These Are the Fates Your First Cars Met

These Are the Fates Your First Cars Met

You can't put a price on sentiment, but some of you put a price on your first set of wheels.

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Photo: Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

For as long as you live, you’ll likely remember your first car. It was your bridge to freedom, the machine that let you live your own life on your schedule and your terms. But nothing gold can stay, and every car eventually leaves you with one single last look as it races away. Yesterday, we asked what happened to your first cars, and you gave us some fantastic stories — from heart-wrenching tales of loss to the joys of perpetual ownership. Here are some of our favorites.

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2 / 17

Quietly Avoided at All Costs

Quietly Avoided at All Costs

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Photo: orion, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Sitting in front of a Japanese finance company outside Kadena AFB

Bought a RHD Savanna RX-7 as a 20 year old Marine stationed in Okinawa with the intention of bringing it home after my tour was over. To this day I have no idea what the final price and interest rate was because the entire finance agreement was written in Japanese.

Didn’t research the how’s and what’s of importing vehicles and it was beginning to be apparent it was not going to happen. When it was time to check out of my unit and rotate back to the states, shockingly the car financed through the Japanese finance company never came up.

Finance company was located outside the main gate at Kadena AFB. Parked it in front with the keys in it with a letter, hailed a honcho (cab), jumped on the plane and went home.

Received a letter from the finance company saying they sold the car and trusted I was an honorable man who would immediately send the metric crap-ton of Yen I owed as the balance. That went on for about a year and stopped.

That was 1982. I’m still low-key scared to return to Japan.

Who doesn’t go through life without racking up a few countries they’re legally barred from entering? Though not making the lending agreement (any lending agreement, in any country) available in the buyer’s first language seems like a pretty shady move.

Submitted by: 900turbo

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Benched but Still on the Team

Benched but Still on the Team

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Photo: IFCAR, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Was a lucky kid - got a brand new car with 8 miles on the odometer. Now, 18 years later, I’ve had it for more than half my life. It sits at 190K miles, albeit no longer in daily driver duty.

You can’t replace sentiment. I will never part with it.

Conor didn’t mention what kind of car they own, just that it’s eighteen years old. With that information, I’m assuming it’s the last new car sold in the U.S. with pop-up headlights: The 2004 Chevrolet Corvette.

Submitted by: Conor

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4 / 17

The Law of Equivalent Exchange

The Law of Equivalent Exchange

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Photo: Accord14, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

My first car was a 1973 Pontiac Ventura with a 250 Straight 6 very similar to this.

I bought the car for $400, and was paying $200/month for insurance (thank you State of NJ)

I knew nothing about cars other that to check the air in the tires and occasionally check the oil. (This being NJ, we didn’t even pump our own gas.)

The lower radiator outlet had a small leak, which I could not afford to fix, so I just kept adding water to the radiator. Pretty soon, the radiator was filled with nothing but tap water.

February 1984 - the thermometer drops below zero and stays there for three days. The water in the engine froze solid and cracked the block.

So now I have a non-running car sitting in the parking lot of my apartment complex, which I am still making insurance payments on.

I start working overtime so I can afford a new engine to drop into the car.

About three weeks later, I come across an ad in the paper for ANOTHER 1973 Veutura, this one also has a straight-six, but has a three-on-the-tree manual instead of the POS two-speed automatic in my first car.

I cheek out the new Ventura and find the body is in better shape than the first one. It is also a hatchback where my first car was a coupe with a trunk.

I talk the guy down from $325 to $250 and start cannibalizing parts from the first car (front bench seat, awesome Krako AM/FM/Cassette player that I got for Christmas and the rear speakers) and put them into the new car. I then removed the nearly new alternator and a few other engine accessories and put them away for a rainy day.

I paid a guy $20 to tow the hulk of the first Ventura away, I think it was sent to the crusher and is probably now a can of lima beans.

Replacing your worn-out first car is a perfectly normal, understandable move. Replacing it with a near-identical car and building your perfect second-first car out of pieces of both is a stellar spin on the formula.

Submitted by: Earthbound Misfit I

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A Lifelong Companion

A Lifelong Companion

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Photo: Kahvilokki, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

I see it every time I go into my garage. 1965 Mustang A-code 289, 4-speed coupe. I got it in 1983 when I was 15, and a year and a half later, drove it “for real” for the first time. Worked on it with my grandpa, uncles, cousins, and a couple of pals.

