I’m a redneck. I’m a poor boy from Springfield TN. If it has a piston in it, I am hopelessly addicted to it. Cars, motorcycles, boats, tractors, mowers…you name it…I find them fascinating. I’m also cheap, so I almost always try to buy the cheapest version of these things I can find (which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t). I’m also a financial guy so I know that most things with a piston in it that are made of metal are going to depreciate faster than anything on the planet earth. So, the thing I yearn for the most causes me to lose the other thing I yearn to keep the most. This is my redneck paradox…or maybe nightmare!
I keep a spreadsheet of how much I spend on every vehicle I’ve ever owned. Imagine that?!?! I know what I’ve paid per month of ownership for almost every vehicle I’ve owned. For the last few years, I’ve played the game…let’s see how cheap we can get that number. It is good for the pocketbook but no fun for my redneck needs.
I have owned some fun vehicles in my day, and I have owned some real clunkers too. If I had to force rank all the vehicles I’ve ever owned from a ‘most fun to own’ perspective here are my top few:
- ’11 Specialized Allez Bicycle – This has to be my most favorite vehicle. I’ve spent more time on it than any other vehicle I’ve ever owned. I also feel like I’ve had some of my best adventures on it when I just get on it and ride somewhere…anywhere.
- ’38 Model A John Deere – I’ve basically owned this vehicle for my whole life. My granddad gave it to me when I was a child, and I’ve owned it ever since. I could drive it around and listen to that two-cylinder motor run ALL DAY LONG!
- ’17 Subaru WRX – This is the first “traditional” vehicle on my list, a car. I like this little car more than any car I’ve ever owned. It is so fun to drive. Every trip, anywhere around town is now fun. So fun! Every trip, anywhere around town is also accomplished much faster thanks to the all-wheel drive and turbocharged motor.
- ‘76 MGB – This was such a whim purchase and was a horrible decision in hindsight. It was, however, such a fun car to explore all of Nashville when I moved here for college in the early 90s. It was not practical, and it let me down on many, many occasions stranded (due that good old British reliability) but it was a fun, fun ride!
- ’06 Ford F350 – Long bed, 4 full doors, 4×4, turbo-charged diesel motor. This truck was big! When I started it up the first time I almost burst into tears when I heard that big diesel motor churn to life. I had always wanted a big, diesel truck. This one wound up being a clunker, money pit but it was worth every penny.
- ’07 Buddy 125 Scooter – This was the vehicle I was driving right before the big Ford truck (#5). It was quite a switch up. This little guy would get right at 100 miles to the gallon and was much faster than one would think. It was tiny and you could whip it anywhere you wanted it to go (both driving and parking). I only almost died twice while driving it and even though I loved driving it I figured I better stop pressing my luck with all the bad Nashville drivers [sad face emoji].
Deano’s Whips (In Chronological Order)
- ’38 Model A John Deere (received 1986 and still own) – This was my first vehicle. My grandfather, Pipa, gave it to me. We would go to antique tractor shows and antique tractor pulls with it. I spent many weekends with him and my cousins driving it around and pulling it (and winning trophies)! I started “restoring” it (not having a clue what I was doing) about 2 decades ago. Life got in the way. I’ve made a strong push to finish it in 2019 and it is 90% done (it just needs a paint job). I’ve only spent about 2-3 times what it is worth restoring it. Emily loves this part!
- ‘76 Buick Skylark (purchased 1987 owned for 5 years) – My first car! I bought it from my grandmother, Nana, for $500 cash. It was brown, 2-door and all original (down to the whitewall tires). I kept it spotless! I was WAY more worried about keeping it clean and what kind of stereo system I was going to have than I was keeping the oil changed and maintenance updated. All flow and no go! This obviously didn’t work very well.
