front mudflaps on the pavement, as the front swaybar did little to mitigate the Volvo’s excess bodyroll.

But within a year, I had some extra cash rolling around, from a summer engineering internship, and I wanted something more exciting than a 2 door version of my parents’ car. And despite growing up in an import family, with a Borgward across the street, a former Lloyd dealer next door, and best friends whose parents drove Porsche 356’s and Mercedes Fintails, I had a strong desire for something American.

By this time, I realized that a Corvair (or ’56 Chevy) was not for me, so I got the next best thing: a 3 year old Vega GT. 60,000 miles, $1200, metallic green with green interior, a 4 speed, and massive A70-13 tires on its wide 6″ rims. I soon upgraded to radial tires and Bilsteins, did some more autocrossing, took a long road trip up into the Canadian Rockies and ended up owning the Vega for almost 4 years, though most of those not as an only car, but often as a daily driver. Here its is, perhaps on the day I bought it, still on its A70-13 Firestone Wide Ovals.

When I returned from my Canada trip, with my fresh engineering degree in hand, I started working and earning a real salary ($1100/month!) and soon had more money than I knew what to do with. No, that’s not true. I knew what I would do … I wanted to get my SCCA road racing license. None of this autocrossing between pylons, one at a time against the clock. I wanted to race wheel to wheel, like my heroes Ronnie Peterson, and Graham Hill. Well, not quite Formula 1; in fact I really didn’t want to mess around with working on a car, or getting a tow rig. So I decided on SCCA Showroom Stock. At the time, this was a fairly recent SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) set of competition classes, for completely stock cars. Stock tire sizes, stock shocks and suspension, stock brakes and even pads/linings, no engine modifications, only a roll bar (not even a cage then) and 5 point safety harness. And a friend had just the car for me. Sure, it had been rolled once.

As I learned later, it also had some structural rust that allowed the sway bar mounts to pull out of the frame (see above), but hey, it was a 49-state car with extra power. And, it had been tweaked a bit under the hood, too. This was it #23, a 1975 Alfetta Berlina (4 door sedan). The duct-taped “N” on the hood next to the number stands for Novice. I’d like to think I was pulling away from that 280ZX; probably not, but the Alfetta was faster than the 850cc H Production Sprite behind us. At least on the straights.

This car took me through SCCA Driver’s School, to earn my novice Regional License, but in my third race I spun in the Esses at Sears Point and was T-boned by a Honda Civic. In the driver’s door. I was shook up, but not injured, and after getting the Alfetta towed off the course and resetting the fuel pump, I drove it 50 miles home with the steering wheel cocked about 90 degrees to keep it in the lane. It was totaled and I sold it as a parts car. Fortunately, I still had the Vega and went back to work to earn money for my next automotive purchase.

Now it’s early 1979 and I still want to race Showroom Stock. A careful perusal of the rulebook and I know just the car for me.

I find a clean, low-mileage ’78 Ford Fiesta at a Budget Rental Car sale and proceed to get a roll bar and belts installed. I buy a set of aftermarket shocks, spray paint them black and throw dirt at them while the paint is still wet. There, they look like old OEM shocks now! The Fiesta, in US market 1600 cc 4 speed form, was quite competitive in the SSC class, but perhaps not as fast as the Rabbits, Colts, or later, the X1/9 that joined the class in 1980. And my driving skills weren’t at the top-tier, but I finished on the podium once or twice.

Still, I had fun and even threw on a set of Capri wheels for street use, +1 sized 13″ rims with wide, low profile (in those days) 175/70-13 tires (the stock wheels that I had to race on were 4×12 rims, with 155-12 tires). I bought lots of those stock wheels, as the outside front wheel would last about two weekends at Sears Point, and only one weekend at Laguna Seca which had mostly left hand turns in those days. I learned this after my left front wheel broke in Turn 3 at Sears Point, sending me off the road and bending my steering rack. Unlike the Alfa, the Fiesta had to go home on a trailer that day. At some point the parts guy at my local dealer noticed there was a new part number and a “campaign” note … possibly a hidden recall if Ford had learned that wheels were breaking in normal use, or in testing, or perhaps a Ford engineer was racing a stock Fiesta somewhere.