It needs some work again, but there’s a LOT more than money invested in that car, and it’s provided for in my will.

At some point sooner rather than later, I’ll go through it again. Just have to get my health back into shape first.

There’s always much more than money that goes into a first car. Especially one you buy early, before you can drive, to fix up into the ultimate daily driver. It’s hard not to get attached.

Submitted by: autojim

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She’s Trading Her El Camino for aPresumably White Volkswagen Jetta

She’s Trading Her El Camino for aPresumably White Volkswagen Jetta

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Photo: Useute, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The El Camino? After I started working in a place that liked all its young female professionals to drive Jettas, I sent the El Cam back to one of my cousins. Probably ended up in a yard somewhere on blocks, or wrapped around a tree in a ditch somewhere. As much as I did enjoy the Jetta, and it certainly helped my career to toe the corporate line, I do still miss the El Cam.

Having a company mandate that employees buy a specific vehicle is weird enough. Mandating that only women buy a specific vehicle is just gross. And why Jettas? What about that particular car made it the only option?

Submitted by: skeffles

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7 / 17

Keeping It in the Family

Keeping It in the Family

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Photo: sv1ambo, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

My first car got sold to one of Dad’s friends kids who drove it until it died and was recycled

My 2nd car a 1968 Galaxie XL, I bought from an old lady in the 80's and I drove it, stored it for a long time and finally decided to sell it as a non running project because lack of action on my part. Had it on E-Bay and I got contacted by the son of the old lady I bought it from. We had a long chat about how he used to drive it and he had been looking for one and mine came up. Same color, same interior and still close to where it originally was. He paid a premium for it and I delivered it to him in PA. His mother was still alive

It warms the heart to see a beloved vehicle return to someone who has a deep attachment to it. I hope that Galaxie got back up and running and is still cruising to this day.

Submitted by: Bob

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Alternate Reality Steve

Alternate Reality Steve

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Photo: Rutger van der Maar, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

First car that was “my car”? Dad’s hand-me-down BMW X3.

Mom and dad wanted a safe car to let their car-crazy son drive. Mom wanted an SUV because “they’re safer” (much to my chagrin). They both agreed getting a high schooler a new car was overkill so the decision was to buy my dad a car (instead of lease) and then let me drive it a year and a half later. Dad was/is a lawyer and mom is a bit brand-conscious (read: snooty) so a RAV4 wasn’t going to do. This purchase decision was back in 2004 before every car maker became an SUV/Crossover maker that sometimes sold cars so the choices weren’t great. So, they decided on a BMW X3. Not just any X3, one of the first shipments into the U.S. and fully loaded including the navigation system. They let me pick the color - I chose blue as an homage to my favorite color for a E39 M5.

I drove it to high school and disliked it from the start. I remember we had a number of issues including at least one motor mount breaking before the car was two years old. Except for one instance where a friend opened the driver’s door into a stone driveway wall, I left it fairly unscathed when I went to college.

Then my brother got a hold of it. By the time I came home from my first semester of freshman year, he had driven it through the garage door.

Then, the electrical gremlins started showing up. Who would have guessed an early model-year BMW with all the fancy new electronics would have that problem? It got so bad that my parents would only let my brother drive the car locally since the car would unpredictably not start. I experienced it myself when, after sitting in the car for five minutes with the radio on but the engine off, it wouldn’t start. Not to mention, my brother trashed the interior - nothing broken or missing, just very dirty.

Dad eventually threw in the towel in the early 2010s - getting about $11k for it from the local MB dealer where he leased an E350. No idea what happened to it after that, likely went to a wholesale auction, then to a BHPH lot, and, soon after, a junkyard when the hapless next owner gave up on the electrical drain.

