Why My Kids will Drive a Piece of Crap

AMC Gremlin

137 comments

in Kids and Money

I’m going to warn you right now, if you’re one of “those” people that feel you need to buy a baby wipe warmer to clean your precious little one’s hindquarters you may just want to move on today, WiseBreads got some nice stuff going, but if you’re not, read on.

The Beginning

You see that beauty above, that was my first car.  A 1977 AMC Gremlin, desert tan thank you very much although sadly that isn’t my actual car above it’s a 1974, but the color is the same.  It sported the worlds worst engine a 232 Straight 6 pumping out about 9 HP coupled to a manual 3 speed transmission that was designed by Lucifer himself.  Even my full rear window covering “Oakley: Thermonuclear Protection” sticker couldn’t mask its ugliness, nor the custom chrome wheels my Dad had lovingly purchased.  This indeed was my present for my 16th birthday.  Now before you tell me I should have been lucky to have such a funky classic car, return with me now to the year 1989.  Wayne’s world had not come out.  AMC Gremlins, Pacers or Hornets were definitely not cool.  I was actually laughed at by scores of kids the day I drove it into the parking lot of our high school. I was absolutely mortified.

I was bitter for some time about that car, especially because I had saved up my own money to purchase my first car myself. In my head I dreamed of owning a Chevelle, a real muscle car, but what did I get?  The first real American economy car.  And I use the term economy loosely because we had to put 2 clutches in it during the 2 years I owned it and its gas mileage was subpar.  But it did teach me some valuable life lessons.  It was something I couldn’t grasp at the time, but now in adulthood I look back rather fondly at that ugly little car and think about how it shaped a tiny bit of the person I am today. So let’s go over those important life lessons we can learn from owning a crappy car as your first vehicle.

Lessons Your Kids Will Learn by Driving a Piece of Crap

Resourcefulness. When you have a piece of junk odds are most things in it aren’t going to work, like the radio.  Your kids should learn how to fashion some custom subwoofer enclosures out of particle board, or how to wire in some house speakers to their 300w amp they picked up at the swap meet.  With their limited cash flow you’ll see all sorts of creative ways to “customize” their beater.

Mechanical Skills. Yeah it’s going to break down.  Kids need to learn how to do some basic auto maintenance.  Teach them to change the oil, check the fluids, rotate the tires, replace an alternator, hammer out a smashed fender.  It will be quality bonding time as well.

Character Building. If you go out and buy your kid a brand new car what is that going to teach them?  That their parents have a lot of money to waste on their so called “safe” car.  Giving your kid a cosmetically challenged uncool rig encourages them to be the person they should be.  Teach them to stick up for themselves and to develop their self esteem.  Their first car should be one that inspires them to give it a name like “Wilamena”, “The Blue Bomber,” the “Death Star.”  Let them get their creative juices flowing and they will quickly learn not to be defined by the things that they own.  Snap materialism in the bud right at the age of 16 just by the gift of a Ford Fiesta, a K-Car, or a Terdcel.

Frugality. Be honest this clunker is not going to get good gas mileage so they are going to need to be pumping a lot of petrol in their tank. They’ll quickly learn the art of hypermiling and negotiating with friends. “Yeah you want to go to the football game? Great, give me 5 bucks.” You could be creating the next young entrepreneur.

Hand Eye Coordination. Sure it would be handy to be able to disengage the emergency brake without breaking the dash but think of the coordination they will have by reaching their right foot gingerly under their left to cushion its blow while applying just the right pull with their hand.

Thankfulness. This will be a delayed gratification for you but it will teach your kids to be thankful for what they have.  Yeah I had an ugly car, but I had a car, parents who loved me and a real appreciation for good quality newer vehicles.  It only took me about 20 years to realize this.

Entitlement. If this isn’t the scourge of the earth right now its people’s underlying feeling that they “deserve” something.  You know what you deserve?  A 1990 Toyota Camry Station wagon. See Thankfulness above.

To the Naysayers

I’m already prepared for it.  What about the safety of newer vs. older cars FiscalGeek?  I’m not advocating you get them a rolling shrapnel wagon, you can find plenty of reasonable crappy cars that are perfectly safe.

What about the reliability? We don’t want Jimmy or Cindy stuck by the side of the road at night.  Give them a prepaid cell phone and a AAA card.  Done.

Should kids even have cars?  Well if you live in the sticks like we do, there isn’t much choice in the matter, there’s one bus a mile away that runs about 8 times a day.  At the age of 16 we’re all going to be done hauling them around from practice, to their game and then on to the math olympiad.

Reader Rides

I’m very interested to hear your comments about your first cars or what type of car you’ll buy your little angel or if you will at all.

*Photo courtesy srqpix on Flickr

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{ 126 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Rhode 2009/09/24 at 1:39 pm

Great advice. I agree completely.

Steve
.-= Steve Rhode´s last blog ..We Pay Large School Tuitions Right Now and Having Problems Paying Our Bills. ““ Adam =-.

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Jim @ ChangeJarSavings.com 2009/09/24 at 1:58 pm

Wow! The only thing worse was a Pinto or a Pacer. In 1980 I had a 1966 Chevy Belaire that was in great condition. I started to do some prep work to repaint it and Pimp it. The problem was a month after getting a license I wrapped it around a telephone pole. I still say it was a great car. A tank even. My buddy and I walked away from it with a couple scraps.

But I learned more form that car and my second car that I bought for $50 and needed $50 of junk yard parts to get it running. Did everything myself. A 1969 Ponitac with a 400ci motor. I swear the gas gauge and the speedometer were attached to each other. That thing got 12mpg if I was lucky.

Some 25 years later my wife rear ended someone. She was amazed when my buddy (the same one) and I removed the front end and replace everything as it was never in an accident. The same buddy and I removed and replaced a transmission in a parking lot on another car.

I would have loved a new car back then but what I learned and know today was worth it. Great post.

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paul 2009/09/24 at 2:12 pm

Awesome Jim you illustrate my point beautifully.

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SM 2009/09/24 at 2:01 pm

I half agree….I had a total clunker in high school and was SUPER embarrassed by it. To the point that I didn’t even want to drive it and ended up taking the train sometimes to avoid the car…. Sure, it’s good to learn some basic maintenance, but everytime it stalled all I learned was to try to get to the side of the road before I held up traffic and everyone started yelling at me.

On that note, I now drive a 9 year old Daewoo. It was cheap, only $3500, and I’ve had it for 4 years. Daewoo is anything but fashionable, but it’s not as awful as the boat I had to drive, and I’m in no way embarrassed by the cute little thing.

I don’t think it’s so much frugality that I needed to learn, but more so how to budget and prioritize, which I learned quick because I had to pay my own gas/insurance. THAT’s where a lot of parents go wrong….paying for everything.

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paul 2009/09/24 at 2:08 pm

I am so curious about your “boat” would you be willing to share what it was?

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SM 2009/09/28 at 5:17 pm

Grand Marquis!

My friends and I made a joke out of it – we made a bet that every other one on the road was driven by someone at least 60+…..everytime we saw a youngish person driving one we would beep and scream wildly at them, as if we had a connection ;)

Bob Horn 2009/09/24 at 2:02 pm

1986 Hyundai Excel. That was my first car. I wasn’t quite a piece of crap when I bought it, but it quickly gained full crappiness. I traded it in for $500 toward my second car. That pretty much says it all. I agree with your post entirely, with one exception. If my kids want a better car, they can earn their own money and buy what they can afford–in cash. If my son or daughter gets a great job(s) during high school and save up like nobody’s business and have 10k or 15k to spend on a vehicle, fantastic! Go for it! But, given that my son spends money before it reaches his Nintendo wallet and my daughter likes to spread her wealth on the bedroom floor while she counts and recounts it, I have a pretty good idea who will be affording the nicer car and who will likely be buying a piece… of crap.

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paul 2009/09/24 at 2:10 pm

Nice Bob. A Hyundai Excel counts, definitely most anything in the $5000 and below auto trader if there is such a thing any more. As to the better car I’m there too, I only had the gremlin for about a year and a half then but a slightly less crappy Mazda with my burger flipping money. But I’m thinking the first one they’ll drive what I give them :-)

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Craig 2009/09/24 at 2:03 pm

My parents bought me a used beat up car and I loved it and was upset when it died a few weeks ago. I agree it definitely builds character and you appreciate what you have and can always strive for better. When young, you don’t need a good car. I know plenty of people whose parents bought them real nice brand new cars as their first car. You don’t learn anything from that and have no where to go in life if you start with the best. Those are the people living in a fantasy world. I know how to change a tire, but no mechanical skills at all. Wouldn’t agree on that reason for buying a used car, they can learn that if they want regardless of the age of the car.

