Do Good First Cars Make Good Car Enthusiasts?

Illustration for article titled Do Good First Cars Make Good Car Enthusiasts?

The first car I ever drove was a 1992 Toyota Camry. Now I'm a total gearhead. Does it help or hurt car enthusiasm to have a totally boring first ride?


The question came up when our own Matt Hardigree said that we're possibly experiencing the death of commuter culture and the boring cars that come with it. This, he said, could only be good for car enthusiasts.

Reader Victorious Secret wasn't so sure that fewer commuter cars means more future car nuts.

You're falsely saying that econoboxes and 'beige' mid size sedans don't help encourage people's interest in cars. For all we know they do.

Where does everyone start? They start at some form of car that is a pile of crap or is just not that interesting on its own.

Not everyone jumps to a Ferrari 355 and calls it a day.

Bakkster_Man found a different way to look at things. It's not a commuter vs. sports car dynamic, it's an exciting car vs boring car dynamic, and first drivers have a knack for turning traditionally unloved cars into something great.

On the other hand, I started with a manual '91 Mercury Capri turbo convertible that had been sitting on my aunt's driveway for three years. Cheap car, light, fun to drive, just sporty enough to feel exciting for a teenager, and had both a turbo and manual. That was the first and so far only car I've owned where I really enjoyed just getting in the car to drive for the same of driving. It also played a big part in myself getting immersed in car culture (along with the original Forza Motorsport).

Can kids get interested in cars because (or despite) of econoboxes? Sure, but I doubt it helps. I get efficiency, my current car is a Cruze Eco with the manual transmission. Still has the turbo and lets me row my own gears which is a step up from my last two beige cars, but it still doesn't inspire me to drive for the sake of it. It's still a destination car, more appliance than excitement.

I still wax lyrical about the old Capri from time to time, despite it being a rusty ridiculous FWD car. I scan Autotrader on occasion looking at the current prices, hoping to get a fun little convertible back in my life. I find it difficult to imagine the same motivations over a car designed more for fuel economy than enjoyment. I enjoy my Cruze, but a decade after selling it I won't be wishing I had one again, not like the old Capri.

That's what makes someone a car person. It doesn't need to be fancy, flashy, or expensive. It just needs to convince people to drive it for the sake of driving, not because it's the cheapest way to get from A to B.


It's all well and good to say that any old cheap, small car can be wild and exciting to a young driver, but stevethecurse argued that new cheap, small cars simply don't have he ability to interest anyone.

They don't make the cheaper cars exciting anymore. If you want a driving experience, you need to get a sports car or sport version of the econocar (like the Focus ST). With all the electronic steering and throttle and such, the cheaper, more efficient cars feel lifeless. You used to be able to get a manual civic and, while not crazy fast, had decent enough power to weight ratio and mechanical throttle and steering to give a spirited driver some feedback and feeling. I drove a regular ass 2012 Ford Focus hatch with a 5 speed and it felt like a boring video game.


Personally, I think that a young driver can turn any Ford Tempo or Toyota Echo into a Ferrari, but what do you think? What was your first car and did it help you become a car enthusiast or not?

Photo Credit: Toyota



Cars my parents/step parents owned growing up (and by extension the first cars i drove)

1978 Corolla

1985 Camry

1992 Camry

1993 Camry Station wagon

1998 Camry

——Cars I have bought since then——

1988 Celica All-trac Turbo

2006 Nissan 350Z

Car enthusiasm can come from anywhere, no matter what your first car was.