Monday, January 17, 2011

My First Car: 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Cars

The 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History prompt for Week 3 is Cars:

What was your first car? Describe the make, model and color, but also any memories you have of the vehicle. You can also expand on this topic and describe the car(s) your parents drove and any childhood memories attached to it.

I'm pictured above with my first car, a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, that I bought in the spring of 1977.  I was a student at Texas A&M University, majoring in Recreation and Parks, specializing in historic site interpretation.  I was the team leader for a class project where we were designing five exhibits and a slide show for Independence Hall at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site, about 30 miles from campus.  I'd also applied for a part-time job at the park, so I really needed a car.

Fortunately a classmate (he was president of the Recreation and Parks Club; I was reporter-historian) had just received a new car from his parents as a graduation present, so he sold me his Camaro for $300.  The car did not look all that great from the outside - the maroon paint was dull - and the car had no air-conditioning, but John had kept meticulous records of the maintenance he'd performed on the car, and it ran like a dream.

Sad to say, in 1979 the Arab oil embargo hit - that was the era where we had to wait in lines at gas stations for increasingly-pricey gas that may or may not be there.  The Camaro got very poor gas mileage - maybe 13 miles to the gallon - and with my frequent trips back to Houston and other places to visit friends and family, plus the lack of AC, I started looking for a different car.  On Christmas Eve 1979, I bought a brand-new beige 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit, one of the first made in the USA.  I sold the Camaro to one of my younger brothers (I can't remember which one), who wrecked it not too long after.

The Rabbit had lots of problems through the years, finally reaching the point (again, around Christmas) in 1987 where it would cost more to repair it than it was worth.  We got a brand-new 1988 Toyota Camry wagon (also maroon, also un-air-conditioned, but this time a standard transmission), which I drove until I moved from Washington back to Texas in January 2006.  I gave it to my son, who sold it to his dad, who is still driving it today.  I now drive a 2002 white Toyota Camry sedan (automatic, AC) that my family helped me find at a great price.  I'm thinking about getting a Toyota Prius, perhaps later this year.

I don't remember a lot about the cars my parents drove.  I do remember a dark green Chevrolet station wagon with three bench seats that we used on many family vacations.  I often rode in the front seat as navigator when my dad drove on long trips, since my father's driving made my mother nervous, which in turn bothered Dad.  I believe this is the car in which I learned to drive.  My dad tried to teach me to drive his smaller standard-transmission car, but I had a hard time letting the clutch out smoothly (Mark will tell you I still have problems doing that).

Mark says his first car was a 1950 Studebaker that his father bought while living in Guam in the late 50s.  Mark rebuilt the engine, and used fiberglass and putty to fill rusted holes, then painted the whole thing with green Derusto paint.  Unfortunately it was too expensive to bring back to the States from Guam when his family moved back in the early 1960s.
The car Mark had that I remember most is a 1979 blue Buick Century Turbo Coupe!  This is what he was driving most of the time when we first dated, 1979-1983.  It had a distinctive logo that made it easy to find.  I loved that car! The 1998 red Ford Explorer he drives now--not so much!

© Amanda Pape - 2011


  1. Long drives in Texas without AC? That had to be tough.

  2. A lot easier when you're young, Amy! Once I had a "real" job, though, even short drives were hard in a hot car! No AC was also OK in Washington, and yet another reason I did not bring the first Camry back with me to Texas.

  3. Your Camaro's paint may look dull but knowing that you rode it around must have been really fun. I remember my first car and it was a Honda Civic. I used to drive it around to fetch my niece from school. I also used it to go shopping. I sold it not too long after I bought it, I'm just praying that it's still in good hands.

  4. My first car was a truck. My dad bought it from a friend because he couldn't afford using it anymore. My car lasted for seven years, and I had to sell it to buy new and better car.