Love the Wheels You're With

- - posted in Cars | Comments

My wife and I have interesting personalities, we both make BIG decisions with fairly little hesitancy and generally don’t regret the outcome. However, on the little stuff, like where we eat for dinner, what color blankets to buy, and (for me especially) what we drive and how it’s modified/maintained, we agonize and flip-flop constantly.

See, I grew up in a family with a pretty strong “car culture”, and we generally bought used cars and modified them, or drove them until they gave up, and replaced them. As a result, we owned A LOT of cars. I personally went through about six (6) until I got my most recent, and newest vehicle. For S&G’s, here’s the list.

1967 Ford Thunderbird “Fordor” & matching parts car
1980’s Dodge Ram D50 Pickup 4x4
1953 Dodge M37 Military Vehicle w/ 318cuid engine conversion
1988-89 Suzuki Samurai 4x4 “soft top”
1989 Honda CRX Si

I now drive a 1999 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer, which is a car I lusted after for several years before I was finally able to purchase the one I have. I’ve also been in a position to do more custom work, and add more aftermarket parts to this vehicle than any other in my past. It’s also been the most reliable.

However, even though there is still custom stuff I’d like to do with my truck, I find myself thinking “how cool” it would be to own X Y or Z instead, even though I’d want to customize that as well. It’s a sort of addiction I think.

With that said, I’ve had a couple of epiphany moments. The first came from the December edition of Hot Rod magazine, where one of the editors described how he used to only consider buying and restoring/modifying classic and muscle cars which were coupes, and usually only those that were factory hot rods. But more recently, he’s started to buy off models, and sedans and realizing that they are just as satisfying (and much cheaper) to own and wrench on.

The second, was while watching the latest installment of the “Street Customs” TV series. A (fairly affluent) customer brought in an early 90’s Camero convertible for customization. I found myself thinking “why in the WORLD would you be interested in modifying, much less owning and driving that boring car?”. Then it occurred to me, it’s the vehicle they had, and they wanted to make it special, personalized, and something they could be proud of.

So, here I am with my “dream car” of about 6-7 years ago, and I can’t just focus on enjoying it? Is it because I think it isn’t “cool enough” because it’s not a sports car, or something else rare and desirable? Maybe…. Maybe it’s just my addiction to cars that prevents me from being satisfied, but I’m starting to appreciate the philosophy of “Love the one you’re with” as it applies to the car(s) I own.

My Explorer meets all my needs, fits my 6’ 4” frame and does a reasonable job of going around turns, looking good, and accelerating. My biggest complaint is fuel economy. I’m hoping/planning to eventually swap a diesel motor into this vehicle for fuel economy and performance, probably some time after several of the “medium duty” diesels become available in 2010. Specifically, the 4.5L Duramax GM has announced for it’s ½ ton trucks.

Compared to spending $25k – $30k on another vehicle that I’d still want to modify and customize, spending a few thousand on a motor swap, and a few other “touches” on my existing vehicle seems reasonable.

Meanwhile, I need to relax, and realize that I’m driving something I thought was unobtainable only a few years ago. And, that I’ve customized it in ways I had never thought I could afford either.