My First Car
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It was somewhere around 1970 when my parents told me I could buy any car I wanted. I was overjoyed of course. I began to scour the classified ads in the local newspaper searching for a slightly used Camaro or Trans Am. British cars were popular too. I could see myself driving a Triumph TR-6 or a Spitfire. MGBs were pretty fun looking, as well.
Saturday afternoons were spent looking at my favorite used car lots. My father patiently waited while I ran from this striking beauty to that power house. I made a list of my favorites. As we sat around the dinner table I announced that I’d made a decision on which car to buy at which time I was to receive one of the greatest disappointments in my young life. It really didn’t matter what car I wanted, the reality was I could buy any that I desired. That is with my own money.
Guess I always knew there was a catch. To this day I will never understand why my Dad would have let me look at cars that cost thousands when as a kid of fifteen whose only source of income was cutting the neighbor’s yards and doing odd jobs. Truth be told, I probably had a couple hundred dollars to my name.
Fishing cars. Though my dream of a hot rod had been crushed, I was not. My parents had still said I could buy a car and I didn’t even have a driver’s license. I began looking in the very back of the classified ads under a heading entitled: Fishing Cars. Here there were dozens of clunkers in my price range. I goaded my Dad into looking at a 1963 Ford Falcon, a ’61 Rambler with several colors of rust and an ugly Renault that looked like a stretched out Volkswagen. Finally I found the perfect car. Well for $150 it was the perfect car.
Where I found it and who had owned it I cannot recall. It was a white, 1960 Simca Aronde sedan. Though I had not yet to learned to drive a car with a manual transmission, my first car featured a four speed manual transmission located on the steering column. Picture a four speed pattern on the floor and move the lever to just behind the steering wheel with the shift pattern remaining the same and there you have it. The green and white seats were in fair shape and the front seats reclined all the way back turning the interior into basically a double bed…perfect for a teenager!
Though the little car ran fine, I decided to take it apart and put it back together. I started by removing the steering wheel because it was not quite aligned perfectly. I learned how difficult it was to remove a steering wheel without a Steering Wheel Puller which obviously was the right tool for the job. I also learned what a wiring harness was. It was months I guess that my windshield wipers would come on when I turned on the headlights. I took the transmission apart and my parents were amazed it still worked after I put it back together sans a few pieces I forgot to put back.
Remember I was about fifteen at the time. I decided to paint the car bright yellow…oh and the trunk lid and hood were going to be bright orange! I started with the trunk lid. Using navel jelly; as I recall, the paint bubbled and peeled off easily. I then spent weeks sanding down to bare steel. My parents didn’t mind me painting the car but not in their driveway. No problem, I would just unbolt the trunk lid and take it down the steep hill to the back yard and paint it by the creek. This was a 1960 automobile. It was made of steel unlike today’s lightweight aluminum and or composite materials. The trunk lid weighed a ton. But I managed. I never got around to applying the bright colors however I did achieve a fairly nice finish with a dark red primer, dragged the lid back up the hill and got it reattached to the car.
Our driveway wasn’t wide nor long. But I learned to drive straight-drive by going up and down it until the neighbors could hardly stand it any longer. Finally, I got my learner’s permit and instead of driving my parents around in their safe and comfortable family sedans or wagons, I urged them to let me drive them in my Simca. Driving my mother around one afternoon we drove down one of the busiest streets in the city when my accelerator got stuckon full throttle. The little motor screamed until I calmly got out in the middle of all the traffic, raised the hood and unkinked the throttle return spring that had somehowgotten hung up. My mother never got over the incident and never rode in that car again.
It was years and years that passed when my parents finally told me when I was at a boarding school they hadn’t actually sold the car for $150 as they had once told me…rather they had paid someone $50 to haul it away for scrap. But in my mind it was always the perfect first car!