Sunday, July 31, 2011

First cars, and why they're special.

I think everyone can remember their first car. Whether it was just a few years ago, or more than 50. I'm able to recall painfully specific details about my first car, though I have trouble recalling what I ate for breakfast this morning. So what exactly sears our first car in our memories?

For many, I think it's the first few sweet tastes of freedom. Those exhilarating moments of not having to ask  mom and dad for a ride, or for the keys. The realization you can just get in your car and go to where you want to be. I know I spent a fair share of my time going no place in particular. Just cruising aimlessly and enjoying the summer breeze caressing my face. Trying to capture the fleeting moments of my youth before they were lost to time and responsibility.

There's also the memories made in our cars. From the time we get our license to the time we often part with our first cars live those peak years of milestones. Your first date, and the stages of love and lust that follow. Concerts and loud music that seem to capture exactly who you are at the time it's on the radio. Then there's the trials and tribulations of those budding years of adulthood. The lasting bonds of friendship, and the crushing blows of heartache.

I've noticed a growing trend of people from all walks of life looking for their first car in the hopes of buying it back. The question I get asked most, is why? That question also tends to be the hardest to answer. The answers are as varied and unique as people are. I've honestly never heard the same answer twice.

For some it's trying to recapture a part of their youth or history. For others it's just the pure personality of the car, its quirks and flaws included. I've also spoken to people who are searching for the car on behalf of someone else. I recently spoke with a gentleman who wanted to reunite his father with his first car. It was his father's 60th birthday, and 40th wedding anniversary. It was the very car they had met in, and set out in life together with.

I've been told my dream of finding my old car is silly or foolish, but I disagree. I think it's perfectly natural to get attached to your car. Statistics show that we spend nearly 1/3 of our lives on the road, meaning we spend about 1/3 of our lives in our cars. Who wouldn't get attached to something that is part of such large amount of their life? There's no reason too great or small to want your old car back. Don't feel guilty about it as there's certainly no harm in looking, and you certainly aren't the only one.

My main motivation for finding my old El Camino is mostly the personality of the car. I loved the way it handled and drove, and I can still hear the roar of that old 350 in my ears. I put a lot of work, time and money into it to get it road legal. I learned a lot from that old truck, both mechanically and the lessons of life. I especially learned why AAA is important and well worth the money, it broke down and I had to have it towed 3 times in the first 6 months I drove it. There was also that loose connector on the windshield wiper motor. Many times I would have to pop the hood in the pouring rain and wiggle it to get my wipers to work.

The memories are equally fond, I suppose. I learned how to drive in that car, and it served me well; if you can control a 14 foot long, 1 ton tank down the narrow back roads of Massachusetts you can drive anything, anywhere. There were the long nights at car shows where my truck looked like a wreck compared to the others; but owners always stopped and shared in my joy and wished me luck with my restoration. There was also a 2 week camping trip spent with the first woman I ever gave my entire heart and soul to. My fondest memories were working on it with my Dad. Whenever I got hung up on how to fix something he was always there with a hand, a wrench and a smile. We'd work and reminisce about his own automotive history.

In all of the experiences I've had in my life, good or bad; I've come to notice one thing. The strongest sense of satisfaction and joy I've ever had was behind the wheel of that old truck. I've actually never owner a vehicle built after 1981 and I'm thankful for that.

Classic cars have enriched my life in many ways over the years. Allowing me to make friendships with people I might never have met otherwise. Teaching many lessons about life and cars and how to deal with the unexpected. They've also challenged me to push my boundaries. I've learned that there is no problem too difficult to solve with information and patience. That lesson has carried into every aspect of my life, and I'm a much better person because of it.

Now, I'd like to ask you a few questions. What was your first car, and what did you love about it? If you had the chance to own it again, would you? What is your favorite memory from the time you owned it?


  1. Sadly I was not gifted with rich parents, nor fantastic inheritance from racing grandparents, so my 1st was a 83 Nissan truck. Fun, had lots, it was able to haul my stuff from my parent place to my life in the Navy. I liked that it wasn't damaged by anything I caould do to it, and it gave me freedom to drive anywhere. Favorite memory? Cross country drive from Fla to Conn.

  2. I wasn't either, Jesse. I got my first job at 14 and worked my butt off to save up for my truck. Definitely helped me appreciate it though.

  3. First car I drove was my stepfather's 1989 Pontiac Firebird, I loved that bruiser. Would always stall out in rotaries, and had a nice roar to it. I'll never forget driving my date to the Senior dinner dance in it!

  4. In 1996 I owned a 1993 firebird formula. It was the car I met my wife in. After about a year I had to sell the car. A few months ago I found the car at a small dealership. I verified the VIN it was the car. I could not come up with the cash and it sold. A month later I found another 1993 firebird formula and bought it. Not my old car but the same model, year, and style. Two days ago on craigs list, my first formula showed up again. This time I didnt let it get away and im happy to say its was in my driveway the next day. Very rare to find it not only once but twice. I gotta thank craigslist and my wife for letting me get my car back.