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?