Cars for the rest of us.

Boston Globe Magazine, Sunday, October 30

Oct 28, 11 • by Craig Fitzgerald • New Cars, News, Publishing14 CommentsRead More »

Just a quick post to let you know that I’m going to have a piece on the back page of the Boston Globe Magazine on Sunday, October 30. Check it out! If it’s online, I’ll post it up here.

When I talk about my wife, my friends envy me. See, she’s as interested in cars as I am. But they don’t know what it’s like.

I first met Lisa when we were both at Framingham State College. Around the same time, I’d been noticing a car on my way to class. It was a 1980 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta, T-tops, no spoiler, black rally wheels and judging by the dual exhaust tips poking out under the rear bumper, sporting a V-8. I walked by checking it out every day for months. One day I saw it leave as I was walking across campus. When it lit up that throaty exhaust, my knees turned to jelly.

Lisa and I started spending more time together, and one Friday morning, I walked her to class. As we walked up to the Camaro, which was parked in the same spot on the street every day, she grabbed the doorhandle and opened it up. It took a second to realize that this car I’d been ogling for months was hers. I was all done.

She grew up with a father and two brothers that took pride in their cars, whether it was for quality (Steven, eight years her senior still has a 1967 Pontiac GTO he had when he was 17) or quantity (at last count, Scott was hovering around a hundred cars since he’d obtained his license). In a home dominated by men with cars, she was understandably afflicted. At a time when her friends drove four-door Mercury Topazes, she was tearing around town in bona fide Detroit muscle.

Lisa keeps cars longer than most people hang onto their marriages. In the nearly 20 years I’ve known her, she’s had seven: a 1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme Brougham, the Camaro, a 1986 Oldsmobile 442, a 1973 Olds Cutlass, a 1997 BMW 318ti, a regrettable adventure with a 2001 VW Jetta wagon, and now, a 2002 BMW 525i Touring, with the M Sport package and a five-speed manual transmission.

All way cooler cars than I’ve owned, by the way. I have gotten used to saying “No…it’s my wife’s,” when I’m dispatched to put gas in her cars.

When I tell other dudes her automotive interest, they always express profound envy. But these are the same guys whose wives go from one non-descript, vanilla driveway-filler to the next. The only question during the purchase decision is “What color is it?” They can buy cars on the way home from work on a random Thursday.

It’s not so easy with a spouse who truly enjoys automobiles. The purchase decision is protracted and arduous. On the one hand, she steadfastly refuses to purchase anything brand new, so we do save a lot of money in car payments. But Lisa’s very specific in what she wants. She’d no sooner buy a Toyota Camry than she would ride a donkey. In the latter third of our two decades together, two kids have come along. Do you know how hard it is to find a cool five-passenger car with provisions for two car seats and a manual transmission?

After I’d convinced her to buy that Jetta wagon (a car she ended up cursing the car daily the four years we owned it) I decided I was out of the car-suggesting business. If she wanted something, she was going to find it on her own. She expressed interest in a 5 Series wagon, and my only demand was that it not have an automatic transmission, not only because she likes a manual, but replacing an automatic in a BMW is likely and about as costly as raising the Lusitania. I figured I was going to do an end run around the issue, since 5 Series wagons with manual transmissions were as rare as Whitey Bulger sightings used to be. Imagine my surprise when a week later, she’d located one three hours away.

It’s been about four years now. That wagon has been a good car, but it’s coming up on 200,000 miles. It’s eventually going to need replacement, but I’m not sure what we’ll do. Since we bought it, the automotive industry has essentially abandoned her, first by making manual transmissions largely obsolete, and then by packing cars with all sorts of annoying “technology” that ends up being more frustrating than the minor inconveniences they set out to eliminate. Backup cameras, touch screen climate control and iDrive have all left Lisa unimpressed, and completely uninterested in anything the industry has to offer. So as we ponder replacing her car, we’re scouring the internet for something she might like.

