Cars can be a curse. Sometimes you can’t live with them, and it’s difficult to live without them.
Our first car was a 1966 Dodge Coronet station wagon. Powder blue, stick shift on the column. Pressing the horn turned on the heat. Stepping on the brights button turned the lights off. The engine seized on the highway in the middle of the night. Our new puppy threw up in the patrol car of the state trooper who took us home.
Our second car was, oddly enough, a 1966 Dodge Coronet muscle car, bright red. Cool. It lasted a month. So much for muscles.
Our third car was a 1968 Olds F85. Deep blue, black tuck and roll upholstery. Sharp. The parents of one of our youth group kids co-signed for it. I bought a heavy 8-track tape player that sat on the hump. That was a great car.
We traded the F85 for a 1969 Ford Country Squire station wagon, blue with fake wood panels on the sides. Since I had big plans for us to tour and perform, we needed the station wagon to carry all the sound equipment we didn’t have.
The first time we loaded the car with speakers, the engine overheated and seized. We paid $500 for a new engine, which took us a year to pay off.
In 1977, we moved from Illinois to Fort Worth, Texas, to perform with a ministry there. On a Sunday morning, I backed out of the driveway, shifted to Drive, and stepped on the gas. The mounts broke and the engine nearly tore through the hood, making a terrifying sound. We gently eased ahead and made it to church.
We drove the Ford, broken mounts and all, for several more months. I decided to try trading it and drove to Moritz Olds Cadillac in Arlington. Three times, while I was driving 60 miles per hour on Interstate 30, the engine quit running. It just shut off. Each time, I carefully shifted to neutral and started the motor, and finally crawled into the dealership.
“Do you think you can get this vehicle back home?” the dealer asked, after driving the car.
“I drove it here,” I answered.
“I had to restart it twice while I was driving. We’ll give you five hundred dollars for it.”
I was shocked! “Sold!” I said. I drove home in a beautiful brand new 1979 Olds Cutlass four door. I felt like a thief! It was our first new car, leased for $130/month.
By 1981, we were almost a year into traveling and performing on our own, and putting lots of miles on our Cutlass.
In Lake Charles, Louisiana, we bought a new Ford Econoline cargo van. It was completely empty except for two front seats. We hauled gear and luggage, and still had room for our four-year-old daughter to sit on a blanket and play with her toys.
After moving to Michigan in the fall, I customized the van with a large window, a bench seat, paneling, carpet, a vinyl ceiling complete with airplane lights, and added an awesome AM/FM cassette stereo. I sewed curtains for the windows. It looked fantastic.
The bench was the only seat in the back. When we took my two grandmothers on an outing we put rocking chairs in the middle for them. They always had a rockin’ good time.
Since we weren’t traveling anymore we sold the custom van and bought a new 1982 Ford Escort stick shift. Nice car, too small for any more than two adults and a child.
The Oldsmobile 98 we purchased next took us for a ride only one in ten thousand people experience.
Watch for Cars We Loved and Hated, Part 2!