Our First Cars: Three Revs For High School Cars

Your first car is special. It’s your first time driving on the road alone; your first grownup date with your sweetheart; and really, your first true form of independence. It may not have been the newest or most luxurious, but your high school car represented something more than just a vehicle—it kindled the pioneer spirit that Model T drivers had when they were able to expand their world. Your first car allowed you to explore the long roads ahead of you.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

The Cars That Taught Us (Some) Responsibility

But let’s not get too sappy here. High school cars came with first speeding tickets, first flat tires, and first repair bills. It wasn’t until years later, though, that we could look back and truly appreciate our first rides. We learned how to drive on them, but more importantly, we learned responsibility from owning them. A new set of tires cost us a whole summer job’s pay. Not having washer fluid when we were stuck behind a muddy construction truck meant we started regularly checking the fluid reservoir. In hindsight, we probably all wish that we had treated our high school cars better, because they gave us more than we ever returned.

A member at our church had posted the car for sale, and I begged him to sell me the car, even though I didn’t have the money or a driver’s license.

So with junior and senior year starting this September for new drivers across the country, let’s leave our first cars with an overdue parting gift, and I’m sure many of you are in the same boat vehicle. Call it an ode to our first cars. Let’s share the best and the worst parts. To get the party started, a few of us at Advance have volunteered our high school car stories!

Ode to First Cars

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was a 1972 Plymouth SCAMP. I started saving for the car when I was 14, and bought the car shortly after getting my first real job right after I got my driver’s license at 16. A member at our church had posted the car for sale, and I begged him to sell me the car, even though I didn’t have the money or a driver’s license. He finally agreed and I gave him a token $50 deposit. It was a 2-door hardtop, Gloss Red with a 318hp eight-cylinder engine, with lots of rust and I still paid $900 for it. My friends nick-named it the ‘Red Rocket,’ but it was a rocket that I never knew how fast I was going in because I could never get the speedometer to work. Nevertheless, it served me well through my high school years and I didn’t get a single speeding ticket, although I got stopped four times. I just told the officer my speedometer cable broke, and they let me off with warnings.” -Greg M.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was a 1991 Chevy Corsica. I got it in the fall of 1995 when I was a junior. I could often be seen driving around with three hubcaps because they were plastic and fell off a lot. It didn’t run the greatest, only had an AM/FM radio, and there were NO automatic features. But that’s ok, its unreliability helped me get my very first cell phone in case I broke down on my way home from college.” – Lorie P.

“I got my first car, a 1980 Chevy Camaro, when I was 17 with a loan from my dad. My mom actually found the car in our small town newspaper. We bought it from a widow who was selling her late husband’s car. Her husband was the original owner and had only put 36,000 miles on it. I actually got to take the car for a short test drive down the street. When my dad and I got home after looking at the car I remember rationalizing the price to him. The Camaro was my daily driver for the next 13 years.” – Byron N.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was a 1988 Toyota Camry—a hand-me-down from my stepdad that had the automatic sliding seat belts that forced you into safety mode once you shut the door. Everything about this car was gray. Gray paint, gray upholstery, gray carpet. I named him Steely Dan and drove him back and forth from Virginia to Tennessee for college until he finally kicked the bucket my junior year.” – Sarah M.

“My first car I ever drove in high school was a 1986 CJ7 Jeep with a manual transmission. I was so excited and relentlessly begged my parents to buy it for me even though I had never driven a manual before. My parents didn’t think it was a good idea, but I insisted. After all, how hard is it to learn to drive a stick shift on an old Jeep? About a week after they bought me the Jeep, I was begging them to sell it. I quickly realized that I was too afraid to actually drive it on the road. I have been driving an automatic ever since.” – Whitney S.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was one that I had no business driving as a teen in the Midwest: a green 1974 Alfa Romeo Spider. It was loud, occasionally started in winter with an oil pan electric heater, super fun in the spring and fall, sweaty in the summer. Some people never learn, like me, so now I have a blue ’74 Spider.” – Richard M.

“I had a white 1977 Malibu Classic that my dad gave me. I bought chrome hubcaps and had someone in town paint it red for me. Then I took it to the new car wash and the high pressure water peeled off huge strips of paint! I was near tears because I had saved all of the money from my summer job to get the car painted. I had to drive it around with big strips of white paint showing through for quite some time.” – Dave K.

“My first car was a 2001 Dodge Neon R/T, handed down to me from my father. It was a neat little car, all black with a five-speed manual transmission and a decent engine. I did my share of stupid stuff until I got older and wiser, like fishtailing wet turns using my e-brake, burning my clutch disc and tires by popping into first gear at 6,000 RPMs, and going 8,000 miles without an oil change on conventional (gulp…sorry, car!).” – Neil B.

Share Your High School Car Story

What was your first car? Were you parking a block from school so no one could see it or were you washing and waxing it every week? Share your stories and photos on our Facebook page or reply in the comments.

Cars of the world: Italy

 

Lamborghini_Countach photo

Lamborghini Countach

Savory lasagna, creamy gelato, great artists and Sophia Loren are some of Italy’s greatest contributions to the world. But many would argue, especially we car buffs, that the best gift this boot-shaped country has kicked forth is a buffet of delicious automotive treats. Although great style has much to do with their appeal, Italy’s cars bring joy to the ear with their fantastic mechanical music along with joy to the enthusiast’s heart with their involving driving dynamics.

