Car

I have owned seven (and a fraction) cars over 55+ years: my first love; my balls out sports car; a piece of a race car; five family haulers. I still have two of them, the sports car and the last family hauler. These two are more than coincidentally the only two cars I have ever bought new.

I decided early on a performance sweet spot I valued most. I picked an iconic marque to exemplify that performance: the Ferrari 308 GTB, with its mid-engine, dual cam V8 and 5 sp. manual transmission; lateral acceleration >.80g; 0-60 < 7.5 sec. (It was the model driven by Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. in Cannonball Run.)

My three favorite cars fit this pattern well: 1967 Lotus Elan S3/SE drophead, like one driven by Emma Peel in the Avengers British TV series (M. appeal); 1990 Audi AWD 200 turbo; 2002 Audi AWD A4 3.0. All had manual transmission, 4-5-6 speed respectively. In all my buying, I was never tempted to buy above this performance box. I was value oriented and somewhat non-competitive, so never wanted to pay a premium for some excess performance that I would almost never use.

I have driven around 800K miles to date. I probably won't make a million. My first two were bright yellow. Then it was bright red, dark blue, pearl white times two, and currently metallic silver. The color seems to be slowly draining from my life.

I have always liked cars. I subscribed to Road & Track for a while and will always go for the car mag in any waiting room. I have gone to many car races and dabbled in amateur racing, as an investor and support crew. I know what the new models are and what they can do. I like to work on my cars.

Being a typical boy, I was fascinated by trucks and tractors. If it had wheels and made noise, I liked it. I cut pictures of tractors and trucks out of the yellow pages and magazines as soon as I was old enough to use scissors. I would sit by the side of the road and watch license plates to see where cars were from, the cars, not so much the people. I loved to make roads, bridges, and tunnels in my sand box for my toy cars. A tractor would come once a year and cut the hay in the field next to our house. Then the hay would be baled. I got to ride on the tractor once, a dream come true. I also got rides on my Aunt and Uncle's tractor in the summers. Loving the smell of freshly mown hay and grass, I aspired to be the man who drove the tractor along New England roads, mowing the grass on the shoulders. What could be a better life? Well, I'd have to do something about my grass allergies

I learned to drive around age 14 in Nebraska. My father was a traveling salesman at the time and he took me along one summer, turning the car over to me for a couple of stretches, and allowing me to drive through a town. From high school on, I grew up in the car culture of Southern California. I never cruised or owned a hot rod, nor did my friends. But I did my share of drive-in movies and drive-in fast food service in my parents' cars. I never took behind-the-wheel driver training. I got my license when I was 17 and bought my first car when I was 20.

I am elderly now. And because I tend to use all the available performance when I drive, I attribute my gaining elderly status to my sensible choices. My current ride is over 15 years old and I still get a kick driving it. But it is running out of support time, many small things are quirky or inoperable, and its mechanical sophistication will be very costly to repair, particularly the engine with its hydraulically-controlled variable camshafts.

Not driving will be a hard part of old age for me. I know that my sports car is the last one of its ilk I will ever own. It's been with me for 50 years and still rates a spot in the garage, even as a non-runner. It is my archetype for fun car. But it's time to face the facts of life and part with it. Just want to try to get it running first, or at least make it look like a complete car again.

So new cars are on my mind once more; I perhaps have one car left to buy. Performance is off the scale now; I could probably afford a car that has twice the forward acceleration as my baseline spec. But I will resist and stay true to my vision of myself. Audi, my old flame, is now too pricey, too tricked out in style; the Audi marketeers are less and less interested in providing configuration choices I value, and are continually chasing the well-heeled young tiger market. I've driven Audis for 45 years, but they have left this elder tiger behind.

Having surveyed the field, at the beginning of 2018, VW pops up as my new go-to brand, and the Golf seems the right platform. VW is offering 6 years or 72000 mile warranty for 2018. The Golf R is for young tigers, way more performance than I need. But it seems such a fabulous package of all that is good, that I will test compare it to any more sensible choice to see if I can justify price. It comes with an optional 7-speed DSG (dual clutch, automated manual) transmission. We bought Debby a 2007 TT with a DSG gearbox and I thought it was a great substitute for a third pedal; its sequential nature eliminates some random gear selection foolishness, but 98% of the fun and performance remains.

Since I live now in the rain forest called coastal Washington, next to tall snowy mountains near 48°N, my minimum mechanical requirements are AWD and dual clutch automatic transmission; hence, my other VW choices are Golf Allroad, and the base version of the Golf Sportwagon. Since the base version eliminates too many options I consider nice to have, I likely will end up with either an Allroad or a Golf R. Since I could buy nearly two Allroads for the price of the ‘R’, I suspect the jury already has reached its verdict. Now I must free the garage space for it.

Final Footnote: Golf-R for 2018 never materialized here, but found a 2017 Allroad with 6-speed DSG transmission on the local dealer's lot, with every top-end option, heavily discounted. It is now in our driveway. Sold the A4 on eBay. The Allroad is Silk Blue metallic, so there is some color in my motoring life once again. It is plenty fast enough, negotiates twisties with aplomb, yet a passenger can sleep while highway cruising. A practical choice, its ride height makes it easy to get in/out, and it can haul more than I can imagine needing.

Proceed to First Car.
Proceed to Sports Car.
Proceed to The Family Haulers

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