Forty vehicles (cars/motorcycles) owned in forty years of driving/riding.

I'm always confused why many people see cars as "...just a way to get around." Yes, cars should be practical, but they all have a "personality" that reflects the designer's mindset. I'm weird. I can often identify, when driving at night, the model and approximate year of the car in my rear view mirror, simply by the shape of the light from the headlights. Too bad I can't get paid for that awesome talent...

My current car is a 2013 Lexus RX350. A nice ride that conveniently hauls Costco purchases, our canine companion Boris, or either of my bicycles...road or mountain. 


My favorite car was a 2004 BMW 5-Series, with Sport package, Premium package and Xenon adaptive headlights.

BMW rear

Jumping in the "way back machine," the first car I ever drove was a white 1965 Buick Skylark convertible, owned by my first American step-father Phillip Steinbach. I was 13 or 14 years old, and I wouldn't have a driving permit for another two years, so you can imagine how surprised I was one evening when Phillip and I were driving on a Washington, D.C. freeway, toward our Arlington, Virginia. Phillip pulled off the beltway to fill up the car with gasoline. When finished he stood outside the car and tapped my passenger-side window. "Slide over," he said. "You can drive for awhile." I'll never forget how excited and nervous I was. I pulled out of the gas station and merged onto the freeway with the other cars. Phillip said, "Everything you do should be smooth and easy. Just look where you want to go and the car will slowly turn in that direction." He was correct, of course.

Lee-age16-with-Als-65-Plymouth-Fury-I-Charleston-SC-1974Phillip received Navy orders to relocate to Charleston, South Carolina the following year. Soon after Mum and Phillip divorced. My second American step-father Albert Yatrofsky, once I'd received by driving permit at age 15, occasionally allowed me to borrow his 1965 Plymouth Fury I. The purpose was to drive to concerts with my friends. I'm pretty sure Albert was thinking symphony orchestra concerts. The reality was rock groups such as ZZ Top.

 When Albert received orders to relocate to a US Navy base in Rota, Spain, my driving privileges ended, since Spain didn't allow any driver under the age of 18 to be on the road. So for the next two years I bicycled, hitchhiked and took public transportation when I needed to get somewhere in Spain.

Lees-first-car-1968-Impala-Hawaii-1977After graduating from high school I joined the US Navy in 1976, and -- after bootcamp and  six months of weather observation school -- I was sent to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for two years. It was there that I purchased my first car: a very used 1968 Chevrolet Impala. I paid $650 for it, and sold it for $35 two years later to a junkyard that needed the car's radiator. Everything else on the car was broken. But it served its purpose as the official "party vehicle" for my Navy buddies and I.

As my enlistment in the Navy drew to an end I knew what I wanted to do as my job when I became a civilian: play drums. I chose San Diego, California as my new home. There I purchased a succession of used vehicles that I used as "drum haulers," taking my equipment from home to gig, five nights a week for the next three years. These unglamorous cars included: a 1968 Dodge Van; a 1971 Ford Pinto (shown below outside a gig); a 1972 Ford Country Squire Wagon; and my favorite... a 1963 Volkswagen Bus.

1968-Dodge-van1971 Ford Pinto1972-Ford-Country-Squire-Wagon1975-Honda-750-Four-and-1963-VW-bus

Lee-w-1969-Datsun-5101969-Datsun-510When I tired of the low-income lifestyle of a full-time drummer I enrolled in a San Diego trade school (Coleman College) that taught me nine computer programming languages in nine months of Monday-through-Friday classes. During that year I drove a nifty little Datsun 510 that was lightly modified for handling and performance.

1982 Datsun 210Freshly educated, I received a job offer as a programmer with Hughes Aircraft Company in Fullerton, where I soon lusted after my first new car. It was the cheapest new car available at the time: a 1982 Datsun 210. Cost: $4,999. I paid off the loan in four years, then kept it for another several years before selling it used for $2,500. Not a bad investment... (The photo at right shows 1985 model year Alison looking pretty in her mom's shoes at age 4, outside our house in Long Beach.)

1987 Nissan MaximaAfter years of working full-time and going to university classes at night I finally earned my bachelor's degree in computer science. By then I also had a wife and two young daughters to feed, but my income was rising steadily, so I splurged on a new car: the 1987 Nissan Maxima SE V6. I'd never driven anything as fast or as luxurious. (Photo at right is the Maxima parked with me inside, on a fire road in the mountains above Big Sur in 1988.)

My first BMW was a used 1979 sport-model 320i, complete with hand-crank sunroof. In 1992 I added a new Toyota Previa minivan to the driveway, and in 1995 I bought a new Toyota Camry V6 LE Wagon...both terrific "kid haulers." (That's Alison, below, age 7, giving the thumbs-up next to the Previa.)


In 1998, as a divorced single father, I bought the newly-designed Lexus GS300. (Valeri and Alison still tell me how they enjoyed being dropped off and picked up at school in Dad's shiny black GS.) Two years later I bought the new 2000 Lexus RX300...a nice little SUV.

 1998-Lexus-GS3001998-Lexus-GS3002000 Lexus RX300

Sedate SUVs like the Lexus aren't exciting cars, so in 2000 I bought a classic American  muscle car: a 1967 Ford Mustang GT/A. I sold it a couple of years later for a nice profit.


When I began drumming part time in 2003 I needed an equipment-hauler, so I bought the new 2004 Honda Odyssey EX van, with dual electric sliding doors. With the Mustang gone I needed another just-for-fun car, so I bought and customized a used 1996 Mazda MX-5 Miata, which I referred to as street-legal convertible go-kart.   

2004-Honda-Odyssey-EXHonda Odyssey and Mazda MX-5

I sold the Miata for a nice profit because of the improvements I made, and moved on to my all-time fav: the BMW 5-Series, and currently the Lexus RX350. I didn't mention a few other cars I've owned, including a 1973 Olds Delta 88 Royale, and a 1994 BMW 740i. Valeri and Alison needed my help to buy their first cars. Below we have: Valeri in her 1989 Toyota Tercel (which was later handed down to little sister Alison); Alison's old "baby," a 1995 Toyota Avalon; and Valeri's first new car, a 2005 Honda Accord.


Drive on!