My first car was the family hand-me-down; an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. This thing was the size of a small boat. It had three rows of bench seats and featured wrap-around windows in the roof. Oh, and woodgrain paneling. OK… it was vinyl stickers but they were wood colored.
I liked that car, it had AM/FM, V-8, air conditioning, and chrome everywhere. I had graduated from the second seat to the front seat; it was mine.
I just looked through the only photos I have from that time and I don’t see any pictures with the car in them. Odd. So I found the same car for sale on a classic car website – $9,990. Over double what the thing cost new. I wouldn’t mind having it back today.
My high-school buddies and me were driving along on an icy road one evening. We lived in Tennessee, in the mountains, so this wasn’t unusual. A small, dark, unmarked mountain road and we were alone…
Anyhow, it slid off into a very shallow ditch. Ditch being a bit of an over-statement. No problem, a couple of us would push it out and I told a friend, Charles Stone (we called him Stone), to simply drive it to the other side of the small valley, no gas, no brakes, just roll it over there.
We got behind the car and pushed it out and this fool decides he can get all Mario Andretti. Needless to say, the car goes over the side of the mountain and down perhaps 50 feet before locating a hapless tree.
Of course we are all worried about our friends down there in the car. We run over to the edge and I shout “Stone! Are you OK?”
“P-O-W-E-R SLIDE!!! That was AWESOME!”
God himself was testing me. This moron had clearly been on Earth too long and it was up to me to set the universe back in balance. Deep breath – deep breath… “You’re an IDIOT!”
And I remember its number!
There were a couple of hand-me-downs, but I recall so little of them, it would not be possible to write anything other than I sold the tatty old Morris Traveller for £50.00 to buy Mrs B an engagement ring.
So my first “proper” car was a bright red 1967 Ford Anglia Van – one of the old school of cars where, unbelievably, you had to do everything yourself– turn on the lights, manually use main or dipped beam, put the wipers on when it rained, lock the doors – all the boring stuff that my present car does automatically for me.
I even remember the registration number – MCR 207F – why would I remember that from over 50 years ago, yet I can’t remember how I got home last night? (OK, it was the wine last night…)
It was a simple car –you looked under the bonnet, and you could see every component – easy to work on, which was useful in an era when there was little money for regular servicing. On the whole, though, this was a sturdy and reliable mode of transport. It had to be – to get me and Mrs B to work every day, even to and from our honeymoon.
To get there was an epic drive to England’s west country, during which one windscreen-wiper came off, leaving the arm badly scratching the windscreen. The problem was solved by placing half a lemon over the scraping arm, thus stopping the scratching. (Which begs the question, what were we doing with a lemon in the van on our way to our honeymoon?)
Then at night, the van was my means of transporting my musical equipment to gigs, around five evenings a week. And my equipment in those days wasn’t small (stop sniggering at the back..) This is just my keyboard and organ speaker, a Vox Continental organ and Sharma rotary organ speaker. Plus billions of wires and leads, rolls of gaffa tape, music, keyboard stool and of course the kitchen sink.
My dear old, very expensive, and treasured almost got me into my only ever fight at a gig. Some smart Alec decided to put his pint of beer upon the beautifully polished top of my speaker. Well, the fuss that ensued! The band kept me away from the perpetrator, (just as well, because he would probably have throttled me..) but the night was pretty much ruined, because of “that bloody trouble-making keyboard player..” I don’t think we worked that club again.
Anyway, at the end of the night, as it always did, my faithful Anglia van started first time, and I was able to escape back home.
A few years later, I was working up in Cumbria. Without going into details for legal reasons, we had to escape a bully of a club boss, and vanish down south as soon as we could. Our faithful van, containing me, Mrs B and the dog, and all our worldly possessions in the back, made the long long journey down the M6 without a hitch. Class.
I may remember its number, but I don’t recall why we eventually dispensed with the van. All I know is that my subsequent cars during the following years seemed not to possess the same robustness and reliability, and gave me far fewer good and lasting memories.
My first car
I was 21 when I bought it.
It was 1996 and I just earned around $ 6,000 while working for a presidential candidate for the election, doing PR. It was great to earn it in just 6 weeks in the distant depressed town of Blagoveshchensk located on the border with China, separated by the Amur river. A great story by itself…
I mean, I made a fortune for a Russian boy in the mid-90s. I think the average monthly salary back then was something about $200 or $300.
The first thing I thought was how to spend the money. Sure, to buy a car. A foreign car.
I thought it would serve my ego. Plus, I thought it would help me attract girls. See, I’ve had problems with it and I though having an own car would rectify matters.
It proved wrong in both ways.
After a couple of months of searching with my university friend, I got a 1984 BMW 528i.
Fuel-injection. Cherry color. Powerful. Manual shift. By this time it was 12 years old which wasn’t a big problem for me as I couldn’t afford a newer car anyway. The problem was that I couldn’t really drive. I’d just got my driver’s license but my family didn’t have a car so I missed all those memories with my dad teaching me how to drive in my high-school years. Having a car was a luxury in the USSR so probably it was another reason I wanted it so badly in the new, post-Soviet Russia. Plus I knew nothing about cars at the time. Otherwise, I would not buy a rear-wheel drive car with summer tyres just ahead of the Russian winter. I was a crap driver, too.
But it was a macho thing. I jumped in.
To make a long story short, after a month of driving it with my friends on the sidewalks I was brave enough to go downtown to my workplace: I was working then as an account manager at an American advertising agency, DMB&B.
…on the third day, driving back home in the evening, Dec. 16, my rear wheel-drive monster lost control on the not-so-sharp turn and I hit the roadside tree. Hit it really hard. Icy surface, rear wheel-drive, old summer tyres…
It was such a shock to me: I felt just like a jet pilot shot down behind the enemy lines…
I paid around $1,000 (another burden) to repair it and then sold it to my friend, a fan of BMWs, in March. Having fixed it I just had no pleasure driving it. Actually, I was horrified to drive it as I was expecting some new trouble: a new accident or just breaking down in the middle of the road. It wasn’t a reliable car. An ultimate driving machine? Hell, no.
When buying it I thought it would be a bed of roses or something like that with chicks jumping in it.
It turned out to be a highway to hell. No girls, too.
Now I laugh thinking about it driving my old Jeep. It never lets me down: it’s not miles per gallon. It’s about smiles per gallon.