Tales of a First Car
July 4th, 1998. I was sixteen, and since my birthday the preceding October, I had been relegated to borrowing my father’s Plymouth Voyager, the 1991 model. But this day was more than a national day of independence; it was a personal day as well. My family had taken the thirty minute drive to my uncle’s house to celebrate, as well as purchase my first car. It was a transaction based on faith since I hadn’t seen the vehicle, and at the time the Internet was PG (Pre-Google) and my connection was dial-up, so I had no clue what the car looked like. As we rolled into that Camden residence and strolled to the backyard, I finally glimpsed upon my first car: the 1985 Ford LTD.It wasn’t the classic LTD Crown Victoria, but rather a mid size version of the car. Instead of the famous Windsor 302 V8, it contained an Essex 232 V6, a power plant famous for head gasket leaks. It was about as long, but noticeably more narrow than a Crown Victoria, but this was not an obstacle to the sale. The interior was red, that classic Ford red that had graced the interior of my dad’s 1983 1/2 Escort wagon, except in faux velvet as opposed to vinyl. The exterior was, specifically, “Oxford White,” and was in remarkably good condition except for the passenger side front door, which had been crushed by a narrow right-hand turn into a snow bank the previous winter by my beloved aunt. This would eventually receive a liberal application of duct tape to silence a rattling noise, but at the time, these flaws went unnoticed. My uncle threw in a JBL cassette deck, covered in sawdust (he is a carpenter), and $800 later it was mine. After the fireworks display, I drove it home along a collection of state highways (including “the beltline” and “the crosstown”) and parked the car in its new home in front of my parents’ house. From there, the car would eventually consume my adolescent life.
The initial exploits of the car included a few trips to the then-cool Uptown neighborhood (it isn’t cool anymore. deal.), the Hard Times Cafe (also no longer cool) and various trips to commercial zones around the metro. I even drove it to the one and only combined Warped Tour/Ozzfest in Somerset, Wisconsin, amid the World’s Larest Ball of Twine (disputed?) in Darwin, Minnesota. Sure, the air conditioner didn’t work, but at that age, what did it matter? It was a car. But a first car is destined to have its fair share of issues.
Among the repairs made to the 76k mile sedan were:
- Water Pump (on the coldest day of the year)
- Rear suspension
- Electronic ignition control module
- Catalytic converter (well, re-weld the cover)
… and various other issues that added up to roughly $3800 dollars in parts and labor. After about a year with the car, and about twenty thousand miles, plus some added bad memories that I will not get into, I sold the car, to my cousin (the daughter of the uncle who sold me the car in the first place), for $600. I spent the next month without a car, then I purchased the 1990 LTD Crown Victoria LX from my grandfather. For about eight months, it was my dream car, until something or other stopped functioning between the transmission and the engine, and at 80mph, the car shifted into first gear, destroying the transmission. I sold that car for $100, cash. After that, I bought a mid-nineties police car, and I drove that until 2004 when I bought my first joint-car (my now-wife and I’s) Japanese sub-compact.
It’s funny how no matter how hard you try, you can never go back again to the thrill of your first car. Be it a hand-me-down, or just something “dad doesn’t want in his driveway,” the first car that was owned by most everyone I knew could be summed up like this: “beloved piece of crap.” Until recently, I thought this feeling was just a distant memory, until, as a gift from a close friend, I received a 1985 Lincoln Town Car.
At twenty-seven, I can finally say, “I’m back.”