- ‘76 MGB (purchased 1992 owned for 1 year) – I was driving around the neighborhood near the college I was going to on a Spring day and came over the hill and someone had this car in their yard with a for sale sign on it. I talked myself into buying it when everyone I asked told me not to do it. I should have listened! It was a super fun car. It was also a super unreliable car and when Winter rolled in it got even worse. I was also a convertible, so it got cold (really cold). In Winter, I’d drain the battery just getting it to start. There was a giant hill near school, and I’d park at the top of it each night after work and then roll down, pop the clutch, and turn the motor over. I’d do this all the way down the hill. By the time I did this all the way down the hill it was kind of warmed up enough to start the regular old “key” way! I think this car spent more time at my mechanic that in my possession. Oh well, it was fun! Live and learn!
- ‘89 Honda Prelude S (purchased 1993 owned for 3 years) – I needed a much more reliable vehicle after the very poor decision. I knew a Honda would do the trick. I liked this car a ton and it did the trick in the reliability department. It was the first car that had ever done this for me. I didn’t know cars would just run and not have to go to the shop all the time?!?! Who knew?!?! Anyway…lifelong Honda fan right here!
- ‘82 BMW 320i (received 1995 owned for 4 years) – When I met Emily, she was driving this car. When we got married the car came with her. It was Pop’s old car. The air didn’t work in it, so she immediately took my Honda and I took this. Welcome to marriage! The driver’s seat was heavily worn when I took over. I got one of those wood bead seat covers from an auto parts store. This gave my backside a nice pattern after every drive. The most fun thing about this car was when I found the coolest mechanic out in the woods. He was a German guy and he had the same kind of car (also his daily driver). He kept mine running great and was so fun to talk to. I literally drove that car into the ground. By the time I got tired of commuting to work in Nashville Summers with no AC, the thing was on its last leg.
- ‘91 Honda Accord EX (purchased 1996 owned 4 months) – This car was a four-door and a Honda. Just what we needed as the family was growing. This car also drove down the road sideways. I bought it from some guy on Nolensville Road who bought wrecked cars and fixed them. He evidently didn’t fix them very well…but it was cheap. I was still working at a startup and straight out of college, so money was tight (and the family was growing). Emily did not share my love of the ‘budget-conscious but likely junkyard deathtrap’ that I had purchased for her. I quickly found it a new home.
- ’95 Saturn SL (purchased 1996 owned 6 months) – My boss at the startup was getting a new car. He knew I was looking to replace my “good deal”. He was also a cheap guy, so I think he felt a little (or maybe a lot) sorry for me. He sold me his old car. It was a Saturn stick shift. I don’t know if any of you ever drove a Saturn, but they were 99.9% plastic. I’m almost positive that is not an exaggeration. Emily didn’t like that. She also strangely complained about one of the pedals being loose. I think she also mentioned that I was out to kill her and the kids by putting them in another car that was sure to kill them. Perhaps a bit over dramatic…but it worked…next!
- ‘98 Jeep Cherokee Sport (purchased 1998 owned 2 years) – I had been cheap long enough! Emmaline was here and I had put the family in a car that drove down the road sideways and then a plastic Saturn. It was time to man up and provide for this growing family! Come on Joey…you can do this! I went one day and bought a brand-new Jeep Cherokee and brought it home to Emily. There! Our first new car ever! Emily was happy! But, to this day I regret buying that car. From a financial standpoint…a new car?!?! What in the heck was I thinking?!?! But the crowd at home loved it so I was out of trouble and everyone totally forgot about the two clunkers that I had subjected them too before! Happy Wife…Happy Life! Winning!
- ‘91 Acura Integra (purchased 1999 owned for 3 years) – Now that I finally had the family squared away it was time to get me something with some AC. I went back to the reliability of Japan with an older but more importantly cheaper vehicle.
- ’99 Dodge Grand Caravan (purchased 2000 owned for 8 years) – Emily and I swore we’d never own a minivan. When our third child, Molly, was on her way here we had to rethink that. I made Emily sell her Jeep Cherokee. She loved that car and she still mentions how I ruined her life to this day. I remind her that it was the kids who ruined her life…thanks a lot Molly (ha)! We put some freakin’ miles on that minivan. We’d load that thing up and head out. This was way before when vans had 5 DVD players, 3 game systems, internet connections, and wireless headphones. We were old school, high tech! We had a portable TV/VCR that sat on a crate in the floor turned up full blast so all the kids could hear Barney or the Teletubbies for long road trips to Florida. The speaker on that TV was on the side of the TV and shot straight into my ear. I suffered irreparable hearing damage I’m sure. If we’d ever wrecked that 40-pound, 13-inch television cannon ball bouncing around the inside of the minivan would have killed every single one of us. A small price to pay to keep 3-4 kids quiet and occupied on a long drive!
