Monday, January 30, 2017

Girls in Cars

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: The Smithie will be going through an American rite of passage this week - she's buying her first car. She's very excited about her '04 Subaru Outback sedan, and why not? It has heated leather seats, a sunroof, low mileage, all-wheel drive and that most important element for those of us in the Northeast: no rust!

The fact the Smithie is starting off with a pretty sweet ride has nothing to do with Ross and me helping out - she waited until she was employed, had a chunk of change in savings, and was credit-worthy enough for a small loan. For the rest of us, unless we happen to have parents of means, the first car is usually best described as a clunker. Mine, for instance, was a ten-year-old yellow-and-rust Saab held together by duct tape and Bondo. It was the sort of car that depended on heavy-duty floor mats to keep water from splashing up off the road into the vehicle. It only passed inspection because I took it to an old-timer who disdained computers and who didn't have a lift in his garage.

Of course, I more than made up for it with my other first car - the one I got a share of when I married Ross. To celebrate graduating law school and nabbing a primo law firm position, he had purchased a brand-new Mazda RX-7. Blazingly fast, terribly sporty, completely and utterly impractical for Maine winters. It had NO back seat, so when Baby Smithie came along five years after we were wed, he had to sell it. Poor Ross. Maybe she'll let him drive her Outback.

How about you, Reds? What were your first cars?

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Okay, I was a spoiled kid. I'll admit it. My dad bought me a car when I was sixteen. (This being Texas, a car is not only considered a rite of passage, but essential for getting anywhere.) This allowed me to get to school and to a part time job without them having to drive me. BUT the car my dad bought me was a silver Ford Thunderbird. Not new, but, oh, was it snazzy. Leather seats. Power windows. Power pretty much everything. It was a peach of a car, and I must say I took good care of it and was a pretty responsible driver. But what was he thinking? That powerful car for an inexperienced driver?

Bless him. And now I can never hear Marc Cohn's Silver Thunderbird without thinking about my dad and that car.

JENN MCKINLAY: I drove what was affectionately called "The FBI Car". A navy blue 1976 Ford Fairmont (my parents unloaded it on me when I went to college in 1986). I can still remember how my bare skin would adhere to the baby blue vinyl interior during particularly humid summers. There was nothing pretty about it and when the temperatures reached 32 degrees in CT, from Nov through March, the radio would freeze on the local Spanish station, which is probably why I acclimated so well when I moved to AZ six years later. I only had it for college. Once I graduated and got my first librarian job, I traded up to a sweet cherry red, Pontiac Grand Am coupe with a sunroof and all the whistles and bells a single girl could want. Still, I made lots of great memories in old blue.

RHYS BOWEN: my first car? I got some money for my 21st birthday. It was a Fiat 500, bright red and so cute looking but an absolute nightmare. It broke down with monotonous regularity in the most inconvenient places. And I was living in central London with absolutely no parking places.when I found a spot, half a mile away in Regent's Park, I left the car there for weeks and took public transportation rather than lose my parking spot. Eventually I admitted defeat and sold it. My next cars were big old American klunkers. How sweet it was when I bought my first new car!

JULIA: So FIAT really does stand for Fix It Again, Tony?

INGRID THOFT: My first car wasn't strictly mine; to have its use I did a lot of carpooling my dad around!  I would often drive him to work at the hospital, then drive myself to school, and often pick him up later in the day.  It seemed to work out well for everyone involved, and I drove a nicer first car than I might have under other circumstances.  It was a 1989 Ford Probe, and it had a completely digital dashboard and was gray with a red interior.  I also remember that you could set an alarm on the dash that would sound when you exceeded a certain speed.  I discovered this one day on the way to school when an unusual noise blared from the speakers.  How thoughtful of my dad to set it without my knowledge!!

