driving Retrospectives

How many cars?

Isaac asked me this the other week, and I had to think about it for a moment: How many cars have you driven?

I probably drove more cars while learning to drive than subsequently:

My driving instructor’s white Corolla – André from the RACV Driving School must have nerves of steel, and his car a clutch of Kryptonite. Few cars on the road would get stalled more than his. I remember the first day, I got the steering okay, but dealing with the three pedals was murder.

My sister’s red Lancer – she was driving a manual car at the time, so we drove to the Caulfield station carpark and drove up and down and up and down and stall –whoops– and up and down… Strictly speaking she shouldn’t have let me drive it, since it was a work vehicle, but she reckoned it would have been okay to just swap seats and blame her if we’d crashed into anything. Fortunately we didn’t, though she didn’t let me drive it to and from the carpark, only within it.

My sister’s boyfriend’s red Turbo Laser – We went on a long long drive down Dandenong Road to some godforsaken spot in Mulgrave, then back along the freeway. Got almost all the way back when we discovered the L plate had fallen off the back window. Oops.

A friend’s ancient boxy Magna – one of the rugly ones with those horrible louvre things on the back. Euch. It was an auto, and the bloke wot owned it (knew him for a short time back in 199x, but have forgotten his name now) let me drive it to Chadstone. In the rain. Almost had a prang on Dandenong Road when some twat two lanes over decided to move right without indicating, while I moved left with my indicator on.

My sister’s Camry – auto. I’d driven it once with her and the L plates (“it doesn’t seem to accelerate very fast” “That’s because the handbrake is still a bit on”), then she left it in my car space when she went on holiday. Well, I thought it was my car space, but it wasn’t, and I was subsequently asked to move it into a different space. The girl from flat 3 must have wondered why I looked so terrified, just me in the driver’s seat, worrying that I was an unqualified driver and might crash a car I didn’t even own, trying to manoevre in the not very expansive carpark.

A bit after that I got my drivers licence.

A Magna for sale – went car shopping with a work buddy and test drove a Magna. I’d decided on a post-93 Magna because at the time they had the highest safety rating of any Australian-made car. Wondered why it seemed a little sluggish taking off, realised later I’d started it in 3rd gear.

My very own Magna – bought from some guy in Ferntree Gully, we drove it around that area one evening in 1998. Decided it would do, bought it, have driven it ever since. Newly on my P-plates, it took a lot of practice to master it, including a couple of lunchtime sessions in hilly streets close to work, practicing hill starts. My car turned 10 last year, but it still runs all right (bloody should do, the engine got replaced not too long ago) so cars not really being my thing, I’m in no hurry to upgrade.

A girlfriend’s white Laser – it felt all wrong at first, the pedals seemed too loose, and I stalled it a time or two, but got used to it eventually. Though I never got used to the ugly louvres on the back windscreen, and the lack of aircon.

A hired Nissan X-Trail – on the camping trip to Cann River early last year. The 4WD mode was certainly very welcome on the off-road bit down to the camp site.

Hmm. I think that’s all. Nine, by my count. More than I thought, actually.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

14 replies on “How many cars?”

How interesting. I think I’m going to have to try and remember all of the cars I’ve driven. I’ve actually owned 7 cars in my lifetime, and on top of that, I’ve driven other cars too. Maybe this won’t be a blog I write. I’m getting a headache just thinking about the numbers!

Dunno if I can remember all that for myself. Maybe start with the best ones and work down.

Holden Monaro (2002, green, 5.7L V8)
HSV Senator Signature (VT, with the Holden 5L V8)
Ford Telstar TX5 V6 (mine now)
Holden Astra (2001)
Toyota Prado (2000, turbo diesel)
Toyota Prado (2003, turbo diesel)
Toyota Corona (1975)
Holden Commodore (1988)
Holden Acclaim (2002)
Ford Falcon (1997-2000 AU, AUII, AUIII models)
Ford Falcon XR8 (1998)
Datsun Bluebird (early 1980s)
Nissan Pulsar (1998, 2001)
Mazda Astina (1996, 1998)
Subaru Outback H6 (2001)
Honda Prelude (2000, Boring)
Honda Accord (1998, boring boring)
Toyota RAV4
Toyota Hilux
Ford Falcon (EA, 1988)
Ford Laser (KA, 1982, first car)
Mazda 323 (1983)
Holden Berlina (1997)
Ford Fairlane (1983)
Hyundai Excel – crap
Ford Festiva (1997) – crap
Ford Festiva (1993) – crap

There must be more. But I’ll stop because it’s ridiculous.

