Driving the fun out of driving: Doug McIntyre

The 50th anniversary Ford Thunderbird is shown at the automaker’s Wixom Assembly Plant in Wixom, Mich., Friday, Nov. 5, 2004. Columnist Doug McIntyre says that his 2004 T-bird still looks good, despite growing repair bills. File photo. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

I own three cars. They are, respectively, 12 years old, 13 years old and 36 years old. Each of them have their problems. All of them are my problem.

Currently, it’s the 12-year-old that’s acting up. And acting and acting.

For the second time in two months my Thunderbird boiled over, stranding me someplace inconvenient, most recently outside a foo-foo coffee house in Westwood where I was forced to sip lattes until a Triple A flatbed arrived. Yes, life can be hard.

After five days in the shop the verdict came back; busted radiator hose and cooling fan failure. The damage totaled $1,839, and that was after I whined them down $500. The October breakdown set me back $1,093. 2016 has also seen a collection of smaller repair bills, “smaller” being a relative term.

With 128,000 miles on the clock and nearly 128,000 in repair bills, I have sadly concluded that I may have to say goodbye to my youngest. This isn’t easy because I still think the 2004 Ford Thunderbird is one of the best looking cars on the road. If only it would stay on the road.

The upside is I get to shop for a new car.

Like most guys, I enjoy shopping for cars. I’m a dedicated tire-kicker. Where else in life will a guy my age get a 28-year-old in a $90 suit to grovel for my business?

While most guys will do months of homework before hitting the showroom floors or giant Santa-balloon festooned used car lots, I shop viscerally. My only standard is coolness. Frankly, I’ve never grown past my pubescent Batmobile fantasy. I couldn’t care less how many cubic inches the engine is, what kind of mileage it gets, or even if the car I drive is a death trap. I want to drive something fun, period.

And that’s my complaint. When did cars become so boring?

I shop for cars on the ultimate showroom, the clogged arteries of Southern California’s Freeways. In the perpetual quagmire that is the 405 one can see literally every car ever made by man. While inching up the Sepulveda Pass at a brisk 4 mph, I scan the south bound lanes for something sexy.

Sprinkled among the indistinguishable Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans Buicks and Fords are a profusion of Porches, a multitude of Mercedes, Bentleys by the bushel and this being Los Angeles, even a smattering of Italian exotics with names that sound like entrees; Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bugatti al Dente.

These are the out-of-my-league cars. Think Scarlett Johansson if she had wheels.

So I turn instead to the practical cars; anonymous, bland, impossible to tell apart. There was a time when cars for regular human beings had style; the amazing chrome and finned beauties from the 50s to the muscle cars of the 60s and early 70s had power and panache. Today’s cars might be mechanically superior in every way but can anyone honestly tell the difference between a Nissan and a Mazda? Does it matter if you go Toyota or Honda? Mitsubishi or Kia?

Where are the spoilers, the duel exhausts, the retractable headlights? Why can’t we have safety and style? Does every car under $80K have to come out of the same wind tunnel?

As a kid I was simply nuts about cars. I knew every make and model and can still spot the difference between a ‘58 Bel Air and a ‘58 Impala from a quarter-mile out. But today I couldn’t guess the age, make or model of an Infiniti if you gave me an infinite number of guesses. Q45? K900? 550i, QX30? These aren’t car names, they’re locker combinations. What happened to the Plymouth Fury?! Now that’ a name for a car. If GM made a “Chevy Road Rage,” they’d sell like Model Ts.

Reliable, safe, fuel-efficient and dull. Acura is the witness protection program of cars.

My worn-out, shoddily-manufactured, 12-year-old American car might be costing me a lung and kidney in repairs, but damn, it still looks good, even if it is on the back end of a tow truck.

Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekdays 5-10 on AM 790. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.