Yes, our American fascination with our gas churning cars may be a tad vulgar. But they are engrained in our culture. Leave it to my Iranian born American raised blogging friend Jabiz, now living in Singapore, to inspire this post with his A History of Cars.

If you read between the cars in his post, it’s not about the cars, they are markers in his life. And I think I got to ride in his Hyundai Verna when I visited in 2014. I knew when I read his post I wanted to try the same journey, mine not quite as chronologically organized as Jabiz’s.

I have vague memories of my parents having some kind of white 1960s sedan, the first family car I recall was a grey Buick, one of those long early 1970s model with a trunk you could probably fit a modern compact car into. Our “big” yearly vacation was the three hour drive from Baltimore to Ocean City, and the packing of that car for a week was a precision job by my Dad.

In the mid 1970s Mom returned to work full time as a bookkeeper for a car leasing company. Through her job, she got what was at the time out second family car, a 1973 Ford Maverick “Grabber”. Someone in the family named it “Martin” (the reason is lost). When I got my license at 16, I got to drive the car on days Mom did not work.

Check out my 1980s mullet:

We’ll come back to the Maverick.

Into the 1980s my parents got a long green Impala. Then in the 1990s it was a dark blue ?? something with one of those leather looking Landau half roofs. Dad always spoke of his dreams of having a red Cadillac; the closest he got was my parent’s last car in Florida, a red Grand Marquis.

Cars that stand out from my childhood was a friend of my Mom’s who has a Roadrunner, for some reason I recall the horn made the same sound as the cartoon character. I also remember another friend of theirs… Jeannie? who’s husband has a 1965 blue Mustang convertible. Even then I knew that car was cool.

As close to what I remember Grandma's Rambler

As close to what I remember Grandma’s Rambler

But the one I really remember was my grandmother, who drive a red Rambler. She always said she drove that car fast because she did not want anyone stuck behind her complaining about a little old lady driving slow.

I loved her story of learning to drive on a Model T. In her audio stories she told me of how she and her husband bought their first car, after having won $25 at a card game, having seen one for sale… for $25

Grandma and Her Cars

My older sisters both bought their own cars with money they earned working at Read’s Drug Store on Liberty Road. Judy bought a red Ford Pinto; Harriet bought a blue one (I think she called hers “Rocky”).

At some point, when I was a student a the University of Delaware, I bought Rocky off my sister. Yes, my first car was a blue Pinto.

1980 Ford Pinto 2-Door Sedan

I did not have the Pinto more than 2 years; it was never a car that felt “cool” though it was functional. I know I drove it one weekend in 1982 from Newark Delaware down to Blacksburg Virginia, to pick up my friend Kevin. We drove then back to Philadelphia for a Who Concert at JFK Stadium. I then reversed the route.

When I headed west to Arizona in 1987 for graduate school, my parents gave me that Ford Maverick. This was my big adventure driving cross country to Arizona, me and my first dog, Dominoe.

flickr photo shared by cogdogblog under a Public Domain Dedication Creative Commons ( CC0 ) license

I remember turning the odometer over (100,000 miles) outside of Albuquerque, look- documentation!

flickr photo shared by cogdogblog under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

I used that car well, using it for a few trips to Bishop California where I was doing field work for my Masters thesis. Here it is near a ghost town in Nevada

It was on one of those trips back and forth when I drove through Death Valley, and took a photo of the Maverick next to the “Sea Level” sign. This photo went on one of my first web sites, and was one of my early web serendipity amazing stores when a German rock band named The Sea Level asked to use the photo (here is the original) for the cover of their CD

Maybe in 1989 I bought my next vehicle, a small Chevy S-10 blue pickup truck. I traded in that Ford Maverick for only $300. I used that truck a lot camping and doing the rest of my Geology studies out west. Here it is out in New Mexico, near, I think Chaco Canyon:

I fell in love with (and married) Natalie, and with her having 3 kids, we decided to each trade in our “single” vehicles (she had a sporty whiter Cougar) and we got one of those Chevy Conversion Vans with plush seats and carpet on the walls inside. It was green, so its nickname became “Scooby”. I doubt I have photos. We later bought a second beater from a friend, a little brown VW Rabbit that one of her kids nicknamed “Squirt” — all of the kids learned to drive on that car.

During one of our separations, I traded the van in and bought a 1996 black Jeep, super basic. Yes, I had a Jeep phase. It was fun to own, but not quite practical in the Arizona summers, showing up to work windblown and dusty. But it looked cool.

