Do you remember your first car?
You always remember it, right? Whether you bought it, inherited it, took over the car payments from your older brother. But no matter how you define it, there’s always a story.
Driving was a privilege: I took advantage of it!
On the day I turned 15 years and 9 months old, I forced my mother to take me to the Department of Motor Vehicles to begin the licensing process. That was the earliest possible day in the state of Maryland that I could have the privilege of driving. So right on cue, I applied for my learner’s permit, followed by my provisional license, and then my permanent driver’s license. And I’ve never looked back.
I did, however, look forward, always looking for a car to drive. When I was in high school, we always seemed to have a barrage of fixer upper cars in the driveway. And while I wasn’t mechanically inclined, I was more than thrilled to drive a bright orange and black 1977 Jeep Cherokee Chief.
Although it backfired nearly every time I accelerated and made pulling into busy intersections a questionable decision, it had the big don’t-mess-with-me presence I longed for in high school. Even though the radio never worked, I loved that vehicle until the day I left for college.
My first, real, owned-by-me car
That wasn’t really my first car, though. In fact, I spent five long years after high school enduring the carless life and becoming all too familiar with public transportation. When the real world called and I needed reliable transportation for my first “real” job as a teacher, I borrowed a mere $500 and financed my first car. A used 1988 Honda Civic DX.
It was everything you’d expect in a used first car: cheap, partially rusted, manual transmission, blue interior, automatic seat belts (remember those?). And in the months after making the purchase, I learned that it also had a leak in the seal of the windshield that caused a flood in my car after every rainstorm.
Still, I loved my Honda. It was a fun, little, zippy sedan. It wasn’t a hand-me-down truck or the family station wagon. It was a car perfect for a girl in her twenties. And as that girl in her twenties started to wise up and make a little more money, she wistfully sold that rustbucket and ventured into second car territory.
There were a series of unforgettable cars after that. More features and options but never as memorable as my first car.
I wondered if this was simply my own phenomenon. I tend to be terribly nostalgic so I thought I was just being overly sentimental about my first car, like my parents were.
They grew up in an era with fewer makes and models and very memorable styles for each year. So I asked them if they could reach back in their memory banks.
Mom remembers her first love, a Mercury Monterey
My mother and I spent over an hour on the phone talking about her first car. It took some detailed descriptions and my mad Googling skills to figure out that she drove a 1957 Mercury Monterey that she bought in 1961. What was funny about her story wasn’t just the car but the fact that she remembered going out with a boy whose father had the same car. His was white with a blue top and hers was cream with a coral top. The idea of having twin cars was terribly cute to her.
We discussed what happened to that car and what came next but it was clear that her first car was her first love.
Dad worked hard for his Dodge Meadowbrook
My dad had a different but equally colorful story about his first car. It was a 1951 Dodge Meadowbrook 4 door sedan that had been his father’s commuter car until it quit running and the rear leaf springs broke.
His deal with his father was: “If you get it running and fix everything that needs to be fixed, I’ll let you use it.”
He spent under $100 including a new paint job and two weeks later, his mother gave him the keys saying, “I don’t give a damn what your father said, I want you to have a car so you can go places for me.”
After two years, he sold it for $150 but the story of his first car stayed with him, the same as all of our stories
Our first car represents a rite of passage, giving us a new sense of independence as we move into adulthood. Eventually, that rite of passage gets bogged down with car insurance, gas prices, and auto repairs. But that first car retains a special place in our hearts.
What was your first car? Share your first car memories with us!