SURVEY SAYS: First Car Memories

A recent ON THIS DATE item had me reminiscing about my first car—an AMC Pacer just like in the movie “Wayne’s World” minus the flames.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers to share their first car memories. 

Most (52.5%) of responding readers reported they got their first car when they were in high school. Eleven percent indicated they got their first car after high school, but not when they were in college. Slightly more than 21% got their first car when they were in college, and 15.2% got their first car after college.

More than 43% of respondents paid for their first car themselves. One-third said their parent(s) paid for it, and 3% said a family member other than a parent paid for it. Seven percent said they and someone else paid for it together. The vast majority of “other” responses (13.1%) were from respondents who received a “hand-me-down” car from a parent, grandparent or sibling (still someone had to pay for it), while others said their parents paid, but they paid them back or they used inherited money to buy their first car.

Nearly one-quarter (24.2%) of responding readers reported their first car was a Ford. Chevrolets were the second most common first cars (19.2%). More than 18% chose “other”, with Oldsmobile and Plymouth the most commonly cited missed brands on my list. More “other” responses included Dodge, Saab, Triumph, Mercedes, Subaru, Renault, Audi, and Fiat.

Slightly more than 9% of respondents said their first car was an AMC, 4% a Buick, 2% Chrysler, 3% Honda, 1% Hyundai, 1% Mercury, 2% Mitsubishi, 1% Nissan, 4% Pontiac, 6% Toyota, and 5% Volkswagen.

Forty-two percent of readers’ first cars were made in the 1970s, while 23.2% were made in the 60s, 19.2% in the 80s, 8.1% in the 80s, 5.1% in the 50s and 2% in the 2000s.

I really enjoyed reading readers’ first car memories and general comments. Thanks for the sympathy on the Pacer: “Ugly as my first car was, my sympathies on the Pacer. A ‘pregnant roller skate’ is how I remember that being described…and an apt description…” (I called mine “the bubble.”) However, I loved my first car despite its looks and problems, as did many of the readers who shared memories. And, you can almost feel the sense of freedom a first car gives from readers’ comments. Many tell of the rust they dealt with and how remarkably much oil cars seemed to use back in the day, while others were the lucky ones who had “cool” cars and “date magnets.” There were many humorous stories. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who shared: “Nothing makes a guy cooler than a hand-me-down SKY BLUE Toyota Corolla. As I think about it I can still hear the sweet rumbling purr of the broken exhaust and feel the sweaty joy of driving with the heat on in the summer to keep the engine from over-heating.”

Much thanks to all who participated in the survey!



It was an ugly green station wagon, but in high school, I was just happy to have a car.

The gas cap was under the rear license plate. The gas tank leaked, so you couldn't fill it completely full, or it would leak out. Every time you braked, or stopped, gas would drip out. But it was fast and loud and fun! In hind-sight, I do believe in guardian angels.

It was a 1974 Ford Mustang. This was not a good year for the Mustang plus it had a bad 4-cylinder engine that sputtered and hesitated. Actually probably not that safe to drive.

I had a brown slightly rusted Buick Skyhawk - a small station wagon. Before seatbelts were required, we used to pile as many people as possible into that thing and drive to various sports practices.

Dad bought me a '82 Ford Granada when I moved out of the house in 1992 right after college.

Gas was $.99 a gallon and five dollars would get me around for an entire week!

Didn't know how to buy a car. Bought it after looking at it after dark, under a parking lot light. Bad move. Lotsa' mechanical stuff went wrong but my brother helped to rewire the ignition and re-did the function of the wipers. It was a sob story.... get it? Learned a lot from the experience.

My husband and I and another Navy couple decided to drive to the coast in California one day. They were driving a Trans Am and kept getting really far ahead of us in the mountains. I told my husband to drive our Chevy Chevette faster to which he replied he had it floored! It still makes me laugh to this day!

My first car was a '65 or '66 Mustang. If I still had it, it would probably be worth a fortune. But, it was too much car for me back then, so it was traded for a '66 Chevy Nova. The Mustang had twin pipes and a V-8 engine, I felt like I was driving a race car!

