datsun 310gx, 1980 i think. the truck burned a lot of gas, and always seemed to be on the verge of breaking down, and one day it wouldn't start, and i tried to jump start it, but that didn't work either. eventually i had the opportunity to buy this datsun from a friend of my parents, doug. i think he'd run into some kind of cable with it, so the front panels were pushed back and that made the doors hard to open, and it had a few other problems which i considered to be cosmetic, and therefore not worthy of consideration. i think i got it for $400 or maybe $450. It had a sunroof, and got great mileage, and turned out to be a most excellent vehicle. i still had the pickup, and i wanted to sell it, so i thought i should at least get it running to get decent money for it. i replaced the starter, but that didn't seem to help. then i bought a new bigger battery for it, and it started right up with a roar and cloud of blue smoke (probably didn't even need a new starter). i put an ad for it in the paper and started getting calls right away. i sold it to a vietnamese guy for $650. while i was in the parking lot signing over the title, this old black guy who lived in bent pine condos near me offered the vietnamese guy $750 for it on the spot. i realized i could have gotten more for it. in west virginia a pickup is almost a default vehicle for a male above the age of fifteen, but in florida, it's an instant business opportunity. paint your phone number and "hauling service" on the side and you can make lots of money hauling away construction or tree trimming debris. did you notice pansy on the roof? did you also notice how the car seems to lean down on the driver's side? that's no optical illusion.
this is in the datsun 310GX on the way to the airport to drop off tim for his flight. i don't recall if it was dca, bwi or iad. six of us went down to drop him off, and it was hard to fit six into the datsun, especially with tim's duffle bag and stuff. you can see i'm driving and steve is in the passenger seat, and that's tim's shoulder. we put the back seat down and the others were in the back and way back in a big jumble. i'm wearing the fez that was a gift to me from my grandad and carolyn (his wife). they went to turkey in the mid or early eighties and brought ross and i each a fez. he told us they were illegal in turkey, so they seemed even more fun. i tried to find out if they were really illegal, but it's hard to tell for sure. it sounds like there is an arcane law in turkey that says you have to wear a hat with a brim, so if they want, they can prosecute fez wearers, but it's not as common as it was in the 1920's and 1930's when there were people killed during fez riots.
there's ali and brent in the way back. a lovely winter scene is somewhat visible out the back window. also a sticker for wabash college, which i was attending. after we dropped off tim, there was more room, but it was still a pretty tight squeeze. on the mountain near frederick, it started snowing a little bit. then it started snowing a lot. then snow started accumulating on the highway. then we started seeing cars which had slid off the side of the road. the car started fishtailing around in the snow, especially when a big semi blasted past us. remember how i mentioned that the car leaned to the drivers side? that's because the frame was bent from an earlier incident, and when your frame is bent, sometimes your wheels point in slightly different directions, and that is not very helpful when you're driving in slippery snow. but we kept going, and despite lots of scary slipping and fishtailing, we made it back to berkeley springs.
there's the edge of tim, a corner of ali, brent's head, and howard's head, in the back and wayback, still before we dropped tim off of course. so you might be wondering how the frame came to be bent. we had moved from st. pete to land o'lakes florida, which is north of tampa. i met this vietnamese kid in our neighborhood, and he was pretty intelligent, but i think he had recently decided to rebel against his parents because he was actively seeking out all the drugs, alcohol and deviancy he could find. i was happy to help where i could, so one night he stole a bunch of beer from his parents and also a cooler to put it in, and we started driving around drinking beer and looking for something troublesome to do. i wasn't drinking too much since i was driving, but by the time we'd decided to drive down to tampa, i'd had a few. somehow, we ended up by stadium, and a woman in a mitsubishi something or other stopped right in front of me to make a left turn. my brakes weren't that great, and probably not my reaction time either, and i hit the back of her car. i think it was pretty late by then so there wasn't much traffic, so i turned on my flashers, and we started trying to hide the cooler and the beers and i started feeling like i might be in deep shit if the cops came. i got out and the woman had gotten out, and the front end of my car had been bent down, and there was just a small dent in her bumper. there was something a little strange about how the woman was acting, and i began to suspect she had consumed far more alcohol than had i. at any rate, she didn't see any reason why we should get the police involved, and thought a small dent on her bumper was no reason to get her insurance company involved either. i agreed with her completely and was rather relieved. she got in her car and drove away, and i got in mine and drove away. but the first time i made a left turn, i realized i had not escaped unscathed. the wheel made a horrible noise when it hit the bent down wheel well and wouldn't turn past a certain point. i had to make only wide left turns to drive home. i didn't drink any more of the beer. and i don't think i saw that guy very much any more after that. i tried to bend the fender out of the way, but it wouldn't budge, and the plastic liner would