Elfner Family Cars

A lot of good memories revolve around the family automobile.  Road trips, outings and just generally driving around town, you spend a lot of time in the car and become somewhat attached to your car.  Presented below, in descending order from when we bought them, are the cars I remember growing up and into adulthood.

Cars I've Owned

2004 Volvo V70 R - Volvo station wagons are cool to begin with and the R's are amazing.  When I was looking for a car to replace the Honda, I wanted a station wagon with a manual transmission.  I wasn't going to be too picky, but when I learned about the R, that was it.  Adjustable 4C suspension, turbo 300hp motor, lot of options.  I ended up finding one in Washington, DC.  Made a deal over the phone and flew out to pick it up and drive it home in June 2010.

2001 Honda Accord LX Black (May 2005) - In 2005 my trusty Honda Civic finally got old enough and needed to be replaced.  I was looking for something comparable and Amy found this at the Acura dealer in Brookfield.  When I went to pick it up the salesman had the air conditioning running full blast, a good technique since my Civic did not have AC.  It's been a passable car, but not as fun as the little Civic and has required a few more repairs.  It came with bad tires and I replaced them with some that weren't much better.  When it started snowing in December 2008 I took it to a Firestone and told the guy (Paul) that I needed tires that would work in the snow.  He recommended the all-season Affinity and they've made a world of difference in a good way.  Sold to ChaChi from work in May 2010, and I just found out it was wrecked in October 2011.

1986 Porsche 944 Red (October 2001) - When we were first married, I was sitting on the porch of our rented house reading the Sunday classifieds, and I noted that 944's (a car I'd admired since high school) were pretty cheap.  Needing a reliable car and figuring they'd be expensive to maintain, I filed that information away and revisited it in my mid-30s.  I saw an ad for one in 2001 and e-mailed the owner to find out where you'd even take an old Porsche for repair.  He called me back, we had a nice conversation and he invited me out for a drive.  Then September 11th occurred.  I must say that hearing about the 2,700 people who were killed and the uncertainty of the new world helped convince me there was no reason to wait to purchase a car I've always wanted.  So we made a deal and I've been driving it in summers ever since....until 2010 when I gave it to my work friend Rob.  It was worth about $2,000 and needed $2,400 worth of work so I sold it to him for a dollar!  He did all those repairs and more himself and tells me it's running great.

2001 Acura MDX Silver (May 2001) - We bought this right when it came out.  It was designed to "defeat winter" and it's done a pretty good job for us.  We probably would have saved $8,000 and gotten the Honda Pilot if it had been available, but I think Amy has enjoyed some of the bells and whistles on the Acura.  And if you have to spend a lot of time shuffling kids around, you might as well enjoy your car.

1996 Eagle Vision TSi Black (October 1996) - The first car I researched on the Internet to figure out a fair price.  I went in just before they closed and made my offer.  He ran it buy the manager and immediately accepted it.  Either my negotiating was brilliant, or I missed something.  It was an OK car, but still had a lot of quality issues I associated with American cars in the 80s.  Nickel and dime repairs like my Bronco had, and then a transmission failure at 64,000 miles (just out of warranty!)  I fixed it and sold it to Steven when we bought the MDX.  I gave him a good deal and it was a good car for him.  He took a photo of its odometer when it hit 100,000 miles.

1992 Toyota Tercel Blue (Dec 1994) - Never really liked this car, but it was a great deal.  I expected it to be comparable to the Civic and it felt cheaper, smaller and had fewer creature comforts.  Traded it in on the Vision.

1984 Honda CRX White (Dec 1992) - Felt like driving around in an aluminum can.  It had the tiny engine so it got great mileage.  I think Singer sewing  machines were rated for more horsepower though.

1992 Honda Civic DX Burgundy (April 1992) - My first new car was a good negotiating experience for me.  After a lot of iterations, he asked for my final price, and I walked out when he wouldn't meet it.  He kept calling me and getting closer.  His last offer was only $15 lower than my final price, but I wouldn't take it.  He had his manager call me and I told him I had to stick with my final offer as a matter of principle.  Done!  I drove this car for 13 years and 192,000 miles.  I kept all the service records and divided purchase and service costs by miles driven.  At the end it came out to under a dime per mile.  It looked better and was more fun than the Accord I drive now (good thing I have the 944!)

