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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, March 5

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Andrew / November 17, 2008 12:07 AM

For those who have never driven, what was your first bike, or whatever other vehicle you'd like to tell us about?

Mine was a 1981 VW Rabbit, a beige diesel four-door on which only three doors ever worked at any one time. I called it Fufu the Killer Bunny.

charlie / November 17, 2008 8:03 AM

1967 Volvo 122 Wagon. PAid $290 for it. A year or so later someone broken every window it it.

The repair would have been $1000 plus. I sat on the street until the City hauled it away.

Great car.

mary / November 17, 2008 8:58 AM

1988 Pontiac Bonneville (we called her Yolanda). She was 12 years old and had a ridiculous amount of miles from years of road trips from MN to FL and IL. The transmission was shot and by winter break senior year (2002), she was unable to shift into 2nd gear. I drove her to school, work, and that's it. And one day, on my way home from work, she started slowing down, and I wasn't able to accelerate at all. The moment I pulled into my driveway, she died. Unable to resuscitate her, my friend's father towed her while I was away for vacation and turned her into a giant cube.

I'm still glad I wasn't around to have witnessed it, but she was a great car until then. I was able to have 7 (3 front, 4 back) in my car when need be. I didn't care that the radio didn't work, the trunk didn't open, there was a bird head stuck in the front headlight (that was my brother's fault), or that her engine sounded like a wet-vac, Yolanda was the best car ever.

And I haven't owned a car since.

Mindy / November 17, 2008 9:08 AM

my parents bought me a red 1990 audi 80 for my 17th birthday (my dad was just starting his mid-life crisis old-car purchasing era). it was such a cute car. my favorite feature was the hand-crank sun/moon roof. about 6 months later, i t-boned a pick up truck at an intersection near our rural wisconsin home and it was totaled. i was traumatized (but unhurt). my dad wasn't too happy either.

eee / November 17, 2008 9:53 AM

The first car I ever drove was a turquoise Plymouth Acclaim. No idea what year, but it was all boxy and awkward.

The first car that was ever mine was a 1986 Plymouth Sundance hatchback. Dark blue on top, silver on the bottom. The previous owner hadn't changed the oil in several years, and so traded it in with the engine shot. Pretty much everything under the hood was replaced when I bought it, so it ran wonderfully. There were cigarette burns all over the seats and ceiling, and I loved every inch of that car. I cried when I traded it in.

Hal / November 17, 2008 9:53 AM

A 1970 AMC Matador (which I think I heard was a re-branding/updating of the Nash Rambler). It was a boat and I loved it for years. And, in the fine tradition of only hurting the one you love, I failed to keep an eye on the oil level and it threw a rod and died.

r / November 17, 2008 10:28 AM

A 1990 Dodge Monaco--I think only 12 were sold in the U.S., it was apparently a very unpopular revival of the model. It was my dad's car and he took very bad care of it--he smoked and was too lazy to use an ashtray, so ashes were all over the seat and floor, the driver's seat had burn marks & it smelled like cigarettes for a long time.

It was a complete boat of a car and got 3 miles to the gallon, but it was a great car--it got me home once in a particularly dangerous snow storm (one of those times where you're driving/swervingat 5 miles/hour in blinding snow). My mom wouldn't let me take it to college, and it sat unused for a few months until my asshat older brother totaled it (he was borrowing it because he had totaled his own car).

dragonslayer / November 17, 2008 10:33 AM

In 1994, my dad loaned me $400 to buy a 1984 Toyota Tercel SR5 off his friend so I could commute to my first surburban gig. It was the friend's son's car from college and, now that his son had graduated, was just sitting in the driveway.

I was all manual; only had an AM radio (I learned to love NewsRadio78); had air, but no heat; and couldn't go above 55 mph, so I never took it on the expressway. I drove city streets to and from work and where ever else I needed to go. Loved that car.

