The cars of CNET Car Tech editors: Brian Cooley (photos)
You know what CNET's Car Tech editors review, but what have they spent their own money on?
1970 Datsun 510
This was the car I learned to drive on. I also learned engine transplants on this one, dropping in a torquier junkyard L20B motor from a Datsun pickup. Dig the side-exit exhaust! Sounded like P-51 coming in for a landing. Also note the aircraft lights in the high-beam position. 1 mile range. A trick I stole from CHP spotlights of the era.
This was my (and the world's) first exposure to a car that basically didn't break, a novel concept in the mid-'70s. I've held Honda quality in high esteem ever since. Mine was a five-speed car, loaded with every dealer-installed option as that is the only way they would sell them: full gouge. (I've held Honda dealer's in rather poor esteem ever since!)
The CR-X was a sensation. The Si even more so. The magazine ads read "point and shoot" and it was no lie. Not until the new Mini did a popular car feel so much like something you wear more than drive. Don't know what possessed me to sell this car--the ones on eBay all seem to be modded disasters.
This was a completely new car for VW back then, replacing the beloved Scirocco in the U.S. Early G60 cars, like this one, had a rather exotic supercharged 1.8L four that came on like a train. Handling was absolutely amazing. Build quality and service support were absolute crap. Turned me off to VW for ages.
The original SE-R was everyone's hero, sort of a 510 and 3 Series rolled into one. 1.8L 140 HP motor, limited slip, four-wheel disc, 0-60 in 7.6 and understated looks made it a tuner car for all seasons. Basically followed the ethos of the American muscle cars: put performance gear into a plain-Jane model. Most Nissans went gaudy soon after this. Not sure if you can see all the radio whips in this shot: it had more ears than an NSA field office!
My first vintage car and still my favorite. A well-preserved, local, black plate California car I bought from the original owner. It doesn't get any better than that. Stopped showing it formally when I ran out of room for trophies. The Lime Frost over black color scheme is iconic for that era.
One of the rarer Fiats in the U.S., powered by an antique 1500cc OHV inline-four with a gearbox out of a Ferrari 250. Basically, just a beautiful pain in the ass. I went through every system on this car and it still hated me. Never ran right. Stereotypical Fiat. But it looked great doing so, like Gina Lollobrigida should be driving it instead of me. Owned by a collector in Germany today, I'm told. (If it's you, best of luck!)
I regard the '69 XL as the most handsome American convertible ever. This particular one is a 70K mile example from Michigan where somehow it evaded all rust. The combo of a 390 four-barrel and custom dual exhaust with those lacy turbine wheel covers and posh grille makes for great juxtaposition. On a mild summer evening, it's about as good as driving gets.
Another Fiat that is rare in the U.S. Its little 817cc, 45 HP four-cylinder in the rear is just enough to keep things moving, so you always have to drive this car. Another Califronia black plate example I bought from the original owner in L.A. A happy, delightful driver, there's nothing this visceral sold today. Everyone should own at least one subliter, rear-engined car before they die.
My favorite modern car I've owned, but an outrageous money pit. I believe it was as fast to 60 as anything Porsche made that year. Basically a Mayfair hot rod with an Alfred Dunhill store for an interior. Plagued by too many dumb engineering issues to excuse, but with a style that makes the AMG and M cars looks like something teenage boys cobbled together with body kits. Replaced this one with a 1998 XJ8-L, which wasn't as high strung, but not any better engineered, either.
The Mark is the Gothic masterpiece of Detroit's last great era. 460 V8, club lounge interior (in Aqua blue leather, no less!), die-cast waterfall grille, and car tech innovations galore from fiber optics to automatic temperature control and anti-lock brakes. 72K original miles is key because when all that old electromechanical tech tuckers out, you're in hell!
People ask me all the time "What do you drive every day?" and I enjoy the look on their face when I tell them: the last of the big Ford wagons. They're handsome, spacious, and luxurious with none of the pomposity of today's luxo SUVs. No car I've owned gets as many accolades from people in the street and everyone has a story about riding around in the dual-facing rear seats as a kid. Probably you, too.