First Car Stories

by Michael Satterfield

First cars are special, my first car was a 1954 Ford Crestline, like the one above. I bought it for $150 when I was 14-year-old from an old farmer down the road. My best friend and I spent all summer learning how to work on it, with a little love we got it running and would sneak out and drive around the block.

Thinking about the first car I owned made me wonder about other's first car stories so I put the call out and had several people send in some great stories and photos of their first cars.  Check out these first car stories and share yours in the comments below.


1966 Opel Kadett
Sandy:

My first car was a 1966 Opel Kadett.  The year was 1972.  Paid $100 for it. It topped out at 70 miles an hour.  3rd gear didn't work anymore. One Friday night, around 2 am, I was returning from a night out in Manhattan to Brooklyn. On a steep curve on the Belt Parkway, I suddenly heard a screeching noise. I turned to my left and saw sparks flying. Then I saw a tire go by. It took me a minute to put those elements together, but I soon realized my wheel had come off, as I ground to a halt.

It being 1972, and late/early on a Friday night, and Brooklyn, cars were passing me at high speeds.  I pulled over, but there was no shoulder. No such thing as a cell phone back then, one had to wait for a roving tow truck to notice you.  Then one paid whatever they wanted to charge to get off the highway.

A half hour later, after dodging drunken, speeding drivers, we were finally towed to safety.

Turns out a leaky hose had caused a metal piece to rust through, causing the wheel to come off. Fixed, and drove it another 6 months until 2nd gear stopped working, and sold it for $50.

Sandy works as a musician and writer SandyMcknight.net



2001 Mazda MX5 Miata
Nicholas:

My first car was a 2001 Mazda Miata that I bought when I was 18 in 2013. After racing 125cc two-stroke shifter karts for a couple years, I always remembered thinking "I wish I could just drive off the race track and onto the street." Researching fun, cheap sports cars lead me to a Miata hunt, but the four cars I looked at on that fateful weekend were all duds. It wasn't until I was driving home empty-handed that I saw an ad for a red one that essentially said "2001 Mazda Miata for sale. Stick shift. Bought it for racing but haven't driven it in 6 months." I was skeptical, as I knew almost nothing about it and there was only a single picture of the car.

I arrived to find the car cover in a coat of dust so thick that I couldn't even tell if there was luster in the paint. It sat in the owner's warehouse for six months with the top down beside a brand new uninstalled 4-point roll bar. The car was filthy and out of shape, but it turned out to be the absolute ideal Miata for me. It not only came with the Sport package, which made it the best handling Miata to date thanks to chassis bracing, torsion LSD, 6-speed transmission, Bilstein shocks, and 16" wheels, but also it had the rare factory lip kit.

I took it home for a steal and within the first week of ownership, I somehow managed to find a factory hardtop listed for sale at $20. Considering they sell often for $1000 or more, I called the person to make sure it wasn't a scam. It turned out to be the disgruntled ex-wife of a Miata owner who still had it laying around. I explained to her that she did not realize the value of the top, and offered at least $200 to leave with a clear conscious, but she was so touched by the offer that I left with it for free! Overall owning an older car has been a rollercoaster of emotions, money, and memories that I will never forget. 

Today Nick works for Healthlabs.com and runs an Instagram account dedicated to vintage 80s and 90s Japanese cars called @circuitdreaming. 


1953 MG TD
Harry:

I bought - well actually my grandmother bought - my first car, a 1953 MG TD when I was 16 years old. I still have that car today, even though I've owned and sold numerous other MGs, Jaguars, BMWs, and Austin-Healeys.

I had a model of a TD when I was 10 and always wanted one. Like any British sports car, it frequently needed work and I quickly became aware of the limited skills of the local MG dealer. So, off to Sears and my first set of tools. What? MGs use what? British Standard?


So, I became acquainted with Moss Motors and the peculiar writing of British shop manuals ("...use a suitable extractor to remove the flywheel..."). All this led to summer jobs in college at dealerships and to owning my own English Sports Car Repair Shop for a number of years before selling and moving North to write the service training programs for Jaguar, Rover, Triumph. From there to a (short) stint at DeLorean and eventually to a career in advertising/PR for a number of wonderful automotive clients at Harris, Baio & McCullough.

So, that what your first car can do for you!



1976 Chevrolet Corvette

My Dad was 13 years old when the Great Depression hit in 1929. He had already been maintaining lawnmowers for neighbors for pocket change, but suddenly he found himself working on cars to help others make it through the hard times ahead. That, in turn, led to him building his own 3 bay full-service shop in Upstate NY, and thus a career was born. 