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Matthew 2009/09/24 at 2:46 pm

I agree as well. Our son is going through this right now. From the time he was 9, we told him for every dollar he saved towards his car, we’d match it with a dollar… no limit. Fast forward 9 years and he had saved a whopping $600 (mostly from gift money he was given). So he had about $1200. We had just bought a ’94 Civic with low mileage (relative to it’s age) and well maintained because the 96′ Civic we had was showing it’s age with it’s 200,000 miles (including burning oil). $1200 was about what it was worth so we sold it to him.

Since then, he’s dropped $500 for breaks he ruined by not checking, $600 for repair work when he rear-ended a tree, and another $500 for a new head gasket something or other. This was on top of having no A/C and having to check his oil every time he got gas.

JUST THIS WEEK, it died. Something about a cam shaft shredding and locking and sending millions of pieces of metal shrapnel throughout the engine.

All these trials, in my mind, are good for him. He needs to learn that his actions (ex: not sacrificing by saving up) have consequences (ex: getting a piece ‘o junk). Now he’ll have to work more hours (and probably change jobs) to be able to afford car payments. But again, character building.
.-= Matthew´s last blog ..Don’t fight the Fed =-.

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paul 2009/09/24 at 2:52 pm

This just makes me smile to read. This is real life, let your kids experience it when they have a parachute. A true shrapnel wagon. A true first car is one that you have to know the secret mechanical trick to make it start. Thanks for sharing Matt

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Connor 2009/10/20 at 7:39 pm

lol hit the starter motor with a hammer. although many modern starters have magnetic components internally, which are highly fragile. Source: Mechanic iin training

Ken 2009/10/02 at 7:17 am

What happened to your sons civic is called a timing belt failure. Honda have interference engines which means the valves (which open to let in fuel and then close to compress it and also open to let out exhaust) extend far enough into the cylnder that they can touch the pistons…but they don’t because they timing belt and camshaft work together to make sure they open and close IN TIME with the movement of the pistons. All engines have timing belts/chains but not all are built where the valves will hit the pistons thus they are non interference engines. Anyway, when his timing belt broke the valves didn’t close when they should have and the pistons slapped into them which destroys the piston and the valve and the pushrods that connect to the camshaft. Think about what would happen if you ran your arm straight into a brick wall. Everything all the way up breaks.

Anyway, if you own a Honda or any product with an interference engine, you have to change the timing belt according to MFG specs or you are just driving a time bomb. When I bought my daughters car, we specifically looked for a car that was non interference because we didn’t want to dump hundreds into a new timing belt right upon purchase and most of the time you have now way of knowing when buying used when it was last changed. If the belt breaks on her current car, the engine just spins to a stop.

I highly recommend considering a non-interference engine when buying used unless you get extensive records and can verify when the belt was changed.

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paul 2009/10/02 at 7:32 am

Wow Ken,

The intelligence of my readers never ceases to amaze me. Ken want to guest write a post about buying a used car? :-).

Paul Cornwell 2009/09/24 at 5:43 pm

My first “car” was a 1980 Datsun King Cab pickup truck. Two-tone: blue and rust. Five speed and no air conditioning of course. I drove it until, one day, I was driving down the road and the drive shaft broke! At one point though, I installed a Blaupunkt stereo in it. Good times, good times…

I didn’t learn diddly about fixing cars though. Yeah, I replaced the alternator and the thermostat once, but I wouldn’t ever try to do that on my car now. And I certainly couldn’t teach my kids how to do it now. I did learn how to get some friends to help me push start it (because the battery was dead because the alternator was shot). And I did learn to drive a car with a manual transmission. That should be part of the crappy car bargain: it must have a manual transmission. If your kids don’t learn to drive a stick when they’re young, they probably never will learn.

I realized the other day that you can’t do the old push start trick with newer cars. In my 5-speed Mazda Protege, the ignition won’t work unless you engage the clutch. They just don’t make cars like they used to…

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paul 2009/09/24 at 6:32 pm

A blaupunkt you were living large in your datsun. Yeah honestly when I look under the hood of my truck there’s all sorts of “interesting” stuff in there, I could get in the engine compartment of the gremlin.

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Kevin 2009/09/24 at 6:00 pm

In 1990 I was driving a 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit. I loved that car. Alongside all it’s mechanical problems, it had a leaky roof in the corner above the drivers seat. I kept one towel bunched up on the seat to absorb drips when I wasn’t in the car, and a fresh one in the back seat to put on my lap while driving. I also drove with a tea towel folded over my left arm like a fancy waiter to keep my sleeves dry. We didn’t have cell phones, so when I was stranded by the side of the road, I was walking to a phone booth.

Good times. Yes, I learned all the lessons you list here, and more. I was better able to respond to life’s surprises than many of my friends with their fancy-pants cars.

Also, nobody could drive that thing except my sister and me. It took special footwork to keep it from stalling. It wasn’t a standard OR an automatic, it was an ’81 Rabbit! It was standard PLUS!
There is a lot of benefit in your kid’s friends being completely unable to drive your kid’s car. And I generally enjoyed being able to easily deflect any of my maniac friends who wanted to go joyriding in my car.

So on that note, I’m going to add to your otherwise excellent proposal. Get them a manual transmission. Not only will this help them understand how a transmission works, it will keep most of their friends out of the driver’s seat. It might even keep your teenage daughter’s boyfriend out of the driver’s seat, and that’s nothing but good news. Plus, a kid who can drive manual can drive almost anything.

And of course, the major benefit of making your kids drive a stick shift – it sets them up for being able to spend less money on a car in the future. I don’t know about where you live, but a car with manual runs about $1000 cheaper in Canada then an Automatic. Plus they’re better on gas.

Oh, and girls dig a guy who can drive manual. And, for that matter, guys dig women who drive manual. Well, I do anyway! To me it shows competence and confidence.

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paul 2009/09/24 at 6:27 pm

Kevin you are the man, stick shift is Key. On that gremlin I had tapped the shifter and screwed on a genuine Hurst Shift Handle to make it really sweet.

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No Debt Plan 2009/09/24 at 7:10 pm

Good sir I stand, and give you the appropriate slow clap.

My kids will have safe, but used vehicles that we work on together. You need to know what a clutch is, where the washer fluid goes, etc.
.-= No Debt Plan´s last blog ..Cash for Appliances Government Stimulus Program Will Give Money for Old Appliances =-.

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Rod Van Lierop 2009/09/24 at 7:44 pm

Paul you failed to tell your readers Your Gremlin was purchased at a Police auction and came equiped with a slope meter on the dash. Whose vehicle did everyone want to ride in when it came time to go Sking because it went so good in the snow.

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paul 2009/09/24 at 8:04 pm

BTW Readers this is the man really responsible for this post. That’s a good point dad, not everyone had a Gremlin with air shocks in it. Thanks for dropping by!

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kenyantykoon 2009/09/25 at 1:28 am

when i think that these are good things that you learnt, this does not mean that your kids will learn the same things. this are a lot different now and as much as you would like them to have the same mindset that you had, it is a long shot. but there is no harm in trying. if i do get kids they will drive nice beasts of cars but find other ways to teach them these values
.-= kenyantykoon´s last blog ..MONEY MARKET MUTUAL FUNDS- AN ALTERNATIVE TO SAVINGS?? =-.

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Kosmo @ The Casual Observer 2009/09/25 at 6:09 am

My first car was a 1988 Taurus that I bought when I was in college (1996). I was footing the entire bill for college, so the $3200 purchase price seemed pretty steep (even @ $88.05 per month).

Of course, I recouped a substantial portion of that money from my insurance company 3 years later when I splattered a deer onto the middle of I-74.

Flash forward 13 years … what car do I drive to work each day? An 11 year old Ford Contour with 100K+ miles. Could we afford a newer car? Yeah … but it does a fine job of making the 70 miles round trip each day. (We do have a 2006 Taurus as the “family” car)
.-= Kosmo @ The Casual Observer´s last blog ..Are Mark Reynolds’ Strikeouts Hurting The Diamondbacks? =-.

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paul 2009/09/25 at 8:27 am

Kosmo you sound like a Ford man through and through.