Enjoy your Camry, fellas, and pick me up a coffee while you’re out. It could be a long night.

Here’s the link, which I think is open for non-subscribers to read:

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14 Responses to Boston Globe Magazine, Sunday, October 30

  1. Phil Are Go! says:

    Good job! Please post it. I don’t buy those papers made of paper none more. I can’t imagine the coolness of having people pay me for words. What a flattering, exciting world you must live in!

  2. Penny says:

    The link to your site in the piece does not seem to be working. But, I did manage to get here via copy and paste.

  3. Charlie says:

    I feel Lisa’s pain. A year ago I replaced my 2000 Legacy wagon. Unfortunately there were only two vehicles offered by manufacturers on solid financial ground that met my 3 requirements: All wheel drive, manual transmission and big enough for two adults, one kid, two large dogs plus some luggage, the BMW 3 series wagon and another Subaru. I ended up ordering a BMW from the factory to get a car in close to the configuration (wagon ,x-drive, manual transmission and NO i-drive) I would have liked.

    At least Lisa likes cars. I prefer motorcycles.

  4. JMCC says:

    Many years ago I had the pleasure of knowing a certain family from one of the “M” towns that Rt 109 runs through. I have an inkling it is the same family you mention in today’s Boston Globe Magazine. I think I remember Lisa’s 76 Olds Cutlass–did she aquire it even before she got her license? I definitely remember Steve’s 67 Pontiac GTO and Scott did have a different car in the driveway every month. But what I remember most was Rita’s wonderful cooking. Lucky you to be a part of such a nice family.

  5. Phil Are Go! says:

    Boooo. Subscribers only. What would happen if you cut and pasted the text of your article here? Trouble, right? Let me try Googling for the article and see what fate brings.

  6. Theresa says:

    Perhaps you are the person to ask this question:
    Why do Massachusetts drivers, year round, leave their cars (no children or dogs inside) running while they go into stores/banks or even fish off a bridge? I’ve seen this now in all four seasons…

    Is there a misunderstanding about the source of air pollution? A trust fund paying for gasoline that I should be tapping into? A hatred of those suffering from asthma?

    Please advise.

    • yankeedriver says:

      It’s because our know-it-all dads once told us that it takes more energy to restart the car than it does to leave it running.

      Of course, this was probably slightly true in the era of carburetors and points ignitions.

      Probably the same reason we’ll still pay $349 for a “fuel system treatment” at the dealership.

  7. Roy Wicklund says:

    Great article in this past Sunday’s Globe, Craig. I wasn’t surprised after I read it to see that you were the author. Sounds just like my wife, except she didn’t start out a ‘car-girl, but became one over the years of attending car show, auto-x events, driver;s school, etc. Hope you and the family are doing well? Miss you at HS&ECM.


    • yankeedriver says:

      Doing great, Roy. Thanks for the note. The move back to the Boston area was exactly what we needed. Hope you’re doing well.

      • Roy Wicklund says:


        Picked up a great ’85 M635csi earlier in the year… I’d be glad to send you a few pics if I had an email address?

  8. Jeff Aronson says:


    Your Boston Globe article was thoroughly entertaining! In that light I want to know if you and Lisa would be part of an article for Rovers Magazine?

    I don’t know how to get in touch with you otherwise.

    Thanks in advance,

    Jeff Aronson
    Editor, Rovers Magazine

  9. Mark Dietlin says:

    Great to see your article in the Globe. Really enjoyed it. And I dug the clear headed, straight talking, entertaining analysis of the automotive world in your blog, particularly the Prius piece.

    I’ve always been a proponent of an automotive litmus test for evaluating a prospective spouse. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to own a cool car, but certainly they have to know what a cool car is. Kind of like the Colts test in the movie Diner.

    Of course, that could cut both ways, because Lisa still has far better taste in cars – no, make that vehicles – than you!

    Looking forward to more of your articles. My best to you and Lisa.