After my second year of racing, the Fiesta was feeling pretty worn out (I had cracked the cylinder head and had it welded up) and I too was getting pretty burned out. I had spent every weekend from February to November, either racing, autocrossing, or working on the car. I decided to quit. The Vega too, which had been a faithful parts runner and backup when the Fiesta was undergoing repairs, also decided to quit, or at least needed a new clutch (broken diaphragm spring). By this time (1980) Vegas were in demand for V8 swaps and my clean GT attracted a lot of offers in parking lots and gas stations. I sold it easily for $600, half what I had paid 3-1/2 years and 35000 miles earlier. I decided to keep the Fiesta but look for something less tired and a bit more fun. I found it sitting on the used car lot at the Honda dealer in San Francisco.

 

A 49 state 1977 Scirocco. 1600 cc, 4 speed, and no catalytic converter. A little dirty, a few broken bits of interior trim, but it went like stink and it was cheap. My first foray into VW ownership. This photo must be soon after I bought it, as it’s still sporting the temporary registration on the windshield; the car had been a Wyoming car, and I suspect the Sierra fire road outing it’s pictured on below was not its first time off-pavement.

The Scirocco was fun, and fast, and horribly unreliable. I had ongoing electrical issues, brake problems, at least one CV joint failed and bits of interior trim and even functional interior parts broke on a regular basis. The Fiesta took over the role which was previously the Vega’s, reliable get-to-work car and parts-runner. One day in early 1981, though, the Fiesta water pump failed, and I took the Scirocco into town to get a new water pump. Across the street from the parts store was a GM dealership, and beckoning me from the lot in front was a car I’d always been secretly attracted to.

A striking, dark burgundy TransAm, no T-tops or screaming chicken hood decal, and showing off the wider (8″ vs 7″) rims of the WS6 handling package, which also included stiffer suspension bushings, larger sway bars, and a high-effort steering box. Strolling across the street, water pump in hand, I looked inside and saw it that it had a 4 speed, a new offering in California after several years of automatic-only Firebirds and Camaros. Here, the 4 speed was bundled with a 305 Chevy V8, not the Pontiac 301.

About an hour later, the Scirocco was traded in, and I was the owner of my first new car and my first V8, accompanied by my first car loan. Like the Scirocco photo, the one above is on a Sierra trip that included some dirt, after I had added driving lights and my work parking sticker, but again no front plate yet. This photo angle highlights the excellent panel gap management of these 2nd generation F Bodies. And the dirt roads highlighted the apparent lack of Loctite, torque wrenches, or general quality in the manufacturing process. But it handled well on smooth pavement, pulled an honest 120 mph, had sufficient room for a passenger, a tent and a couple of sleeping bags. It was also lot of fun on an autocross course, but within 8000 or so miles, when gas bumped over $1.25 a gallon, I knew it was time to say goodbye. In December of 1981  I traded it in, at a huge loss of course, on a very ordinary car which gave me a lot of utility and pleasure … for two years or so.

The car is a 1982 Civic DX 1500, 5 speed, dealer installed AM/FM cassette, and no other options. No dealer markup either, which was tough to find in the Bay Area on a Civic, and impossible on an Accord, which is what I really wanted. The Civic took me faithfully on a long commute, and many roadtrips in all kinds of weather and all kinds of roads, all over the West. In fact, the Civic earned me my only competition win, a first place in a regional SCCA autocross. However, as this picture shows, I had added some more exciting vehicles to my fleet, primarily the Honda CB900F in the foreground, which I bought 6 months after I had gotten the TransAm, and which outperformed it as both daily commuter and performance vehicle.

The Civic served as a fine counterpoint to the 900F, not to mention the Yamaha RD400F (Daytona Special) in the background, which was a short-timer in my garage. And, I finally sold off the Fiesta. But after two years and over 40,000 miles of totally reliable service, the Civic was put out to pasture. I had picked up my first dirt bike, was discovering more fun places to visit off the beaten path in the Sierra, and bought my first house, which needed furniture, appliances – and regular repairs. So what did I do? Like any red-blooded American male, even back in 1983 long before the current pickup boom, I bought a truck.

A used Datsun (yes, not yet a Nissan) King Cab 4wd with the 2.4 liter 4 cylinder and 5 speed. Oh, and no power steering – but it did have air conditioning, something which I’d only experienced in the TransAm until now.I think this picture dates to about two years later, after I had stripped off the garish 4×4 stripes and added some slightly larger tires and wider steel rims. With the funky wood and aluminum camper shell and carpet kit, it was better than a tent for outdoor adventures. One hour spent removing the shell, an easy one-person job, and I could haul furniture and top soil, or my dirt bike, or my Kawasaki GpZ550 during my short-lived return to club road racing, this time on two wheels. But by today’s standards the drivetrain wasn’t very reliable, first a blown head gasket, then the transmission losing the countershaft in Yosemite, requiring me to make the long drive home in 4th gear (direct mainshaft drive).