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James Boerner 2009/09/25 at 7:15 am

First car I owned was a 1993 Plymouth Acclaim, bought back in 1996. My grandfather has a hobby of finding good used cars, and found me this one in Oregon with 20,000 miles on it. For $6,000 the car was mine. I worked graveyard shift at the time for a local grocery store chain, and I paid off the car in just under 3 years. Lessons learned: 1) Take care of what’s yours. 2) Pay off your debts early, don’t delay. 3) Be responsible in maintaining what’s yours and it will last. 4) More expensive does not always equal “better”.

I wouldn’t classify this as a beater car, but it certainly was a “grandpa car” as my co-workers liked to say. I took care of that car, got about 130,000 miles out of it before I almost sold it to you in fact for $1,000 if you’ll recall.

Don’t know about other kids, but I always took care of what was mine, and I babied that car simply because of the concept of ownership. It’s a principle I employ today for all of my possessions (wife included, lol) and has served me well.

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paul 2009/09/25 at 8:29 am

Indeed James yes I almost did purchase it, setting my sister-in-law up with her first crap car, but I found an even crappier one than yours. Ah plymouth.

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PT 2009/09/25 at 9:25 am

Loved this post. My first was a 1978 Chevy Stepside Pickup. The shifter had been converted from the steering column to the floor. Very poorly, I might add. I was the only person who could drive it.

Yes, my children will drive old beaters.
.-= PT´s last blog ..Top 0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards =-.

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paul 2009/09/25 at 1:34 pm

Who can really look cool shifting on the column right?

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Mike Piper 2009/09/25 at 10:06 am

I agree wholeheartedly with this idea. Like James above, my first car was a Plymouth Acclaim. Not a beater, per se, but didn’t exactly help with picking up the ladies. ;)

Also, “rolling shrapnel wagon” is absolutely cracking me up.
.-= Mike Piper´s last blog ..Weekend Reading 9/25/09 =-.

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Kim McGrigg 2009/09/25 at 10:15 am

I still drive a piece of crap. I’ve had nicer cars, but I truly love the freedom that comes with not worrying about door dings or spilled snacks!
.-= Kim McGrigg´s last blog ..The dos and don’ts of establishing credit =-.

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Jerry 2009/09/25 at 10:35 am

My kids first car, and they share it, is a Pontiac Sunfire that I bought when I needed to travel 2 hours to work. I gets great gas mileage and it did it’s job getting me to and from work. Now I work closer to home and my daughter turned 16 first. So being closer to home I drive my truck again. My daughter drove that car her first summer out of high school, I didn’t let her take it to college. Her first summer home she wanted to visit a college friend and went for the weekend. On her way home, it was raining, she hydroplaned and smashed the drivers side real good. She’s OK. I told her she could get it fixed or if it passes inspection she could drive it that way, she just needed to pay for all the things it needed to pass inspection. She opted for driving it with the dents and all.

2 years later she is still driving that car and now my son is also. It still runs, big dents and all, and passes inspection every year. Am I sorry for her accident? Yes, but it was and is a great lesson for her every time she has to drive that car. Some day, after they are both out of college and move away, I’ll get rid of it, but for now it’s doing a great job of letting my kids NOT drive my truck or my wife’s car.

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paul 2009/09/25 at 10:44 am

Awesome Jerry the Sunfire that’s a sweet ride. I’m just imagining your daughter driving the car looking like John Candy and Steve Martin from planes trains and automobiles. “It’s not pretty to look at but it’ll get you where you want to go!” These are valuable life lessons.

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Jason @ MyMoneyMinute 2009/09/25 at 12:34 pm

Awesome post! My first car was a barf-green 1977 Toyota pickup, no A/C, and 100-degree summer weather. I spent a summer getting a sweet metallic blue paint job on it with the help of a friend. Got me from point A to B though!

I still drive an old car. I’ve got a 2000 Nissan Maxima with nearly 193,000 miles on it. 5-speed that most can’t drive because of the tricky clutch.

My kids will definitely need to drive older cars to appreciate what they have in life.
.-= Jason @ MyMoneyMinute´s last blog ..5 Things Jay Leno Taught Me About Finances =-.

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paul 2009/09/25 at 1:36 pm

77 Was indeed a great year and where did they come up with the paint colors for that era, horrific.

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Bible Money Matters 2009/09/25 at 12:38 pm

My first car was a 1985 Chevrolet Caprice Classic station wagon. That car was a beast with a huge V8 engine – and a gas guzzler to boot. However – it was great because it could fit about 8-9 people, or if I wanted to go biking somewhere i’d just put the back seats down and throw my bike in the back. I loved that car, but got rid of it for something newer with better gas mileage. Sometimes i wonder if someone is still driving that car somewhere.
.-= Bible Money Matters´s last blog ..On Your Next Vacation Save Hundreds Of Dollars On Your Car Rental By Finding And Stacking Discounts =-.

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Rob O. 2009/09/25 at 12:42 pm

There’s a LOT to be said for the appreciation for what you have that can be gained by starting out with a clunker car. My first car was an old Chevy Nova given to me by my Dad. Several years later, the first car I bought for myself was a Nissan king-cab pickup. I drove that pickup for 14 years and change. I loved it, babied it, and to this day, still kinda miss it.

I see the value in a newer car for a kid if only for the safety & reliability factors, but still something very basic and lacking in enough ooompfh to get into any serious trouble. Fortunately, I have another dozen years before I hafta worry about what my son will drive.
.-= Rob O.´s last blog ..Lost Library =-.

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paul 2009/09/25 at 1:38 pm

Your car you have now might be perfect in a dozen years. The Chevy Nova borderlines on cool though depending on the year, could have been muscle car-ish.

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Rudy 2009/09/25 at 1:15 pm

When I heard my co-worker just bought his teenage son and daughter a brand new truck and Civic Si, I almost lashed out. It’s typical Southern California lifestyle… gotta look good, to feel good.

I’m planning to keep my 2008 Civic for at least 12 years – then I’ll give it to my daughter.
.-= Rudy´s last blog ..In Control =-.

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paul 2009/09/25 at 1:39 pm

That’s right Rudy a 13 year old car is a great place to start, and dang a Honda that’ll go another 10 at least.

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ctreit 2009/09/25 at 1:21 pm

I am also with you. My older kids drove cars that did not measure up to their peers’ cars. They both saved up money which determined how much car they could afford. I helped them a little by financing part of the purchase price (and then forgiving part of the debt). But my kids’ cars did not match their peers’ cars by a long shot. I don’t really care about their peers, but I can assure you that both kids have very good money values. And that alone made it well worth buying lesser cars than what they should have driven to “fit in” (and keep up with their Joneses).
.-= ctreit´s last blog ..Free Budget Planner and Other Stuff: Introducing Money Obedience =-.

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rb 2009/09/25 at 6:33 pm

I had a hand me down Ford Mavrick that had a rusted out hole in the driver’s side floor that the mechanics kept after me to get fixed. Thank goodness for floormats, but it was still brezzy and lots of slush in the winter. It took 2 people to keep it going in the winter. One to try to start it and keep it idling at lights and the other to pop the hood and fiddle with the carborater if it died. It died its final death 2 days before I moved out of state after college. Now I have a great income and drive a 10 yr old car. I’m sure people turn their noses up at my old car and think I’m poor, but the price is right and I am paying down my mortgage.

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B7 2009/09/27 at 5:59 am

I agree 100%. I plan to go give my kids as little material objects and money as possible, but give them everything in terms of skills and resources. It’s going to be all about how they can earn and buy all the cars, clothes, iPods, Playstations and everything else that they want through their own efforts, but I will be there to help them make it happen. They can do it through building businesses, investing, or whatever legal and ethical means they can imagine.

That’s a great point about entitlement. My goal is to replace entitlement with empowerment.
.-= B7´s last blog ..Weekly Wisdom: Autumn Begins, Financial Wisdom Continues =-.

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bedrijfspand huren 2009/09/28 at 1:51 am

My first car was an Opel Manta from 1975. It was a nice car and I loved my car. If I see my car now, its unbelievable how cars have been changed. I don’t like the model at all, but everytime I see this car back on a photo, I thought about the good time I had with the car!
.-= bedrijfspand huren´s last blog ..SER-compromis: AOW-leeftijd in 2011 verhogen =-.

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Walter 2009/09/28 at 6:11 pm

What you have written here goes beyond crap. It applies to every aspect of life. It’s not a good idea to stay in our comfort zones always, we must learn from the difficulties of life. :-)

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paul 2009/09/28 at 10:25 pm

You bet Walter this is directly applicable to life in general.