Natalie then bought a Nissan pickup truck. There was some sort of family exchange where I sold Travis my Jeep (he ended up jacking it up and putting giant wheels on it) (and sometime later he sold it to his sister) and I bought a VW black “new” Beetle with these cool shiny mag wheels, and yes… a plastic vase.

I sold the Beetle in 2006 when I took my job at NMC, since I was working home, and we felt we could get by on one vehicle. When we got divorced two years later, I moved to what was our summer home here in Strawberry, and bought myself a Mitsubishi Lancer, which was a fun stick shift drive.

In 2010 I bought a second vehicle, the one I have now, my 1998 Ford F-150 with only 80,000 miles on it. It was Jim Groom who was here on a visit who suggested the name “Red Dog”. Here it is right after I purchased it, my it looks way more shiny than now!

When I quite my job at NMC, two cars was a bit extravagant, so I sold my Lancer to a friend’s daughter who is driving it around Flagstaff now.

And Red Dog was my faithful steed for a 15,000 mile Odyssey around the US and Canada in 2011, plus another trip cross country and back in 2012 when I was working a while in Virginia. And then back and forth to Kamloops, BC in 2014-15. And many many places in between.

It’s been rough summer for the big dog. There was a moderately major repair for a leaky oil pan. Then 10 days later the transfer case gave out while I was trying to get to the airport. And today I just found out the leaky oil I was still seeing was a cracked dipstick case, and while they were checking, they found a leak in the transmission seal.

I’ve put 87,000 miles on Red Dog, and plan to put many more on, despite its round of recent repairs. I’d rather have an old, paid for beater truck than making payments.

Woah, that was quite a ride. I feel some dust blowing off the memories. All the way back to those old Matchbox cars I had as a kid, that I still have, including the red truck (it’s the one I use on the top of my flickr page!)

Thanks for the idea, Jabiz! Hope we get to ride together again in one of our cars.

Top / Featured Image: My history in cars began early with the late 1960 / early 1970s Matchbox cars given to me as a kid… which I still own (well I gave most to grandkids). This photo is just a sampling, my flickr photo shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Wow – absolutely beautiful and fascinating! Makes me wish I had pix of the different cars I’ve lived with. Also had echoes of the magical cars in my life: we had a Ford Zephyr once – the ultimate in cool not least because it evoked the American dream car with its wings and bench seats – and oh our Ford Capri – which we drove to Crete when we madly decided to put on Godber’s Bouncers in the discoes there… Right now we have a vintage Mercedes sports (as BIG as a sedan – but only two doors) – and the year before last drove that to Romania when we had a brief stint working with university professors out there…

  2. Holy. I’m pretty boring – still driving the first car I’ve owned – an ’02 Highlander. Still going strong-ish. Mostly, parked except for weekend errands and trips to the ski hill…

  3. Alan,
    What a great prompt for a college freshman writing class!
    My first car was a 1966 red Ford Falcon.
    When I met Peter, I was driving an antique, chocolate brown Mercedes. Peter used to get in and say in a fake German accent, “Holga, drive me to Paris!”
    I loved your Autobiography with Cars!

  4. Here’s what I remember: that white car was a Plymouth with fins. Dad used to say he couldn’t wash it because the dirt held it together. He drove it to the junkyard and got $5.

    Dad took the grey Buick to a cheapo paint shop and had it painted fire engine red. Afterwards, he insisted that it was painted matador red instead but got no joy from the paint shop. When Judy was learning to drive she side-swiped it on the one lane bridge in Sudbrook park. I was in the back seat and thought Dad would go crazy but he stayed rather calm.

    That blue car with the white fake leather top was a Ford. I remember him writing to Detroit and harassing the dealer because of something or another.

    That green car was a Chevy Impala. Mom got it from the car leasing company. Dad was a Ford man so the Chevy was never a favorite. He did love that Mercury Marquis, his final ride in FL.

    Judy called her red Pinto Rocky. I can’t remember if mine had a name. You had a terrible time learning to drive a straight stick. I think you wrecked the transmission!

    Red dog fits you perfectly. I hope he has plenty more miles to go!

    1. Thanks for filling in the details, sister! Yes, the fire engine red paint job, how could I forget that?

      I left out Dad’s religious weekly car washings, and what a disappointment I must be because I wash the truck maybe twice a year. And then there was the period (way before my time) when he owned the garage in Pikesville (??). Do you remember finding his mechanic overalls at Mom’s house?

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