always fall back to where it had been, so i ended up taking the whole fender off, including the plastic interior liner, and that took care of the turning left part, and i thought it looked pretty cool too. after getting a number of disparaging comments from various sources, i realized it was a little too mad max for suburban florida, and that i'd eventually have trouble with the law. so after talking to a few people, and getting an idea how much frame straightening would cost at a body shop, i bought a length of steel cable and a couple of cable clamps. i went to hungry harry's barbecue where there was a nice big oak tree out back and wrapped the cable around the tree and bolted it to the front drivers corner of the frame. i left a few yards of slack cable. then i got in the car, pulled up close to the tree, put it in reverse, and pretended i had to make a quick getaway. i did a few quick jerks like that, and it felt like it was lifting the car up in the air a little bit, and the cable made some strange scary noises. i thought it wasn't doing anything, but i started to worry that the cable would snap if i tried to do it harder, and maybe it smash through the windshield and cut my head off, causing me to appear in one of those 'news of the weird' columns, so i gave up. but when i got out and looked, the front end of the car seemed a bit less lopsided. i very hopefully put the fender back on, minus part of the plastic liner, and the frame had been unbent enough for even the tightest left turn.
missing: dark blue dodge turismo, 1982 or so, i found this picture and i'm pretty sure that's the turismo there in between john's old beetle and snog's firechicken outside of the brower place in west virginia. also in the picture are steve, snog and brent. on the right is bill's painted up old pickup truck, but the scan is too dark to really make it out.
one time when i drove up to visit my grandad, he asked me what kind of car i had. i told him it was a datsun, and he asked if that was a japanese car. i told him it was and he asked me why i hadn't bought an american car. i told him i had the chance to get the car and it seemed like a good deal and i didn't think much about where it was made. he said, "listen, i fought those bastards in the war." (he always bought AMC cars because they had a plant in kenosha, and he liked to support the local economy.) i didn't like it that i had disappointed my grandad by having a japanese car, but it seemed harder to find a decent american car for cheap than it was to find a foreign one, especially if you wanted one that got good gas mileage, which i did. so when i visited him again that spring, he said he wanted to help me get a nice american car. we went to this used car lot that seemed to be in the poorer part of town. the owner was a guy who my grandad (who was a lawyer and a judge) had done some legal work for, and who he thought was a good guy who deserved his business. there wasn't a very wide selection there really, and i wasn't very impressed with any of the vehicles. i didn't want my grandad to spend a bunch of money, and i don't think he wanted to spend too much either. i think they gave use $100 or so for my datsun, and we ended up getting this dark blue dodge turismo, which was about $1200 or so. i tried not to think of the kind of toyota or datsun i could have gotten for that money, and immediately felt a feeling of regret as i drove away from my trusty datsun. actually, it had been running kind of badly for a while, and it kept chewing up tires, so i wasn't completely saddened to have something new. but the light blue velour interior of the dodge was not what i had been hoping for. the seat seemed rather uncomfortable, like it was trying to force me into a kind of laid back sporty posture, but i figured i'd be able to adjust the seat later. i never was able to adjust it to a comfortable position though, so i just got used to being uncomfortable in the car. the car was one of those things in life that cause mixed feelings. i really appreciated my grandad getting it for me, though his motive didn't exactly make sense to me. i really wanted to like the car, and it was nice to have something new, but i felt a bit forced into something that was someone else's idea. and one more thing made me sad about leaving the datsun. one time when i was in st pete, i went with some people to this old warehouse. either bill bush or jason craft had something to do with it, and there was this ancient hulk of a car in it. it was dusty and looked discarded but still pretty cool because it was a jaguar from the thirties. i stole the oil filler cap from it because it said "SS" on it and it was a nice heavy chrome object. (later i found out someone had been planning to restore the car and noticed the cap was gone (it was probably the only thing on the car in halfway decent condition) and got mad at jason or bill (whoever had been affiliated with the warehouse in the first place).) the cap fit perfectly on the datsuns gear shift, so i had it on there for a long time. when i left the datsun, i'd taken the cap off the gearshift, but somehow left it in the car, and by the time i'd realized it a day or two later, and called the used car lot to ask if they'd found it, they'd already gotten rid of the datsun and said they hadn't even looked in it. the dodge seemed like it was designed by a committee of dunces, or more likely, wasn't designed at all. it was uncomfortable to sit in, and i would often bump my head getting in and out. bits of the plastic trim seemed to break and fall off, or just fall off, and things were always getting loose and rattling. when i parked on an incline, if it was too steep, the shifter would get stuck in park, and i'd have to rock the car and keep pulling on it to get it to move. i didn't much like my nice american car, so after half a summer of driving it, i was starting to scan the classifieds.
