Home » If You Only Own One Car, Make It Count: Member Rides

If You Only Own One Car, Make It Count: Member Rides

Member Rides

If I had unlimited resources and unlimited space I assume I’d end up with something that looks a lot like our cofounder Beau’s collection, or maybe Myron’s. That’s a nice goal, but those of us who have limited space have to make some tough choices. For reader Dankert the choice was relatively easy. His 2000 Acura 3.2TL is the remaining automotive link to his father and letting go of it is not a choice.

[Welcome to Member Rides. This is the weekly feature where we look at people who became members of the site by signing up here and parting with a little of their hard-earned dough to keep The Autopian going. Our plan is to do these every week! Today it’s Dankert’s turn!]

Autopian: Alright, Dankert, where do you live and what do you?

I live in Chicago, where I write and produce newscasts for all-news WBBM 105.9/780AM.

Autopian: Another Chicago car! I think I’m starting to show how much I miss Chicago by picking you, but I swear it was random. How’d you get into cars?

Member Rides Acura

Growing up in mid-Michigan with two grandfathers who worked for GM, I sort of couldn’t help but get into cars. I was the weird kid on the playground who could ID years/makes/models of cars as they drove by our school. I spent a lot of my childhood drawing cars and sending those designs to GM; even got letters back sometimes! Dad would enable my hobby by taking me to car lots and F1 races — and later, we’d go to auctions together. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve sought out venues to enjoy the hobby that doesn’t force me to hide who I am, which is why I appreciate RADwood and The Autopian so much.

Autopian: You’ve got one car, but it’s important to you. What do you have?

Dad And Son

“Sandy” is my 2000 Acura 3.2TL. I bought it new in February 2000 from a dealership in suburban Chicago with the only available option: in-dash navigation. Five years and about 50,000 miles later, I sold it to my dad, who needed something to replace his mid-’90s Park Avenue. It became his daily driver until he retired, after which it became a second car, and then stayed mostly parked as his health declined. A few months before he died, after I’d separated from my husband and found myself without a car, Dad called and asked if I wanted the Acura back. I did, and got back a comfortable and powerful daily driver that had been meticulously maintained, with only some clearcoat de-lamination on the passenger-side door to give away its age. It’s taught me to change my own oil and do other routine maintenance, which I like to think is a continuing lesson from my dad. It’s named “Sandy” because that was Dad’s boyhood nickname. It’s now covered more than 239,000 miles, and I’m going to keep it on the road as long as I can.

Autopian: Much like Dutcher Stiles and his mom’s Mercedes, it seems like a lot of these stories end up revolving around parents. Tell me more about the car.

Member Rides Acura 2

Sandy is a sedan from the first year of availability for the five-speed automatic. Dad’s comprehensive receipts from his stewardship included a trans rebuild at 206K, but I have learned that a rebuild doesn’t fix the glass transmissions from this generation Accord/TL. And after driving it for a couple of years with a terrible 2/3 upshift lag, I finally had the trans replaced last fall. It has performed flawlessly since; even got 30mpg on a weekend road trip to Michigan.

Autopian: Honestly, that’s not bad for a car from any era. How do you keep it looking so good?


When I first got it, I hit up LKQ for two quick upgrades: a front license plate bracket (which Illinois requires) and a new driver’s side seatback cover to replace the worn original. It has needed nothing else cosmetically; there’s some clear coat de-lamination on the front passenger door at the exact spot where sunlight came in through the window in Dad’s garage, but that’s really it. In addition to the transmission, I had new brakes and brake lines installed last summer, and I’m considering putting in a CarPlay receiver because the Bluetooth cassette adapter I’ve been using is annoying.

And it’s now the first car on which I’ve ever personally changed the oil. I think of it as Dad’s way of teaching me more about cars, even though he’s gone.

I acknowledge that dropping $5,000+ in one year on a car that’s worth $1,000 doesn’t make a ton of sense. And a couple of times, I’ve been like the owners sitting across the counter from Andrea Petersen wondering whether it’s worth it. But this is my last car-related connection to my Dad… and it still makes me smile. Even when I stop driving it on a daily basis, I’ll probably always have it.

Autopian: You will find no one here looking askance at you putting $5k into a $1k car! Assuming the space and resources to make a dream garage, what’s going into it?

’99 Jag XJR. ’83 Opel Monza. FJ65. And Sandy.

Autopian: Excellent choices! What’s up with the Opel (even though I agree)?

Opel Monza

I think a lot of Autopians can relate to seeing a specific car when they were kids and it sort of imprinting on them. I grew up in Traverse City, Michigan, which has always been a playground for auto industry people from the Detroit area. One day, I was walking home from school and I saw someone driving what I now know to be a Senator A with M-plates (manufacturer) on it. I’ve loved them ever since, and the Monza (the coupe version) feels like the Cutlass Supreme of Germany. Unsurprisingly, I also love Cutlass Supremes.