HALLIE EPHRON: I only realize now how privileged I was. My first car was a 4-year-old Impala convertible with butterscotch leather seats. I loved that car, though it was constantly breaking down. I drove it my last year and a half in high school. Never did get the hang of driving with the top down (what do you do with your hair?) No cars after that until I married and 6 years out of college we moved to New England and bought our first car, God help us, a mustard-colored Pinto station wagon that rusted almost instantly and died after 55K miles. After that we've had a yellow Escort station wagon that also rusted and died young. Ever since, we only buy brand new Honda Civics (you resell them after 200K miles) and driven them into the ground. Boring, pure reliable transportation: Heaven.

LUCY BURDETTE: I drove a few of my dad's hand-me-downs, but after I wrecked his Chevy Vega (too tired to see the stop sign, sigh), it was time to buy my own. The winner was a Ford Falcon faux-woody station wagon that I landed for $200. I did not realize that the entire bottom was rusting out, including the gas tank, which began to leak from multiple holes. Once that was all replaced, I drove it back and forth to grad school in Tennessee. You could see the road rushing by under the passenger's feet and it was very cold in winter--brrrr. My next car was my favorite--a step up at $500--a Dodge Dart slant six. The only downside was the black interior--broiling hot in Florida. It was a man magnet:), and I wish now that I'd kept it. Funnily enough, John had the same car in his youth!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  After my high school years of driving my parents' fancy cars--seriously, a Bentley which my little brother wrecked, and a Checker, and. well, whatever, when it came time for my own first car, I had to get something less snazzy.

 My father told me he'd pay the down payment IF I handled the negotiations myself. Arrgh. I was 17. He also said I was totally on my own, except his only demand was that I refuse to pay for taxes and title.  He said asking customers to pay that was a sneaky car-dealer trick, and only stupid people paid taxes and title, and that the dealer would try it. And that if I fell for it, he would NOT pay the down payment. Okay, then.

I go to the dealer, choose a butterscotch yellow Chevrolet Vega, (so funny, there's a theme on this blog) with khaki leather seats. I negotiate like mad. At the end, the dealer says--and of course, we'll add taxes and title.

I think--oh HO! This is what my father warned me about! So I refuse. Utterly, immovably, unshakably refuse.

They try to convince me, up one side and down the other. I am adamant. After all, my down payment is on the line. I finally say: I'm sorry, if you make me pay that, the deal  is off. They look at me, in disbelief.

And finally they agree.

I get the car.

I go home, all happy, and victorious, and tell the story to my dad.

He looks at me like I'm nuts.

TAGS and title, he says. I told you TAGS and title. Everyone has to pay taxes!

Not me, I guess...

JULIA: Hank, I'm having you negotiate my next car purchase! How about you, dear readers? Tell us about your first ride...


  1. I was in my mid-twenties when I got my driver’s license; my mom gave me her Ford [I have no clue about the model] which got me to work and home and wherever else I needed to go without asking someone to taxi me around.
    When John and I were married, the first car we bought was a Toyota Tercel. I disliked that car from the moment we drove it off the lot. Time did not improve my feelings about that car.

    After the Tercel debacle, I wanted a Saturn, so we went to look. When the salesman asked John what features he was interested in having, John said it was going to be my car. I was so impressed when the salesman quit talking to him and asked me about the car! [Of course, I am car-clueless, but having him treat me as if my opinion mattered was quite nice.] I loved that car.
    The next Saturn was a trade-in; my oldest daughter negotiated the whole thing while I was at work and had no clue I was getting a new car but how do you pass up no down payment, a sizeable military discount, a great trade-in allowance, and zero interest?
    These days I still drive a Saturn and, as much as I hate to drive, I must confess that I do love Miss Phoebe . . . .

  2. I got my first car when I was in my first year of college. My boyfriend brought me the used car section of the L.A. Times. I saw what I wanted. It was old, banged up, and had push button ignition. He took me to look at it. I was ready to buy it, when my boyfriend said "Hey! That's the Unsafe at Any Speed car!" The man selling it said I could have it for $50. Boyfriend (Steve) said to forget it. Finally, after a lot of dead air, He said $25. Steve bought it for me, but warned me to drive it only to school and work. We're still together, married, and lots of family car stories.