My parents told us (4) kids that we could not get a driver's license until we could afford our own car and the insurance, so I didn't drive until I was 19. My Oldsmobile F-100 cost only $50 and since I was working I could afford the insurance (I still lived at home while going to school). It was old but in good shape and unbelievably took unleaded gas. It was a little embarrassing for me at first because a lot of my friends were USC sorority girls, whose parents bought them the latest of everything, but I grew to not care what they or the frat boys thought. It got me where I needed to be and that was the main thing. Unfortunately for my old reliable car, it met a sad end when an 80 yr old man decided that stop signs did not apply to him.

I wasn't allowed to use the family car like my older brothers before me on the day I received my license. I inherited my brother’s old car before I even paid him. It was a Pontiac Sunfire. I had 88,000 on it. By the time I was done with it, It had 119,000, Gas was ,99 a gallon. $6 filled up my tank, those were the days!

It got 80 miles to a fill-up plus needed 1 quart of oil with each fill up.

I actually did not learn to drive until I was 26 (with a 1-year old child). My husband and I still have that car, and in January, my daughter (who turns 15 in December), will learn to drive on the same car I did!!!

aahhhhh.... my 1976 AMC Gremlin. My Dad bought it at auction - it was a County Car. Spray painted brown with all the stroke marks and puddles - but you could still see the beige paint underneath and the "Riverside County" painted on the door. It died at intersections so I had to keep a foot on the brake and gas at the same time. A big "thanks" to the masses who pushed it through intersections for me. It also died on the freeway somewhat frequently so I drove in the slow lane only. I used it as a trade in for my first new car purchase. Got $200 for it...

My first car was my mom's 1964-1/2 Mustang. Blue with a white vinyl roof and white interior. I wish I could say I felt like a rock star driving that car, but it is now that I appreciate what I had! If wishes were fishes....Sigh....


Verbatim (cont.)

Super excited even though it was a "grandpa" car! Still got me from A to B and that is all I needed. LOL!

My brother, a year older than me, received a red 1965 Ford Mustang. Man it was sharp. After he wreaked it twice and the door would not close, my Dad passed it to me. I wish I still had that 65 Fastback Mustang, but I did not appreciate it like I should have all those years ago!

It was a '54 Roadmaster and it was a great car. Handed it off to my Dad when I stepped up into something newer and he drove it 'til it died.

It was a 1967 Ford Mustang and it was a "magnet" that helped me get dates. I loved that car.

I bought my first car for $175 from money I earned as a paperboy. One of my friends had purchased the same make and year car for $35, but dogs had been living in his. We got quite a laugh about that.

The Rambler's fully reclining seats were of great interest to high school students looking for romance.

A 1976 Toyota Celica. It was brown, 5-speed, and awesome. I've been a Toyota owner since 1976.

As Daddy's Little Princess, I wanted a purple AMC Gremlin for my 16th birthday. Daddy worked 3 jobs and found a dark blue Gremlin. He had it painted purple and it was waiting for me on the morning of my 16th birthday. I'm still Daddy's Princess (notice I'm not so little anymore!). Daddy happened to mention that he wanted a new Hyundai Azera and since his birthday was around the corner, I was pleased to be able to give him one for this birthday. I still cry when I think about how surprised and happy he was. Signed, Daddy's Blessed Princess.

1988 Volkswagen Jetta purchased in 1999. Crank sunroof, ugly gray color. I was so sad when she finally gave up.

I painted it orange with a black bed to match our school colors, plus orange and black tuck and roll seat.

My first car was a 1965 Ford Galaxy 500 convertible which I bought myself in 1971 for $995. The payment was $25 per week, so I learned early on the value of credit. I remember loving that car, and once it was paid for, feeling very proud of myself because I had bought it myself. In turn, when our children were old enough to drive, my husband and I both agreed that they should buy their own car. Neither of them liked that idea at the time, but many years later, our daughter actually thanked us for helping to teach her self-reliance! Makes a parent proud!