During my time with the Datsun I had picked up quite a few new toys, most two-wheeled, but also a car which I thought would be a great garage mate for the truck. It was Italian, but it wasn’t unreliable … just not as exciting as my bikes, nor really useful for daily driving. Somehow, I was OK riding a motorcycle in 100º F weather, or cold rain, but a convertible just wasn’t much fun.

Here it is, a 1974 Alfa Spider. I tolerated it through the spring and summer, but after about 5 months, I decided to stick to motorcycles for fun and replace both the Alfa and the Datsun with a new, more powerful truck. With power steering, a V6, and maybe even an automatic transmission, which I figured would make the off-roading I was beginning to do, more enjoyable. I test drove an S10 and a Jeep Comanche, both with the GM 2.8V6 and 5 speed combo. If I had waited for the Jeep 4.0 six, which debuted a month later, I may have made a different choice, but the GM 2.8 was pretty sad compared to its Michigan competition.

So in the end a 1986 Ford Ranger SuperCab 4×4, with the new-for-1986 2.9 liter fuel injected 60º V6 which offered a big bump in horsepower over the previous 2.8, and a 4 speed automatic transmission, took its place in my driveway. Mine was optioned in an unusual way, with some features from the STX trim package including a nice leather-covered steering wheel, quite tasteful silver accents inside and out, and a factory limited slip differential, but manual hubs, vinyl upholstery, skinny 195/75-15 tires on plain steel rims –  and no A/C. Also, another car loan, though at a then-low 2.9% APR. The Ranger took me on my first long off-pavement trip, through Nevada and Arizona. I suffered a blowout in one of the wimpy OEM Firestones on this trip, and soon replaced the remaining four with a slightly oversized set of BFG AllTerrain TA’s, on wider junkyard steel rims, and installed Rancho adjustable off-road shocks.

Here it’s pictured during an early season snowfall off California’s Highway 88, with the new tires and my friend’s Scout II behind it. The Ranger was a surprisingly capable off-roader and quite comfortable on the highway as well, with its long wheelbase (125″ I think). The Twin Traction Beam front suspension and manual locking front hubs may not have been sophisticated, but worked well, though replacing the tie rod ends around 60,000 miles did wonders for the steering precision. Note that these are the same Bosch driving lights I had on the TransAm. If I recall correctly, I had bought them first for the Vega, though I didn’t remount them on all the cars in between. This was a good truck and was my daily driver for nine years. A few years after buying it, I got married. My wife also had a pickup, a one-year-newer 2WD Mazda regular cab long bed and a camper shell, 4 cylinder 5 speed. Unlike the Ranger, it had A/C but no power steering. Good for sleeping in back, but pretty cramped up front. We decided to buy a better camping vehicle and sell one of the pickups.

After some negotiation, the Ranger stayed. Replacing the Mazda in the driveway was a 1985 VW Vanagon Westfalia, with an early version of the 1.9 liter Wasserboxer, with the full stove/sink/refrigerator kitchen setup. Here its is, at a nearly deserted campground in Yosemite Valley early in 1990. As I recall, the only other vehicle there was a mini-motorhome that had a lot of difficulty getting out of its site the next morning, even with chains. The VW just chugged right out; we had chains on, but even without them, snow and dirt road traction were excellent.

The VW took us on many wonderful road trips around the West, including miles off pavement into Death Valley, but also at least one extended tow truck ride. Neither the plastic used for interior trim, nor the plastic used for key pressurized cooling system components, seemed to have improved much since the Scirocco. And driving it in gusty winds, up steep grades, at elevation, with the engine whirring away at high rpm in 3rd gear, wasn’t much fun. On the other hand, it was very handy to live in, in our backyard, with two kids, when we were having our floor refinished. So, I mentioned kids.

With two kids, neither the Ranger nor the Vanagon seemed like paragons of active or passive safety. I decided we needed a safe, comfortable family car, and added a third vehicle to our fleet, a 1981 BMW 528i (1st generation E12). Silver, red leather, 5 speed. Nice to drive (and it had A/C), but even less reliable than the Scirocco or Vanagon, and after a few more tow truck rides, this time with a family of four, my wife pointed out that we needed a reliable, economical NEW car.  Preferably Japanese. Interestingly, I was unable to find any picture of our BMW, but you all know what they look like. I will show a picture of its replacement however, even though you all know what those look like too, although in the only one I could find it’s getting photo-bombed by yet another newcomer to our household. But more about that one later.