- ’99 MTD Riding Mower (purchased 2001 owned for 5 years) – I bought this bad boy off some country boy in southern Middle TN. I worked that thing to death (better stated…Preston worked that thing to death). As time went on and non-essential pieces broke and were removed the machine looked ghastly. In the end it was basically an engine, with some wheels and a mower deck. Finally, it just withered away (like a pair of men’s underwear)! Ha.
- ’97 Plymouth Grand Voyager (purchased 2002 owned for 2 years) – My little, two-door Acura wasn’t cutting it with 3 kids and another on the way. I remember to this day the drive where I decided it must go. All three kids were in the back seat together. They were all able to touch each other. This coupled with a Nashville traffic jam and three kids fighting all the way home drove me to a major decision point in my life. It was time to become a TWO MINIVAN FAMILY. That first minivan was so good. Each kid is in their own space…no more rides like that fateful day…ever! Sign me up. This minivan had an awesome factory stereo by Infinity in it too. Boom! Winning! Bonus: Later when Emily got her new Honda, I took over her sweet ride and took it back to my high school days. I put a stereo system in that boy. So, I probably had the loudest/’bassiest’ minivan in all the land. That minivan became cool on that day…and, so did I?!?!
- ’04 Honda Odyssey EX (purchase 2004 owned for 6 years) – Since we were now minivan people, we decided to go all in when it was time update. You see, when once you enter the world of the minivan it is like doing drugs. From the outside it looks like your life is going to hell in a handbasket. But from inside you are like…this is awesome. Give me more. I want it all! We wanted more! We went with the father of all minivans. We went with one with leather, built-in DVD, and a Honda engine! Ah…wireless headphones…can you smell the silence?!?! This was a big improvement across the board in Dean family history. This minivan had an added benefit that was kind of important as well. It solved the same problems as the boulder TV/VCR in the original minivan but without all the risks of instant death involved.
- ’06 Cub Cadet Zero Turn Lawnmower (purchased 2006 owned for 13 years) – I needed speed to make all my outdoor work move along much, much faster. This did it. It also had a pretty beefy sounding v-twin engine. So, I basically had a Harley Davidson now…right?!? When this one finally bit the dust in 2016, I bought another one. They had beefed it up considerably since the original one, but it had the same great motor. Great mower.
- ’07 Buddy 125 Scooter (purchased 2007 owned for 1 year) – When gas prices shot up and kept going up and up, I decided to buy a scooter. I manufactured an argument, via some doctored up spreadsheet, that I’d save a ton of money on gas and wind up a millionaire. I also just wanted a scooter…there…I said it! I kept a spreadsheet of how much I saved driving my nearly 100 miles per gallon scooter. I didn’t save any money after factoring in the cost of the scooter (but I didn’t lose money either). But I did have fun driving it! Plus, a lot of people got a good laugh at the expense of the ‘nerd on the scooter’! Their words…not mine! I knew I was off to a bad start when I went to pick it up at lunch one day. When I got back to the office almost everyone in the office was standing outside with signs like I was returning from war or something. Except the signs were all making fun of my new Hog (and me)! Ha!
- ’05 Ford F150 STX (purchased 2008 owned for 1 year) – After driving a minivan for many, many years it was time to graduate to my first truck ever. Preston and I put a boomin’ system in it too so it was rockin’. If the old minivan was boomin’ I couldn’t take a step backwards when I went to a truck?!?! The truck had a back seat with a swing out door. Every single time any of the kids opened a door on this truck the entire time I owned it they would slam it into the poles inside our garage…EVERY…SINGLE…TIME! This is why we can’t have nice things!