My first car was a blue Pacer, too! I still miss that big blue fishbowl, aka The Turtle. I drove it until college when the floor rusted out and almost dropped my mom onto the highway one day. It wasn't the best car in the universe, but it was miles better than my cousin's first car - a Gremlin.

Bright orange 1971 VW Bug--8 track player--no defrost--had to teach the local mechanic how to change the oil--used leaded gas--it's the reason I got AAA membership for a Christmas present from my mother.

Perfect starter car: a manual transmission with a generous clutch.

My first car was really my first taste of independence. I had my first date, my first kiss, and other PG-13 fun in that car. It was also my first love. I explored, learned, and expanded my awareness of the surrounding area further than I had ever thought possible. I tried to recapture that feeling later on in life with another Triumph but I think too much naivety had passed, and I ended up selling that car within 2 years as we had our first child!


Verbatim (cont.)

station wagon built like a tank.

My car was voted fastest my junior and senior year of high school.

when I was 16 my dad gave me my grandmother's car, a 1964 amc rambler. I was happy to have any car. I will remember this car always because whenever it rained, it would stall and I either had to put a screwdriver in the choke to start it again or have it towed. There were many times I would stall right at a traffic light and I would be hiding in my car as people went around me. Those were the days.

My first car was a 1970 Mustang purchased in 1984 for $500 and a pickup load of firewood. To say the car was rough would be an understatement, as it had been converted into a race car sometime in the late 70's, had most of its interior stripped out and wore at least 4 different colors of paint. Working weekends with my father for almost two years, we managed to turn this death trap into a car a high school boy could proud of. It was in daily service for 5 years of college, then set parked for several years before being fully restored in 2002. Now, 30 years later I still own this car, she rest comfortably in my garage covered for the winter, awaiting a nice spring day to return to the road. This smell and feel of this old car brings back all the memories of my Father and my younger days, I will never part with this car.

I souped up a Ford Pinto. All show, no go!

Rack and pinion steering, no radio or air conditioning. Neither of my parents drove, so what did I know about cars??!! I did drive it into the ground for 11 years, though. Got my money's worth.

I bought the first car by my parents repaying what they had borrowed from me and then borrowing the rest from my parents to buy it. I paid them back in both cash and other purchases. I bought a manual transmission so my 5 sisters would not want to drive it. Ended up with a 4 door car because my father wanted me to be able to drive mom around. It was safer for everyone if she rode in the back. LOL Miss that old Dodge Omni. Bought it sight unseen. Test drove one and went to purchase. A couple of teachers had originally ordered the car and then bought something before it was delivered off the lot. It was great and lasted a long time.

My first car was a 1966 Mercury Comet. Paid $200 for it and it was all mine! Didn't look very pretty but she ran like a champ. Great first car!

'68 Chevelle Malibu w/ 327 cu in, 4 barrel carb, air shocks, fat tires... what more was there for a 17 year old boy? I do miss her still.

1974 Vega Hatchback. Best car ever !!

Bought new and before 3 years were up it had electrical problems so bad it could not be repaired.

I loved my first car. It was a little gray Corvair with a funky gear shift. So much fun to drive. I had to carry a spare fan belt because the belt would break from time to time, but that was just a temporary inconvenience. I'd still be driving Corvairs if it hadn't been for Ralph Nader and his Unsafe at any Speed. I never forgave him for that.

My car was an orange Vega. How appropriate since I lived in Cleveland, TN. 90 miles from Knoxville and the big ORANGE country!

I loved my little accord. Four on the floor and great on gas.

It was a 1965 Mustang that had virtually no brakes when you filled it with kids. Somehow I still survived to adulthood.


Verbatim (cont.)

While in school my parents loaned me a car. After starting my first post-college job, my dad found a car for me. I paid for it, but he picked it out. It was a 1974 Chevy Vega, and I think it was $300! (purchased used in 1981). It had a lot of rust, but ran well. The battery mount was so rusted, he built a new one. I swear the rest of the car could have rusted away, but that battery would still be going down the highway on a frame! He tried to make the car look better by painting it, but it looked like it was painted with a broom! It wasn't pretty, but at least I wasn't in debt! It lasted about 2 years and then he replaced it with a 1961 Ford Falcon for which I paid $800. It was from the south so the body was great. But, the day he brought it to me, it threw a clutch and I thought we'd be going to retrieve the Vega from the junk yard. Not necessary, he was able to fix it in my apartment parking lot!