This 1993 Corolla DX wagon was languishing on the lot a month after the ’94’s had arrived, over a year from date of manufacture, perhaps because it was a 5 speed – and had no A/C! This time, we got smart and had the dealer install Toyota A/C as part of the purchase deal. By the way, I tend to think of the Corolla as our first “modern” car by today’s standards. Though it still had windup windows, only one air bag, no ABS or power locks or CD player, it had rack and pinion steering, a 16V fuel injected DOHC engine, front wheel drive … a completely modern small car architecture. With two small children, we found that we weren’t camping as much as before, and when we did, the kids just wanted to play in the van and not the great outdoors. So, we sold the VW for a little less than we paid for it, about $8000. Compare that with the market price today for a clean Westfalia … sob.

One of the cars we had considered before buying the Corolla was a Subaru Legacy (Liberty, for the folks Down Under) wagon, but my wife nixed that idea as she didn’t see us needing another 4WD or AWD vehicle since we still had the Ranger. But less than a year later, we bought a cabin at nearly 7000′ elevation in the Sierra. We figured that with front wheel drive and chains, the Corolla should do fine. Not so. Even after breaking our first set of cable chains and upgrading to high quality Z shaped link chains, the Corolla kept getting stuck due to inadequate ground clearance. We started convoying with the Ranger for the rest of the winter, shuttling supplies and people in with the truck while leaving the Corolla parked on the plowed highway.

The following summer, we decided to replace the Ranger with an SUV. My criteria were pretty simple. It had to meet some basic interior space and feature requirements, and it had to have an enthusiast following. This boiled it down to three choices: Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover Discovery, and Toyota Land Cruiser. I actually test drove a couple of vehicles that would now be considered unicorns, a used Jeep GC with the 4.0 six and a 5 speed, and a new Disco with the V8 and 5 speed.

In the end, roominess and a reputation for reliability won out, and we bought a two year old 1993 FZJ80 Land Cruiser, and sold the faithful Ranger. The Toyota was interestingly optioned, with three rows of seats, sunroof, but fabric (not leather) upholstery, non-power seats, and the optional locking front differential (locking rear was standard on US market Cruisers starting with the FZJ in 1993). Our first car with a CD player and remote locking, and ABS … but no airbags (the same-year Corolla had a driver’s airbag). The Cruiser proved to be very versatile, with wonderful snow behavior due to AWD, with lots of low-speed grunt (plus low range if needed) and gobs of ground clearance to plow through snowbanks. And, it could carry seven kids on a school field trip, or a second family of four. Plus it was pretty darned good offroad.

The photo above was taken in 1997, almost certainly the first 80 Series Land Cruiser wagon to traverse the famous Rubicon Trail (with another 80). At the time, while these vehicles had become popular with suburban families, not to mention NGO’s in Africa and wealthy Middle Easterners, they were only being used recreationally off road in Australia, so the aftermarket parts available were Australian, and the ARB side rails fitted were not up to Sierra granite. By the way, the Land Cruiser was the first car we bought from an ad on the Internet. The Corolla and Cruiser were a great fleet for about 5 years, but I decided to buy my wife a nicer car, one she had always liked in both its original version and in its revived form.

I surprised her (I think) with a new New Beetle, a 2001 1.8T 5 speed. And this one came not just from an Internet ad, but an Internet buying service. I was very pleased with the experience, and the car was delivered to our house, from San Diego, before I had paid a penny. The Beetle has been more reliable than our previous German cars (though made in Mexico), and it’s still in our family, though passed on to one of our adult children. We didn’t really need three cars, but as gas prices crept up, I found myself driving the Corolla more, and the Land Cruiser less except for winter cabin trips and fun off road excursions. Within a few years, I decided that I wanted my own turbocharged stick shift car, but more practical than the Beetle. And with AWD, to potentially replace the Land Cruiser.

And here it is, a 2004 Subaru Forester XT, Turbo, 5 speed plus a few distributor add-ons that were unavoidable.The thinking was that this could replace both the Land Cruiser and the Corolla, but in the end we sold the Corolla and kept both AWD vehicles, plus the Beetle. The Subaru was really fun off pavement, though low ground clearance plus stick shift plus tall gearing made it less than perfect for rock-crawling, but excellent for desert exploring.