After his stint in B-17’s during WW II was over he settled in to growing his business and raising a couple of kids. I grew up in his shop, a few dozen steps from our house, learning from the best, at my Dad’s side. In 1976 I had been out of college for a couple of years and had a job offer I couldn’t refuse way down south. I had a fairly new car without air-conditioning (common at the time, not really necessary in that part of the country), and between the realization that it’s hot down south and knowing that I would be road salt-free thereafter, I bought a brand new 1976 Corvette and headed out.

Fast forward to the late 1980’s, my Dad had retired and closed the shop, but called me up and pointedly asked me how the ‘Vette was running. It was clear that he wanted both to see me and to get his hands dirty again, so I headed north for a vacation. We tore into the car until there was nearly nothing but parts laying everywhere, and it was time for my departure, so he happily loaned me one of his vehicles to get back home in. Months later my Mom declared that the car needed to be finished, so my Dad drove it down to make the swap. I’d never seen him happier.

A year later he died suddenly, likely with a smile still on his face. The Corvette that we worked on together has seen rain only once since then and is reverently tended to on a regular basis. When asked what my goal in life is I usually say that it is to be 2% of the person that my Dad was, and now at 67 I’m almost halfway there. I love and revere my Corvette almost as much as I do my Dad. It’s a symbol of and a memorial to his memory. My first car is still a beautiful magnificent machine, irreplaceable.     



1970 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe
Richard:

In 1973, I was nineteen and driving my mom’s hand-me-down Buick wagon. The reliable beast that it was, it only got 8 mpg. When the first Arab oil crisis hit later that year, I cried uncle. My favorite magazine, Car & Driver, had long promoted the greater reliability and economy of foreign cars.

Around the corner from my house, I found a 1970 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe for sale. It was red (as Italian cars should be), and on my meager clerical salary, was affordable at $1,700. It was the first car I bought with my own money. Then I had to drive it home, except, I didn’t know how to drive a stick. I learned quickly!

That Fiat was my daily driver for the next two-plus years, ferrying me all over the place. The good news? It was fun to drive, roomy, and got a whopping 20 mpg. The bad news? It broke down every other week. But those breakdowns taught me how to work on cars, a skill I’ve kept for life.

I miss that Fiat. They’re all gone; the rust bug ate them. If you find a clean 124 Coupe for sale, I’ll get online for it, but I suspect I won’t be the only one.


Richard is a life-long automotive enthusiast and currently works as Product Training Director for CARiD.com


Toyota Supra
 Robert:

 I turned 16 when the original Fast and Furious movie slid into theaters. When the bright orange Toyota Supra drove on screen, I had to have it. After doing some research and realizing the car was a financial pipe dream for me, I begged my parents and somehow won the negotiation. A few weeks later my dad flew to Texas and picked up a modified Supra. 

It wasn’t long before I was driving like an idiot trying to replicate all the scenes in the movie. Being a young driver with a powerful car ended where most would expect - into a tree. After a few years of owning the car and multiple crashes later I decided to sell the car. It was a heartbreaking day. At the time, that car was everything to me. 

Years later, after much maturity, I picked up another Supra. This one is much different from the first. It is a rare model with no modifications and low original miles. Needless to say, it’s an occasional Sunday driver. That bright orange car set into motion quite a few life events. I now find myself training with some of the drivers and coordinators who worked on the Fast and Furious series. I am a professional driving coach and motorsports performance specialist. Today at my Driving School I train stunt drivers on the intricacies of sliding cars to a mark and not hitting things unless the script calls for it.




Carrie:

Although she only lasted 14 years with me, my first car was a navy 1985 Buick Century that had previously lived at the top of a hill with an old gentleman about 3 miles from home.  How my father tracked it down, I don't know (Most likely through the 'good ole boys network' I bet!)

The day came and he towed it home with our family Massy Harris tractor because it hadn't run in a while and needed work.  Dad spent the summer getting it all fixed and even gave it a fresh coat of paint in my favorite hunter green color.  To me, it represented a freedom that matched the excitement of starting college.  It was as if the world opened up!  Plus, it was a bit of a sleeper, so it could really go if I needed her to!

I have not found anything like that Buick since, but will always remember how much work my Dad put into that car for 14 solid years simply because it was his little girl's favorite first car.