volkswagen dasher (also known as passat), 1978. this is the dasher next to pat's lovely mercedes at the shunney house. i think i found this car in the local "trading post" type of thing, or maybe it was in a martinsburg paper's classified ads. it was out in the country at this place with lots of cars around a mobile home. it seemed like a nice little car, and i think the guy wanted $850 for it. i dont recall if i talked him down a little bit, or if i ended up paying what he was asking. the guy was sort of strange, and one thing i remember him talking about was how he put a chevy engine into a mercedes because it was easier to get parts for a chevy engine, and he didn't like diesel. it seemed like that would be an awful lot of work to do the conversion, but i sometimes do screwy things with computers that don't seem to make a lot of sense, so maybe cars was just his thing. oh, i ended up leaving the dodge turismo at my mother's house for a long time. i eventually sold it to my friend tom asmuth, after warning him repeatedly that i wasn't sure how good it was mechanically. i think he gave me about $300 for it. he drove it to california, and had many trouble free miles and liked it just fine. the dasher had a few areas which had been fixed with bondo, and some pretty crappy touchup paint, but from a distance actually looked pretty decent. one time i drove it down to virginia beach and i was visiting my cousin who had a late model vw golf or something. he asked me about my car, and i told him it was a dasher, and he asked me who was making the payments on it. that seemed like a pretty funny question to me, because i had never had a car that had 'payments' and also because i wondered who, other than me, would be making payments for my car, if there had been payments to make.
here's pat driving the dasher, me taking the picture from the back seat, brent being in the passenger seat. it's seems odd to sit in the back seat of your own car, but pat wanted to drive, and brent called shotgun, so what was i to do? i think we're in berkeley springs. this car had a mechanical fuel injection system. john skaggs told me how it worked. there's a metal plate that's in the air intake system, and the more air that comes in, the more this metal plate is pushed down. the other end of the metal plate controls the amount of fuel the injectors put out. or something like that. i remember trying to adjust the metal plate when the car started running badly. i also put a few bottles of fuel injector cleaner in the gas tank. i also replaced the fuel filter, and then i found out there was another fuel filter in the back near the gas tank, so i replaced that. the car ended up serving me pretty well, though i had a few breakdowns and things to fix.
here's me driving, with pat in the backseat manning the camera, brent again having called shotgun. one of the less pleasant things i did to this car was change the timing belt. it was pretty difficult to take the necessary pulleys off, and to get the cover off, and get the old belt off and the new belt on. but the really unpleasant part was doing all that on the side of a street with plenty of traffic, on a cold windy winters day in crawfordsville, indiana. there's nothing quite like having your hand slip off the wrench handle and smash into the cold hard metal of something you can't see and can barely reach because you're lying on your back reaching up and around something, then looking at your hand a little while later and seeing that lots of skin was ripped off the knuckles, but you didn't feel it because your hand was numb and barely any blood comes out because your blood stopped circulating from the cold. that's pretty bad, but even more annoying is how after being out for a few minutes, sometime after your hands go numb, and just as you're about get something put back on, you realize you really have to pee.