  3. What fun stories! I have never in my life owned a car with leather seats. Reine, glad you survived the Corvair. Joan, I had a Tercel wagon when my boys were babies and loved it!

    After both my paternal grandparents died when I was in high school, my great aunt bought us kids a baby blue VW bug. My oldest sister drove it to high school and college until she dropped out, then my next older sister and I got it to drive to college (UC IRvine) an hour away. Loved that car.

    But like the Smithie, I waited to buy my own car until I was earning money with my BA in linguistics working full time at a Mobil gas station in Newport Beach. ;^) I got another VW bug, of course, and did all the work on it myself, including over-tightening a fan belt and nearly burning up the engine.

    Now we're a two-Prius family and I'll never go back, even though I miss driving a manual transmission (they don't come in manual).

  4. Hank, you are a treasure! Too funny.

    Great stories. My first car was a 1951 sedan, Chevy, I think. Born the same year I was. We didn't have a car in our family, so even though I was 18 I still didn't know how to drive, so the car sat in the alley behind our house for a year, until I sold it to a friend for 50% more than I paid for it.

    My first husband taught me to drive, so my first actual car, which he bought home one day, was a used AMC Hornet station wagon with Gucci interior. Yes, I am well aware of the irony. But I loved that car. It was medium metallic green, and the seats were cream and green leather with a red strip in the center. The headliner on the ceiling had the interlocking G logo. It was swell. Until some idiot in a Mack truck creamed me in a downtown intersection at 50 mph.

    My first new car was one of the first Honda Civics, Hallie, 1976, I think, and I've been driving Hondas ever since. They've come a long way, baby.

  5. A bright yellow Datsun B210 hatchback stick shift. Life in CA was good, though NJ and Cleveland winters rusted it out.

    Our '77 Honda Odyssey van is chugging along at 235,000 miles.

  6. This is reminding me how I had to teach my husband to drive. A brooklyn boy he had a license but couldn't really, you know, drive a car. Sadly I had to teach him on a stick shift Citroen we rented on our honeymoon in Europe. Donkeys passed us on alpine roads.

  7. My first car was the baby blue Chevy Vega my dad helped me get when I started college and was working. The engine block was aluminum and melted! First car I bought myself was a 1969 pale yellow VW convertible, sort of automatic, for $500. The heater barely worked and the salesman showed me how to shift the gears before I drove it off the lot. I loved that car! I left it behind when I transferred to the big city for the rest of my undergrad degree and it caught on fire and left nothing behind but the tires one day when my brother was driving it. (He, fortunately, was unscathed). Favorite car was my first 'fancy' car--a Subaru Outback wagon. With two carseats in the back for the boys, it was just the opposite of a 'man magnet'! ;-)

  8. Reine, I love that we have a Corvair owner in our midst! (And that poor man who sold it to you for $25 - I wonder how much of a bath he took on that.)

    Hallie, I was the opposite of your husband: I learned to drive, but when my folks said I'd have to pay for the additional insurance if I got a license...I just skipped the license part. I never drove their cars, of course, but I was behind the wheel of many friends' and boyfriends' cars. I didn't actually become street legal until I was 25! Thank goodness I was never pulled over...

  9. I drove my mother's Impala when I first got my license. My first couple of years of college I had no car (DC Transit was actually quite excellent way back then). I think it was during my junior year that my parents bought a new car and I inherited an old Nova. My parents helped me buy the first car that was in my name, a VW Rabbit, while I was in gradual school. It cost almost $5000!

  10. When I started to drive, I had my choice of two family cars: a snazzy gold 1974 Pinto, and a dull, white 1866 Renault 8. The Pinto was cute, but vented engine heat onto my feet all year round, couldn't pull hills with the AC on, and hated to start in cold weather, which turned out to be okay since it got zero traction in the snow. And it broke down a lot. And, of course, there was that gas tank thing. The Renault, on the other hand, might have looked like a washing machine on wheels, but it was a hoot to drive. It had a peppy three-speed automatic transmission (with push buttons!), a rear-mounted motor over the drive wheels, and a trunk in the front that hinged on the headlight side. As a result, it was a veritable snowmobile in the winter, and I always attracted helpful men when I had to lift the hood and get into the trunk to get books out for my college classes.

