Saturday, September 13, 2008

My First Convertible

Back when I was in high school, my dad bought me a used Toyota Landcruiser. Since we were living in Colorado and I was about to start commuting to school 100 miles away, it was worth it to have a four wheel drive vehicle.

And this thing was great. It was ridiculously rugged and extremely macho. The cool thing though was that it had a removable hard top. It wasn't easy to remove - you had to take out 20-30 bolts and then get at least three people to help lift it off and then try to find some lace to store it - but once it was off, this became the most fun vehicle in the world to drive.

The Miata is fun to drive too - it is small, nimble, extremely quick, and nicely refined. 

The Landcruiser was none of those things. It wasn't huge, but you you would never call it small or light. Nimble? No. It lacked power steering and was way before rack and pinion steering started showing up in normal cars. Braking was excitingly unpredictable. Quick? Ha! I never got a speeding ticket in it. Refined? Oh man no. Not even vaguely.

But it had other amazing powers. Put it in low gear and you could pull a house. (I did that once - a small house made to be pulled like this. Not a trailer with wheels though - just a house on wooden beams.) 

We lived in a small town with lots of snow. For fun at night my buddies and I would drive up some snow-infested logging road as far as we could go, then put chains on one set of wheels and try to go further. Then put chains on the other set and try to get unstuck. Yes, you create your own fun in small towns.

One big difference between driving it with the top off and the Miata with the top down is that with the Cruiser there were no doors. You would look down and see the asphalt roaring by (well, creeping by fairly quickly). This gave you much more of a motorcycle feel - you felt much more exposed than in the Miata, and I miss that. If it weren't for all the electronics tied to them (and an almost certain week or so spent sleeping on the deck) I would take off the Miata doors to see how it felt.

This is not to say the Cruiser was all fun and games. It was hard to drive, and as I got older it got harder and less fun. It got bad gas mileage. It's brakes were very fussy and hard to get to work well without them pulling in one direction or the other. It was not all that reliable. I lost count of how many valve jobs we ended up giving it - these things were notorious for a design flaw that caused them to burn exhaust valves. 

WHM (who was maybe 12 at the time - in the above picture where she is mocking me, she is about 5 or so - I'm amazed at how much she looks like Darci) was crushed when we finally decided to get rid of it. I sold it to a guy who had two teenage sons that I knew would have a ball with it. I always wonder about what it is up to now. Did they put in a small-block V8 (there are kits to do this relatively easily)? Did they wreck it? (True story - one night we were watching TV and heard a loud crash. A guy came up and explained that he had seen a guy back pretty hard into the side of the thing and take off. He was stunned when we could not find any evidence of damage on it though - just some dirt that got knocked off. This thing was made of thick steel and was very hard to damage. Believe me I tried.)

And now I can see that it would be a pretty good vehicle for The Boy. It's not fast, it's rugged, and with him learning to be a mechanic it would give him lots of opportunity to practice. 

In any case, I started thinking of all this driving home in the Miata with the top down on a beautiful evening, wondering why all those other people in their convertibles had the tops up. (It was about a 20-1 ratio. I even ended up giving props to the weenies who had the top down but their windows rolled up.)

This car is fun, but it's no Landcruiser. And at this point in my life, that's probably a good thing. The Boy would beg to differ though...

That's it - move along...


WHM said...

I still haven't forgiven you for selling it, that was supposed to be my first car. :(

when I check my email just now I yet out a yell to WHD (or is he still NCN?) that he could finally see the landcruiser, he's heard so much about it.

DAK said...

I wanted one of those in the worst way at one point in my life. In fact, I still do. WHM is right, you owe her. And yes, Darci does look very much like her Mom did.

mary ann said...

I thought that WAS Darci ~ good post, notthat!