In the 6 months I had it, both the brakes (while heading downhill towards traffic stopped at a stoplight) and the transmission bit the dust, costing me about a grand in repairs each (it was a good job). One day, my sister hit it while backing out of my parents driveway, knocking various bits and pieces off. That was the end of it. I sold it to someone who could put it back together for the $400 I bought it for and bought my first new car.

Andrew / November 17, 2008 10:49 AM

Coulda been a 1986 Oldsmobile (huh? what make?) Cutlass Cruiser. But instead I got the '87 Olds Calais...the 4 door with the 6-cylinder engine. A funny looking car that always smelled like maple syrup when the defroster was cold.

Andrew / November 17, 2008 10:49 AM

Coulda been a 1986 Oldsmobile (huh? what make?) Cutlass Cruiser. But instead I got the '87 Olds Calais...the 4 door with the 6-cylinder engine. A funny looking car that always smelled like maple syrup when the defroster was cold.

emily / November 17, 2008 1:55 PM

A 1988 Toyota Corolla that I shared with my three roommates. We bought it from my great aunt, who had been leaving on the Chicago streets for so many winters that the salt had eaten away the bottom of the door. We thought it was just a cosmetic issue, until the driver's side window fell out the bottom of the rusty door one rainy day, shattering all over the driveway.

The only real shock there was that the catalytic converter lasted longer than the windows, managing to wait a couple more weeks before rusting off the muffler. One of my roommates threw the rusted parts in the back seat of the car, went to work and promptly forgot he had driven the car to work at all. Two weeks later I got a call from the towing company that had impounded the car. Two inches of water n the backseat, $650 in charges to get the car released, undriveable due to emissions standards...I brought a screwdriver and took the plates, and that was the end of that.

Sydney / November 17, 2008 3:24 PM

My first car was a green '72 AMC Gremlin that I bought off my brother who bought it off a neighbor. Being a poor young thing, I learned how to replace the distributor cap and cables, wiper blades and motor and anything else that went wrong. It was a really bad car. My favorite though was the '84 Dodge Shelby Charger. It was hot and so was I. Those days are over now.

kate / November 17, 2008 4:43 PM

In 1997, I got a 1990 Toyota Corolla SR5. A red 2-door 5-speed with flip-up headlights and a sunroof. I was the bitchinest of my friends.

The car was a total champ; barely sipped gas and was always stocked with mix tapes aplenty. Got it up to 115 on one ride... that was exciting. The car started to shake after 85 and went eerily quiet after 100.

Teenagers + cars = hilariously terrifying.

Cheryl / November 17, 2008 5:24 PM

A 1971 AMC Hornet that I bought off my grandmother when she bought a newer, beige version of the same car in the mid-70s. Mine was green.

Ken / November 17, 2008 6:08 PM

A 1978 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser Station Wagon with the fake woodgrain side panels - classic. That car was a tank and nobody seemed to like it 'cause all on separate occasions and distant locations it had paint thinner poured on it's hood, windshield wipers bent in half and the mirrors broken -twice. But, the car persevered and even made it on a cross country/cross Canada tour with the Dead in tow. It made it home from said tour and promptly died in the alley not even 30 seconds after arriving home.

anon / November 17, 2008 6:24 PM

1980 Toyota Corolla, white, manual everything.

My dad's mom bought it for him. I think it was the first new car he ever owned. We went on many a family road trip in that little beast. I learned to drive stick, and drove it all over the 'burbs in high school. Eventually, my dad handed over the title, and I was the proud owner of a 10-year-old Toyota. It was stolen and recovered (had to go down to 63rd and St. Louis to pick it up. Got a police escort out of the neighborhood).

I eventually totaled it at Milwaukee, North, and Damen. I blew through the light driving home from Dreamerz, after closing down G-Spot. Honestly, ossifer, I only had one beer...

