Baby, Wanna Drive My Car?

An earlier blog this week about repairs made me think of a funny story from my youth. My very first car was an old Datsun stick shift.  I don’t even remember what model.  But it was old when I got it, had some rust and eventually a hole rusted through underneath so that when you ran through a puddle, you could easily get splashed INSIDE the car.

My boyfriend at the time (eventually husband, now wasband) and I both wanted to be “handy” so I taught myself how to change the oil/air filter and then we decided to tackle the rust spots. We got a sanding attachment for a drill (which we had to borrow from my downstairs neighbors) and some primer spray paint.  The idea was to sand off the rust, prime it and then paint over it with a coat of matching light blue.   This plan went off the rails in so many places that I can’t believe we didn’t see it coming.  First, as everyone can probably guess, when we started to sand the rust off it became clear that we would probably be sanding straight through if we weren’t careful.  As the old saying goes, the rust was the only thing holding it together in places.  That meant in a few spots, we just sanded it smooth but didn’t get all the rust.   Then, no surprise, the primer didn’t want to stick to the still rusty spots, so we really sprayed it on heavily.  Then we couldn’t match the light blue color of the car for love nor money.  We ended up with seven or eight cans of spray paint and seven or eight swatches of different blues along the back of the car.  BF was sure we could match the color if we went up to the Twin Cities to look (I was living in Northfield at the time).  Since he didn’t want the car to rust while we were working on the correct color matching, he put duct tape patches on all the rusted and primed spots.  (No, I am not making this up.)  From a distance it looked like the car had zits.

We never did find the right color, never did take the duct tape off the zit car. After another few months, we ended up with it in Milwaukee where the car eventually ended its life in the blizzard of 1979.  I’ve never even considered sanding the rust of another car!

What was your first car?

47 thoughts on “Baby, Wanna Drive My Car?”

  1. My first car wasn’t really mine. It came as part of the package deal that is now wasband. It was a red 1963 VW Beetle. It was the car I learned to drive in. We drove that car from Long Island to Wyoming and back again a couple of times. We pulled it behind a U-Haul from Cheyenne to Carbondale, and later from Carbondale to Minneapolis. When it died on MN-280 on a cold winter morning on my way to work, we sold it for $600.00 to a neighbor. He put a new engine in it, shined it up (the original finish had oxidized badly), and drove it for another ten years. A year later our marriage was declared irretrievably dead. No amount of buffing could put the shine back on it.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. my first car was the old vw bus
    i was the oldest and my dad said he didn’t want a driveway full of junk heaps in the driveway so we searched and found the bus with and inside remodel done by the owner who was the shop teacher for roseville high school
    he did a great job and the bus was deluxe. then i moved in. i have reported before about my tendency to run out to the car start it up put it in reverse and back into the car parked behind me
    moms car backed into dads car , dads car into moms car, my car into both cats and we had visitors, uncle joe, the cleaning woman, occasional strays, i’d back into them.. the sides of the car went unscathed but the front and back…. body shop regulars

    the inner car guy in me knows that they paint with fancy paint fins and store bought matching paint after grinding, sanding applying bondo and sanding. the headlights on many a 56 chevy were bondo lessons for my buddies driveway
    we did engines, transmissions, exhaust (orange juice cans and coat hangers) welded in floorboard patches where it rusted through
    (they really built cars for no weather at all back in the day) the duct tape was only a bandaid until the bindi went in place a can of bomdo was $5 and the paint another 1.69 if a can or 25 bucks if you bought the quart to spray through the spray gun
    oil brakes plugs points and condenser all standard stuff and with the vw idiots guide to vw maintaince the valve adjustments needed monthly and brakes yearly were on the hot list too
    after blowing up my engine in canada and la i decided i should lean how to do this too so i did a couple of vw engines before i moved to my fiat convertible
    today i am the mechanic of choice at my house but my friend soter does some of the hard stuff if i am hesitant to learn and pay for the learning
    youtube makes any repair so much easier than it was reading and discussing with the car care community of the 70’s
    if you don’t like that guys video just go to the next guy
    almost every imaginable task is filmed. what a world
    i never understood the move from datsun to nissan
    really … nissan is a better name???
    duct tape was

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Pretty sure it’s in the glossary, Chris. I’m assuming it’s the last few letters you have trouble with: and wetting myself.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to be a fan of sports cars who read every issue of Car and Driver. When I was an impoverished grad student I tried to buy a car, a used Alpine Sunbeam. But it cost too much, so I considered buying a motorcycle. That caused my mother to freak out. A week later she handed me the keys to a car she and my father hoped would keep me from buying a motorcycle. Ironically, the car they chose would turn out to be one of the most dangerous cars ever made in Detroit: a Corvair convertible.