    In later years, like Joan, I had a couple of Saturns. I absolutely loved the first one--a stick shift SL1 in Midnight Blue--but had issues with the second. It was a VUE that didn't quite fit me ergonomically. The Pinto had made me more or less allergic to Fords for 35 years, but when I traded that VUE it was for my first Mustang GT, and I haven't looked back.

  11. My older sister and I got our driver's licenses within a few months of each other. Fifteen months my elder, she took her time about the whole business. I was the impatient sort, got my learner's permit as soon as I turned sixteen and my license pretty much the week I became eligible to take the test.

    Faced with two kids with freshly-minted licenses, my parents did the smart thing and bought us a huge boat of a car, an eight-year-old Impala with low miles. It was a bear to park, the windshield leaked across the top and the gas gauge was broken so we needed to keep careful track of every gas purchase lest we run out.

    My next car (post-college) was another Chevy, a Nova with a standard transmission but not a stick shift, what we called "three on the tree." It had a tight clutch that left me with incredibly toned muscles in my left thigh.

    In recent years we have been Honda (CRV!) and Subaru (Outback!) girls. When in Maine, eh? Tell Smithie I am delighted for her . . .

  12. When I was a junior in college, I got a student-teaching assignment in a little town about 20 minutes away from campus. Problem - I didn't have a car and no other students were assigned to that school that semester. How was I going to get there?

    I went home for the weekend, told my mother my woes, and when my father got home she said, "We're going to the dealership to buy Mary Beth a car." All righty then. My parents had purchased several cars from this particular salesman, so I got a good deal on a turquoise-y blue Chevy Cavalier, demo car, low mileage, four doors, power nothing. Upon graduation, I took over the payments.

    Had that car until the arrival of The Girl. When I repeated banged my head off the roof putting her in the car seat, the Chevy was traded in for a silver Dodge Grand Caravan. Lots of room when The Boy came long two years later. Held all a parent's stuff. Very practical. Hated driving it because I swore I wasn't going to be a minivan mom. Sigh.

    Several years later, my husband had purchased a white Chrysler PT Cruiser. Heated leather seats. Moon roof. Power Everything. Surprisingly good storage. The Hubby let me drive it in the winter because of the heated seats (such a nice guy). But the mileage sucked (19 mpg). For that reason, it eventually went to me full time because my commute was shorter.

    When the repairs started getting expensive, we sold it to one of The Hubby's friends (he's a mechanic so the car is still on the road and I miss it terribly) and we bought a white Toyota Prius. Awesome milage. Lots of room. It's been a good car for us. The Girl is now learning to drive and the plan is to give it to her when she goes to college. I will get a new car.

    I have one demand. It will not be white.

  13. Remember when they used to be all different colors? Somehow, now, they're all gray or white or silver or black.

    When we got a new car a few years ago, there was a terrific one that was red. I said, oh, we can't have a red car. Jonathan asked--why? and I could't come up with a very good reason. Nevertheless, We got the gray-ish blue-ish one, sort of the color of a cloudy sky. Or, gunmetal, yeah , gunmetal.

    But my yellow Vega? You just wouldn't see that buttered toast color today. My second car was a Chevette, which I loved because it was sporty and buzzy and navy blue. Except when I got home from the dealership, it turned out to be black. It had looked different in the showroom.

  14. My first car was a 1992 Geo Metro. I bought it during my sophomore year of college so I could get from campus to work without taking my mother's truck and leaving her vehicle-less all day (I lived at home and commuted to campus). I drove it until 3 years ago when, finally and with maybe a few tears, it was time to trade "Baby Car" in for something less rusty. That car STILL got 35 mpg when I traded it in and the engine just purred along, but it was getting increasingly difficult to find replacement parts (a door handle mechanism broke, which caused all kinds of consternation when the dealer had to find parts to fix it) and it was starting to rust out in the body. I still loved that little car. It was 4-door with a hatchback so you could actually fit quite a lot in there if you knew how to pack, which I do. :) I certainly can say I got my money's worth out of it!