1978 AMC Eagle station wagon (survived to be driven while I was in high school), 1982 Ford Mustang, 1984 Buick Somerset Regal (learned on and then took over from my Dad), and currently 1996 Ford Ranger.

what have you driven?
Following on from reading all about Daniel’s car-driving experiences, here is what I can remember of mine … I mainly learned to drive in my Dad’s late 80s, manual, pale green, Mazda 626 liftback. My driving instructor’s name was Axle,…

Not a girl thing. My dad has named his cars (and other vehicles). Memorable ones include:
“The clockwork orange” – a burnt orange 70s Ford Falcon stationwagon. This car had a squeak which sounds like the Muppets’ theme song and used to drive my dad crazy.
“Blue Betsy” – a late 60s blue Ford panel van.
“The green machine” – a 1980s dark green volvo sedan.
“Marita” – an old red and yellow tractor. Don’t know the brand but it has a stylised American Indian logo.

Let’s see…

-2000 Subaru Legacy wagon, 2.5L, 165 BHP 5-speed (mom’s car, clean handling, slow, decent autocross car if a bit too big)
-2000 Honda Civic Si, 1.6L, 160 BHP 5-speed (pop’s car, fast, fast, fast, haven’t gotten to race it yet)
-1988 Honda CRX DX, 1,5L, 90 BHP 5-speed (my car, very much at the end of its line, cost next to nothing, fun to drive)
-1991 Range Rover, 4.2L, 205 BHP auto (uncle’s big truck, two-second lag between steering input and turn-in)
-1996 Toyota Camry, 2.2L, 135 BHP 5-speed (friend’s car, pretty quick once it got going but handling was poor)
-2004 Pontiac Vibe, 1.8L, 180 BHP 6-speed (test-drive for newspaper, big power, unreadable gauges, huge body-roll in turns)
-1987 Toyota MR2, 1.6L, 115 BHP 5-speed (member of autocross club’s car, absolutely terrific to drive, perfect steering feel, Mr. Bowen, drive a good one and you’ll understand why people lose their rationality around sportscars)
-2004 Toyota MR2, 1.8L, 138 BHP 6-speed (test-drive for newspaper, not as good as the older one)
-1994 Ford Escort, 1.9L, 88 BHP 5-speed (friend’s car, total garbage that was, and six times the cost of my car)
-1985 Toyota Celica Supra, 2.6L, 165 BHP 5-speed (borrowed car for autocross, a lot more power than grip)
-1990 Honda Civic Si, 1.6L, 108 BHP 5-speed (STS-class autocross car, great handling, tons of torque, shame about the throwout bearing that broke on the owner’s second run that day)
-1993 Nissan Sentra SE-R, 2.0L, 140 BHP 5-speed (borrowed this for autocross after Civic broke, too much understeer, rather sweet engine, though)
-1990 Honda CRX D-MOD, 1.6L, 200 BHP 5-speed (haven’t actually gotten to drive this one. absolute monster. the fastest non-circle-track car i’ve ever been in. zero to sixty in under four seconds)
-1986 Buick Regal, 5.7L, 550 BHP 4-speed (circle track car, the first car I raced, scared into driving well, two 3rd places and a transmission failure in three races, earned $2550)
-1993 Pontiac Sunbird, 2.0L, 100 BHP auto (my current car, boring, slow, uncomfortable, hard on gas, and i’ve read it crumples like a beer can in a crash)
-1997 Dallara IR7 Indycar, 4.0L, 650 BHP, 6-speed (first car I’ve ever driven over 200 MPH. ridiculously fast)

Enough of this BHP rubbish. We know you just use those units to make your engine look more powerful. Multiply by 0.75 for the real power figures in kW!