honda civic, 1982, 4 door, 5 speed. on the left of course, with brent's station wagon on the right. this is at the shunney house. steve is holding up a booklet which he made about that particular trip to west virginia. i don't recall if that was the time that i visited steve in brooklyn, and then he was giving me directions to get to the interstate, and he walked down to the car with me, because he could point in which direction to go, and i wasn't sure about something, so he started drawing me a map, but i was asking him about something he had on the map, and he said fuck it, he'd ride with me to show me, and then i could drop him off and he'd take the train back to his place, but then he was explaining which exit to take or something, and decided to show me that too. i was supposed to meet someone at the midway diner in bethel, pennsylvania, i think ross and danielle, who were coming back to new york, so we thought what the hell, he could show me the way all the way out of the city, and get a ride back to brooklyn with ross and danielle (or whoever it was). so we got to the midway diner and the party we were to meet was not there, so we went ahead and had a nice meal of diner food. we waited around a while, but nobody showed up, so steve figured he'd go to west virginia with me. so off we went. we had a really good time, and steve ended up taking the train back to brooklyn from martinsburg after a couple of days in west virginia. he hadn't even put a jacket on or locked his door when he left, because he was just coming out to point me in the right direction, but he ended up going hundreds of miles away for a couple of days.
another not very good or complete picture of the honda. this is in crawfordsville, indiana. bruce and i lived in an apartment in the building next to the cottage, a pizza restaurant. it was widely known as 'the rottage' and i think it was closed down by the time this picture was taken. my honda is on the left of course, and jörg on his toyota, something that he bought so he could drive around america. i helped him find it and buy it, i think it was under $400. i don't know german very well, but when we looked at the car, we had this plan where i would look under the hood, crawl under the vehicle, then come out and shake my head mournfully at jörg and say a bunch of things in german like i was listing all the things i found wrong. the guy who was selling it didn't seem to care too much though, and didn't drastically reduce the price because of our conferring in german. but he got it, and i think we did some brake work, and replaced the water pump and other such like work. he drove it down south with niki during spring break, and somewhere in alabama on a rainy day he skidded into another car and smashed up the front end (maybe we didn't bleed the brakes properly). there's a pretty funny story relating to that, but maybe i'll save it for another time. the honda got great mileage, around 30 miles per gallon in the city, and the high thirties on the highway. i did a test with premium gas one time, and it increased the mileage slightly, at least on the highway, not much, but enough to pay for the difference between regular and premium. with premium gas, and driving conservatively, i could get up to 43 miles per gallon.
here's jörg driving the honda on a spur of the moment trip to akron to visit the kent state contingent. i also have a picture from the same trip, of jörg driving really fast backwards through a cemetery. he really loved the idea of driving through a cemetery, evidently it was a fairly foreign concept for a european who was used to smaller more densely occupied cemeteries where walking was the only available mode of transport, and to drive backwards at a reckless speed through a cemetery seemed like a pretty fun thing to do. see that little dish like area on the dashboard? that was great for putting change or food or other junk in. but, if someone put something there when you told them not to, you could usually make it slide out onto the floor by going around a corner really fast, though if it was a left turn, the object might fly out the window. i recently came across a bill of sale for the honda. i bought it for $450 on july 23, 1990, as-is, from a guy from afghanistan, whose name was azizollah.
toyota corona, 1978, 5 speed, purchased for $850 from a former librarian and her mechanic husband, they were sad to see it go. i think it was a 'luxury edition' which meant it had power steering. this was a pretty nice little car. comfortable, easy to drive and it had pep. it was rear wheel drive. an extra special fun thing about it was the 8 track tape player. i got it to work and bought some old 8 track tapes at a thrift store (led zepplin, beatles, some turkish belly dancing music, soundtrack to fiddler on the roof). there was also a rezillos 8 track at the brower place in west virginia, and that was great to listen to over and over. unfortunately the 8 track tape player broke after a while and i never did take it in to the toyota dealer to get it fixed. the luxurious fabric covered top was beginning to rip and flake by the time i bought it, and it eventually got pretty tattered. some suggested it looked as if the roof had been attacked by giant birds. the car didn't handle too well, but it felt fairly solid on the road and i got it up to 111 miles per hour one time (professional driver, closed course), but the speedometer was about ten percent off, so it was probably really only about 100. that's me and gillian standing there. i put the camera on timer mode, for a very long exposure, and told gillian to stand very still. of course she chose to move her head around instead of standing still as requested, hence the ghostly extra head on her shoulders. that was down by the lynnhaven boatel. that image is from black and white film. i colorized it in photoshop, it looks pretty close to the actual color.