First car I purchased myself? 2013 Infiniti G37x sedan. Purchased CPO in Cleveland, definitely got hosed on it as I was new to the world of car purchases. Needed AWD/4wd for my girlfriend (now wife) who would need to, and did, commute during midwestern snow storms, I didn’t want to invest in snow tires, and I still did not like SUVs. Test drove an Impreza and hated it and I got the Infiniti for not much more than the fully loaded Mazda 3 I looked at. Couldn’t find a BMW 3 series, Audi A4, or a Lexus IS at the same price. Ownership was uneventful and the car was extremely reliable. The interior was dated even two years used and it had a thirsty engine but no real complaints. Moved back to NYC and garage parking was not kind to it. On a whim, checked out a local BMW dealership and they had the car I had really wanted when I picked up the G, a blue/saddle BMW 3 series. Traded in the Infiniti that day - did a much better job negotiating the trade-in/purchase. Wife was sad to see it go, not because she particularly liked that car (no matter what she says), but because she’s very sentimental and it was “our first car”.

Kept the VIN of the G37x. It ended up at a new car dealer in Rochester, NY (ironically, I have ties to that city). The dealership did a paint job to fix all the scratches and it cleaned up nicely. Still, it sat on the lot for a while and, after multiple price cuts, ended up selling for within $1,000 of what I had traded it in for. It’s still going strong in Western NY according to Carfax. I mentioned that to my wife recently and she wants to track it down and buy it. We won’t.

So your first car was a handed-down luxury crossover, which eventually gave way to an all-wheel-drive performance-ish Japanese car that lived out the rest of its days in Rochester. Are you me? What number am I thinking of?

Submitted by: blumalago

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9 / 17

Smashed and Smashing into Things

Smashed and Smashing into Things

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Photo: IFCAR, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Red ‘86 IROC: drunk driver (unlicensed, uninsured) smashed into it and then 6-7 other cars afterwards...the day before my high school graduation party (I was at my friend’s party a few streets over from my house).

Worth noting, my car ripped his front right tire off...so he hit those other vehicles while only on 3 wheels, including a tank of a late-80's Caddy. He must have been hauling it down a 25mph residential street.

I kept the car for years after that until my buddy bought it off me for the engine/transmission to put into his ‘86 Monte Carlo. We put a new tie rod on it so both wheels would be straight to get it on the flatbed, and I drove it one last time into his back yard to park it. Another buddy of mine bought the whole exhaust off the car, and other people I know were able to use many other parts.

I still miss it though.

It’s a sad end to a Camaro from one of the car’s best-looking eras, but at least its death meant that other cars could live. It’s an organ donor, in a way.

Submitted by: MPP81

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10 / 17

A Lack of Mechanical Sympathy

A Lack of Mechanical Sympathy

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Photo: Riley from Christchurch, New Zealand, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Short story: I neglected, abused and killed it.

Long story is much more nuanced. My first car was a very much dilapidated 1989 Renault Espace Quadra. Me and my wife purchased it sometime in 2010, shortly before getting married, at a time when I hadn’t gotten my driver’s license yet. I would only get it a couple of years into the ownership of the Espace, so it was also the first car I drove (when I was 30, despite being a car enthusiast since I can remember). I have some truly fond memories of that car; it was our only car when our daughter was born, I toured around the country with my band at the time, I parked it in backstages at music festivals and camped in it, did a few amazing road trips in the hunt for very scarce parts; I even named a radio show I did up until recently after the car.

But I did I end up making every mistake in the book of first time car owners. I took every opportunity I had to really send it (did 180km/h a few times on the highway, in perfect driving conditions), let it overheat a few times, postponed repairs, forgot to check fluids, asked mechanics to do half-assed jobs knowing they could potentially cause severe damage in the long run, and became a poster child for sunken cost fallacy in the process. I lost count of how many times I had to call a tow truck, but one year I actually reached the towing distance cap in my insurance policy.

In 2016, after driving it for three wonderful/horrible years, I was halfway on a 200km trip when the engine suddenly developed a loud knock. I stopped on the shoulder, realised that engine was toast, and since I was late and it was still running, I decided I should just floor it and if it broke down I’d at least be closer to my destination. Amazingly, I didn’t notice any significant power loss and the car kept running throughout the weekend. On the way back the engine noise suddenly got much louder and I decided enough was enough and called roadside assistance (I would later find out it was just the rotting exhaust pipe that finally gave in right below the driver’s seat so that’s where the noise was coming from; the car would’ve likely made it all the way back).