  15. Cars! oh, how I miss cool old cars! Today's cars, for the most part, have zip zero nada personality. My first car was a 1960 Buick Skylark (or was it a Buick Special??). Anyway. This was in 1965 and I was in high school. I paid for it myself by cashing in savings bonds I had from savings stamps I had bought all through school. Stamps we bought and pasted into a book - sorta like S&H Green Stamps. When the book was full you traded it in for a US Savings Bond. Anyone remember this? Except I was short $50, which my dad loaned me. It was red, with red leather bucket seats - oh man, I loved that car. I have had some sweet rides over the years - a little red Fiat, a little white MGB which was my fave and which a practice husband totaled. He was fine - not a scratch. It moved our separation quickly into divorce. There's a story for another day.

  16. Hallie,
    I'm so impressed that you taught your husband to drive a stick, and you're still married. When we first started dating, my husband tried to teach me, and it went poorly to say the least. I still don't know how!

    When I was really young one of our family cars was a Chevette, Hank. I remember sitting in the back seat with my three sisters in our winter coats. That was a small car, and we were teeny, too!

  17. My first car was a Corvair convertible that had belonged to my mother. Remember Corvairs? They inspired Ralph Nader's book "Unsafe at Any Speed." But oh, I loved zipping around Southern California at age 17 in that death-mobile. When my mother bestowed this gift upon me, she said one curious thing, however: "It's such a good car...never gave me a bit of never even have to change the oil! That's how good it is!" Aaaaaaaaannnnddddd....well, it didn't really HAVE any oil in it by that point. Just a bunch of tar-like strings. So it didn't last all that long. But it was fun while it lasted.

  18. Ah, yes. This is a topic I do well with and usually win but this round it seems like it may be a tight race.

    My first car as a Chevrolet Monza, one of the three most structurally unsafe cars ever made. It was older than I was and it stalled any and every time I came to a complete stop. It ate cassette tapes. When I say ate I mean even when we could get the cassette out we couldn't find the tape. Not even taking the dashboard apart which we did numerous times trying to chase down the stalling issue.

    The passenger seat was rusted in place with the seat back stuck pushed slightly forward so no one could ride "shotgun" but it was nigh on impossible to get in the back.

    The driver's door was dented, badly, right at the hinge so it wouldn't open all the way. No problem. I could go in and out the window if I had to ... except I went to Catholic school and wore a uniform skirt every day.

    It also had a faulty gas gauge so I continually broke down/ran out of gas because I never knew how much gas I had. This drove my father nuts because he insisted I should some how know when I needed gas - with a broken gas gauge and therefore no way to mathematically work out the miles per gallon. He yelled at me every time he had to come pick me up and put gas in it until I finally explained to him that it would be like me yelling at him for giving him a gallon of paint but not telling him the size of the room I needed painted and it not being enough.

    The best thing I can say about it was that I developed A LOT of "character" driving it. And it cemented my love of using profanity.

  19. These stories are fantastic and Julia, I really love the vintage pictures of girls and cars.
    There's a flamingo pink completely restored Mercury Comet(?) for sale up the road from
    my house. I want it desperately because I am pretty sure the hooligans won't want to
    drive a pink car :) Plus, it's super cool.

  20. Hank, I have been told white, silver, and black are the cheapest paint colors (in order) for automakers and that is why you see so many of them.

    I'm looking at a Buick Encore for my next car (The Hubby is driving a RAV4 with all the trimmings and I'm lusting after his heated seats especially in the winter - plus I like being up higher a bit). It will be blue or red. Not sure. But I am determined. NO WHITE!

  21. My first car was a 1978 Dodge Colt. My parents had bought it used. When they were ready to get rid of it, they sold it to my grandparents who then gave it to me a few years later. It had been in the family six or seven years by the time I got it.

    My next car was a 84 Honda Accord. My uncle had bought it new and he passed it on to me.