Autopian: Samesies. Thank you for sharing.

If you’re a member and want to be highlighted please check your email for a link to a survey you can fill out. If you don’t want to be featured, that’s also fine. If you want to become a member go here.

Photos: Member + Newspress


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36 Responses

  1. My wife and I bought a new TL in 2001 and only let go of it in 2017. It was our only car until our second child was born in 2013 and we got a Sienna SE (which we still have)..

    It’s not an exciting car, but it was comfortable, roomy and could eat up the miles. Ours did have transmission issues, but they were dealt with under warranty. This included a full transmission replacement at one point.

    It’s weird how a car gets intertwined with your life. My most vivid memory in it was listening to NPR reporting that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001. I was telling my wife about the B-25 that had accidentally crashed into the Empire State building in 1945 when they came back on to say that a second plane had also hit the towers and we realized this had to be deliberate.

    But the rest of my memories were happier, many of them related to my son. Starting with his first ever ride at 4 days old from the hospital to our condo building on a very cold December day in 2008.


    Here he is giving a goodbye kiss to what he called “our car” (pronounced “arcar”) just before his final ride over 8 years later.


    1. The way I rationalize pumping money into an old pile of iron oxide old friend is by asking the old cliche questions:

      How many car payments am I spending a year on repairs?

      What would it cost me to buy a car that performs the same functions more reliably?

      The answer almost always sends me back to the little greasy shop under the shade tree.

      1. I’m excited for car my car payments to end later this year, so I can start asking this question. I love my GTI too much to say goodbye to it, and I know it’ll be much cheaper than something newer for a long time still.

  2. I will posit that a car’s value is not what you can sell it for, but how it’s existence impacts your life. For me that includes regular transportation needs for my family, occasional fun driving, and the satisfaction of doing most of the work myself, sometimes even properly.

    In this case, 5K was what it took to allow the car to continue to meet your needs. While that could have bought a different car, it likely would have it’s own additional costs to maintain and that’s an unknown amount, whereas here you know that the rest of the vehicle is solid and aside from consumables that 5K will keep you going for a long time.

    To summarize my rambling here, you made the right choice financially and emotionally to replace the transmission, as you won’t make your life better spending that 5K on a different vehicle, and Sandy will have many more years left to make your life better, people have spent much more money on lesser things.

  3. You need to average the cost of what you put into an old car, not look at the one-time repairs.

    When my ’99 Windstar’s transmission died while we were visiting friends in South Carolina in 2011, that $2,200 repair might have seemed like more than the car was worth, but that was the only repair beyond fluids, tires, and brakes over the time I owned it. (Okay, I did put in a more powerful radio. The factory one wasn’t sending enough power through the contacts to run the speakers in the rear, sliding doors.)

    A PhD at work heard my story and said, “You should get a new car. With 0% financing, they are practically giving them away!” (He is not a math or economics major.)
    My thought is: “No, with the low maintenance and insurance for this long-paid-off vehicle, I’m doing fine.” (I did sell it in 2013 to get a ride that meets the side-impact standard.)

    1. SCF, this was exactly the calculus I went through. The big-ticket items in 2022 came after I’d basically driven the car for free (save gas/plates/insurance) since October of 2020. Amortized over that two years or whatever, there’s no way I could have bought another car so reasonably.

      And because Dad also did the timing belt/water pump service at 206K, I know the engine is good for another 70K or so. Fortunate since I’m now planning a wedding!

    2. I have a Ph.D. and my advice is to fill your back yard with marginal examples of decades-old running and not quite running vehicles acquired from random people on Craigslist, preferably with a focus on obscure, yet undesirable and therefore valueless, makes and models for which parts and assistance are almost, but not entirely, unavailable. If you find yourself buying and importing a set of stock wheels from some guy in Malta because that was the easy option, you’ll know you’re on the right track.

      As with your coworker, my degree also is not in math or economics.

          1. You’re neither seeking nor need the approval of an internet rando, but I must compliment you on the taste&style of your collection, Sir. Many of us would be happy to have just one of your eclectic collection.

  4. Great story. Was 206k the first transmission rebuild/replace? I got to know a guy in my building that had a 3rd gen 6MT TL. His car before that was a TL similar to yours that also had high mileage when he got sold it – he claimed the transmission was never replaced, he was aggressive with regular fluid changes to prevent it.