    I loved it, although it was a terrible car. I need hardly mention the wisdom of owning a convertible in Minnesota, especially one with an air-cooled engine. The heater and windshield defroster were worthless in cold weather. To start it in winter I had to shoot ether into the carburetor. Early model Corvairs were infamous for flipping over. Later Corvairs were infamous for burning up.

    I learned that on a visit to my parents home (where my sister lives now). When I went to leave after a visit the Corvair’s electric system went bonkers, then smoke began to rise from the floor next to the driver’s seat.

    I called for help. The City of Orono and the City of Wayzata bickered about which would send fire fighters. I emptied the storage area (which was in the front since the engine was in the rear). My dad told me I could get more money if I put the stuff back in the burning car and claim it on my insurance. So I did. That was a nice lesson in insurance and the reliability of a father’s advice.

    By the time the fire truck arrived the flames were taller than the one-story roof of my folks’ home. We worried that the fire would spread to the house, but the loss was limited to some landscape shrubbery.

    I turn 76 next week. I still haven’t driven a sports car.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Put driving a sports car on your bucket list, Steve. I think it’ll be well worth it for you.

      For my mid-life crisis, we rented a Corvette (my all-time favorite sports car since I can remember) for 24 hours from a place in Palm Springs. Our “road trip” was down to Temecula and back. Driving that dream machine was everything I’d hoped for, but I was so afraid to damage it in any way that I was always nervous driving it. Mainly because the temp. insurance had a high deductible–not sure, probably more than the rental fee–so dinging it would have double my “fun.” (Expensive rental too–About $450 for that one day.)

      I wasn’t worried about my driving, just the “idiot other guy.” Took her onto I-10 and wanted to floor it but only got up to about 90 for one second before backing off for fear of losing control (or getting nailed by a statey.)

      Yeah, I know. Not much of a mid-life crisis, but hey, I did the best I could. 😉

      Chris in Owatonna

      Liked by 2 people

  4. My dad bought a succession of older cars while I was learning to drive in 1974. One was a Nash Rambler that was missing the foot pedal and had only a little metal bar to step on to make it go. I think I took my drivers test in his 1968 Olds Cutlass.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My dad bought a late-1950s Nash Rambler when we moved to Minnesota. It developed a problem with the fuel system that caused an explosion to happen about every ten minutes. Flames would shoot out from under the hood, and it made a pretty loud bang. Some young guy tried hard to buy the only exploding Nash Rambler in Minnesota, but my dad wouldn’t sell. He never had good sense with cars.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not my first car, but Robin and I had a 1968 Rambler station wagon, stick shift, inelegant, but it did the job. We took that car to Calgary for the Stampede and I also drove it with some fellow students to a photography conference in Albuquerque. The car had a habit of chewing up starter drives— something about the way they aligned with the flywheel— and I had to remove the starter to replace the drive, always outside and sometimes in the dead of winter, at least three times. By the time we traded it in for a yellow 1976 Honda Civic, which had its own set of problems Honda hadn’t worked out yet, the Rambler was exhausted.


  5. Learned to drive a car, stick shift, in a 36 Chevy at the age of 11 or so.
    First car I owned as a 49 Ford flathead V8, about the best engine of the 50s. Bought it for 4%0 dollars. Drove it for 5 months. Sold it for $75 before leaving for Chicago.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When I learned to drive I was only allowed behind the wheel of the Tan Bomb, a 1950 Plymouth that sort of putted around town. I consider that my first car, since my dad bought it (for $100) specifically so I wouldn’t have to “practice” on our beautiful ’64 Chevy. More about that later.

    The first car I owned was a 1972 VW bug that my dad bought for $1995, and then I paid gradually paid him back. I chose Texas (bright) yellow so it was highly visible in the San Francisco fog.


  7. My first car (by default since my wife bought it the year before we married) was a 1977 Toyota Corolla hatchback we eventually named “Bullwinkle” because he was chocolate brown and we had visited the Ghirardelli chocolate factory in SF where we bought a bumper sticker with a picture of a generic Bullwinkle that said “Save the Chocolate Mousse.” That trusty Toyota visited both coasts and a huge chunk of Canada (all the first tier provinces other than the Maritimes).

    Sold it after 15 yrs and about 180k miles when the rust got so bad the driver’s seat came loose and was in danger of falling through the floorboards.

    We bought Bullwinkle a sister car in 1983. “Rocky” was a light blue Toyota Tercel hatchback which stayed with us for 18 years and 200k miles.

    Chris in O-town

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I identify with the car I drive about as much as I identify with my refrigerator or washing machine. Needless to say, I’ve never owned a car anyone would consider sporty. I have, however owned a string of Toyotas and have never been disappointed. Whn I bought my most recent vehicle, my mechanic, who specializes in Toyotas, stated that I could expect the engine to be good for 250,000 miles. I think back about the cars of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Usually by the time they had reached 60K, they were starting to really show their age.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. My 1973 Mercury Capri was a sweet little car, but rust killed it. I don’t recall the mileage (probably not that high since I didn’t drive that much), but it rusted terribly. When it was about 10 years old, the driver’s side door simply dropped off when I opened it one day. To it defense I’ll say this, it did spend its entire life in Minnesota, so that may have been a contributing factor to the rust.