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Dan 2009/09/28 at 9:17 pm

With two older sisters in college when i started driving i kinda knew the prospect of getting the ‘rents to buy me some wheels was slim to none. Hell, they even told me. Regardless I searched the classies everyday and came across an ad for a 1988 Buick Hearse with 42k miles for $1800. I showed it to my parents and we had to laugh at the idea of actually owning it. The more we laughed and talked about it though, the more i wanted to see this thing for myself. I ended up calling the guy for details. It needed brake lines and a few things any car needs that’s been sitting. My mom eventually convinced my dad to take a look at it with me. We scoped it out and it was such a pretty car for being ugly as hell. We went back two more times, got a “car guy’s” opinion and my dad handed over a check for the car that same day. I’ve since put on 10k miles and landed that thing in two ditches with zero problems other than standard maintenance. Its a 307 v-8 and gets somewhere just south of 15mpg but i love it to death and her name is “rosemary”. An old beater can sometimes be a solid, reliable car in disguise. Driving this thing has taught me to be a patient driver at 65mph and always check my blindspots in a 20 ft long car without windows. I still have it and hope to keep it for a long while, but we’ll see.

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paul 2009/09/28 at 10:28 pm

Seriously a Hearse? That’s absolutely awesome, do you have a picture you’d want to share? That would definitely be put up if you want email me at paul at fiscalgeek dot com. And rosemary to top it off. Thanks for sharing Dan.

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Tami 2009/09/29 at 12:36 am

My first car was a 1968 Olds F-85 station wagon which my father presented to me on my 16th birthday along with a payment book ($600 to be paid in $50 per month increments). I have no idea what kind of mileage it got as it never had a full tank of gas. Gas was cheaper in 1974 and my car was usually fed with change and the occasional rumpled dollar bill. No one made fun of me as few kids in my school had cars – besides which I could fit 6-10 people in it to go to a football game or where ever(seatbelt laws were more relaxed or non-existent back then). I enjoyed my car greatly, and yes, I made all the payments on it. $50 per month was alot for a teenage girl in ’74! My daughter received a 1988 Dodge Aries when she got her license in 1994. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve heard her speak of it fondly, but she drove it all through high school and college.

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Zengirl 2009/09/29 at 4:35 am

I think this is wonderful idea, as a mom of 2 little ones, my kids are already wearing some used clothes, some used toys and we make toys (some) by cardboard and other things. We indulge in small items here and there but we are careful. They still are long way from driving a car, but I would think getting a car at 18-20 and used one, should be a way to go. Heck, I like driving old cars or drive a new used car, until it dies, so hopefully my kids will learn something from me. :-)
.-= Zengirl´s last blog ..20 ways to be romantic for free (almost) =-.

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CB 2009/09/29 at 5:02 am

My first car was an ’84 Firebird. It was the 305 V8 and automatic but it was a fun car to drive when I was 17. Yes I got some speeding tickets but I learned to take responsibility for my actions. I also had to take care of that car. I learned how to take care of the engine, change most of the parts,a nd that a transmission is a costly repair when you’re a freshman in college. My second car was an ’88 Firebird Formula. This one had the same size engine but was manual and had t-tops and the precursor to positraction. One of my favorite cars. Not great for traveling around the DC Beltway in summer but still a good car. Now I have a ’99 Forester. It was used, cheap, pretty good condition, and some of my car maintenance skill have paid off though, there’s definitely not nearly as much room to work as there was with those old V8′s.

My future son(s) will drive an older car for sure unless they put up the money to buy their own. Then they can buy what they want (within reason). According to my wife, my daughter(s) will drive as safe a car as possible. Seeing as we don’t have any kids yet we have time to think that one through a little more.

What do you think, would you get a different car based on your child’s gender? I’m not talking about the Accord for your son vs the Carolla for your daughter. I mean a old beater for your son and a brand new Jetta for your daughter. I’m just curious.

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Amanda 2009/09/29 at 3:38 pm

I wouldn’t – girls need to learn the same things boys do and if it’s safe enough for one, it should be safe for the other. With cell phones, GPS and AAA, she’ll be okay. Through all my cars, the only time I was ever stranded was with my brand new Mustang – blew the tire on a spin out and didn’t have the custom wrench for my aftermarket wheels to put the spare on. I would go for a car that runs better than it looks for both. A friend in high school had an ugly 70′s Volvo and when she got in an accident, the other car was totaled and she had a slight scratch on the bumper. And never a breakdown.

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Kevin@OutOfYourRut 2009/09/29 at 6:56 am

Totally agree! My son will be driving by the middle of next year and his car will most certainly be a beater!

Brand new teaches them nothing. And it’s better for them to cut their teeth, so to speak, on a car that’s already got some bumps and bruises, that way when they start adding their own, it won’t be as noticeable.

It’s always escaped me why people buy brand new cars for their kids, especially upper end cars. They’ll take a predictable beating, so why bother???
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Changing Careers in a Recession =-.

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paul 2009/09/29 at 8:42 am

Right on Kevin, I see a trip to the Drug Seizure auction in your future :-)

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Leah 2009/09/29 at 7:04 am

Hey there Paul! This is a great story and you are right on the money with all of these points. I remember my first car. A ’79 Bonneville – dirt brown color I might add. An old man sold it to me for $250 and I still think he got away with something. It did make me appreciate that I had a ride when I needed it.

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paul 2009/09/29 at 8:41 am

Now a ’79 Bonneville that would be officially a Hoopdy. At least it was probably easy to keep clean being brown and all.

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Joe 2009/09/29 at 8:39 am

My first car in 2000 when I was a senior in High School was a 1985 Camaro – I loved it, it was mulit-colored, and it smoked like a factory when I started it up. It made it about three months and after multiple breakdowns I bought a 1991 Ford tempo for $200. I learned tons from that car as well and loved it after my nightmare of a camaro! Drove it for a few years and still got $100 for it when I was done with it!

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paul 2009/09/29 at 1:12 pm

Rocking the camaro, there’s no away around it you had to be sort of cool with a Camaro. My wife had a tempo as well, not a bad little car.

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Minigma 2009/09/29 at 11:54 am

My first car was a 1978 Plymouth Horizon. Two-tone grey with red interior. I started working at 15, at the A&W to save money for a car because I knew my parents would not buy one for me. The car was a stick, and I bought it not knowing how to drive it. The timing chain broke before I had even learned how to drive it. I paid my own insurance and gas. 3 years later, while in college, and having been tested 12 times in 2 years for mono and strep, we figured out that my car had a carbon monoxide leak and was poisoning me. That’s when I got a brand new Toyota Tercel, which my parents LOANED me the money for.

In 3 years, my kid will be driving my 1991 Subaru Outback wagon. And buying her own gas.

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paul 2009/09/29 at 1:11 pm

That must have been a full on defect because in college I had 2 roomates one with a Horizon and the other with a Dodge Omni basically the same car with terrible exhaust leaks. We used to call Mark’s the Tractor because of the sound emitted from it’s exhaust. Thanks for sharing Minigma!

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Jess 2009/09/29 at 1:53 pm

I learned to drive on an 86 Nissan Sentra that had already been through at least 8 years of NYC commuting and two older brothers. It would stop in the middle of the intersection when I was trying to make a left turn… for no reason. It was rusty and falling apart on the outside. It was a manual and to keep it from just dying I had to keep my right foot on both the gas AND the break. And even then it would die.

Fast forward ten years and I am SO grateful to my dad for teaching me just exactly what Fiscal Geek says in his article. My husband is also grateful because when we recently got a bigger car for an expanding family I was pretty easy to please. “After driving that Nissan, pretty much anything looks great!”

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Patrick 2009/09/29 at 1:54 pm

It is amazing what one of those old junker cars can teach you. I didn’t start out with one of those ugly cars as a teenager. My mother (a divorced parent) purchased me a 1976 Trans Am when I turned 16 in 1986. The car wasn’t in great shape, but all my friends loved it and wanted to ride with me any place we went. Fast forward to 1995 when I am a 25 year old married young man with a 2 year old son and on the verge of a divorce. The “deal” I arranged with my wife was that if she gave me joint custody and I could have my son half of the time, she could have everything we owned (1 newer model car, furniture from our apartment) and I would take my clothes and the bills we had accumulated. We got divorced and I had an extremely low paying job at the time so I had to move in with my mother. Luckily, I found a 1983 Chevrolet Chevette for sale for $500 and I quickly bought it. It was a total piece of junk, but it would run fine. I had to replace the brakes about every 6 months and it wore out tires as fast as I could put them on it. It was a painted a baby blue color, which I believe to be the original color, but it now had a 2 foot stipe of rust that went from the front of the hood all the way to the back of the car. The heat worked great, but the air didn’t at all. I was totally embarrased when I drove the car and it was really hard for me to date anyone because I didn’t want to have to pick anyone up in the car. After a couple of years of driving it and having to do all the fun things to keep it running, I got over the embarrassment. My girlfriend at the time asked me when I was going to get rid of the car and buy something nice. I told her that the day I was totally out of debt I would buy what I wanted, but the Chevette was doing fine for now. That day finally came (5 years after buying the Chevette) and I went to pick her up in the Corvette (used) I bought. She loved the new car and we had lots of fun riding around and taking trips in it. The Chevette was actually running better than it ever had at this point so I donated it to a person that needed it.