Leelah / November 17, 2008 6:59 PM

1981 Buick Regal... what a great car! All of my friends could fit in it and enjoy the plush maroon velour seats...

PMan / November 17, 2008 9:21 PM

A 1974 Cutlass 4 door. It could fit about 8 friends and had a 350 cubic-inch engine that was frighteningly fast. On the downside, it was hard to maneuver because of its size and had a very soft suspension, but a source of many fond memories.

Steven / November 17, 2008 9:23 PM

Lime-green Vega hatch-back with matching shag carpeting covering the trunk floor, yeah baby! Car was crap, especially during the winter of 1978-79. Rammed it head-on into a snowbank at the end of a road taking a co-worker home during one blizzard and had to crawl out through the hatchback. I still hear her screaming "we're gonna die!" Ah... good times!

pat / November 17, 2008 10:08 PM

1988 Gold Honda Civic named Yoshi. It was a good car. Taught myself how to drive stick in it. The radio was picky about what stations it could pull in so tapes were a necessity, and there was no A/C. I had it for about 2 1/2 years and drove it to Toronto with no problems. Unfortunately I totalled the car driving to a new job, rear-ending a cadillac seville. Didn't even scratch the caddie.

Cinnamon / November 17, 2008 10:08 PM

A 1977 AMC Hornet that was smurf blue with aluminum tape covering up all the areas that were rusting through. It stalled when I idled so I drove it like a stick shift and threw it into neutral everytime I slowed down. Gave it to my brother 2 years later and the front axle broke in half while he was doing 60. I knew it would go out in a blaze of glory, and I was glad it didn't take me with it.

tk / November 18, 2008 8:51 AM

Maroon 1983 Saab (it was 1992). Bought her from my sister for a glass of wine and a dollar. I used to wash and wax that car every week (OK, that lasted about a month). She took me all the way across the country -- twice. And she never broke down while I was in the car. Around 160,000 miles, when monthly repair costs (it seemed like every visit was about $367) far outstripped my server income, I had to let her go. Oh, Annie...

Onid / November 18, 2008 12:20 PM

1983 red Buick Skyhawk station wagon. I got it from my Dad and it ran fine until one day I was driving on the Edens and something went thunk in the engine compartment and suddenly there was smoke everywhere. The car was dead.

My passengers at the time were my girlfriend and her friend. The girlfriend broke up with me because she could not believe I would do that while they were in the if I had a button that destroyed my engine and my plan was to do it on the Edens near Foster at 60mph with passengers.

Irisheyes1212 / November 18, 2008 2:04 PM

1985 Mustang LX, white. I thought it was so cool! Even though the speaker sound would shift from side to side if I turned a corner. And I had to keep my feet on the gas and brake at a stop sign or it would die. And that time I ran over a garbage lid, and it was stuck under there for 2 years. And the exhaust leaking into the car and causing headaches. Ahhhh, good times :)

Janaynay / November 18, 2008 2:22 PM

A 1988 Cutlass Ciera. I totalled it 3 days after getting my license, so I didn't get to drive her for that long. I do remember that there was more damage to the other car.

I followed up that car with an 87 Ford Taurus, which crapped out on me in the middle of nowhere. Then back to a different 89 Cutlass which lasted me through college. That was my last car.

I love using iGo because I get to drive a new car. I never really knew what that felt like.

Brian / November 18, 2008 3:14 PM

I bought my first car in the summer of 1990. It was a 'baby shit brown' 1977 Datsun B-210. It had major problems. It had a bad distributor problem which caused it to backfire repeatedly, and three distributors and caps later, nothing was improved. But I continued driving the car to work that summer. Then, on a rainy day, someone rear-ended me, which was all the reason I needed to get rid of it. I then moved up to a 1978 Nova 2-door coupe with a 350 engine. Say what you will about Nova's, but it was actually a good car.

Rich / November 18, 2008 3:23 PM

1979 Plymouth Volare.

I shared the car with my older sister and older brother. So that meant I got to drive the car to the store for groceries and run errands for Mom.

