Downwind by Bob Rohrer, CAE, FBCM, Manager
Most Americans hold great nostalgia about the first car they owned. Your first “ride” usually wasn’t the best, flashiest, nicest, or coolest. Many times, it reflected a piece of one’s personality: “how fast it would go, how cheap it was, how great it cornered, how practical it was, how ugly it was, how many times it broke down, how many people could fit in it, etc.” Perhaps it was a true “classic”…a Gremlin, A big boat, a Ford Pinto, a Chevy Chevette, a VW bug, a station wagon, or the a perfect color for a rattletrap. That first ride provided a great feeling of independence; you didn’t have to ask your parents to borrow the car any longer!
Prior to my “first ride”, I was fortunate to have access to farm vehicles of various types and sizes. I remember the Farmer’s (my father) 1976 F 100 Ford pickup truck that my brothers and I borrowed for several years. This truck was really attractive…two-tone cream green over hunter green with large mirrors that stuck out like Dumbo ears. Low-Rider! It was even cooler when it had the topper on.
It featured a really light-weight backend which seemed to cause frequent fishtailing by the vehicle (maybe the accelerator had a flaw). The truck also sported four very bald tires. Bald tires on gravel roads are not a good combination. We got to the point where we carried three spares just to prevent being stranded. We got to be so practiced at changing tires on that truck that we could swap the flat tire out in less than five minutes.
My brothers and I really enjoyed use of that truck until someone (yes, yours truly) totaled it in an accident. As a practical “Do It Yourselfer”, The Farmer cut the truck bed off the destroyed truck cab and turned it into a farm trailer to haul stuff. I now believe that the Farmer created the trailer, in part, to stand as an ever present reminder for me to slow down and stop being stupid. That trailer still sits on the farm today. Okay Dad, I get it…message received…you can get rid of the reminder!
A farm trailer...the remains of a Ford F100 farm truck
My true, first car (titled in my name) was a 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme diesel (yes, a sporty diesel). I bought it in 1985 and paid around $1,200 for it. The Farmer explained to me the value of a diesel engine, saying that the gas mileage for a diesel vehicle would be so much greater than a gas version. There were some car companies in the United States testing the diesel market with its consumers. Farmers, with great affinity for their diesel tractors, were willing to give the diesel car a shot.
I nicknamed it “Fumes”. I should have nicknamed it “the oily lemon”. After a year, the car leaked so much oil that I stopped to fill the engine more frequently than I stopped to fill the fuel tank. I don’t recall celebrating great money savings from fuel efficiency.
With that car, I really was somebody…windows down as the breeze was flowing through my stringy, bowl cut locks of hair, a deeply bronzed farmer’s tan contrasting with pasty white skin along my neck line, black diesel smoke billowing around the car when idling accompanied by the rattle and shake of the diesel engine. Eventually, the exhaust and rattle would overtake my ability to cope and those windows would have to go up; the only “cool” factor now gone.
Eventually, I had the car’s engine removed and replaced it with a 350 rocket 8 banger. I renamed it to D-Con-G (diesel converted gas). I certainly didn’t enjoy any great fuel efficiency after that but I had a lot more fun with the car. Now, 30 years later, I wish I still had that car!
What was your first ride and what made it special? Feel free to share with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.