Driving that Chevette really humbled me and made me appreciate things that I hadn’t appreciated in the past. I also learned so much about car maintenance and how to take care of things that I had.

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paul 2009/09/29 at 3:38 pm

Way to go Patrick so you had two Vette’s :-). A little humility can go a long way, and way to stick to the debt freedom plan.

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Lisa 2009/09/29 at 1:59 pm

My first car was a 67 Mustang with a hole in the floorboard covered by a floormat, but at 16 we thought it went fast and my friends would say they could put their feet through the floorboard to help stop like the Flintstones did. Sometimes when we went too fast, something in the wheels would have a flame on the inside and we just threw dirt on it. No air but I loved that car and wish I still had it. I sold it to help with a down payment on a house.

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paul 2009/09/29 at 3:39 pm

If I read that correctly your car would just occasionally catch fire? Now readers I’m not sure I could recommend that, but you made me snort out loud reading your comment.

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John 2009/09/29 at 2:04 pm

Right on! My dad said, “You want a car? Go for it. Buy your own.” My first car was a ’49 Plymouth Special Deluxe. It was born a year after I was. It had no motor when I got it. Got an engine for $25 and my brother and I installed it in 4 hours. Had more fun with that car than I would have with a much nicer one.

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papaRob 2009/09/29 at 2:08 pm

1959 Ford fairlane, two tone- paid 50 bucks in 1974. But, I had wheels, man! It caught on fire next to the gas pump. Tense, really tense, and sold it to a scrap guy for 50 bucks. Sweet!

My kids learned the value early- my son bought a old VW bus for his first car- we painted it deep purple and his mom made tie-dyed curtains- he suprised the heck outof me by re-building the engine for it in our carport. Way to go, son. I knew he had it in him.

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paul 2009/09/29 at 3:40 pm

See you’re raising resourceful kids maybe all because of your flaming Ford Fairlane, seems to be a pattern developing here.

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Jess 2009/09/29 at 2:09 pm

Incidentally, my husband learned to drive in a Nissan truck. Everyone in the neighborhood knew when he was leaving because the belts would squeal for at least a block and a half after he turned on the car.

Our kids will get beaters.

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Trent 2009/09/29 at 2:33 pm

Once I got my license in 1998 I unfortunately learned that the new car I was promised was not going to happen. So I saved up a bit of money ($300) and bought a 2-door gray 1985 Nissan Sentra. My friends called it the egg on wheels.

It had so many problems but I loved. It overheated a lot so I had to turn the heater on to prevent this and in our hot Louisiana summers this was not fun. I vividly remember me and my friends sticking our heads out the window on several occasions to get some fresh air. All of the speakers would cut out on left turns only and it leaked around the drivers side door when it rained. In my senior year in high school it eventually lost the ability to go in reverse so I had the joy of pushing it out of parking spots or parking in spaces in which I could just drive out.

It was a piece of junk but I learned how to do simple maintenance and appreciate what I have. Man I loved that car.

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paul 2009/09/29 at 3:44 pm

Nice that was the same year as my 2nd car a 1985 Mazda 626 Touring Edition with a digital dash. The dash would just randomly shut off so you got good at guessing your speed and when it was on you made sure you checked how much gas you had. Thanks for sharing your story Trent

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Amanda 2009/09/29 at 3:30 pm

I’m 30 now and pregnant with our first child, so I have definitely been thinking about car issues and such. Personally, I had (in 1996) an ’82 Dodge 400 – convertible. It was a pretty car, but metal shavings throughout the engine had us selling it to a guy with an engine, but no body within the year. My parents paid $2200 in cash for it. But I loved my little car. I will say, though, that I did not learn how to change the oil or the tires on that car – I started changing oil on my ’88 4Runner (my favorite car) where I didn’t have to worry about the car falling on top of me, and I have changed numerous tires on my 2001 Mustang (can’t see that stupid right hand side). I did, however, learn to drive without braking as my brakes started to go at the end! I bought the Mustang brand new in 2001 after college and actually got a really good deal on it – that was the first car I ever owned and the first one that I actually bought in the same model year. My husband had pieces of crap, but he can jimmy cars to work when they break down now, so it was well worth it! I just wish they were currently making cars as tough as the cars that were old when I was younger! My kids are going to be stuck driving plastic cars with no metal inside at the rate we’re going.

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paul 2009/09/29 at 3:45 pm

I hear you Amanda, driving without brakes is a skill our kids may never learn (wipes a single tear from his cheek). Hehe thanks for sharing.

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RuthieR 2009/09/29 at 3:43 pm

My first car in 2002 was a 1989 Dodge Omni. It was charcoal gray, rust and pealing paint white. It did not go over 45 MPH and could not be driven for more than 20 minutes without overheating. The radio only worked on one station which happened to be the Gospel station. The heat did not work so on particularly cold days I had to go out and ‘warm it up’ so that by the time I was ready to go to school the residual heat from the engine would be enough to keep me from getting frostbite.

I currently drive a 1990 Ford Tempo in Ford Tan. This car was given to me by my parents a few years back and though I could very much afford a newer car now I still drive my Tempo because it is paid in full, it gets great gas milage, and my insurance on that car is incredibly cheap. I plan on running the Temporator into the ground.

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paul 2009/09/29 at 4:04 pm

The Temporator…nice. Did you’re Omni have an exhaust leak like so many of the others?

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Ruthie R. 2010/01/07 at 2:58 pm

Haha, yes the Tempo did have an exhaust leak, an oil leak, and a gas leak, but the alternator is what finally took it out of commission.

On a side not the Temporator has had many problems over the past year, but they have made me, a young single woman, incredibly resourceful and knowledgeable about my car. I can now change two of the belts, the battery, any fuse, and most of the vital liquids with the help of the internet.

Aimee 2009/09/29 at 4:58 pm

My first car was a 1981 Mercury Cougar that my dad had purchased for $50 from the local junk yard. The year was 1990. It was filthy and beaten to Hell! Rust spots and Booger yellow paint on the outside and what was probably tan but now orange from all of the nicotine stains on the inside! The car had no engine- my dad got a fixer-upper one for $100 bucks. I spent the summer in the garage helping him rebuild that engine. If I wanted to drive it, I had to help make it run.

That car had some sort of handmade pull knob on the dashboard that controlled the throttle…..it was horrible. But, it got me from point A to point B (for a couple of years at least). But at any rate, after rebuilding that engine, I had to take the ASFAB test for the armed services (it was standard at my high school). And I got called by three out of the 4 branches because I aced the mechanics part of the exam. Apparently, I was the only girl in my school pass it. I kindly declined :)

My friend Vicki and I would drive the Booger around, she doing the pedals while I manned the steering wheel. That was not one of my smarter moments, but we had good times cruising in my beater.

I think back about it, and I look at all of my friends whose parents bought them brand new cars- they are all spoiled, have no concept of the dollar, and are not very happy people financially. Me? I’m financially dependent, I KNOW the value of that dollar, I am thankful for the gifts I receive, and I do not feel entitled to anything that I didn’t earn.

Where I live now, kids think that they are entitled to everything when they have earned nothing. I see kids getting BMW’s for their 16th birthday and boob jobs for graduating high school. What on Earth happened to parenting? I LOVE your article! That’s what parents these days are missing- the concept that they are supposed to teach their kids, not coddle them! Thank you for this suberb article!
~Aimee

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paul 2009/09/29 at 5:03 pm

Thank you Aimee. I especially like that your throttle was a pull knob now that’s a good one. Hope you come around often.