1985 Bronco II Blue/Silver (May 1989) -

1984 Buick Skyhawk Brown/Tan (Sept 1989 Amy's) -

1980 Volkswagon Dasher Diesel Blue (Amy's) - This was actually a Leis family car, but Amy was driving it when I met her.  I thought it was cool because it was exactly like my buddy Tom's from high school, right down to the glow plugs.  I'm not trying to say this is why I was attracted to Amy, but it certainly didn't hurt!


From My Youth (my parents' cars)

1983 Mercury Marquis Creme - Grandma brought this with when she moved back to Wisconsin and Chris drove it a bit during college.  It was slightly less of a land yacht than the '78 Marquis, but the '78 had more character.

198x Mercury Sable Station Wagon Burgundy, then Gray - More Chris and Jon's high school/college car than mine.  They both speak highly of it.  Eliot did the $99.99 Earl Scheib paintjob on it at some point turning it from a pinkish burgundy to gray, but it peeled quickly so I remember it as two-toned splotches.

198x Mercury Lynx Tan (1989) - We called it the Chick Magnet II, but it didn't have the pinstripes and sunroof of the original.

198x Mercury Colony Park Station Wagon Wood Panel over Gray (1988) - I had this at Marquette and it broke down.  When the mechanics began to investigate they found the engine full of non-standard wiring and other poor "fixes".  Eliot sent it back to the seller in exchange for the Chick Magnet II.

198x Mercury Lynx Tan Pinstripe (1987) - Called the "Chick Magnet" with heavy irony by Chris and his friends.

198x Oldsmobile Delta 88 Brown (1987) - Somehow part of a trade for the van.  We didn't have this very long, but used it for a snowy trip to Chicago when I was in college.

1987 Honda Accord (Blue/Gray) (1986) - We had this for quite awhile.  Jon ended up getting it after college and taking it to his job in Baltimore.  He tells me that he can still recognize the distinctive sound of a Honda starter based on all the stopping and starting he did for his job.

198x Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra White (1986) - Famously inspired Melodia's 1696 album and Om's 1696 song by displaying 16:96 on the clock after a failed attempt to jump start a friends car.  Kevin and I drove this to Florida for spring break my junior year of college.

198x GMC Conversion Van Blue (1985) - Several comfortable trips to Florida in this vehicle.

1978 Mercury Marquis Yellow (1983) - Yellow Bird.  Was G&G's car until they bought their 1983 Mercury Marquis after dropping us at the airport in Tampa.  They kept it at our house for their summer car and let us use it as a third car now that I could drive.

1980 Avanti II Gray - Eliot bought his dream car from college (the 1963 Studebaker Avanti) which was being made by the independent Avanti Motor Company using a Corvette drive train.  It was a fun, unique vehicle.  Had to be the only one in Green Bay.  In spite of the Corvette motor, the Torino could get 0-60 faster.

1976 Ford Torino Station Wagon Brown (1980) - I got my drivers license in this car.  It had a great 350ci V8 and handled well in the snow.  By the time we got rid of it, there was a dent in each corner.  One was from me, one from Jon, one from Grandpa and one from Eliot!

1973 BMW 2002 Navy Blue (1975) - One of my favorite family cars from the last year with round taillights.  I always thought I'd get one of these, definitely a '73 or before to get the round taillights.  When I looked at some as an adult they seemed impossibly small, but they are still a very well thought of bimmer.

197x Ford Pinto Metallic Pea Green - We didn't have problems with explosions, just major oversteer.

196x Volkswagon Beetle Light Blue - My enduring memory of this car is riding down Webster Avenue in the back seat when the left rear wheel came off.  Exciting!

1972 Ford Gran Torino Station Wagon Silver - The '72 Torino's had a great looking grill/front clip.  Between that and the silver, this was a much cooler looking car than the '76 we replaced it with, but evidently we were getting lots of rust.  Interestingly, this one had a smaller motor, 302ci, but Eliot says this one was pretty strong too.

1968 Ford Fastback Navy Blue - The replacement for the '65 Mustang.  My fault because evidently every time Eliot loaded my porta-crib into the Mustang trunk, he would knock out the wiring.

1965 Ford Mustang Fastback Silver - Very cool car.


Before My Time (My Parents' and Grandparents' Cars)



Eric Elfner
January 2009


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