Funny sister and her friend loved the hair metal bands.

They put a poster of Jon Bon Jovi on the ceiling of the Volare. The dome light was at his private parts.

So when you opened the door, or turned the dome light on, Jon's crotch would light up.

Wanted...Dead or Alive!

igo / November 18, 2008 3:53 PM

1979 Nissan Sentra Station Wagon. It had a zillion miles on it. I bought it for 300 bucks from one of the security officers at my college. It was a stick shift. Made the 6 hour drive to and from Oberlin about 3 times. Broke down finally in Evanston when I arrived for Christmas break. Called Victory Auto Wreckers. I had to pay them to haul it away. That old car was NOT worth money.

freepy shwirtel / November 18, 2008 6:16 PM

A Gremlin, a Matador, and two Hornets! Sounds like a superhero gang. How on earth could a sampling of so few folks come up with such a maelstrom of AMC beauts?
Anyway, I first bought a 1980 Accord Sedan. I traded it for a 1970 VW Type III Fastback that I ditched on the Alaska Yukon border.

Val / November 18, 2008 9:21 PM

New Yorker. 19.... 93? I can't remember. It was UGLY but it never let me down in the snowy Iowa winter weather. Ahh, the New Yorker.

vanessa / November 18, 2008 10:41 PM

Shirley. An '89 Ford Tempo. Best part? Everyone knew it as Shirley and even now friends tell me whenever they hear that name, it makes them think of my car.

Andrew / November 18, 2008 11:12 PM

@igo Oh, I don't know. Depending on how long ago it was, I bet travel to and from Oberlin and Evanston three times would have cost more than $300. You probably got your money's worth.

Antonio / November 19, 2008 8:50 AM

1975 emerald green Mercedes 300D from an auction in Atlanta. Slow as Christmas but built like a tank. Filled the trunk with speakers and oiled up the wood grain every other weekend.

fluffy / November 19, 2008 10:39 AM

My first car was some shitty Plymouth station wagon -I never changed the oil and everything melted. My second car's name was Filo Flamingo Manana Munoz. Good times.

Gaigen / November 19, 2008 11:58 AM

A mint condition 1978 Jaguar XJ12 with plush leather seats and walnut interior, dual overhead cam....

PSYCHE!!! It was not one, but TWO crappy Peugeot 504s that I was (theoretically) supposed to transfer the engine from one into the other (one had a good engine, the other had a working transmission) and have one complete car. Needless to say, this project never really got off the ground, owing largely to my complete lack of car knowledge. My "mechanic" friend was supposed to help me but he highlight of out restoration was trying to pull the engine out of one car with a cheapass winch which broke and sent us flying into out backyard fence. I ended up having them towed away for $25 apiece. The first real "working" was an Audi which lost its power steering and would have cost more to repair than the car was worth (mechanic's words). At last sighting, the city had posession of it.

Gaigen / November 19, 2008 12:05 PM

Addendum: The Audi came back to haunt me when my current car got booted and towed. I went to pay off the tickets and they made me pay off the tickets for the Audi too, which I had completely forgot about and assumed had been dropped since the city had my car. Cost me almost $900. I almost cried in public when they told me and was broke for sometime after that trying to play catchup on bills. DAMN YOU, AUDI!!!!!

Molly / November 19, 2008 4:01 PM

Rita, the five speed tomato red 1987 Renault Alliance. Best car ever, and by best I mean worst. And also best. God, I adored that car. If more than one person sat in the back, the car nearly dragged on the ground and every time we'd go over a bump, the people in back would bounce so they hit their heads on the ceiling. She died in 1998, and I managed to keep her for another five years, hidden in my mother's garage, hoping one day to turn her into a garden sculpture. Alas, it was not to be, and eventually I had to call the junk man, who laughed and said, "I didn't know there were any of those left!" I said, "Well... there's this one...."

I couldn't watch when he dragged it away. It was almost as sad as watching the vet carry away my dead dog.