- ’95 Ford F150 (purchased 2009 owned for 2 years) – When the financial crisis occurred, I felt weird having money tied up in an expensive truck (well…expensive for me). Plus, the kids were intent on destroying it. So, I sold the 2005 F150 and got me an old 1995 Ford F150 4×4. It didn’t have many miles on it and it was cheap. These traits register highly on my radar. After 2 years it didn’t cost me much at all to keep running. No boomin’ system in this good ‘ol boy special, however! [sad face emoji]
- ’05 Chevrolet Suburban (purchased 2010 owned for 3 years) – After nearly a decade in a minivan Emily was ready to graduate back to real life. Mimi, her Mom, was getting rid of her old car and gave us a sweet deal on the old one. So, we had a big old land barge to get the whole clan up and down the road.
- ’06 Ford F350 (purchased 2011 owned for 3 years) – When the world didn’t end after the financial crisis, I grew weary of the old Ford F150 leaking oil in my driveway (ironically my only complaint with that vehicle). I found a perfectly reasonable replacement…basically a school bus. Emmaline said that is what it felt like I was dropping her off at school in each morning. F350…turbo-charged diesel…4×4…long bed…full 4 doors. Huge! This was a totally practical daily driver for Nashville/Green Hills city commuting by every account! I got a good deal on it because it belonged to an excavation company in Alabama that was closing. There was red clay mud caked on every square inch of this thing when I got it. I loved this big thing! Firing up that big diesel and hearing it roar to life would almost bring a tear to my eye (I love motors). One day on the way to school white smoke began to billow from the exhaust. I knew the 6.0 engine was a ticking timebomb (which is why I had gotten such a good deal on it). My dice roll had not panned out. She went in for a cab off head gasket job. When you do mechanic work where they must take off the entire cab of the truck that is going to be expensive…and it was. After several years the big diesel truck was more trouble than it was worth. This was mainly because I was changing jobs and would be working downtown. I had a parking space…in a small parking lot. No freakin’ way that F350 was going to fit. She gone!
- ’02 Ford Mustang GT (purchased 2011 owned for 2 years) – This actually was not my car it was Preston’s (it was however under my jurisdiction). He also bought it from my good buddy, Michael, for a discounted price (thanks Michael). I put it on the list because how in the world did my kid have a Mustang 5.0 GT and I didn’t. It was even a convertible?!?! I drove it as much as I could while he had it! When he graduated high school, he got a new car (his grown-up car) and it was a Honda Fit. More on that later!
- ’11 Specialized Allez Bicycle (purchased 2012 and still own) – I had started riding Emily’s mountain bike (her high school bike that I inherited along with her upon marriage). I was cranking out more and more miles, so I felt like I was ready to graduate up to a road bike. I found this one on Craigslist and got a good deal on basically a brand-new bike. I was off. I have ridden that bike several thousands of miles since then.
- ’13 Honda Pilot (purchased 2013 owned for 2 years) – We were preparing to drive to Florida for Spring Break and the Suburban’s transmission went out the afternoon before we were going to leave. I was ready to move on to a new vehicle anyway, so we got Emily a new Pilot. We had really liked the Odyssey when we had it, so we got us a fully loaded Pilot. Everyone was happy with Dad again! For a little while anyway…more on that later.
- ’00 Honda Civic (purchased 2014 owned for 7 days) – 7 days?!?! We were supposed to own this thing for 6 years!?!?! When it came time for the remaining three kids to buy a car, we worked out a good plan. Emmaline would “buy it”, then “sell it” to Molly, then “sell it” to Max. Their ages worked perfectly for this plan. I wanted to buy a Jeep that they would “sell” to me at the end. Emmaline didn’t want one. She wanted a car…a sedan…a four door…ugh…no fun! I remember back to my college days and remembered the little Honda. We found an old Civic that I thought would be perfect. It had a little rust on it but that was just character…we’d call the car Rusty! Besides…it was cheap! Real cheap! I liked that! It had a few issues that I needed to get looked at immediately after we bought it. When I took it to my mechanic, he said he wouldn’t work on it at all because there was so much rust on the car. He said, he wouldn’t drive it at all, and I should take it back wherever I got it. Ugh! I had made major boo boo…by being cheap! This curse of mine!?! This had never happened before?!? Uh…right?!?