    I bought a 2001 CR-V new in November of 2000, the first car I bought. I just replaced it with a 2016 CR-V last month.

  22. AH HA, Mary! That's pretty interesting! Yeah, I'm thinking about a red car, too. Hmm.

    Got to love car names, too. Monza. Encore. Tercel. I had to make up car names for DRIME TIME, and came up with Cambria and Umbra.

    Remember the Nova controversy? And can you imagine, these days, saying you have a Chevette?

    And I always laugh at Aspire. What, you aspire to a real car? And Maxima. Is there a Minima?

  23. My mother had not known how to drive until my father died when I was 13, so she was a very skittish driver and VERY happy to provide me a car so she wouldn't have to drive me around any more when I turned 16. So I started off in a 1966 AMC Rambler (this was the late 1970's.) By the time I finished high school, the defroster worked so badly that a tall male friend of mine would usually ride shotgun in the winter and periodically lean out the passenger door to scrape ice off the windshield.

    When I graduated, I bought my first car of my own choosing -- a gently used Ford Mustang II. It was a stick shift and I didn't know how to drive one, but I figured if all these other people can do this, so can I. I had a (different) male friend drive it off the lot for me and show me how to use the clutch and shift. I drove that car for at least six years.

    I still have a tendency to keep a car for a long, long time. My current Honda is only a year and half old, but the one it replaced had 212,000 miles on it.

  24. Hank, I joke about the Aspire all the time!!! So happy to know someone else sees the humor in that the same way I do!

  25. FChurch, when I bought my first Honda Civic (CVCC, the first of their little cars that didn't have a motorcycle engine), I had the choice of an automatic, a four-speed, or a five-speed. Checking out the gas mileage, during the gas crisis of the mid-70's, I decided to buy the five-speed. 52mpg!

    However, I'd never driven a manual transmission. So I asked my boyfriend to take me to get the car, and to teach me to drive it. He was a good teacher, and I got so good at shifting on hills (Cincinnati is full of steep streets), and the car was so tiny, that I could park just about anywhere.

    I still miss shifting. Now I'm shiftless.

  26. Susan, we sold a 1992 Accord that I'd driven for several years, and then two of my daughters had driven in turn. By the time our friend bought it from us the car had 150,000 miles on it. The last I heard he was still driving it and the odometer was close to 400,000.

  27. I think Honda is winning the reliability contest here! You can't kill them! I thought about trading in my Accord last year, but my then eight-year-old car had less than 60,000 miles on it and I decided that was stupid.

    But, Hank, I do LUST after red car. I've had two. The first was a little red MG Midget when we lived in England. It was terrible. The drivers seat was sprung, so I couldn't see over the steering wheel, and the heat poured out of the under-dash vents all year. It would literally roast your feet...

    The second red car was a 1997 Honda Prelude. It was fabulous. I drove it for three years. Then, when the warranty ran out and I found out how much it was going to cost to fix or replace anything, I traded it in on a CRV, which I regret to this day. The Prelude was a gorgeous car. And my daughter learned to drive in it.

    Julia, thanks for including the Marc Cohn video in with your wonderful car photos, even though it didn't fit your theme. That's a song to give you a Monday morning boost, especially when he hits the "Don't you give me no Buick" chorus!!

  28. My first car was a 1970 VW Fastback, which I bought from relatives, so I was aware of the car's repair history. I generally keep a car until my mechanic tells me that for safety's sake I really ought to get rid of whatever I'm driving! He LOVES my current car, a 2003Honda Civic, which I bought ten years ago. There's 94,600 miles on it and I hope to get to 200,000. If I'm still allowed to drive then, I'll probably be in my 80s. I love this car. I wish I had one like it back when I had to commute some distance to get to work.(My current commute is 3miles!)

    There were two cars I hated, a 1986 Mazda 323, which cost me thousands in repairs due to a faulty engine. Fortunately, it was involved in a recall for that very problem and the manufacturer refunded most of my repair costs. The other was a 1995 Saturn SL2, which constantly needed a new alternator. And then of course, a new battery. And there was an oil leak that I had to stay on top of.

