Sunday, June 19, 2016

Blog 10 Year Retrospective: Four Eras of Cars

This blog, obviously, is mainly about cars. My car ownership experience over the last ten years can be divided into four eras: the TSX Era, the Phaeton Era, the No Car Era, and the White Wagons Era.

The TSX Era (2006-11)

I bought the 2004 TSX brand new. It was rock solid and had the finest shifter in the universe. Even though it was the entry level Acura, the plastics on the dash actually felt luxurious. By 2011, the only issue was that it was somehow losing a quart of oil per gas tank fill up. The mechanic couldn't figure it out, and at around 110,000 miles, I thought it was time to part with it.

I took it on one last road trip, along the Loneliest Highway in Nevada.

I ended up selling it at Buggy Bank, a consignment shop. It was sold within a few hours, before they even had a chance to post an ad online. A fellow car nerd who collected mundane Acuras-- he even had a first generation CL-- snatched up my car. He told me later that he changed a $25 gasket and the oil problem was gone.

Many years later, I emailed him, asking to buy it back. Unfortunately, he sold it to a young couple who needed reliable (and fun) transportation.

I sometimes regret selling it.

The Phaeton Era (2011-13)

Without a doubt, the greatest car I'll ever own. Just look at the interior! It's basically a normally aspirated Bentley Flying Spur.

I bought it for my 37th birthday. I found it on Craigslist in Scottsdale, Arizona. It belonged to a moneyed car collector. Surprisingly, his daily driver was a Golf. It had low miles and was meticulously maintained. That it was a 2005 model year meant it was a bit less expensive to repair and came with cooler rims.

Nothing ever went wrong with it. But the prospect of a huge repair bill left me nervous. I just couldn't enjoy it as much as I would have liked. So when a local car nut contacted me and asked me if it was for sale, I said yes. He bought the car and I am happy that we have become friends. He has babied the car. And it is still going strong! Plus, he became so enamored with the Phaeton, he bought two or three more.

The No Car Era (2013-14)

Just like George W. Bush with Iraq, I had no exit strategy when I sold the Phaeton. For a year plus, I had no car. Imagine that! A car guy without a car. I cobbled together my transportation needs with public transportation, sharing my wife's Honda, and Zipcar. Plus, for a week, my friend loaned me his Tesla Roadster.

All I have to say is, it's a pain in the ass to not have a car in the suburbs.

The White Wagons Era (2014-Present)

Heartbreak x 2.

Chris D found this Volvo V50 T5 6M on Craigslist in Mendocino for me. It belonged to a gentleman farmer and his wife. They transported organic wool from their farm to Taos, New Mexico, once a year.

I loved this car. Loved.

One day, I switched cars with my wife so that I could get an oil change for her car. On her way to work, at a stop light, an SUV rear ended the Volvo and it was declared a total loss. Someone bought the car from the junk yard but did a poor job fixing it up. It lagged on Craigslist for months.

I broke all my rules when I bought this Saab SportCombi to replace the Volvo. It was sold by a Japanese guy in LA. When I flew down to buy it, he was conveniently unavailable and I bought it from his brother-in-law. Superficially, the 50,000-mile car was unblemished. Even a Saab expert in LA gave it a thumbs up. But it didn't come with any maintenance records and had four(!) previous owners.

The brief time I had it was bliss. But then, disaster. It suddenly wouldn't start or shift out of park. I took it to my regular Saab guy, the former Saab dealership, and another Saab specialist. All three suggested replacing three computers to the tune of $5,000, with no guarantees that the problems would be solved. Worse, one of the three computers couldn't be sourced anywhere.

I ended up selling the Saab to the third mechanic for scrap. Of course, he fixed it up and sold it for $4,000 more than what I originally paid. I see it scooting around town once a week. I just hope for the new owner's sake that it lasts.

This year, I was finally ready for something reliable. I bought this gently used TSX wagon from my neighbor, who is the general manager at Oakland Acura. His wife drove it for a year and exchanged it for an RDX. I've had no problems with it, except for a flat tire (the car doesn't have a spare). My only complaint is that it's a bit underpowered. But Cooper seems to like it.

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