Dutch101 / November 19, 2008 4:18 PM

A 1963 Ford Falcon that my dad and I fixed up and then sold, that was before I even had my license, though I drove it a few times. It had a "3 on the tree" manual tranny.

The first car I actually drove was a 1957 Lincoln Premiere 4 door hardtop that was in pretty good original condition. My dad and I fixed that one up too and I drove it to highschool for a couple of years. It was a glorious old boat with a huge engine and big fins. Had power everything on the planet, including power vent windows! Way cool. I might get another one someday if I ever have the garage space.

Spook / November 20, 2008 9:02 AM

Funny, I'm "picturing" yall driving your old beater cars dressed all 80's including bad 80's hair cuts. I'm laughing inside

Janaynay / November 20, 2008 12:57 PM

I love how not one person commenting here was a Daddy's Girl/Boy who got a brand new car. It builds character to drive a POS.

Caitlin / November 20, 2008 1:15 PM

Ah, Janaynay, the Daddy's Girl/Boy car... I must recommend restraint in criticizing those who got those new cars as their first cars since we never know why those individuals got them.

And yes, I am one of those people who got labeled a Daddy's Girl in high school for having a new car, but most of those who judged me for it didn't know why I had it.

In 1998, my sister was in a head-on wreck in her own character-building POS 1984 Chevy Nova (jerk who hit her had crossed a double-yellow line, over a bridge, in FOG and was driving a Ford F-350 no less). She was lucky to live, but was in a coma for several months and took even longer to rehabilitate.

So when I got my first car, it wasn't the 1978 beat-up Mercedes that was being sold for $200 that I seriously coveted, it was a 2000 New Beetle that my parents bought off the lot. Consumer Reports's safest car that year. And, knock on wood, it's done me right ever since. :)

Samantha / November 20, 2008 3:15 PM

My first car was a big blue 1986 Ford pick-up truck. I got it in 2002, and it was a bucket of rust by then. I could see through the floor in some places. The tailgate once flew off while I was driving down the road. And at 5' 3", I could barely pull myself up into the cab!

adel / November 20, 2008 4:20 PM

It was a 1998 silver Honda Civic, and I named it Bob.

It was my baby, and my parents bought it for $6,000 with 76,000 miles on it. Within the first month of owning it, I managed to total it. The damage wasn't all that extensive, but it cost more than the car itself. We decided to have it fixed anyway, and that's when I managed to get in an accident with it. The insurance company really loved that one, and so did my parents.

Spook / November 20, 2008 4:48 PM


are you gonna do the honors with Caitlin or should I? Cause clearly your parents didn't care about your safety.

Oh and even I know that a Mercedes tank is safer than a tiny car of any sort, but I'm sure you look mighty cute in your shinny new bug with the flower on the front mirror.

Next time just be honest and say "my parents got it like that" and "I want it like that"

Opps, I was supposed to let Janaynay respond.

Mo / November 20, 2008 5:01 PM

Ford Mercury Topaz--can't remember the year. But then my grandma died and I inherited her Pontiac 6000. That was a great grandma car. I called it the Mo-bile. But eventually I had to replace the whole damn engine one piece at a time.

Nuke LaLoosh / November 20, 2008 5:13 PM

1983 Ford Escort, hatchback, grey with two thin, red "racing" stripes.

I learned to drive a manual transmission in that thing, and it was the most reliable cold-weather starting vehicle in the world -- until it completely quit. I drove it from 1985-1992.

It was a real rattletrap, though. The road noise was deafening.

Thank Christ I take the CTA now. Its nice and quiet . . .

Caitlin / November 20, 2008 5:32 PM

Thanks, Spook. Please remind me to subscribe to your grammatical and creditable publication of vile and unsound recommendations.

In the meantime, read up.