It was the last time I drove it. I sent it to a mechanic in my hometown who kept it around for a year or so, trying to find a cheap engine. As time went by it became more and more apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to save the Espace, so one day I told a friend who had an older MK1 phase 1 that I’d sell him mine for parts and he gladly took the offer... but instead did something very, very illegal so that’s where the story ends. All I can say is its spirit lives on despite the actual car having been scrapped soon after I sold it.

I have to say, I respect that dying engine a lot. My friend was able to drive it home after it was parked for a year, all it took was a jumpstart. But it did end up dying a couple of days later en route to the mechanic.

I miss that damn car so, so much.

Few people perfectly maintain their first car. After all, you’ve got all the freedom in the world now — are you really going to spend your time sitting around at a Jiffy Lube?

Submitted by: Comment Box Sanitation Dept. - never sticks to cars

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11 / 17

Schieß Den Fenster

Schieß Den Fenster

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Photo: Thuringius, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

My ‘69 Barracuda (may it rot in an icy hell of hairpin turns and sparse gas availability) is probably a pile of rust by now. I owned it in the desert SW and some dude from Pittsburgh flew down and bought it from me and drove it back. Such a stupid car, doubly so for a 17 year old.

I felt bad afterI sold it, someone had shot out the driver’s side window with a pellet gun the previous year and I could not for the life of me find a replacement in a junkyard and the mold was no longer available to manufacturers. I mentioned it to the guy during the sale, but I think he was drunk on some nostalgia for the car and didn’t really hear me, or misunderstood, because he called me after he bought it and started his return drive, he had stopped driving for the day and was super pissed off that there was no window to roll up at the hotel he stopped at. It was also the middle of November and I can’t imagine that was much fun once he got further north

In 2022, it wouldn’t be too difficult to 3D print a replacement window simply by measuring off of the factory glass. In years past, though, options to replace out-of-production parts were far slimmer.

Submitted by: SmaugTheUnpretentious

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12 / 17

Was the CD Player Okay, Though?

Was the CD Player Okay, Though?

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Photo: Bull-Doser, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Looking back, it was such a traumatic moment for me, because it was my first car, first accident, and caused a lot of inconvenience and stress when it happened. But it was actually a blessing in disguise.

It’s 2003. The ol’ Dodge Shadow was already a dead-car-driving, I just didn’t know it yet. It was barely running, having just received two engine transplants, both performed by shady shade-tree mechanics because that’s all I could afford. I was loping along on bent axles, busted vacuum lines, wonky engine mounts, and a fritzing K-car ECU. But I had to get to work, school, and also provide transportation to my mother, who through a series of unfortunate circumstances and mental health issues, did not drive.

It was that situation that lead to the fateful day. We had crossed the river into West Virginia to visit the “state store”. You know, where you get the good booze. One of mom’s friends was having an anniversary or birthday party—I dunno, a bunch of 40-year-olds were going to drink hard and I wasn’t invited because I was 19 and my mom was not cool enough to be one of those parents who joined in on the fun. So I sat begrudgingly in traffic, waiting for a gap in traffic to turn left onto a side street. I saw an opening and took it. Then I heard my mom gasp just before the impact. We were completely around, and the first-gen air bag exploded in my face with a Mike Tyson punch. Thankfully, we were both ok, I receiving a bruised jaw, mom getting bruises from the seat belt. The girl who hit us got a head bump and burns on her arms from the air bag. Both her Cavalier and the Shadow were completely totaled. My K-mart-brand CD player had launched itself into the back seat.

Fault fell on me, even though the police determined that the girl had came tearing out of a nearby parking lot at a less-than-prudent speed, which is why neither myself nor my ever-vigilant mother had seen her approaching. So I lost my ride and got a $160 failure-to-yield ticket. To add insult to injury, I had to borrow my grandma’s 1985 Buick to get to school and work.

Eventually, though, we found a replacement - a clean, low miles 1997 Neon. Soon I was like, what Shadow?

If you’ve never been in a car accident, you may not be aware that airbags and seatbelts hurt. A reasonably soft strap across your chest and a pillow of air ahead of you may not sound uncomfortable, but the violence of a collision makes them both feel like rocks.

