Same place, same person, different cars 45 yearrs apart

The best cars I’ve ever owned

My brother is turning 60 next month. Cars have always been an important part of his life. When we were kids, we spent every September visiting the car dealers on Reseda Boulevard collecting brochures for all the new year’s models. He turned his passion into a career. His website and YouTube channel is named Victory & Reseda after the neighborhood where we grew up and the gas stations on the corner where our parents fueled, maintained, and upgraded their cars. Happy birthday, Randy!

In honor of his birthday, I’d like to talk about the best cars I’ve ever owned. (This is counter to The worst cars I’ve ever owned post I did in 2017.) None of these have won his prestigious Vehicle of the Year Award. (Last year’s winner is the Ford Maverick.) But we’ve always had different tastes in cars.

1984 Honda Civic hatchback

When I got the job at AST in 1986, I had to commute from Reseda to Irvine, which was 120 miles (193.1 km) round-trip. My 1979 Mazda 626 took only one of those drives and died. I needed a dependable, affordable, and gas-sipping car quick, and I found it in a 1984 Honda Civic hatchback. The car handled four months of commuting along with everything else I threw at it. That included four moves, trips to San Francisco and Las Vegas, and weekend trips to Garden Grove to help my mom. With the exception of a botched brake job done by a service station mechanic, the car didn’t give me any major problems. In the four years I had the car, I put around 70,000 miles (112,654 km). I decided to honor that car by putting it in my novel Amiga.

1991 Toyota Camry

Our 1991 Toyota Camry

As great as our Honda Civic was, the car that replaced it was even better. We bought our 1991 Toyota Camry a month before our wedding. It was the first new car my wife and I ever owned, and it was the perfect car to start a family. We enjoyed plenty of comforts we never had before, like power windows, power locks, and cruise control. We opted for the four-cylinder engine for gas savings, but we still enjoyed plenty of performance. It was also a durable, reliable car. It gave us 12 years and over 100,000 miles (160,934.4 km) of service.

More importantly, we made lots of fond memories with that car. We drove our children home from the hospital after they were born. We used it to move to our condo and then the house we still live in today. It also went on plenty of trips to San Diego, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. That vehicle gave us an affinity for Toyota vehicles, and we’ve owned at least one ever since.

2015 Toyota Prius

2015 Prius at dealer

This car changed how I interact with vehicles. It was my first hybrid, and the first with keyless entry, push-to-start, and Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). It also turned me on to electrified vehicles, especially when I didn’t have to go to the gas station as much. It was also a surprisingly capable car. Need to pack a stroller for a granddaughter, load up a day’s worth of Costco shopping, or pack up gear for a beach trip? No problem. Also, the Prius is a durable, reliable car. Nine years on, you still see this model Prius on the road as taxis and delivery vehicles. My daughter’s boyfriend still drives his Prius, and his is older than this one. It’s a great vehicle and the gateway drug for electrified vehicles that led us to our favorite new car.

2023 Chevrolet Bolt EUV

Is it premature to put a car we’ve had for less than a year on this list? Perhaps. But we’ve fallen in love with this car, and not just because we never have to go to a gas station again. It’s a zippy, maneuverable, fun-to-drive car with lots of comforts and pleasant surprises. The biggest is its storage space. The false floor in the trunk gives us a perfect place to stow grocery bags, umbrellas, and holiday gifts without taking away space in the main part of the trunk. That floor can be removed for even more storage. When we had to take my granddaughter’s wheelchair, it fit perfectly.

Our granddaughter's wheelchair in the Bolt EUV.

We’ve already made plenty of memories in this car. One of them happened on my way to a book event in Woodland Hills. We stopped by my childhood home where I recreated a picture I took with my high school car when I went to the prom. It brought our family’s journey with cars full circle. It started at Victory and Reseda and came back. I thought this was a great way to honor my brother on his 60th birthday.

What was the best car you ever owned? Tell us in comments.