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Ernest N San Diego 2009/09/29 at 5:08 pm

My first was a 1977 Ford Granada in 1986. The televison commercials used to say “you cant tell a Granada from a Mercedes”. Trust me, you could. Easily. The Granada, or the “Nada” as I called it, was the one sitting on the side of the road with the “back in five minutes, do not tow” note on the window.
Fast forward to today, where even older cars are hardly beaters. I just gave my son my 14 yr old car, worth about $2500, a 1995 Infinit J30. He takes care of it, but even I did very few things under the hood due to the complexity. Much nicer than a Gremlin, or a Granada, or a “Grandad”, another name I had for my old Ford. I was trying to teach him a lesson on frugality, driving my car for ten years, and taking care of it. But even this 95 J30 has with 130K miles has power steering, windows, locks, seats, CD, AM/FM, cassette, leather, AC, and tilt wheel. Wheres the hardship? Wheres the character building?

Right here! The sunroof sticks, the cruise control is out, and it needs a paint job!
I bought a 2006 Lexus Gs300 that I will drive to my grave, or least 15 years. Just in time for my 5 yr daughter to ask “can I have your old car”?

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DEAN 2009/09/29 at 6:18 pm

my first in 1989 was a1978 Cadillac Fleetwood. i paid $500 i learned to do a tune up. took all 8 plugs and wires out at the same time. took me 4 hours of trial and error to put them back in the correct position. I learned how to change my brakes and learned to always bleed your brakes thoroughly. i had to pump the brakes a few times to get the pressure up. since then i have owned a gremlin, a chevy montego, and a 1980 maverick
.-= DEAN´s last blog ..By: Ernest N San Diego =-.

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joe 2009/09/29 at 6:39 pm

my first car was a rusted out 1977 maverick rust holes on top of the front fenders pink shag carpet black front seat and red in back the car was in my possion for a matter of 30 days it met its fate on a wet rainy road that curved like a snake just picture it wet curvey road bald tires 16yr old loud music lost it killed someones lawn and a new tree then of all thing a fire hydrent ya no new drivers should have new cars let them learn to earn the good thing while dealing with the bad.

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Briana 2009/09/29 at 6:56 pm

I completely agree. My whole life, my parents never indulged my every whim. They always explained that we just didn’t have enough money to buy everything I wanted. I built my own house for my barbies, or I took a shoebox and some styrofoam and made them a runway instead of getting the special Barbie brand runway that was being sold in stores. I loved Hot Wheels but Mom couldn’t afford to buy the huge sets, and my cousin already had them, so I also learned how to share because if I wanted the really cool Hot Wheels track, I had to use his. So when I was sixteen, my parents told me that I would have to save up my own money to buy a car and that they would only pay half the price of my driver’s ed. I never complained about it. All my friends thought it was lame that my parents wouldn’t buy me a car, but I just told them “I don’t expect them to. If I’m old enough to drive, then I’m old enough to get a part time job and buy the car myself.”

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mark cousins 2009/09/29 at 8:56 pm

My first car was a 1973 dodge Challenger. It had the 340, 4 barrell carb, and 727 automatic transmission. It was by far the most frustrating car I have ever owned.The electrical system was a complete nightmare! I must have rewired from the firewall out 3 times, and it would still burn the complete wiring harness up.But when it wasn’t busy smoking the wiring, I was busy smoking the tires off of it.But it taught me alot about mechanics, and, basic wiring so it wasn’t a total waste.Actually, I really miss that car!!!

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Seriously??? 2009/09/29 at 10:37 pm

This is warped. There is no way that I would ever, I mean ever, put my teenagers in a “beater”. Not only would I not allow them drive a beater, I wouldn’t put them in a recent model that didn’t meet the government, or insurance institute’s 5 star crash ratings. It doesn’t make sense, and is actually putting teaching your child a lesson over their maximum safety. I have spent their lifetime, and mine keeping them safe. They are worth more to me than any dollar amount that I would spend on a car. I can also guarantee, that if they were in an accident and catastrophically injured, or killed because of no side, or curtain airbags, then that “lesson” they were suppose to learn, won’t mean sh*t. There are many other ways to build character in your child, that doesn’t lay their life on the line. Back in the 1980s, and generations before, this technique would be acceptable. None of the cars were that safe, so it didn’t matter. Cars were status rated only. This is 2009, and the automobile is so much more. To not use the technological advances that could save your child’s life is just irresponsible. Yeah, I’m definitely not picking up what this article is laying down.

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Tom 2009/10/14 at 3:58 pm

I think you’re missing the point here – you most definitely can find cars with 5 star safety ratings that are also most definitely beaters. I’m picturing old Volvos here – or the 1993 Subaru (yes, backwards that is U R A BUS) Legacy sedan my parents still own. It has ABS, Airbags, etc. Not to mention AWD and is most assuredly considered a beater by anyone with vision better than 20/200. By the way, I am currently driving my son’s first car (in about 10 years) – my lovingly cared for 1997 Jeep Wrangler Sport…airbag and a full roll cage…and yes, it has great safety ratings – but it will definitely qualify as a beater as it will have a bazillion miles on it. There is absolutely no danger of him drag racing anything other than bicycles in it, plus it has four wheel drive and is capable of going anywhere. Unfortunately it does not meet the criteria of the kid not wanting to be caught dead in it, but that may change in the next 10 years.

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CalicoWhispers 2009/09/29 at 10:39 pm

LOL My first care was a 83(?) Grand Marquis.. It was a boat and a tank.. I loved it. My daughter will be old enough to drive in a year a half and she will be getting… drumroll…. A 89 Subaru station wagon that my husband’s employee fondly nicknamed the blackdog, it runs like a champ and we bought it for 500 bucks about 4 years ago.

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Dale 2009/09/29 at 10:47 pm

First car was a 1974 datsun 1200 hatchback….$400 and full of rust, but still i was so excited i made a hurst shifter in metal class and put that in, it looked ridiculous….learned a lot about mechanics esp when my head gasket blew in the middle of nowhere and drove it as far as it would go……i bought and sold beaters all thru my teens and 20′s lots of good memories from all of them…..71 challenger that had plywood on the floor in the backseat cause the rust hole was most of the floorboard….had a 318 engine and i put big mags on it, air shocks on the back too i thought it was so cool….lol well the chicks loved it and unless you were me or a friend of mine, you didnt really know how bad it was lol…i still have pics of it and it looks great

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patsy 2009/09/29 at 11:56 pm

I totally agree with Seriously? I am not putting my childs life on the line to build their character. My childs safety is so much more important then their learning how to work on a beater or drive a potentially unsafe car. My daughters know how to change a tire, fill the fluids, change the oil and generally maintain a car. I have helped them both with financing a car. They both maintain their respective vehicles, pay for insurance and repairs on their own, and have been accident and ticket -free for over five years (the total number of years that they have both driven.) They both hold jobs, go to college and help me at the house, inside and out. I guess their character building got started when I became a single mother. Hard work and perseverance certainly do pay the bills. I love cars and working on them, not so easy as in years past. My favorite was a “70 Nova that I beat the heck out of. Anyway loved your article. Cars sure are different these days.

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guitarist 2009/09/30 at 7:10 am

The first car I got when I was 16 was a 1985 Sport coupe Camaro, it had a V6 was a really really beaten down car in 2000 when I bought it for 1500. I had spent the pervious 6 months driving my parents old but built like a tank back up car which was a 1991 Dodge Dynasty. They were NOT going to buy me a newish vehicle, they said this was what I was gonna get and I’d better be happy with it. My sister who was 3 years older didn’t have to go thru that route.
Driving that car probally was what pushed me into wanting to get the job I got right when I turned 16 cause I knew I really didn’t want to be seen driving the crop duster as I called it because it smoked so much. It broke down a few times but luckily i’ve always been good a fixing stuff so I learned as I drove it. My sister never drove that car, she flat out refused it and forced my parents to buy her a car. I’m glad they bought her a massive POS Pontiac Sunbird which eventually died from her not taking care of it. She never learned how to take care of something until she was forced to do so when she bought her first car… that she still didn’t take that much care of but at least it lasted her over 3 years but just barely. How her Hyundai is still living is actually incredible IMO, suprized how well built it is to withstand a person who doesn’t care for their vehicle but commute well over 50 miles per day.

When I got the 85′ Camaro it had a black exterior and maroon red interior, I really thought I was something. All of my friends at school like it and thought it was cool. I had worked my butt off doing a pretty terrrible job where I got very very dirty from all the chemicals and dust in the air “thankfully I had to sense to wear a real resperiator with filters that saved my lungs” Still all those 40 hour work weeks while in school made me the hard worker that I am now. I drove the car for 6 months before the engine gave up the ghost but I decided I would rebuild the whole car and I did.
It took a while but I learned alot about cars in the process. I completely tore the car down to its bare frame and basically restored it to new like condition. I painted the car myself, rebuilt the engine, redid the entier suspension, the only thing I didn’t do was rebuild the transmission. I got that car back together right before I graduated from high school. All of my friends were amazed when they saw my old car rebirthed into something that was basically new. That moment probally was the happiest I ever had while growing up because I knew then that I could accomplish anything that I set my mind to. My parents did well :) they rasied me right and to be selfreliant.