        2. All cars used to rust more than they do now. Of course, Minnesota’s road salt exacerbates that terribly. Car manufacturers are now vastly better at rust-proofing..

          I gave my daughter a Mazda sedan when she was in college. It had been owned by my sister and then by her younger son. At some point the little Mazda was so rusted out that mechanics couldn’t repair it. There just wasn’t enough clean metal left in it to allow anybody to work on it.


  8. My first car was a 74 Plymouth Duster that Dad bought from my brother-in-law. It was a bright metallic blue with a white canopy roof and white striping along the sides and the rear deck…..pretty snazzy. But it also had dark vinyl seats and no A/C. Driving it in summer heat & humidity was miserable – danger of burning my thighs every time I sat down on the seat. I only kept it for 4 years – wanted something with both cloth seats and A/C. I switched to Pontiac for about 15 years (LeMans and 2 Firebirds) before discovering Saturn. I am on my third (and sadly, last one) now. 12 years and 177,000 miles strong – am aiming for at least 200,000.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Back to the Tan Bomb (’50 Plymouth) mentioned above. It was just as well that Dad didn’t have me drive the Good Car, because in my first year I had a couple of “incidents”. Rear-ended another car on Main Street (while scooping the loop and talking to a passenger). Going very slow so no damage, but… Then while changing from left lane to right, missed a car coming up on the right (blond spot – they weren’t there when I first looked over my shoulder), they veered right to miss me and hit a post. Lucky again, only dented a metal rim around their headlight. That must’ve caught my attention, because I didn’t have another incident for decades.


  10. I’m not really a car person. I don’t actually like to drive all that much with one exception. When I go to Maui or Kauai or the Big Island for business, I always get a Pinto convertible, red if possible. This is my one big perk that I give myself when traveling. And those are the only three places I will drive because they have so few roads I can’t get lost. Well actually I can get lost but it’s easier to find my way back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In fairness, we should probably mention that what you refer to as “exploding gas tanks” were related to rear-end collisions, it wasn’t spontaneous combustion problem.


  11. Hi–

    These have been great stories today. Love all the old car stories. We all start out with such junkers!

    On the farm, of course I was driving tractors when I was pretty young; I don’t actually remember how old… but I remember Dad telling me if there was any problems, just turn off the key. I’d bet I was 8 or 9.
    And then I learned how to drive a Chevy pickup, I don’t remember what year it was… a C20, long shifter lever on the floor. Dad would get me out in the field and then I’d follow him, driving the combine, with the truck. Those old combines, it only did oats and only held about 30 bushels. He’d have to dump multiple times / round and my job was to follow behind and then when he stopped, pull up next to him so he could unload. First gear was geared so low, it wasn’t really useful; had to start in second.

    My first car was my grandma’s 1967 Plymouth Valiant. That was a good tank for a young kid. No heat and doors didn’t lock.
    I think the transmission went out on it.
    Then I got a ’77 Buick Skyhawk. That was a fun car. Stick shift; I replaced the clutch myself and did other work on it. That was a chick magnet car.
    Replaced it with a Chevy Eurosport.

    I was also working for the Department of Ag and measuring fields. Couldn’t drive the Buick out in the fields and I bought from a friend, a used postal jeep. I was about the 5th owner. It drove on the regular left side but the sliding doors were awesome! It was a terrifically fun vehicle… but the steering was WAY too sloppy to take over about 60mph. And Thom told me that when I bought it from him. He said never to take it on the interstate. I did once, just for a few miles to get from one farm to another. Yep; scary. Back door wouldn’t stay shut either so you had to use the bungie cord. Otherwise when you hit a bump the door would fly out and all my papers and tools would fly out the back. Did that once or twice. It had a mediocre stereo but great speakers. I think I still have the speakers at the theater.
    A rock hit the oil filter and made a hole, lost all the oil and the engine went bad.
    Got a Saab 900 for $350. *That* was a fun car too. The key down between the seats, the hood opened to the front, I think it had to be in reverse to start it…

    Cars these days don’t have nearly the character.
    Kelly bought a ’89 Chevy Cavalier just before we got married. She drove a Pinto when we first met.
    After daughter was born, her Aunt and Uncle helped us buy a Taurus Wagon. It was a pretty good car for a lot of miles.
    When we finally wore that out, I sold it to a college student for $300 with their knowledge it had some issues. Her dad was a pretty good mechanic and he worked on it.
    Right up until it burst into flames one night while he was testing the latest repair job. And that was the end of that car.

    Liked by 2 people

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