Remember your first car?

The other night, the talk turned to first cars. And I sure remember mine.
“You miss it?”

No hesitation. “Oh yeah.”

I don’t remember writing any poetry about girls when I was in high school, but I remember writing a poem about my ’71 Plymouth Duster. You bet I miss it.

My mom and sister hated it. It was that gold color that was popular in the ’70s that didn’t take to oxidation very well, so by the time 1990 rolled around, it looked a lot less gold and a lot more like… something else. I saw beyond that, into this car’s soul. And believe me, it had soul.

It had manual brakes and manual steering. I hated power brakes and steering. With manual brakes and steering, I felt more in control. Plus it meant I got a workout driving to school. Real cars make you buff when you drive them.

Air conditioning? Yeah, it had that 2-55 kind. Two windows down, 55 miles per hour on I-255.

It had a Slant-6 in it. A Slant-6 is the perfect engine for a 16-year-old because it usually didn’t come off the line very quickly and it didn’t have a high top speed. That Duster’s top speed was probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 MPH. Slant-6s were known for being good truck engines that didn’t break, not high performers. The classic Mopar muscle cars people remember had other engines in them.

But I still remember a Chevelle pulling up to me at a stoplight one day at the intersection of Gravois and I-270. He looked over at me, grinned, nodded, and revved his engine. I shot him a “whatever” look. The light turned green. He gunned it. I gunned it. And blew him away. I looked back and saw him pounding his steering wheel. I’ll bet money he had a lighter car, and we both knew he had the bigger engine. My Slant-6 just wanted to surprise me that day, I guess.

But that was its last hurrah. I didn’t have the Duster very long. It reached a point where it wouldn’t idle right so it was dying at stoplights and it developed steering problems to go along with it. The ’81 Plymouth Reliant that replaced it didn’t have half the character the Duster did. It may have replaced the Duster in my driveway, but it never replaced it in my heart, soul, or mind.

If I were ever out driving around and spotted a Duster for sale, I’d probably stop and buy it. You know, for old time’s sake.

What was your first car?

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8 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  September 1, 2002

    Dave-

    I know we talked at great length about the finer attributes of our former beauties, but after reading today’s post I’ve just spent the past hour trying to find my lost girl (or her identical twin sister) somewhere online. No luck yet, but I can be very stubborn.

    I grew up with the love of my life sitting in the garage, just waiting for when I would be old enough to drive it. I recall one guy in high school who already had his driver’s lisence telling me that I wouldn’t be able to handle such a car. I laughed and laughed and laughed. Of course he was wrong and I loved seeing him eat his words every day when I drove her onto the school’s parking lot.

    She was a 1968 Chevy Impala 2-door fastback with a 307 engine and powerglide transmission. Unlike Dave, I did have power steering and air conditioning, but no power brakes. She was ‘desert beige,’ although people always thought she was green. It matters not now because the last time I heard from her, she was purple and living in Ferguson, Missouri.

    Why did I love this car so much? It’s hard to say. There were people who hated my car–like Gatermann–but there were people who loved the car just as much as I did. Part of it was due to the fact that the car’s original owner was my mother. Part of it was the fact that I could work on the car myself. But mostly it was due to the fact that no one else I knew had a car that looked anything like mine. Every time I drove, it was like being in a parade. I was driving something very special that no one else had.

  2. Anonymous

     /  September 1, 2002

    A Plymouth Cricket! Anyone remember those?

  3. Anonymous

     /  September 1, 2002

    I had a mini minor ala the italian job.

    it was small, slow and had dodgy brakes but used about 5 bucks of petrol a week.

    Every time I put 70bucks of petrol (every week) in my 2000 Camry I miss that little green mini.

    They said you couldnt have sex with a girl in the back of a mini minor and they were right; I never did.

    Tim

  4. Anonymous

     /  September 2, 2002

    First car?? Well, considering my European background (and we don’t have those heavy cars with huge guzzlers like you guys do in the U.S.), my first car was a 615 Kg (about 1000 lbs) car from Japan called Daihatsu Cuore. It had a 3 cylinder 0.8 liter engine that produced 44 horsepower. It was box shaped and my friends called it “coffin on wheels” because they decided that if I ever had a crash in that car then they would have to bury me in it.

    I put in a powerful 4 speaker stereo that made the mirrors vibrate when I turned up the sound, and being light my car could outperform most 4 cylinder sedans on the street from red lights. Since it was so light with a small engine, it didn’t spend a lot of gas. It almost produced it :-)

    /Dave T.

  5. Anonymous

     /  September 2, 2002

    Volkswagen beetle, of course, like all the rest of the best people. In this case, a 1950 VW – most people didn’t even know there had been any of them brought into the country, but there it was – and with the steering wheel on the correct (that is, right) side, too. Dinky little oval rear window, and a two-part front windscreen. Country is Australia, and we prefer to drive on the correct (that is, left) side of the road for the same reason other logical countries do – because we originally preferred to mount our horses from the curb (or in your case kerb) rather than from the mucky street. Also to ride with our weapon hand towards bypassers, just to be safe.

  6. Anonymous

     /  September 2, 2002

    Well, the first one I loved was a brand-new 1985 Toyota pickup. Took me on several long road trips from D/FW to New Orleans and Chicago. Hauled my stuff when I moved and commuted all around Dallas for 12 years with hardly any problems (had to replace a fuel pump at 11 years, but just consumables other than that ;) Darn thing just kept running and running…

    Finally sold it to my brother-in-law who lives out in the country when my son was about to be born. My boy is almost six now (just started Kindergarten :) and that truck looks like cr*p, but is still running!

  7. Anonymous

     /  September 2, 2002

    67 Barracuda Formula S, 273ci 235HP, 2 door fastback hardtop, back seat made into a bed, spent most of my time filling up the gas tank and trying to pickup girls who were with guys who had minis, ha! Just kidding Tim, The Italian Job is a favorite of mine, having great cars, great scenery and Michael Caine, and I love the ending.

  8. Anonymous

     /  September 3, 2002

    My first car was a blue 1979 Ford Mustang. Nice V8, manual transmission, sun roof. It was a fun car, and I do miss it, though a manual transmission would be a real pain in the city.

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