But pretty much since 1970, I've owned a succession of American cars. For sure since I moved to Michigan I have owned mostly GM cars, with a few Fords and one Chrysler sprinkled in the mix.
During my police department days in the early 1970s, my first wife and I used to buy some of our cars from a tow truck operator that I met while working at the police department. He would sell me the wrecks that no one claimed for the price of the tow and storage.
Some of them lasted several months, others we had for a long time. I remember one that I bought that had a very bad running engine until I bought a $1.50 air filter and then it ran like an Elgin (an old guy reference to a fine watch).
It was like car roulette. But at least we didn't have a car payment much of the time.
As a reporter, I drove hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand miles a month for my job.
Chasing fires and police calls would quickly tally up the miles. And newspapers have been notoriously bottom payers for mileage. Usually 15-30 cents a mile less than most other corporate or government mileage rates.
Buying and replacing cars, in my mind, was just part of the cost of doing a job I loved.
All the cars I used ended up with mileage well north of 100,000 and worth so little that most of them were donated to a local high school auto shop class. The tax deduction was worth more than the resale value.
Reporter car No. 1: A 1974 Ford Gran Torino I used while I was editor of The State News. A great car until there was icy roads and then it was merely a street ornament. I once lent the car to a reporter (Kim - the guy I recently referred to as the best feature writer I know) and warned him not to park the car on ice. An hour later, after he hoofed back to the newsroom he handed me my keys, told me where he had left my car and said it wouldn't move because it was parked on ice.
This is the same car I took on road trips with State News sports editor, Joe, in 1978 that we used to travel to several away football and basketball games (yeah, Magic). Joe and I bought beer in Madison, Wisconsin and invited several players from the MSU basketball team (Not Magic Johnson or Greg Kelser) but some names MSU alums would remember from that National Championship team to our room.
They sat around our hotel room the night before the Big 10 season ending game against Wisconsin drinking our beer. All against team rules and some were probably underage. The team had already clinched the Big 10 Championship in Minnesota the day before. Forget the journalism ethics of such a lapse in judgement.
The next day the Spartans lost that last game on a 3/4-court shot by a kid named Wes Matthews. On the way back to Michigan I told Joe that Jud Heathcote better never found out we filling half his players with beer the night before the game.
Reporter Car #2: A 1982-83 blue Ford Escort. Purchased for its good gas mileage the Ford Escort was not a bad car and gave me several years and about 116,000 miles of great service. It's only flaw was a round dent, the exact size of a headlight assembly on an International station wagon. The International station wagon rear-ended my Escort in a blinding snow storm on a freeway near Holland in the early 1980s. The situation was so treacherous we just waved at each other and continued on.
I never repaired the dent and it rusted into a perfect circle. It was given to the Oxford High School auto program.
Reporter Car #3: A 1980s Chevrolet Chevette (or shove-it, as I like to call it). This was the car that had been used by my second wife, Susan. When she got a company car - she was a police detective for the City of Pontiac police department - I got rid of the Escort and started work on wearing out the Chevette.
Although it is a GM car, one I believed that was designed to meet government mileage standards so GM could make and sell cars people really wanted, this was my least favorite car ever. It was cramped, slow and made me feel like I was driving a roller skate. When it finally went over 100,000 miles it ended up in a high school garage.
Reporter Car #4: A 1990s Ford Escort station wagon. A small, but reliable vehicle that we purchased new. It got good gas mileage, but was cramped. It was severely damaged in a side impact accident that occurred while I was on my way to work at the Flint Journal.
The person that hit me, an Oakland Press newspaper carrier, ran a stop sign and caught me broadside. I ended up in the walk-in emergency room for a bump on my head and leg. I took the rest of the day off. After it was repaired it lasted for several more years.
Reporter Car #5: A 1984 Pontiac station wagon. A nice, large car that I got as part of the divorce settlement from Susan. The wagon got decent gas mileage, but had that awful blue paint that GM and Ford suffered from that flaked off.
When I became single again in 1995 I used the wagon for work, but leased a 1995 red Chevrolet Monte Carlo for fun. We were well paid in those days. The wagon had a lot of miles on it already, but I drove it until 1999 when I got married again.
Reporter Car #6: My new wife, the one I'm still married to (yeah!), had a Dodge Shadow that was just crying out to be worn out. This was me second least favorite car (next to the Chevette) but it served me well for several years. It was also the car that ended up in a national news shot for the Buell Elementary School when I simply pulled it up on sidewalk and left it outside the school where a first grade boy had shot to death a first grade girl classmate.
Our other car was a leased Buick Century. In 2000 we bought a Chevrolet Impala for our pleasure driving and I continued to drive the Shadow until 2003 when I purchased,
Reporter Car #7, a 2003 GMC Sonoma pick-up truck. The last reporter car. The truck was handy and I used it on and off duty.
I didn't keep track, but in 30 years of reporting I had to have driven more than 200,000 chasing after stories.