My first car LOOKED absolutely mint when I bought it.  At 15, I didn't question why it was only $1000.  It was exactly what I had saved up, I'd always wanted a Mustang (a Camaro was my second choice,) and I fell deeply in love with this the first time I laid eyes on it.

After I bought it "as is," I took it to get it aligned, as it pulled really hard to the right.  I was shocked when the tech guys told me to sell this car immediately.  Turned out, where the frame connected in the front, it was literally hanging on by a tiny piece of rust.  The car was a death trap.

Long story short, I was able to get that fixed, and for surprisingly cheaply.

However, in the months that followed, I heard countless stories from people who knew the previous owner, and how he used to love to load the car up and jump it through corn fields.  Oh, and also take it down railroad tracks.  (Good thing I didn't know him or I might have ended up in jail.  You just don't do that to a Mustang!!)

Kind of sounds like the original Gone in 60 Seconds.  I bought this movie because I loved the remake so much.  I watched the original once, and I never will again.  Way more brutal on that car than the remake, and it makes me sad.  (Go ahead and laugh at me if you weren't already.)

The second winter I had this, giant, heavy chunks of Bondo (yes, that's a brand name) began to fall out of the quarter panels, sometimes only holding on by a wire that went to a side marker light.  And don't ask me how I never noticed until later on, but the floor pans were largely missing because of rust.

My dad probably loved one thing about this car besides that it actually drove wonderfully:  The 302 V8 maxed out at maybe 90 miles per hour - but, it was so old & loose that it roached the tires through all three gears, so there was that.

No doubt, he came to regret letting me buy that car, because I still wanted it after finding all that terrible stuff out!  I figured it could all be fixed - and it could have, had I parked it, and found 10's of thousands of dollars to completely start over on it.

I ended up replacing the quarter panels, but getting a horrible job done - anyway, it looked nice for awhile.

Warning:  Technical info in this paragraph

And one summer, my brother and I pulled that tired engine out and rebuilt it with 351W valve heads from a cop car, which meant instant 11:1 compression, which is very good.  I wanted to be able to drive it legally though, so I did a modest Edlebrock cam and intake manifold, as well as Ignitor electronic ignition (because the old "points" system sucked,) and a Holley 650cfm, which was about right for that combination.  Then, I upped the highway rear-end gears to a 3:25 posi trac, and set this all off with a 3000rpm stall converter for a nice takeoff.  I never did find out the top speed.  It would hit 2nd about 70mph, bury the speedometer, and I would let off when the front end started getting squirrely.

Shortly after this, the car was wrecked not once but twice, and you could hardly even tell what it was.  It ended up in a storage yard, some guy bought the drive line for his Bronco, and a few remaining cosmetic parts live on in a '71 my dad restored years later.

But enough about me.

How about some first car stats from CarGurus.com / PR Newswire?

  • Only 17% of us had a first car that was brand new.  83% had a used car.  And 23% of teenagers today get a hand-me-down from a relative.
  • 56% of drivers got their first set of wheels before they turned 18 . . . 23% were between 19 and 21 . . . everyone else was older than that.
  • If you were born after 1980, your first car was most likely a Chevy.  The rest of the top five first cars for millennials are Honda, Toyota, Ford, and Nissan.
  • If you were born between 1960 and 1980, you most likely had a Ford, followed by Chevy, Toyota, Dodge, and Pontiac.
  • And for Baby Boomers, the top five were Ford, Chevy, Volkswagen, Plymouth, and Toyota.
  • Also, 76% of kids between 15 and 17 think they're ready to have their own car, and understand the costs that come with it.  But 86% also said they expect their PARENTS to help pay for things like gas and insurance.
Geoff Gundy, TSM

Other first cars from the staff

Justin Tyler:  "Mine was a 1988 Subaru that my dad painted two colors...black on the bottom and red on top. It had no heat when we first bought it and you maxed out at 35 MPH going up a hill, even on a highway."

Sales Guy Brandon:  "My first car was a 1986 Camero. It overheated, the tops leaked, it was too fast for a 16 year old, but it was my ticket to freedom. I still occasionally have dreams about tracking it down and buying it back."

Scruggs:  "Volvo DL240-- I LOVED that car even though it was rusting and falling apart and I even got a speed ticket in it for street racing a friend of mine in a Mustang. I totally won the race, but I had to go to court. I MISS that car!!"

Dear Scruggs:  That was you?