The Camaro served me well for almost 7 years before I decided it was time to get a vehicle that isn’t as old as I am, heck it was a great car for being so old though. I was managing to get 27mpg outta it and thats pretty great for its age. I still have it sitting in storage at my parents house in a large shop that I built so I could rebuild it so long ago.

I bought a brand new 2007 Mustang GT its hugger orange with a all black interior and I had black racing stripes put on it. Its almost 3 years old now and people still can’t believe its that old because it still smells brand new and looks like it just rolled off from the factory. Its not a bad car at all and all the people who say OMG it must not get good gas mileage are suprized when I show them that I get 20.5 mpg outta it the math and the dashboard display aren’t lying.

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OILDALE DAN 2009/09/30 at 2:02 pm

My first car was a 1981 Toyota Supra, bought for $250 at a government auction…had 2 bullet holes in door, put $500 stereo into car—two amps, 2 bass tubes, and 2 12” subs bought at a swamp. Found previous owners stash when I removed grill of speakers…You could see the ground through the floor board and through the shifter. Top leaked when it rained—especially in the winter of 97-98 “EL NINO” storm in Santa Barbara. Bought at 166,000 miles, immediately changed timing belt, put new clutch in at 205,000, changed timing belt again at 275,000…nearly 200,000 miles on a car bought for $250 and the only money ever put into it was 2 timing belts and 1 clutch, all original engine and transmission. Sold for $700 in 2000 to buy a Playstation 2 and a couple games.

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Sam West 2009/09/30 at 9:09 pm

I got my Grandpa’s 1970 Chevy Cheyenne pickup. Sometimes even had to drive to school with the stock rack and hog crap still in the back. My child will be blessed with the same:)

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tk5656 2009/10/06 at 6:53 pm

This is definitely a guy-centric post. My 15 yr old daughter will get a car soon, but it wont be some clunker, probably a used Camry, Accord or Jetta … or something like that. If she was a boy I might go lower, but putting her in a crappy car seems like an imprudent invitation to rape and murder by the side of the road.

My first car was a car that we called (by the time I got it) the Dodge Dent. It was a 67 Dodge Dart that my older sister bought new in 1967 for $1800. (Great if one of you brilliant financial types could tell me the inflation adjusted equivalent now) The car had a legendary Slant 6, 3speed transmission. 67 was the last year cars had no pollution gear and it had no AC (a hardship in Houston) and to reduce engine efficiency. The car hummed.

In 1972 my sister went to Germany with her husband, and I had the $500 she wanted for it, but my mother refused to let me buy it because my sister would be back in no time (she stayed 4 years!). Instead, she let my brother drive it for free (while his VW sat behind his apartment house, eventually having the motor stolen) and he wrecked it several times, and so it became the “Dent” and I inherited it a few years later. The drivers’ door was badly dented and could not be opened from the outside, so I had to leave the windows open when parked so I could reach in to open, and it made an outrageously loud creak when I opened it, and had to get in form the other side if I had to close the windows. Not a date-mobile, but college girls are tolerant, so I got my share.

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paul 2009/10/06 at 10:06 pm

As I’ve said, I wouldn’t be buying them an unreliable car, maybe more of an eyesore. And BTW Purchasing that Dodge Dart would be equivalent to spending $11,408.98 in 2009 dollars.

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Joe 2009/10/06 at 7:33 pm

Mine first was a light blue 1988 Dodge Caravan with a stylish fake wood stripe down the side. It had a massive 2.5L I4 that, after I replaced the blown head gasket must have produced under 100hp. With just me in it it got about 20mpg and would do 0-60 in about 30 seconds, with 6-8 others piled in it got about 15mpg and 0-60 became a challenge instead of a measurement.(it did have a cool rear door button so I could let people out the back ;-)

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nuc_chick 2009/10/10 at 8:46 am

when I was 16 in 1999 my parents bought me a 1991 jeep cherokee for $500, that was white spotted with rust and we lovingly named flat top. It was a manual transmission, which I didn’t know how to drive, the radio only worked on am stations, the windows rolled down with vice grips, and the drivers side door had a huge dent in it, and the windshield was cracked. It was a beauty. I drove flat top for almost 2 years, and during my last months of ownership to start the beast, I would have to pop the hood and use a pole to hit some gasket while one of my friends started it! If I hit a hole to hard it would die, and I would have to call my dad to come and fix it for me! I definetally learned some lessons with that jeep and I loved every minute of it! I now drive a 2007 mazda that I bought brand new, but when I do have kids they will experience much of what I had to go through.

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Dan 2009/10/10 at 9:45 am

To Parents:
Anything to discourage teenagers from driving would be much appreciated. And making them drive the “unattractive” vehicle is the best solution I’ve ever heard of. Pure Genius! How can we stop them from texting. Can’t tell you how many times a teenager has swerved at me while I was running because they were looking DOWN at their nifty phone.

As if there isn’t enough anxiety with seeing your child take off in that new vehicle you just purchased for them:
Van = party in the back especially if it has tinted glass.
Sedan = plenty of passenger space for loud friends to do some joy riding.
Truck = off roading – oh yeah!
Sports Car = just prove it!

Or
Reliable Beater with no seats except for the driver (ah, no van!) – I’ll drive it when none of my friends dare see me. Or I’ll just take the bus.

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Tom 2009/10/14 at 3:46 pm

My first car back in 1989 was a 1978 Mustang II coupe. White over red with red vinyl interior. 2.3L 4 cylinder engine with a wicked knock at idle and the world’s worst 4-speed manual transmission. I remember being so excited when my parents announced they had found me a car – and it was a Mustang! Music to every teenage boy’s ears, until I found out it was a glorified Pinto. $1,500 and I couldn’t drive it until I had paid my parents back for it. I watched it sit in the driveway for six months until I had the $. But it was transportation and freedom! The heater core leaked like a sieve and it went through rear main seals and leaked oil, but it was mine. I dumped way too much money into stereo equipment and built speaker boxes that sat on the back seat. As much as I tried, I could not kill it. It did catch on fire parked over the bulk tanks at a Super America station once, and there was a lot of adrenaline flowing as I sprinted inside for a fire extinguisher. It wasn’t until I got my next car, a well-used 1983 Toyota Supra, that I could appreciate doing something every weekend other than working on my car. Good times…

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Ed 2009/10/17 at 1:52 pm

Fantastic post! Couldn’t agree more. My first car was a 1963 Dodge Coronet 440, oddly named cause it had the venerable 225ci slant six. It had the push button trans on the dash and must’ve weighed 6,000 lbs. Winter was the favorite time for POS cars. There was always a certain “formula” that had to be followed to get these things started. Pump the gas three times, crank her over, pump three more times, crank again. Then hold it to the floor and crank it ’till she started or the battery died. And then there was the old reliable spray cans of ether ( “starting fluid”). One thing about ether, if there was even the hint of a spark; something would happen!

And I fully agree. Each of my kids were raised on $700.00 pieces of automotive garbage and learned how to make due. Definitely builds character. And who doesn’t have a ton of great war storys from their teen years that involve various hairy automotive exploits. Would you want to rib your kids of those special moments?

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Charles 2009/10/19 at 12:52 pm

My first car (in 1989) was a 1973 Datsun 240Z. I paid all of $900 for it, money that I had saved working as a bagboy and lifeguard. It was two tone primer gray and orange and the brakes didn’t work. But, man I loved that car. It had a wooden steering wheel and a giant tachometer on the dash. I can still remember the day we got it and all of my friends came over to see it. Sure, it was a beater, but it was cool as hell and it got some respect at the school parking lot. I owe all of my mechanical skills to that car, because it sure needed a lot of work. Unfortunately, about 1 year later, it was destroyed in a tornado and I had to save up for another 240Z. I miss those cars, and every time I see one, it brings back good memories, like the time it died at homecoming and my date helped me push start it. Good times. Today, I drive paid-for, older Toyotas, but I have a Ford Galaxie that I tinker with on the weekends.

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paul 2009/10/19 at 1:29 pm

That is fantastic, coupled with being destroyed in a tornado oh man. Thanks for commenting Charles!