* EJ Holden ute (SA_reg RBY-600) you always remember your first one! in 1969 – $500
* 1953 Customline sedan – $200
* ‘S’ Series Valiant (mint) in 1971 – $500
* 1953 Customline sedan (ex-show car)in 1977 – $2000
* EH Holden sedan (mint) – $500
* EJ Holden Station Wagon – $499
* FE Holden Station Wagon – $10
* Gogomobile Dart – $15 (I gave it away back then) for those not accustomed to this, they are a National treasure these days…
* Lightburn Zeta (trashed) – $10 (equally in-famous) from the same Company.
* 1948 Nash – $10
* 1952 Customline – Free
* FX Holden Sedan – $25
* FJ Holden sedan (mint) – $250
* FX Holden ute – (mint) – $100
* FC Holden Sedan (mint) – $25
* 1954 Plymouth Cranbrook (mint: Lime Green with ’67 Mustang Hubcaps) – $500
* 1948 Austin 8 Coupe (in NZ 1972 when an FJ cost a grand there and $15 here) – $100
* 1954 Mainline Ute – $150
* EH Holden sedan – $350
* EH Holden Premier sedan (mint) – $100
* EK Holden Panel Van (windowless) – $50
* FB Holden Sedan – $50
* ‘R’ Series Valiant – $100
* XW Ford Sedan – $750
* VF Valiant 2 door Coupe – $650
* VG Valiant 2 Door Coupe – $100
* 1976 Toyota Crown (mint) – $50
* HK Holden Premier Sedan (mint) – $750
* HD Holden Station Wagon – $500
* 1972 Ford Transit Van V4 LWB (pearler) – $750
* 1967 Hillman Hunter Sedan – $100
* 1972 Toyota Corolla – $50
* 1965 Triumph Bonneville 650cc (fully restored) – $500
* 1971 BSA Thunderbolt 650cc (first of oil in frame model) – $250
* 1971 Norton Commando 750cc (drum brake model) – $150
* 1966 Plymouth Fury 2 Door Coupe – $250
* HQ Holden Panel Van (primo) – $200
* EH Holden ute – $60
* 1976 Toyota Corolla – $50
* 1966 Rambler Station Wagon – free
* Honda K1 (rare even then) – $100
* 3X Honda K2’s (chops) – average $800 ea
* 1983 Harley 1000cc Sporty (clean as in ’88) – $2800 + $500 to put it on the road. $3.3K in 1988. Choice.
* XA Ford Panel Van – $300
* XA Ford 2V Futura (quick) – $300
* XC Ford Panel Van – $400
* 1971 AEC Swift Bus (40ft Ex-Adelaide Transit) – $3800
* 1983 Nissan Pulsar (nearly new in’85) – $2600
* Nissan 720 King Cab Ute – $1200
* Sigma Wagon & Sedan (guilty) – $2-300
* XD Ford Station Wagon – $600
* Datsun 240K Coupe – $500
* Datsun 280B Coupe – $50
* 1976 Datsun 260Z Coupe (mint) – $5000
* 1983 Nissan Bluebird (mint) – $3000
* 1967 HR Holden Premier Sedan (mint) – $3000
* HX Ute (current) – $1400 on gas
* 1996 EF Ford Futura (current) $too much
* C4 Corvette Coupe (current) $doesn’t matter

& as we all say, if only I’d kept them all, I’d be rich…

L-plates a black L on a yellow background, about 20cm x 20cm, displayed in the window of the car when a learner driver is driving. These are common in many countries.

In Australia (only, to my knowledge) P-plates (white P on red, or red P on white depending on the state) are displayed by probationary drivers, eg for the first 1-3 years of driving (varies by the state). P-platers have limits on the type of car driven (eg power) and a 0% blood alcohol limit.

Another plate used is “Driver under instruction”, which is when a qualified driver is learning to drive something new (eg someone licensed for an automatic car learns to drive a manual).

Cars I’ve driven:
Ah yes. There were two Plymouth Valiants, a ’75 and an unbelievably ugly ’61; a ’76 Plymouth Fury, a ’75 AMC Pacer, an ’86 Dodge Diplomat, an ’87 Chevette, an ’85 Olds, an ’86 Ford Tempo and what I have now, a ’74 AMC Hornet. Most of these were junk.

The other car I single out is the ’01 Australian Ford Falcon I hired whilst in Queensland. That was a very nice car, though it was hard to get used to the floor mounted gearshift being on my left!

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