I bought this car from our local dealership, but used Internet homework to learn invoice cost and get a good deal … or so I’d like to think. Stick shift XT’s were thin on the ground, and like the Beetle, this car was shipped to the Bay Area from a Southern California dealership. If I had stuck to my first color choice, white, I’d have had to wait for one to come from Japan. A few years later my wife returned to school for a professional degree, and we sold the mountain cabin … but still kept the Cruiser. A year or two later and she started a nearly 100 mile daily round trip commute for her final two years of schooling, and we decided to revise the fleet again.

The Cruiser was sold (like the Vanagon, something I sometimes regret today, as the 80 Series Cruisers have become cult offroad vehicles) and a new Gen 2 Prius entered the driveway (the Beetle, as always, got the garage). It was a fine car and like the Beetle is still in our family with our other adult child. In fact, after I retired a few years ago, I decided to offload the Subaru, and the Prius became my daily driver. For about a year we stuck to two cars, but that didn’t last. Because I wanted a truck again. But I decided to ease into it and buy an inexpensive used truck, just to be sure that this was what  I really wanted.

For a few years I had been eying a neighbor’s Toyota T100, Toyota’s first attempt at a larger pickup for the American market, and when it sprouted a For Sale sign in the window, I picked it up. Not quite a mini, not quite a full-size, the T100 is generally considered a market failure and was fairly quickly replaced by the ever-closer-to-full-size Tundra, with optional (now standard) V8. When launched in 1993 however, the T100 had a similar powertrain to the Hilux or later Tacoma, with slightly larger dimensions all around. Made in Japan, by Toyota’s Hino division, unlike the other California and later Texas-built Tacomas and Tundras, the T100 is now considered by some to be the best quality truck Toyota ever sold here.

Mine was a  ’97, 4WD with 3.4 liter V6 and the 4 speed automatic. By this time things like power windows and mirrors, cruise control, and A/C were a given. The few old-school features included a column shift, torsion bar front suspension, and a floor-shifted transfer case. In addition, the T100 along with the 1st generation Tacoma were the last Toyota trucks to offer the Xtracab, with no rear suicide doors, so access to the otherwise roomy rear seating area was limited. Unlike the Tacoma and Tundra, the T100 was never offered in a 4 door DoubleCab version. With the addition of a roomy FlipPac camper which I picked up for free, the T100 provided two years of camping and exploration fun.

But ride, handling, fuel economy and especially seat comfort on the sagged-out bench seat weren’t great, and the Prius remained my daily driver. Around this time, out of college and anticipating a long-term move far from where we live, our son started looking for his first car. I was planning my first-ever cross-country trip and thought it would be nice to do it in a newer vehicle that could double as a more reliable and modern daily driver.

So we sold the Prius to our son (he still has it over two years later) and found a lightly used 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD OffRoad, DoubleCab Short Bed (DCSB in Tacoma-speak). Here its is on a winter excursion in search of Sierra hot springs. I’d like show a few pictures of the Tacoma, not that it’s unusual or even particularly photogenic, but to show that for me, the much maligned 4 wheel drive pickup is a versatile vehicle. I don’t commute at all, and walk or ride my bike regularly in town, but in just over two years have put 45K miles on the Taco, for a total of over 50K trouble-free miles. Of course, a lot of that was coast to coast and back in 2016. the rest, multiple road trips camping, biking or just exploring throughout the West, often miles from the nearest pavement. And here, pressed into duty for our local mountain bike trail building organization.

Here I am being a good Samaritan and pulling a Mazda 3 out of a mudhole at the Carrizo Plain in central California, during the “superbloom” of 2017.

And in its element, with rooftop tent and two bikes on the back, on the final leg of my cross-country trip.

 

A year after selling the Prius to our son, we passed the Beetle on to our daughter. We were a one car (truck) family for a few months, but in December 2017, decided a second car would still be useful for my wife’s commute.

Yes, another white with black 1.8T 5 speed VW, this time a low-mileage 2015 base Golf, first year of the Golf 7. Despite a similar powertrain (the base Golf is still 1.8/5 speed vs 2.0/6 speed for the GTI, and in fact has smaller wheels and tires than the Beetle, lowly 195/65-15’s vs 206/55-16’s) fifteen years of progress really show in the improved power, refinement and especially fuel economy of the newer car. Not to mention Bluetooth, trip computer and a few other gadgets, though no backup camera, which even the Prius had ten years ago. Frankly, in many respects the base Golf is better equipped than my high-end Tacoma.

Are these the last cars we’ll ever own? I suspect not, but they make a good team now, though I’ve probably driven the Golf myself less than 500 miles in the 8 months we’ve owned it. Thanks for following along.