    But LOVE my Honda!

    Deb Romano

  29. I moved back home during college to help out when my youngest sister got ill. So now I was a townie and a commuter. Dad bought a giant Impala car, probably late 60s model, for me to get to school. I was attending Loyola U. of the South in New Orleans. Kind of a change from U.Texas at Austin. The campus was in the Garden District and there was only street parking. It was a BITCH to parallel park that car. And it was enormously ugly. Dad had gotten a deal on it because it had been parked by a lumberyard during a hurricane and one side of it was all dents. And it was some sort of pale color not found in nature. After he got tired of my whining he took me car shopping and we picked out a 67 Mustang, automatic transmission, but not the big engine. It was a pale green they called Diamond and had a black vinyl roof and interior. And an A/C that needed help. I melted in that car in the summer, but I loved it. Now, after numerous cars because my husband seems to have an addiction that doesn't allow him to keep a car too many years, I drive a 2003 Jeep Liberty I bought brand new. That was my Minnesota car and it is currently my Houston car. I love it. It slips in and out and does Ueys with ease. It is stickshift and has 4WD if needed. I think I will be buried in this vehicle!
    It is a dark blue termed Patriot Blue. In the past I've gone for silvers and grays. I consider them stealth colors; they will not call attention to me if I am going over the speed limit slightly.

  30. A guy growing up in Southern California in the Fifties? Of course I was a car nut. When I was a Junior in high school, at age 16 I bought my first car, a 1949 Ford Tudor with a flathead V-8 and 3-speed stick on the column. Yes, it was a little ratty, but what can you expect for a $125 13 year-old car? I loved it. I sold it when I graduated high school, and had no car my first two years of college. Then I had a Honda motorcycle for a couple of years before it was stolen.

    Next I bought a 1962 Pontiac Tempest, which held out for a couple of years until the timing chain broke. It wold cost more than the car was worth to replace, so I sold it for parts and bought a 1963 VW beetle. A good solid car until 1972 when I traded it in for a used Dodge van (I worked for a landscaper and had a gardening route and need to put the tools somewhere).

    Finally, in an office job, my first brand new car was a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass. But the timing was bad, and the oil shortages hit me hard. Finally in 1980 I bought a Toyota Celica, which I kept for 14 years. I've had Japanese cars ever since, a Mazda, an Infiniti and now a Subaru Outback

  31. I should first note that my mother didn't drive, and she and my father had four children. Luckily, my father was in real estate and had a somewhat flexible schedule. Unfortunately for him, he had four kids to drive around to activities. We each got a car when we got our license. When it came my time, I can imagine that my father must have been celebrating for sure.

    So, my first car was a 1968 gold-colored (many of us seem to be in that color family) Ford LTD with a black vinyl top, two-door. I was most happy, but looking back on it, it was a rather large car for me. It served me well through high school though. For some reason that I think had to do with my mother talking him into a smaller car for me, when I went to college I got a new powder-blue Dodge Swinger, which was much sportier for me. I think my father got a good deal on it, too, as he was quite the car negotiator. He bought a new car every two to three years, so he got lots of practice. Boy, was I in for a shock when I married and my husband thought ten years was a good amount of time to keep a car. We've comprised on that.

  32. Aimee, you really did build character driving that car!

    Our current car is on its last legs. Among the various problems the mechanic recently diagnosed: a rodent nest in the car's inner workings. It gives me the willies just thinking about it!

  33. Fun reading! My first car was a Chevy that my parents were done with -- I had it when I got married and we drove it across the country to Berkeley, CA where my husband started law school and I started teaching high school. It's funny all the mention of rust -- when we tried to sell the Chevy (we found a used Saab for sale at a bargain in the married student housing complex), everyone who looked at is asked, "Where did your have this car??"

    Rusty cars were, at that time, unknown to Californians.

    Since we are on the subject of butterscotch, we had a great "peanut butter" VW bus for many years when our kids were young. Gosh, I loved that car. I plastered it with bumper stickers.

    A few cars after that, we discovered auto air-conditioning!

