The Daily Ping

The 10,000th Ping will be published on May 24, 2027. Paul will be just about 50 years old.

April 18th, 2004

First Car

What was your first car, and do you have any stories about it?

Mine was a 1988 Dodge Shadow 2-door hatchback. It was black with a red interior. Bought it from a private party who really wanted to sell it – it was a beater, but for a first car, it was fine. Here are some highlights from its life:

  • Air conditioning never worked, but I got a CD player – which shows you where my priorities were. The CD player, sadly, was installed crappily (Best Buy!) – it scratched every disc it played and skipped when going over bumps.
  • The first day I drove it, I actually made a short night trip. Without my headlights on. I didn’t know how to turn them on, and I wondered if driving at night was always going to be so dark.
  • The first day I drove it to high school, I was hit by an SUV.
  • When going over railroad tracks, the rearview mirror would occasionally pop off.
  • While driving around Chicago’s suburbs one day I noticed that there appeared to be a little bit of smoke coming from the engine. I didn’t think too much of it until the temperature gauge started going crazy. As it turns out, the engine head cracked (oooof) and my parents came to get me; they followed me all the way home (about 15 miles) while stopping every so often to put coolant in the radiator.

Do I miss it? No, not really. The first car I really loved was my second car, but that’s another Ping.

Posted in Cars

FROM: jk
DATE: Sunday April 18, 2004 -- 1:01:41 pm
My first car was a 1973 Buick Century. It was great because it held nearly all of my friends on the front bench seat! It had lots of problems and probably really annoyed the kids in high school whose BMWs I parked next to. heh heh

I sold it to a friend of my brother's for $100 and bought an even more unreliable Renault Fuego. Unless you are French, do not buy a French car. It was a hard lesson to learn because it really was a cute car.

FROM: Kate
DATE: Sunday April 18, 2004 -- 1:08:58 pm
My first car was a light blue Renault Alliance (often called the Smurfmobile). It was a tiny, boxy-looking car with just enough room to put my cello case in the trunk (if you knew the trick). Um, as for highlights:
- The first week I drove it, the axelrod broke as I was turning into a driveway, and my mom had to push it up out of a main road while I steered.
- The turning radius was so awesome that I could go the wrong way down angle parking lots and still get in a space.
- Occasionally the idle would get so low that it would stall out if I took my foot off the gas. Thus, I became a two-footed driving expert.

Do I miss it? You bet I do!! My car now is huge and not square-looking at all. Actually, my dream car is to get another Renault Alliance, only with fins.

FROM: Robert [E-Mail]
DATE: Sunday April 18, 2004 -- 5:33:38 pm
My first set of wheels was an '87 Volkswagen Jetta, purchased in December 1997. On the morning of my first full day of ownership the car refused to start. In fact, I had very little luck getting it started during that first week. For many months to follow I kept a self-contained jumpstart kit on the backseat because use of that device was the only way I could get the car started half the time. Eventually, my brother directed me to a Volkswagen dealer who recognized the problem, as it was common to this model, and I had the start rewired and all was well. That is, until I had other kinds of problems similar to those mentioned above.

FROM: Chris [E-Mail]
DATE: Sunday April 18, 2004 -- 6:52:33 pm
I went to HS overseas, and then staight to college, so I never owned a car until after I graduated from college. It was a 1989 Plymouth Laser (Mitsubishi Eclipse). Although it was a generally well reviewed car, mine was a lemon. I had to push start it almost weekely the entire time I owned it. I drove it for 3 years and finally gave up and bought a Mazda Protege. I've owned Mazda's ever since.

DATE: Monday April 19, 2004 -- 8:13:49 am
Ahh, my first car - a 1969 Grey VW Beetle that I had to park on a hill so I could start it by pushing it and popping the clutch - but I could fill up for about 2 bucks.

FROM: Greg
DATE: Monday April 19, 2004 -- 10:59:54 am
What Paul forgot to mention was my favorite story of his first car. From the day he bought it, the horn didn't work. Late one night, when most people were sleeping, we dropped off a friend (at the time) and he jokingly imitated the good-bye honk knowing fully well that it wasn't going to work. By an act from the car gods from above, the horn sprang to life. From that moment on Paul was ready to honk at everything and everybody.

FROM: Dave Walls [E-Mail]
DATE: Monday April 19, 2004 -- 12:49:51 pm
My first car was a 1988 Ford Ranger pickup truck. It was given to me by my father after he retired from roofing. The truck had a great stereo system inside (complete with Pioneer speakers and woofer), but had some damage from my father's construction work...wooden bumper, ladder racks, and the back had plenty of tar stuck to it. Friends would hop in the back for a short trip, look in, and go "Ehhh, that's ok."
I was able to solve the tar problem by going kinda ghetto: I bought some astroturf and laid it out in the back. Looked kinda weird, but it did the job.

The wooden bumper proved to be an asset, too. Near the end of my time with it, I drove it in a snow storm, hit a patch of ice, and swerved off the road. I went headfirst into a telephone pole, only to bounce off the pole...thanks to the wooden bumper. I cracked the pole in two, but I was fine.

Ahh, I miss that truck...sometimes.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Monday April 19, 2004 -- 3:23:08 pm
Greg: By an act from the car gods from above, the horn sprang to life. From that moment on Paul was ready to honk at everything and everybody.

I have no idea how I could forget that! Nice catch.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Thursday April 22, 2004 -- 10:21:06 am
My first car, like Kate's, was also a Renault Alliance (that makes three Renaults already!). It was a 1985 base model, imported by AMC. I got it used in 1990 for $1000. Later that week someone sideswiped it was parked in the street. The only damage was one of the chrome trim pieces disappeared (probably embedded in the other car's bumper--hit and run jerk) and there was a black rubber streak left behind. I rubbed out the streak, and the paint wasn't scratched, so the car looked fine. A used chrome piece cost $10 at the junkyard. The best part was, my insurance company totalled out the car for the little bit of damage and gave me a check for $991! They would have paid $200 more if I let them have the car.

No a.c., four speed standard, 1.4 litre engine. But it had this awesome pearlescent white PPG paint job that reflected orange. It was beautiful.

Alliances were much maligned despite having won Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1984.

After I bought it, people would come out of the wood work to tell me how much French cars suck. I never had any real problems with the car, though, and I drove it for ten years and put over 200,000 miles on it. It's last days were sadly spent driving pizzas around the lunar landscape like streets on New Orleans during my last year of college.

I finally only sent the car to the junkyard, completely running, because I had to move and I didn't have the room for it. I shall live with the guilt forever. I loved that car.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Thursday April 22, 2004 -- 10:32:09 am
Actually, the car was built in Kenosha, WI by AMC, so technically, the Alliance was not an import.

Finding parts was sometimes a challege because auto parts stores would stock parts for it as either AMC or Renault, but not both. So you had to learn to ask for parts for an AMC Alliance or a Renault Alliance. Often, though, you would still end up finding that the part you thought you ordered turned out to be for the fictitious "Reliance." Auto parts stores employees would look up parts for the Dodge Reliant, perhaps since Chrysler bought AMC/Jeep in 1986 or 1987. I also learned to scream into the phone, "It is not a Dodge! There's no such car as a Reliance!" I also learned to order parts for the hatchback version, the Renault Encore, which was mechanically identical, just to avoid the headaches. Doh! Stupid auto parts stores!

I have a theory that Americans got rid of their Alliances because they thought the French were so stupid that they made parts that didn't fit the cars they built. It only feeds the general idea in America that French cars suck. But having owned a few more French cars since then, they don't suck at all. They're really pretty awesome, in general.

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