- ’11 Mazda 6 (purchased 2014 and still own) – We took Rusty back and worked out an exchange with the dealership that sold it to us. We’d get a non-rusty Mazda with a certified pre-owned warranty. This was Emily’s way of keeping me from coming home with another “sweet deal”. When I mess up bad enough Emily gets involved and handcuffs me from myself! Ha! The car has worked great for all 3 kids. When Molly took over, we almost traded it for a Jeep but cooler heads (and financial common sense) prevailed and we kept the boring Mazda (with a responsible warranty). Ho-hum!
- ’12 Honda Fit (purchased 2014 owned for 6 years) – When Preston graduated high school, he traded his Ford Mustang 5.0 in for his big boy grown up car. He got a Honda Fit and I was surprised at how much I liked it, and hey, it is a Honda. When my work parking spot wouldn’t “fit” my big huge truck I decided a Fit would “fit”. See what I did there? It was a smaller car and it really felt like I was driving a golf cart around town. After lumbering around town in the massive truck it was surprisingly fun. It was a great little car…and did I mention cheap (both to buy and to maintain).
- ’11 Honda Fit (purchased 2014 owned for 4 years) – I changed jobs again and left my corporate job for a startup. I somehow convinced Emily that we needed to get rid of her beloved Pilot. I found her a little Fit as well and we were set with cheap wheels to survive having no paycheck for a while. I was excited…Emily not so much. Regardless, she did what needed to be done. I won’t say she did it without complaint (at the time or even a few years later). But she did it.
- ’10 Buick Enclave (purchased 2017 owned for 2 years) – What’s this?!?! Emily’s Mom was getting a new car and she was getting rid of her old one. I guess we looked so poor that it was gifted to us completely. Emily had found her way out of that little Honda Fit. Owning a Buick scared me to death. I just knew that thing was going to do something that would cost me a ton of money. My family had been a Buick family growing up and I knew the evil that lurked within. I was proven wrong; the car did fine. The only weird recurring issue with it was it would roll backwards on hills from a standing stop. This wound up being fun and lead to many tire squealing take-offs!
- ’17 Subaru WRX (purchased 2018 and still own) – We downsized our house and had successfully navigated a startup successfully. I began researching a new car. My entire criteria for this car could be summed up as: I wanted the fastest car I could buy on a 0-60 basis. The catch? It had to be cheap. This is a problem that a little spreadsheet and lots of nerding out couldn’t solve. I looked at every 4-door sedan (and 2-door too) of all price ranges. I wound up with the Subura WRX and WRX STi showing up near the top of the list as fast and cheap. I had never really thought about going this direction at all. That said, I liked the idea of owning a little Japanese rally car. I found one that did the trick and bought it. I’ve had it about a year, and it is the most fun car I’ve ever owned. It isn’t the fastest car I’ve ever driven but it is plenty fast (especially for the money). Running errands around town is never dull anymore.
- ’19 Subaru CrossTrek (purchased 2019 and still own) – Emily had endured 1) me making her sell her favorite car (the Pilot), 2) a startup, 3) me buying a car, 4) me restoring a John Deere tractor. She was still driving the hand me down Buick and I think had given up on life! Ha! I told her to go get anything she wanted (no questions asked). She’s always wanted a BMW 7 Series (uh oh?!?). Those are in the six figures?!? I bit my tongue and didn’t say a word (but I was in a dark place on the inside). We went to the BMW place and looked at those and 5 Series and 3 Series. She wanted to look at the Subaru place too (yes!!!). We did that. She ultimately chose the Subaru CrossTrek. Whew (huge relief rally)!!! The shopping process at the BMW place was so funny. We don’t even know what to do with cars that are “that nice”. I’m sure the salesman figured this out quickly as Emily rolled up in her untucked Hogrock River Rally tee shirt. It just ain’t us! So now we are a two Subaru family. As we were driving it home the next morning she said “I live in a condo two houses down on the same street I grew up on. We now own two Subarus just like we did when we lived in that house when I was a kid”. Life has come full circle for Emily! Ha!