  34. Senior year in college, my brother's castoff Plymouth Fury III. It was a boat.

  35. Hank, that's the best!

    My first car was a family friend's father's 1950 Willys Jeepster. It had snap in windows and a heater that was maybe a 9" cube (cold). But I got to drive t!

  36. 1964 Chevy Corvair Monza Spyder. Yes, the Ralph Nader Car. Rag top, roll bar, four speed. I loved it. Not sure what color it should have been when I bought it someone had spray painted it flat black. I always meant to do a psychedelic paint job to cover the yuck black, but never got around to it. Libby, I always wanted a Willys. If I couldn't have a Willys, I wanted an International Harvester, but the year I saved enough money for one, they stopped making cars, quel dommage.

  37. Just saw the comments on colors. I had a Toyota for a while, it was grey. I paid more for insurance on the car because the agent told me that grey cars blended (who else just heard that line from My Cousin Vinnie play in their head) in rain and fog and thus were in more accidents in bad weather. Fact, fiction, or stichk they pulled on women in the 1970s? Hum, not sure. I always wanted a red car. The next one YES!

  38. I always figure red is best because other drivers see you!!

    My current Honda Accord is a sort of silver-green. The invisible car. Not good on Texas crazy roads.

    And the bad thing about Honda is that unless you buy the sporty Civic or the sporty V6 Accord, they come in the dullest damned colors.

    I may buy a Ford next just to get my red.

  39. I am such a car geek. I love this topic. And the pictures are great!

    I learned to drive in my parents' Country Squire wagon - with the third row seat facing backwards. When I went to college they got "the family car" which is what my sister called the first non-station wagon they ever had, a '70 Pontiac Catalina. My own first car was a British import, a Hillman Avenger aka Plymouth Cricket. I prefer to call it the Hillman. (We had rented one in Ireland and I loved it.) It was on-the-job training for the stick shift. I haven't given up my manual transmissions since.

    When I married my husband he was driving a 1968 Cadillac Sedan deVille. That sucker was gigantic! I swear there was a helicopter landing spot on the hood AND the trunk. I loved riding in it but it was too big for me to feel comfortable driving. He traded it for a pickup.

    We had 3 Firebirds/Trans Ams, a Pinto, a Chevette (two actually - we were part of a "syndicate" that bought one as a race car and rented it out (long story) - a Ford Probe GT and then our string of Hondas: an 87 CRX-Si, an 88 Civic Wagon (AWD), and we now have our third Fit - a 2013 with 110,000 miles. I love Hondas. I want a Civic Hatchback Sport now but it's almost impossible to find them with manual trannys.

    I have to tell you that my "weekend car" in summer is either a 1914 or 1915 Model T Ford. I am a driver at a transportation museum on the Maine coast and give rides to visitors. This is wicked cool and a lot of fun. I am their first female driver!

  40. Marianne, I am so jealous. I'd love to drive a Model T. We have a 1949 Willys Jeep, civilian model. It's not driveable at the moment, but doesn't need much more to be so. I did drive it in the past. It was a hoot!

  41. Love the photos.

    I remember one of my neighbors kept a car that was made before I was born.. Not sure if it was from the 1950s or 1960s. I called it the car with cat ears because the rear had fins.

    My first car was the family car and I loved driving it. The car was a 1988 four seater Volvo and it was easier to drive than the honda and toyota cars that I practiced on during driving lessons. The driving school had used toyota and used honda and I suspect they did not take care of their cars well because the steering was difficult!

    The steering on the Volvo was so simple. We bought the car in 2000 and I loved the cloth seats because I could wear shorts in the summer. The leather seats sticked to my legs if I wore shorts!

    The car died after 15 years because the new owners of the car garage hired mechanics who were not familiar with Volvos - in hindsight we should have switched car repair shops when that car garage started selling other car brands.

    Thank you for sharing. Loved everyone's stories!

  42. Who would have knew that a single car had these much parts to be changed or maintained. At least I did not have the idea. So for people like me this automotive repair manuals is really a good support and it is absolutely free.