The First Car…

The last time we chatted, I was going to tell you about my first car and I hit a patch of nostalgia and spun out. Maybe I’ll make it today.

I’ve already established how important a car is to the physical and emotional needs of a young boy (er, I meant young man). Although most men learn to physically control and master the mechanics of driving a car, many of us never gain control of the emotional affect induced by cars.


My first car was a 41 Plymouth coupe. It was maroon blending to rust, the chrome was a little pitted, but still shiny, the interior was in pretty good shape.

The best feature was that for $50 it was mine. Mine!

Apollo never had a finer chariot when he raised the sun each morning. It was my access to adulthood.

My friends and acquaintances know that I am ostentatious bordering on pomposity.

Okay, I heard someone in the back whispering, “How can you be ostentatious or pompous when you own a 41 Plymouth in 1955?” Yes, I heard you! You know who you are and so do I.

Seat covers might dress it up. I bought a set of rolled and pleated seat covers (if you don’t know what that means) take my word, they were cool. The seats had a red and black diamond pattern with black vinyl trim and channel stitching running down the back. I paid $75 for the seat covers.

That was more than the car cost, but they would totally renovate the car. I spent a Saturday installing them.

When I was through I opened all of the car doors to display the renewed interior. I stood back, walked around to the other side of the car, got into the back seat and looked at the stitching on the seatback, got into the front seat, felt the sooth sleek seats, shook my head and realized sadly that it was still just a 41 Plymouth.

Paint, a new paint job; that would do it.

At the time I was working in a paint store. I bought some black enamel and borrowed an electric sprayer. This wasn’t a compressed air sprayer operating on electricity; it was simply a jar with a spray nozzle that plugged into an outlet.

I drove my car over to my father’s house and parked it in the garage. My stepbrother and I began the prep work, sanding off the rust and wiping the car down.

I filled the paint reservoir (otherwise known as a jar) with paint, plugged the sprayer into an outlet, and slowly squeezed the trigger, nothing happened. I checked the sprayer and realized that I had not opened the sprayer’s orifice. I adjusted the nozzle and once more squeezed the trigger. The sprayer sputtered and spit a blob of paint followed by drips, drops, and finally a mist. By evening the paint job was finished. I walked home and impatiently waited until the next day when I could view the results of our effort.

The next morning I slowly opened the door of the garage. The car was black, but it didn’t shine. I touched it, it felt like sandpaper, I turned the light on and saw that the surface was gritty, looking closer I saw dust embedded in the finish.

Now I knew why painting was performed in a closed off spray booth. After extensive smoothing with steel wool and a second coat, it still didn’t look any better.

Several months later I got an offer to buy it and accepted. Thus ended the saga of my first car.

Don’t fret I’ll have other car stories.

What was your first car like?



7 thoughts on “The First Car…

  1. What a great memory! Reminds me of when my nephew recently painted his jeep — with canned spray paint! LOL … looked good — as long as you didn’t get too close! My first car was in 1992 — and was a 1983 VW Rabbit Pick Up truck. The thing went forever on gas — and ran great, as long as you didn’t need to go uphill fast!!

  2. Nice job..nice memory…great picture…high concept because it triggered a wonderful collage of cars in my life. My dad was a salesman in the oil industry, got a company car every year, but not just a company car..the newest, sexiest, coolest car of the year…except the Volkswagen bug…family didn’t want that one, but love it now!! My brother and my inherited his passion new cars often…I inherited cool cars that fit my persona for the time. Dad tried to convince me -since I was the older driver – the Triumph and 56 Chevy were mine – too!! my first car was really when I was in college 914 Porsche…cool, but the moonglow lavenderish 924 after I married was really cool…piece of junk, but cool and matched me…but the best of was my racing green Corvette which was my Rotary icebreaker when few women were members and I was new and they needed something to talk to me about…it turned heads when I had to pay for cupholders…if you know the drill…it was no big stretch when I took on the local race track as a client and drove the Mustang pace car during the promotional week all around the town!! Wonderful memories…thanks, Don.

  3. I love this story! My first car was a Gremlin, which is a story in and of itself. My best car story was the little Honda I had in law school. I think it’s a blog post all on it’s own, but basically I painted it half with the moon and stars and half with the sun and rainbows. Yeah… I got stares….

  4. I think it’s great to have those projects in life that we just can’t wait to get at! I shouldn’t say this here, but I’m a terrible car person. I don’t know cars. But you remind me very much of my neighbour who is forever working on his antique cars. (I do know what a ’50-something mustang looks like.) A person could eat off his car’s engine, it was so clean!

  5. Don: Great memories. Your writing is always at its best when you’re dealing with something personal. In my nearly 40 year newspaper career in which I wrote thousands of editorials and columns, the ones in which I revealed something of myself generated the most reader response. For example, reminiscences on the deaths the same week of my childhood crushes Princess Grace and Ingrid Bergman, the 30th anniversary of the ’55 Chevy, and the death of my dog. FYI, my first car was a ’38 Pontiac that I rescued in perfect condition in 1957 from under a tarp in an old barn. It had been maroon but there was little paint left. The mohair seats were perfect, but that didn’t stop me from adding white vinyl rolled and pleated covers and then painting the exterior this atrocious lavender. It would have been a “hot” set of wheels complete with fuzzy dice but even before I got my license my dad persuaded me to give it to an elderly family friend whose car had been wrecked. (He tore it up within a year.) I then gravitated to a distinctly uncool ’51 Chevy four-door.

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