    I passed a white 2nd gen TL Type-S parked on the street the other day that really reminded me how big a deal these were at the time in the media, being bigger, more powerful, yet also cheaper than its predecessor – and it showed through in the sales. My 5th grade teacher also had a black one, but tan interior (like you I was the kid who ID’d cars so naturally I eventually would ask my teachers what they drove).

    1. My father had a 2006 TL (auto) that he took to over 200k with no transmission issues and only doing the fluid changes in the recommended dealer services.

      Sold it while it was still in good shape so he could buy one of the last new 2014 TLs before the model was discontinued. He’s also had a great experience with that car, but now that it’s getting up there mileage wise, he’s already despairing what he’s going to buy instead when it finally goes.

      1. Oh, that 3G TL was such a good car. Dad had one as a loaner briefly and almost traded Sandy in, but I’m glad he didn’t. I’m also glad Dad never took my advice to buy an Avalon.

    2. Hi GFG! 206K was indeed the first trans service. Sandy didn’t get much use for a while there, and that 2/3 upshift issue didn’t really happen until the car got warmed up, so I suspect that’s why it took so long to register as needing attention.

      I remember very well the C/D comparison test that put the 2G TL ahead of the Lexus ES, the Lincoln LS and several other “entry luxury” sedans. It still pulls strong and sounds great. Thanks for reading.

  5. 2006 Silverado here, Grandpa’s old red truck with 260k on the clock. some of the typical rust in the rockers, but not so bad it could not be fixed or covered up for not much money. 4lSlippyE is still functional, 4wd worked. I spent 3k on braks front suspension and a suspect head gasket that(LKQ engine to bring down the miles) and then figured out the brake booster was full of brake fluid and it was getting vacuumed into the engine causing the smoke. so a year later I sold that core on Facebook for almost as much as I paid LKQ for the lower mile engine. It is a smooth as butter old girl that gets around 20mpg, and tows a jeep on a trailer to the trails without a lot of fuss with working AC. It is also pre DOD, so that is great as well. I see no reason to get a newer truck. keeping this one around for a while is the plan.

  6. Great story and car, Dankert!

    Being a one-car enthusiast always kinda strikes me as the Platonic ideal, as opposed to the Aristotelian end of things where many of us end up. Seems to promote a human-machine connectiveness of an intensity that’s its own unique, desirable thing in our world.

    After all, all of us started that way, and many of us fondly remember those days in our automotive fantasies, perhaps cognizant that we’ll never fully recapture that experience and that feeling. But guys like you get to enjoy it as a thing in your real life now. That’s cool.

      1. Yup, I have an ’04 LeSabre. Really the only difference is wheelbase and equipment- the interiors are made of different parts but were clearly designed and manufactured together.
        I’d say a 2008 Lucerne with a 3800 was the last real Buick. After that, well….

    1. Hi! I don’t actually remember how Dad came to drive a Park Ave, but I thought it was a big upgrade from his previous car, an ’89 Grand Marquis. It wasn’t an Ultra, but it was still nice. He had pretty good taste in cars; his favorite was a ’71 Grand Prix in (I think) Bluestone Gray.

  7. Matt, thank you for such a nice write-up! Glad to not be the only one with a weak spot for malaise-era German iron. Looking forward to applying Sandy’s new Autopian sticker!

    Appreciate everyone’s great comments and stories, too. Dad would probably print them all out and mail them to me.

  8. Mr. Dankert: That’s an interesting set of cars on the lifts in that last image. Do you always take your car to be service by a Porsche specialist? Or is that your shop?

    I like the story about your Acura TL. Thanks for sharing it. It’s a good-sized car for a variety of environments.

    1. Hi! Thanks for your kind words. Sandy’s a pretty solid city car, though I miss the rear-view camera in my fiancé’s Escape. Might get one of those too.

      That garage pic came from a cars-and-coffee thing we went to a while ago at a membership garage in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood called Gearhead Workspace. When we pulled in, they said “hey, do you mind parking under the Boxster?” So we did. They’re heavily Porsche-forward there, which explains all the stuff in the air.

  9. “You will find no one here looking askance at you putting $5k into a $1k car!”

    Why would anyone look askance at this? This is perfectly normal behavior and a prudent use of financial resources. My family, friends, and coworkers long ago stopped questioning me about such matters, so I must infer that I’ve convinced them that I know what I’m doing.

    1. Guess I am the lucky bastard here. Bought an 09 Scion xB in ’14 with 70K miles. Since then I have spent this much to keep it on the road: $1,200 for 2 sets of tires. A new Optima battery $300.00. And wipers $40.00. The “book” value says it’s worth 4-5K…But to me it’s worth a whole lot more, and will not be sold until I or it dies. Even if the engine blows up today I will still spend the bucks to repair/replace it.
      The moral of the story? When you have something you like and it works well for you keep it.

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