Submitted by: dbeach84

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13 / 17

Load into the Grand Am, Doomed Sailors

Load into the Grand Am, Doomed Sailors

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Photo: IFCAR, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

1998 Pontiac Grand Am: Big POS, but my first taste of freedom as a teenager. Had it until 2005 when a lady ran a stop sign and t-boned it. Sold it to the dad of one of my fraternity brothers who rebuilt it and drove it for another 4 years. Hasn’t been registered since 2009.

2005 Mazda3: Loved this car, but rust and wear was starting to rear it’s ugly head. It was bought by a younger guy who lived a mile from me. Saw it every once in a while for 5 years. Still looked good.

After he sold it, it traded hands a few times, was totaled and rebuilt (found it on Craigslist in 2017 and almost bought it!), left Ohio for Indiana until last year where it caught fire in Louisiana.

Back in college, a friend of mine drove a Honda Pilot that served as fraternity-wide transportation. It earned the name Brotherlode, based on how many fraternity brothers could fit in the seats, floor, and trunk. Some of them even got seatbelts.

Submitted by: FijiST

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14 / 17

Coming Full Circle, Over and Over

Coming Full Circle, Over and Over

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Photo: Alf van Beem, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ohhhh, okay, here we go. I bought my first car at the age of ten in 1986. Yep. A maroon 1966 13 Window bus that belonged to my neighbor (he was moving and thought the transmission was busted). So he sold it to me (technically my folks were on the pink slip, right?) for $50. Turns out a bolt was missing from the shift linkage. Well, FFWD to age 16 and for whatever reason, getting my license in a bus was overwhelming. So I made the call to sell it and buy a Beetle. It was emotional. I legit cried because it’d been such a part of my youth.

FFWD again to the late 90s and I’m working in a VW shop in Campbell, CA on a Saturday...working the counter and sweeping the floors. This bus pulls up and it looks familiar, but it’s painted the stock colors. Guy comes in to buy some parts and I just can’t stop staring at this bus. And then, of all things, I recognized some dents in the front bumper. So I have to ask. Have to! Sure enough, that was my bus. I got the guy’s contact info and eventually went to go see it and take some pictures. It had new plates, but the guy had held onto the old ones, so he gave those to me (I still have em).

FFWD another few years and I’m running a VW bus show...this was probably 2002 and I’m just going around and taking pictures and not really focusing on anything specifically, I’m just trying to get shots of the show. Turns out my bus was there and again I recognized it from the dings in the front bumper. And, sadly, that’s where the story ends. 20 years later and I haven’t seen it at another show or for sale online. It also doesn’t look like the owner then lives in the same place now. It’s a bummer. I miss that bus.

If a vehicle keeps coming back into your life, over and over, perhaps it’s meant to be. If you ever see that bus again, buy it. It wants to be yours.

Submitted by: Taylor Nelson

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Getting Your Money’s Worth

Getting Your Money’s Worth

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Photo: Vegavairbob at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

It was a ‘72 Vega wagon with a stick. (Not mine.)

When I sold the badly engineered car (to put it charitably), it had a broken fuel gauge, no knob on the stick, carpet dissolving into dust, and a host of other gremlins. I sold it for what I paid for it to a young couple who had previous Vegas—go figure—for $500.

So compared to some depreciate-like-a-fallen-rock new car when you drive it off the lot, the Chevy Vega, one of the worst cars ever, turned out to be a not-so-bad auto expenditure. Ironic.

If a car physically falls apart but never loses a dime of value, it still may be one of the most solid investments out there. You heard it here first, folks, move that 401K into Vega bonds.

Submitted by: the 1969 Dodge Charger Guy

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16 / 17

Lapping the Boot to This Day

Lapping the Boot to This Day

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Photo: Dennis Elzinga, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

What happened to it?

Bought it in 1986, was my only car until 1992, then it started getting more track focused and most of its miles are on the racetrack these days.

People sometimes ask me why I use a vintage car out there and I reply “Well it wasn’t vintage when I started.” She still surprises folks for how well she does.

Click through to Matt’s original comment to see the Firebird, in all its glory, exiting the Boot of Watkins Glen and making its way out towards the front straight. You can’t dislike good vintage muscle at the Glen.

Submitted by: Matt Sexton

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