New or old, Italian cars are lusted after and enjoyed by enthusiasts everywhere. Whether one is cutting through traffic in a diminutive, old Fiat Cinquecento with sunroof open and opera blaring, or slicing through a mountain pass in a newer Ferrari 458 Spider with its top off and its V8 providing the soundtrack, grins are virtually assured for anyone within either.

To celebrate the irresistible cars of Italy, we’ve picked our favorites both old and new from the major manufacturers. Our choices come via a rather unscientific approach, yet one fully befitting Italy — they are based on pure emotion.

Alfa Romeo

1992 Alfa Romeo Spider car

1992 Alfa Romeo Spider

For a classic Alfa, it’s hard to beat the simply named Spider (which is essentially Italian for roadster). Available in the states from the mid-’60s to the mid-’90s, this affordable, Pininfarina styled roadster defined the Italian sports car experience. That is to say it looked sexy, sounded great and had its steering wheel laid down to almost a bus-like degree. It also meant it could be finicky and wasn’t the most reliable car on the road.

Alfa Romeo just came back to the states after leaving in the mid-’90s and offers but one model thus far. But what a firecracker the 4C is. With its snarly, popping, 237-horsepower turbocharged four, light (around 2,500 pound) curb weight and track-focused handling dynamics, this sports car is a blast to drive. It may be a bit harsh for daily driver duty, but the 4C, available in both coupe and Spider (removable targa top) body styles, makes no apologies for its “fun first” personality.

Ferrari

Ferrari 458 Spider photo

Ferrari 458 Spider

Choosing a favorite classic Ferrari is like trying to pick a favorite Beatles song. Nonetheless, we welcome the challenge and will go with an early ’60s 250 GT SWB (short wheelbase). Even those without 93 octane flowing through their veins would find it impossible to ignore this Ferrari’s handsome Pininfarina styling and incredibly melodic V12. Although these are priced in the millions (keep playing that Powerball), they are somewhat versatile, being able to serve as both a fairly comfortable grand touring car and a vintage racing track toy.

For a newer Ferrari, the 458 Spider pushes our buttons with its free-revving V8 engine cranking out nearly 600 hp while making all the right noises, open roof capability and of course the head-turning styling expected of the marque.

Fiat

Fiat 124 Spider photo

Fiat 124 Spider

As with the Alfa, we’re with a classic roadster here, in this case the similarly-named Fiat Spider. Earlier versions (’67 to ’78) were actually called the 124 Sport Spider while the ’79 to ’82 versions were called the 2000 Spider. A Pininfarina design, the Fiat was powered by a double-overhead-cam, eight-valve inline four that grew in size from its initial 1.5 liters to 2.0 liters (hence the later “2000” designation.). A turbocharged version was also produced for ’81 and ’82. From ’83 through ’85, the car was marketed by Pininfarina as the Spider Azzura. Regardless of the year, the styling and driving experience are going to be similar, meaning those classic lines and the classic, arms-out Italian driving position.

Nowadays, not only has Fiat come back to the states, but they’ve brought the latest incarnation of the little 500 (“Cinquecento”) with them. Our choice is, no surprise, the feisty 500 Abarth, whose snappy turbocharged four makes us grin every time it crackles and pops when we downshift. Although it boasts a sport-tuned suspension that makes it a hoot on a curvy road, just don’t try to catch Miatas as its somewhat top-heavy feel and body sway when pushed harder show its athletic limits.

Lamborghini

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder photo

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

Miura or Countach…Countach or Miura? We’ll probably change our minds tomorrow, but for now it’s the Countach. The official poster car of 10- to 20-year old American males during the mid-’80s, the outlandishly styled (by Gandini) Countach looked like a land-locked spaceship. Adding to the effect were the so-called scissor doors that swung upwards and made for a grand entrance or exit. A mid-mounted V12 with output ranging from about 375 to 455 hp provided the appropriate gusto.

For a newer Lambo, we’ll go with a Gallardo. Yes, it’s not as powerful as a Murcielago or Aventador, but we prefer its smaller, more easily managed dimensions and lighter weight. Besides, we could get by with just a V10 and its 500 or so horses. Now the question is just coupe or Spyder…coupe or Spyder?

Maserati

Maserati Quattroporte_1979  photo

Maserati Quattroporte

Although Maserati made some great sports cars – Ghibli (the original sleek sports car, not the current sedan with the same name) and Bora to name just two – the company was also known for its grand touring coupes and sedans. Although the Quattroporte (“four-door” in Italian) has been produced off-and-on since 1963, we’re going to go with the third-generation version. Why? Because we’re Rocky fans and it’s what the Italian Stallion drove in 1982’s Rocky III. Fitted with a 4.9-liter V8, the Giugiaro-designed sedan put about 276 hp (respectable output back then) at the driver’s disposal. Fitted with plush, overstuffed seats and trimmed with gathered leather and real wood, the cabin of the Quattroporte was more business jet than road car.

Our modern Maser choice would be the GranTurismo convertible. Sporting Ferrari-sourced V8 power and a superbly detailed interior fit for four (provided the rear passengers are on the smaller side) the GranTurismo exudes class and power that are fully befitting a Maserati.

Editor’s note: For more insights into the vehicles of the world, check out our recent feature on the Cars of Ireland.