I have always had an interest in cars, probably influence by my dad. Before he retired, my father was in the business of repairing and restoring cars. He would occasionally leave for work in one car and come home with another, purchased or traded at the shop. There was often an old Corvette undergoing some sort of restoration in our garage; I can still smell the fumes of the fiberglass and resin today.
I learned to drive in a manual transmission car and since then it has been my gearbox of choice. For whatever reason (practicality?) I was never interested much in muscle cars or exotic cars, although I did have a desire for a non-911 Porsche: the 914, 944, and 928. There was a time after seeing the first Back to the Future movie when I wanted a raised, Toyota 4×4. I was mostly attracted to small, practical, yet sporty cars—especially hatchbacks like the VW Rabbit. When I saw the (classic) Mini on a trip to the UK in 1993, I knew I wanted one someday.
Here are all of the cars I have had.
1970 Opel Kadett
This technically wasn’t my car, it was my dad’s spare car. But it was the car I learned to drive with and the one that I was allowed to drive afterwards. What’s an Opel Kadett? you might be asking. It’s a European car that was imported and sold in the US for a while in the 1960s and ’70s by Buick. My dad actually bought two Kadetts that were sitting in a back lot at the Buick dealership where he worked. He took the engine and some spare parts from one and put it in the car you see here. The Opel had a tiny 1.1 liter engine, a four-speed manual gearbox, and was very slow. But I liked how it looked and was glad to have anything to drive. I would really like to have this car back today—fully restored, of course.
1980 Toyota Tercel
My dad bought this car from my uncle in 1987 because I needed a car at college. It was extremely reliable if not sporty. It also had a manual transmission. While I was away in London in January 1997, my girlfriend at the time wrecked it, which is why the front looks newer. My dad was able to do the repairs himself. I continued to drive this car—including frequent trips between Orlando and Tallahassee during grad school. It only overheated once on the trip, but I was able to get to a garage to have a belt replaced and was back on the road quickly. I sold the Tercel in 1998 for $400 cash. I appreciated the reliability of this Toyota, but I don’t miss it.
1998 Toyota Tacoma
This pickup was the first new car I bought after starting my first job after college. I had often driven my dad’s 1986 Toyota pickup during high school and knew how reliable they were. They were practical for moving and hauling big purchases like furniture. I didn’t need—or care for—a backseat. Plus, I still had that black pickup truck from the end of Back to the Future in my mind, although this one is a scaled-back version of Marty’s. Naturally, it had a manual gearbox—and manual wind-down windows. But it was new! There are many times when I wish I had this truck today.
2003 MINI Cooper
When the new MINI came to the US in March 2002, I knew I had to have one. So when my girlfriend at the time needed a car, I convinced her to try the MINI. She loved it, but since she was a recent arrival to the US, I needed to be the primary owner until she established credit. So we bought this MINI in April 2003. Because it would be driven mainly by her, we chose a CVT (automatic transmission) in this car. It was a great car and a lot of fun to drive. When we split up, we agreed that she would keep this MINI and I ordered myself another one.
2004 JCW MINI Cooper
My next MINI was nearly identical to the previous one, with a few changes. Naturally I wanted a manual gearbox. I liked the white wheels, but went for a more retro look with the smaller 15-inch, 8-spoke wheels. Plus, I added white bonnet stripes for a classic Mini look. I bought this one in March 2004. In October 2005, I added a John Cooper Works Tuning Kit (No. 475). Later, the Accessories Manager at MINI USA told me that “fewer than 30” JCW Tuning Kits for the (non-S) Cooper were imported to the US, making my JCW MINI Cooper extremely rare. I will never sell this car.
Read more about the 2004 JCW MINI Cooper.
2012 FIAT 500
By 2011, I had been considering a second car. But none of the current MINIs interested me; I had (to me) the perfect one. So when Fields FIAT, temporarily operating out of the Orlando MINI dealership, told me about this car whose potential buyer had backed out, I went for a look. This car was a special, numbered limited-edition FIAT 500 Prima Edizione—one of the first 500 hundred sold in the US. It was number 345. I bought it in April 2011. Manual transmission, of course. It had a large sunroof, with special-edition side stripes and wheels. The FIAT was fun to drive around town, but not so great on the highway which I was then driving every day between Orlando and Daytona Beach. I owned the FIAT for just under seven months.
2012 MINI John Cooper Works Coupe
Here was a new MINI that immediately caught my interest. A sporty, driver-focused, two-seater MINI. Seen only in photos, I placed my order the first day MINI USA started accepting them. I went all-in, ordering the top-of-the-line John Cooper Works version in Midnight Black with contrasting Silver roof and matching Union Jack side mirror covers. It had a 208-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 6-speed Getrag manual transmission. It had an active rear spoiler. I upgraded to the 17-inch Black Star Bullet wheels. In July 2013, I added a JCW rear diffuser to make the car even more sporty. Even though I really enjoyed this car, I sold it at the end of its warranty period in mid-2014 to start saving for a house.
Read more about the 2012 MINI John Cooper Works Coupe.
2013 Porsche Boxster
After the purchase of my loft in December 2017, I started to consider finally buying the Porsche that I had always wanted. I researched the 981 Porsche Cayman, a mid-engine car known for its great steering and handling. My one requirement was that it be a manual, which turned out to be fairly uncommon in modern Porsches. When the staff at Porsche South Orlando told me about a manual 981 Boxster (the convertible version of the Cayman) they had, I thought I’d have a look and a drive. After some thought (Am I the convertible type?) and negotiations, I bought the car in June 2019. This Boxster has the traditional flat-six engine with 265 hp. While it’s not ridiculously fast, it is quick and fun to drive. And the Porsche is a gorgeous car. I will keep this one for a while.
Read my Porsche blog posts.