This is the fifteenth in a series by Howard LaPlante on his early experiences with cars.

As the Jetta diesel sputtered, refusing to do anything but idle speed, I knew what the trouble was, I had put in #2 diesel fuel, instead of #1, when I had filled it two days prior. Problem was that the weather had turned cold, very cold, -20° this morning! Cannot fix that, but I had a bottle of diesel fuel thinner in the trunk! I would simply put that in and the problem would be taken care of. Got the bottle out of the trunk, opened the filler cap and proceeded to pour it, except that nothing came out of the bottle! It was frozen! Limped the car to a filling station, they put it on a lift and hoisted it up where it would be warm. It took three days to warm up the tank of fuel to where it would run at a speed of more than idle!

The Jetta diesel proved to be the most reliable (although not that exciting), of all the cars that I have ever owned. Drove it for 100,000 trouble-free miles. Put on one set of tires and no repairs of any kind!

By this time the 924 had many miles and the wife was pushing for a new car that would be better in the snow. There was one obvious choice, a new 1983 VW GTI. It was an impressive car! 110 HP from a 1.6 liter engine. The car was light, weighing only 1800 pounds! The performance was very good, close enough to give several sports cars a run for the money! Hated to give up the Porsche but finances ruled.

However then came upheaval – divorce. The Jetta was given to my daughter in college. I had a new job and a promised company car along with a move to California. It was one of those situations where the job offer was too good to pass up.

The surprise came when I got to California and found an apartment. The company informed me that the policy had been changed, they would now pay mileage only, not provide a company car!
Talk about a shock! Well now what? I needed something that would be economical and it had to be American. The company that I had gone to work for was an American manufacturer. My duties would be calling on medical manufactures from the Mississippi river to the coast, so I did not need any kind of prestige car, almost all the travel would be by air.
After a bit of research, a Ford Escort GT, 5 speed with the 1.9 L engine seemed to fill the bill.

The job went well, however it was a short lived situation! After only a year, the company was sold to a larger company and everyone was let go! I believe the English call it “being made redundant!” I was in my late 50s, jobs were exceedingly hard to find! It took two years, a number of very mediocre jobs, and finally a move to Massachusetts before finding, what turned out to be the best job of my life . And this job did come with a company car. Then followed 10 years of driving Ford Taurus’s. Not a bad deal, they paid all the expenses, including personal use.

The new job went well, finances improved and in 2001 my new wife, Elfi and I embarked on a wonderful vacation! I had convinced my company that I should be able to take all of my four weeks of vacation at one time, (usually not allowed!) We made arrangements with the BMW dealer in Boston to pick up a new 325XI 4-door, 5-speed at the factory in Munich. The flight went without incident and the next morning we arrived at the BMW European delivery headquarters. It had taken quite a bit of conversation and a letter to BMW USA to arrange, but in keeping with my wife’s preference, we had chosen to have the car equipped with cloth seats. I knew that in Europe it was a no charge option. The BMW agent that was to deliver the car approached us with a very troubled look on his face! He hemmed and hawed a bit, before finally asking if we wanted leather seats? No, we told him we had requested cloth seats! He was visible relieved! He said that he could hardly believe it; almost all Americans ordered leather.

Since my wife is German-born the trip was made easy, We drove none of the main tourist roads and instead enjoyed taking the small back roads. We did find that the German road signs were often, less than helpful. One day we had become quite lost due to a detour. I noted a police car that had just pulled in and parked, I quickly pulled in as well and Elfi got out and went to ask instructions. She came back laughing! When she told me what the police had told her, we both laughed!

– To be continued.