I remember backing out of a parking spot and tapping a guardrail with the bumper and the bumper fell off. I was horrified and afraid to tell my parents. When I was finally 35 years old my parents told me that the bumper was rusted and they knew it would eventually fall off and that it wasn't my fault. Thanks mom and dad!

The Gremlin!! Great body shape - lasted many years!!

I held out for a car with three options: AC, rear defogger, and manual transmission. Took a while to find a car I could afford, but my 1975 Oldsmobile Starfire (purchased in 1980) fit the bill. Thirty-four years and thirteen cars later, I've finally had to compromise -- my latest car is the first one I've ever had without a clutch pedal.

My first car was an ugly brown Ford Pinto, but it got me to where I needed to go...just not very stylish!

My brother had purchased the car new for his new family. Married a girl with 2 boys and pretty soon they were expecting. Not sure what he was thinking - it was a VW Bug! Within 6 months he realized he needed a bigger car and told me if I could get the financing on the balance, the car was mine. I loved that car! Even if every winter I had to have the heat manually turned on and in the summer have it turned off.

At my high school graduation family party my parents gave me a long box, about the size that would hold a pair of gloves. Upon opening I found it contained a note and a set of car keys. I must confess instead of reading the note first I screamed and ran for the garage with everyone trailing after me. Of course my Dad had tons of trouble locating his garage door key (this was 1970 after all - no auto openers at my house). Then it took him a couple of minutes to make the key work, all the while grinning ear to ear. Finally the door came up on a used Pontiac LeMans convertible, aqua with white interior and top. BEAUTIFUL!!! And a total surprise - I had not even asked for one. But they knew I would need transportation to and from college which was across town. Being young I hadn't even thought that far ahead.

I got the "hand me down" car- my father gave me their old car so he could buy a new one- with the condition that I be available at my parents' beck and call to transport my siblings as needed.

My first car was a pea green AMC Gremlin that failed to start in the rain and had a lethargic heater during the cold winter months - very unfortunate in the Northeast! That said it got my brother and me around during our college commuting days and not many people can say that they owned a Gremlin!

69 Mustang Fastback...redid the interior put an armrest built in carpets etc....Crager Rims all around...302 it had get up and go...liked racing my buddies with their Trans am Camaro's Datsun 280z......Ah to be 16 again

The car was a 1971 Toyota Corolla with 4 speed stick shift. It was 8 years old when I got it in 1979, but it didn't matter--I had a car and my friends didn't! I paid for it working as a cashier at a supermarket.

I bought a car with a standard transmission right after I got my license and was not sure if I could drive it because I learned on an automatic. It didn't take me long to learn!

I bought a 1970 Mustang in 1978. I never could convince my Dad to let me swap the 250 cu straight 6 for the 427 cu V8 that was sitting unused in his garage.

Nothing makes a guy cooler than a hand-me-down SKY BLUE Toyota Corolla. As I think about it I can still hear the sweet rumbling purr of the broken exhaust and feel the sweaty joy of driving with the heat on in the summer to keep the engine from over-heating.

Loved my first car! I learned to drive a stick shift on the way home from the dealer!


Verbatim (cont.)

It got me where I needed to go although it was a lemon. It had a vertical radio with knobs you pulled out and pushed in to change the station. I lived in WI and my heater died, so the way I felt warm was blasting the fan/heater which blew cold air. When I turned it off I felt warmer! I remember driving home from a weekend away and feeling my brakes get "mushy". When I pulled in the driveway and stopped my brakes went out. My friends would poke my fabric ceiling causing that to hang down. Eventually I turned it in to the junkyard and took their first offer, I was so glad to get rid of it!

The car was an Audi Fox, and it really was a clunker. I found out it had a "dead" spot in the engine. Sometimes it wouldn't start, so I'd have to get out and push it back a few feet and then it would start. Always great to make your friends get out of the car and have them watch you push the car back so it would start.