*beep beep!*,

Joel Lerner / November 20, 2008 6:29 PM

of was a 1972 Datsun 510, the poorman's BMW 2002. By the time I got it had a sheet metal floor to replace the rusted out original.
My dad bought new for 1999.00. It lasted until 1985 when mother rust took her

cletus warhol / November 20, 2008 10:30 PM

A 1980 Chevy Citation that I inherited (literally) from my Dad. Probably the least sporty vehicle in the world, but that little sucker was a mighty and reliable steed. I put about 90,000 more miles on it in 6 years and it never crapped out on me. In its later years it had this weird problem where the hood would start bouncing up and down once you got to a certain speed. Although my mechanic friend assured me that it wouldn't fly off (just a strange design flaw in the catch mechanism) it was just too disconcerting, so I had him drill holes and install a couple bigass bolts right in the middle of the hood. Gave it this real awesome Frankenstein Monster kind of look. I cried when I finally had to take it to the junkyard.

Spook / November 21, 2008 10:53 AM

Actually I remember my older play cousin "inheriting" a much used grey Dodge Aspen station wagon from an associate who owned him money.

He called it "Das Boot". Riding in it was always an adventure,especially during the winter because there was an ever expaning gaping hole on the floor in the back seat,( where I use to sit), no heat, and my cousin drove drunk alot.

I was underage but he use to take me drinking with his boys. I felt like we were pirates, which I guess we were. The last of the Urban Pirates.

I use to love the horn. It sounded just like a boat, Whoooooommmm Whooooom!

Oh and

dearest Caitlin, I welcome your subsription, but do understand that there is a fee, some where between the price of Le'monde
and the Economist. But I'll put you down for a two year subscription. I'm sure daddy will open his wallet.

Any way, see you at the debutante ball. Look for me, I'll be serving the drinks

Whoooooommmm Whooooom

Gaigen / November 21, 2008 1:58 PM

it was a 2000 New Beetle that my parents bought off the lot. Consumer Reports's safest car that year. And, knock on wood, it's done me right ever since. :)

Well, I'm pretty sure most of our parents cared about our safety too. That being said, we still didn't get presented with relatively new cars. At best, we might have gotten a "You might want to get that fixed" from out fathers. So yeah, getting a new car, even for safety's sake, is still kinda a "Daddy's Girl" move. No offense, just saying..

Caitlin / November 21, 2008 2:26 PM

@Gaigen, None taken. I appreciate your point. (And thanks for making it in such a civil way. :) I didn't mean to suggest other people's families did not care about their safety.

All I was pointing out was that some people are quick to judge young new car owners without knowing the full story. In my case, my parents started saving up almost immediately after my sis's accident so that I could have a new car that was (hopefully) safer. They had taken that "You might want to get that fixed" attitude toward my sister's Nova, and she ended up in a coma with collapsed lungs and brain damage.

All that said and safety aside, I will say the big bonus of driving a Beetle is watching the total joy in kids' faces who either love Beetles or are so eager to punch-buggie one another as you drive down the road... :)

Gaigen / November 21, 2008 2:35 PM

Caitlin...gotcha. I see your point. Agreed, most people see new car-having teen and thing they have it for a frivilous reason like passing Biology with a C or something. At least yours had a more serious root.

annie / November 21, 2008 2:55 PM

On my 16th birthday I got a roll of bus tokens, which sadly, was a great gift! When I was 26 I got my first car and it was a 1987 Grand Wagoneer with wood paneling on the side. I loved it, but it was a piece of shit...apparently not shitty enough to get stolen 5 months after owning it. The guys were drunk and drove it into a very cute bungalow a few blocks from my condo on the south side and well, I am 33 now and car-less..who needs 'em?

Irisheyes1212 / November 22, 2008 10:55 AM

Spook....that car story cracks me up. I just keep picturing the huge hole in the floor, flintstones style :)

matt / November 22, 2008 8:36 PM

'81 Plymouth Champ, 4 Speed, AM Radio, No A/C...I loved that car...

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