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john 2009/10/28 at 3:12 am

My first car was a 1971 Volkswagen Beatle. Heat didn’t work so you needed to use a blanket in the winter, drivers door wouldn’t open so you had to crawl in and out from the passenger side. Bumpers held on by bondo and chicken wire. Rusted floorboards meant you could see the pavement from inside the car. Real thing of beauty but it was mine.
.-= john´s last blog ..Mini Technology Review ““ Microsoft Windows 7 =-.

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Eli 2009/10/29 at 6:35 am

I’ll take it a step further, my kids can walk or bike to school/mall/dining/movies in less than 10 minutes, and bus to MLB/NBA/NCAA venues or downtown in less than 20. Good luck getting your own car kids, good luck.

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Catwings 2009/10/29 at 11:00 am

1972 Satellite Sebring Plus, mustard yellow. This was in 1980 and the car had some serious mileage on it. But boy would it fly…registered 150 and would cruise at 120 easy. It was also built like a brick house and hugged the road like a race car. “Sally” taught me that new and expensive weren’t the most important things in a car. The back seat was nice and roomy too!

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Forest 2009/10/29 at 2:16 pm

In 1997, I got my first car and it was a 1985 Toyota Controlla hand-me-down from my dad. Well over 100k miles and a leaky sun roof and some rust, but it was all good. That puppy lasted until 2002 and then I upgraded. My kids are getting a hand-me-down too.

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Matt 2009/10/29 at 2:20 pm

My first car was a 1969 Chevy pick-up truck. It was a farm truck in a former life, and I had to replace just about everything just to get it running. 3-on-the-tree transmission powered by a 250 straight-six engine. No power steering, power brakes, power windows, A/C, or anything else for that matter.

When I owned it, I told myself that it would make me appreciate any future car that much more. That’s not the case. Having had several newer cars since then, I miss having something with all of its idiosyncracies of the old truck. I’m currently in the market for another 1969 Chevy pick-up truck.

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Lori 2010/01/04 at 12:24 pm

Please learn the difference between plural and possessive.

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paul 2010/01/04 at 1:59 pm

Yes I may have some issues at time with that very concept, perhaps a little more constructive and polite criticism would have been appropriate.

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Aimee 2010/01/04 at 1:40 pm

Lori is rude!

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Sm 2010/01/04 at 1:51 pm

Amen Aimee!

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Kevin@OutOfYourRut 2010/01/04 at 2:06 pm

At least Lori managed to resurrect a cool thread! Paul, you should re-release this post sometime this year, it’s a compelling one.
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..7 Ways to Improve the Success of Your New Business =-.

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Lori 2010/01/04 at 2:42 pm

Sorry if I offended. Here’s a great (and useful) resource: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apostrophe.
“It’s” and “its” are usually the trickiest. I hope this helps and I enjoyed the article.

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paul 2010/01/04 at 3:25 pm

Thanks Lori, apology accepted. Great resource by the way. I’ll aim to proofread a little better for 2010. For the positive I already found several spelling errors in that post as well, I wrote it in a hurry obviously.

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Eric 2010/01/21 at 4:31 pm

New to this blog. Fantastic post. I’ll bookmark it for when my girls get their driver’s licenses.

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Paul 2010/02/06 at 6:33 pm

First car was a 1977 Chrysler Cordoba.400 V8.$2995 back in 1981 with 69K miles.Went to college and 4 years of work with that car.Bad gas mileage (around 12) and slow accelleration (2.45:1 rear gearing),but it never stranded me.I loved the soft velour seating and deep pile carpet,and the color (jasmine yellow).Eventually the car had serious rust in the front frame members and rear spring hanger,and the tranny was about shot,so off it went to the salvage yard.Only to have me see it rolling down the road a week later!
I have had a few GM vehicles since,but they were all crappy (Camaro,S10,Regal).
Went to a Japanese Dodge Colt and then a Mitsu Mirage and couldnt be happier.
Recently bought an 88 Aries wagon (for $200!),it was in good shape but needed a restoration (engine,and mechanicals),and its going to be a regular driver.My father owned 2 Aries 2 doors back in the day,and I always liked their simplicity and history (they saved Chrysler afterall!).He passed on 5 years ago,but I bet he would be glad to see a K-car back in the driveway again.Long live the K.

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paul 2010/02/06 at 10:04 pm

I’d buy you a K-car. A nice Reliant automobile. I had a buddy who had a Cordoba, and that’s one ugly ride. Fantastic story Paul.

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Gary 2010/02/27 at 9:28 am

Paul – came across the original post today and had to laugh.
This is how we did it with two teen boys. Still have the car and we love it. I even park mine and drive IT when it’s available. Not sure what that says about me but….
http://mx-3.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=65033&start=10

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paul 2010/02/27 at 5:41 pm

Very sweet ride thanks for sharing. You cracked me up even more because your first name coupled with your email address is Gary Ganue which reminded me of the great space coaster a terrible show that was on when I was a kid. “No news, is good news, with Gary Gnu.”

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Jean 2010/11/11 at 11:30 am

My oldest son drove a 1985 Volkswagen Sirocco for almost a year. Everything you list above (except perhaps the gas mileage) applied. LOL! Then he bought a low-mileage 2002 Pontiac Sunfire that had been totaled and repaired. It is amazingly reliable, but no power anything except brakes and steering (no locks, no windows, no remote, no power mirrors, etc.).

Not sure he got all the life lessons internalized…but maybe years later they’ll sink in.

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Taylor 2010/11/28 at 5:15 am

my dad just got me my first car and i love it, its a 1979 ss el camino with a 350 long block alot of people dislike them just because they look like bolth a car and a truck but i really dont see why thats is such a bad thing they still look nice and has plenty of power

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Jonny McReary 2012/05/06 at 3:22 am

Anyone that says that they dont like El Camino’s are just jealous because not only can you haul ass with that V8 but you can also have hella stuff in the back! So fuck em for hating on your badass ride!

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Jonny McReary 2012/05/06 at 3:10 am

Im still in my young age of 20. I currently own a 1988 Toyata Tercel 2-door coupe. Its my first car & i love! I got it back in October 2011 for $86. Before then i didnt know a damn thing about cars. I can literally break down & instantly know why & how to fix it. Its a little embarrassing driving it to work & around town but it beats walking everywhere! The down side about owning it is that ive put in $200+ & now im broke. It aint good lookin but its not a beauty contest. What i learned is tht it doesnt matter what it looks like as long as it gets me from point A to point B.

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Jermain 2012/05/24 at 1:13 pm

i was 17 when my father gave me a 97 honda accord SE (in 2010). i learned a lot from it and valued cars more cause of it.. Im almost 19 now and im on my 3rd beater which is a 91 honda civic. my second beater was a 91 honda accord and i still have it parked with a hauled out engine (i did it!). and my 4th car is sitting in my girls driveway (96 honda civic eg 4 door with a B20 stock engine with 36k miles, boy if you see it). I wont be buying a new car for a long time. because of my first car i learned to appreciate older cars. now im JDMing it everyday in my driveway and proud of it! :). if my beaters are still around in 16 years they be passed on to my children with new engines :)

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Tim 2012/05/25 at 3:53 am

My first was a 1979 Mercedes 240D… 4-speed manual, blue interior, silver ext… very nice ride even though it was 25+ years old when I got it at the age of 15. Drove her for 6 years, and as long as I was willing to get my hands dirty on my weekends, she never left me stranded, not even once. The A/C blew icy cold, I did learn a lot though. I changed a headgasket on the side of the road, replaced brakes, wheel bearings, rebuilt the bottom end after stupidly running her low on oil… she ran over 10k miles with a bottom end rod knock before I could take the time off work needed to rebuild her. At 465,000 miles when I sold her just a month ago… still ran like a dream… I miss that old girl my ’04 Hyundai Santa Fe has nothing on that car!!

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Rio 2012/07/12 at 6:52 pm

I don’t know what kind of a parent would give their son a beat up car willingly in order to teach them “life lessons”. My friend’s parents had the same bullshit ideology of buying a beat up clunker and the next thing you know the brakes failed while i was riding in the car with him,hitting a fucking tree.Since the car didn’t have airbags we both had fractured ribs from the impact,my friend fractured his left arm and i had broken nose.We didn’t learn said “lessons”,dumbass.

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Tom 2012/07/12 at 11:24 pm

No doubt you’re the type who will buy their kid a new 3 series BMW. I can assure you they will still find a way to wrap it around a tree. You should also realize there’s a difference between driving a beater and driving something unsafe. Try to get over yourself.

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Miguel 2012/07/16 at 8:28 am

Glory have t’s… like that?

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paul 2010/01/07 at 4:22 pm

Right on Ruthie! Don’t ever underestimate the resourceful.

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