After a detour into General Motors products I decided a return to Mopar was in order. Once again I scoured the Newsday classifieds (back then there was no craigslist, no eBay and - for all I know - nothing that remotely resembled the Internet) and before too long found a 1972 Plymouth Fury. It was a two-door, metallic brown with matching vinyl roof and a 360 under the hood. Six days after buying the car I was sitting at a red light at Jackson Avenue in Queens with my friend Paul when I was rear-ended by a Checker cab. I was knocked unconscious and if not for Paul's quick thinking - from the passenger side he reached over with his left foot and hit the brakes, while grabbing the steering wheel - we probably would've both been killed. We crawled out the passenger door, falling into a spreading puddle of gas (good thing neither of us smoked!), shaking glass from our hair. The Checker must've been doing 80, considering the damage done to the Fury. I sued the cab company, eventually garnering roughly $6,000, part of which I used to buy a...
...1968 Chrysler New Yorker for sale a few towns over. I grabbed a set of old license plates, a stack of $100 bills and harangued my Aunt Isabel into giving me a lift to my potential new set of wheels. I took the New Yorker for a test drive and the owner made a point of cautioning me about the car's brutish acceleration and somewhat inadequate brakes. I loved the car's rakish yet classy styling - a two-door fastback, white with black vinyl roof, black vinyl interior, bucket seats, center console shift and power everything - so I peeled off $1000 and peeled away. It was like the Caddy but way cooler... and way faster. Ironically, I moved to New Jersey in that car and had lots of fun cruising all over the state, including a high-speed run out Route 80 to Waterloo, New Jersey to see Johnny Cash. I was on Route 80 again about a year later when the New Yorker's engine threw a rod. Not willing to spend what it would cost to get it fixed, I regretfully let it go and prepared to replace it quickly. Which is how I ended up with...
...a 1974 Chevy Nova. If I had time to shop around I probably would've bought something else. But I was commuting back and forth to a new job and couldn't afford to miss a day. The Nova was available locally and cheap at $700. Compared to the New Yorker it was bare bones transportation with a bench seat, column shift, power nothing and hideous maroon paint job. It did, however, have a 350 under the hood and moved even faster than the New Yorker, due to its lighter weight. I left rubber all over New Jersey in that Nova and only sold it (for $700, what I paid for it) when a friend of mine offered me a high-mileage 1979 Jeep Wagoneer for free. I'm still not sure why she
The Wagoneer featured the short-lived Quadra-Trac four-wheel drive system (I still don't know exactly how it worked) was a cool two-tone blue and had a nasty habit of shattering rear windows if you closed the tailgate improperly. I probably replaced three or four windows on that beast before finally giving up on it a few years later in 1989.
I wanted another four-wheel drive vehicle and realized it was time to buy something new, rather than the rusted-out shit-boxes to which I'd grown accustomed. I arranged a bank loan and again took to the classifieds, locating a 1987 Jeep Wrangler in the northwest corner of New Jersey. It was a first-year model, Colorado Red with black interior, hard and soft tops and 31,000 miles on it, being sold by a young woman returning to college for her sophomore year. I paid roughly $8,000 for it, more than all the cars I'd previously purchased combined. I drove that Jeep for fourteen years, sinking ungodly amounts of money into it and finally letting it go after it caught fire on Route 1 & 9 Southbound, just over the Pulaski Skyway. I sold it on eBay and got a respectable $3,500 for it from a used car dealer in Scottsdale, Arizona (they shipped it out on in a railroad container).
After the rough ride and handling of the Jeep I was ready for something more civilized. A friend owned a Mercedes Benz 300D Turbo-Diesel that I'd borrow when my Jeep was in the shop for extended periods (which it too often was). I liked the way the 300D handled, the layout of the interior and its compact size do I decided to find one for myself - which I did, on eBay. It's a 1983 (300D Turbo-Diesels were produced from 1981 to 1985) and my winning bid came in at $3,000. I took a train and two buses down to Deptford, New Jersey, slapped on my old Jeep plates and headed for the nearest motor vehicle office to make things legal.
About six months after buying the Mercedes I was involved in an accident while on my way to WFMU to do Aerial View. A young woman in a Isuzu Rodeo made a left in front of me and I caught the rear corner of her bumper with the right front quarter of my car. I went through an uphill battle with the insurance company but eventually got them to pay off properly. My mechanic said I should get the car fixed, that the engine and drivetrain were in great shape, so I did. I'm still driving it today and hope to hang on to it for many more years.