Loved my Fiat 850 Spyder sports car. Convertible, manual shift and great design. It was a car you could work on yourself if you wanted to according to your degree of expertise in mechanics. If it hadn't rusted out on me I'd still have it. Wish I did.

First car in 1980 was a 1972 Chevy Vega GT (Orange) - Back then, cars burned oil almost as much as gas. I kept a case of oil (cans) in the trunk.

We had to get a job and then we were given mom's old car to get us to work and back and mom got a new car to replace it!

My first car was stick shift and my Dad promised to drive it home until I learned to drive it. He ended up going golfing and I had no choice but to jerk all of the way home. Well, actually, I did get the hang of it quickly, which may have been his motivation!

A 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible with the interceptor engine and four on the floor. What a car - burned more oil than gas.

It was my first taste of freedom - nothing like it before or since -

My first car was a white Ford Pinto. I called it "The Bean." It was the biggest pain in the posterior I've ever encountered, but I was one of the cool kids because I had a car! The Bean came to a sad end when my brother borrowed it to go riding around with his friends. They were throwing firecrackers out of the windows - until they encountered a police car, whereupon one friend tossed his lit firecracker to the floor of the car and stomped on it to put it out. He was a big guy, with big feet, which went all the way through the floor of The Bean!

I bought my first car, a Corvair, for $100. For that price a got a car that had a body, engine and transmission from three different years and a box of parts. It ran and gave me a lot of experience working on engines.

My first car was a purple, sparkley AMC Gremlin that my sister gave to me as a HS graduation gift. When I had to immediately decide to junk it when it's transmission blew outside of a junk yard, in the ensuing scramble to find a ride home, I forgot to take the little metal gremlin off the side of it. I always say hello to it when I drive by the junkyard.

It was a "cool" car.

My parents and I split the cost of the car 50/50. Unfortunately it was always my half that needed repair, gas, tires, etc.

I was 16 and bought a '71 Duster. It had a great stereo, but dents all over, and holes in the floor. It did not always start at school, or after work and the boys were impressed that I could open the hood and get it started! It was ugly brown, but it was mine! My daughter just got her license, and I would never let her drive something so unreliable! I think you appreciate it a lot more when you have to work for it!

I remember my father taking me to see the car because a friend of his parent had passed away. It was a 69 Impala and it was a giant old person car. At first I thought no way but it ran well and for $600 a poor high school kid could not pass it up. That car went through one of the worst blizzards I have ever seen. The snow was over the front bumper but the car never stopped. Thank goodness for studded snow tires.


Verbatim (cont.)

When I turned 16 in 1988, my dad gave me his 1979 Chevy Nova and he bought a newer car. The feeling of freedom!

My first car was a "hot," sporty, silver Firebird. I remember the first time my Dad took it for a drive and the happy look on his face. He had a blast on that first ride (didn't drive too fast) as he always had a practical car for our family of seven, and I'm sure my new ride was a fascination for him that he was able to experience on occasion.

Ugly as my first car was, my sympathies on the Pacer. A "pregnant roller skate" is how I remember that being described...and an apt description...

It was a Dodge Polaris with a push button gear selection. It had a lot of rust but ran like a champ. I spent many hours working on the body going to junk yards for parts. Do junk yards still exist??

It was a bright yellow Chevy Monza that was a horrible car, but I loved it anyway. It was constantly breaking down, not starting, etc. but I would not hear a bad thing about that piece of junk.

My Concord DL cost $1k and my parents bought it because they moved to Florida right out from under me while I was in college. I could take the key out of the ignition in any position, so I could start it, lock it and come back when it was warm - a real boon at NIU. Took a while to figure out why the battery kept going dead though, since the clock would still be on if I pulled the key out in the wrong position.

I had a 1977 Ford Thunderbird, complete with the longest hood I've ever seen. I live in upstate NY and she was a handful in the snow, but I loved every minute of freedom that came along with having my own set of wheels!

I shared my first car with my younger brother.


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.