The First Car
Greetings fellow car enthusiasts. I’m very excited for this opportunity to work with Car Show Safari! My name is Chris, and I’m from Waltham Massachusetts. I currently work in the auto industry in car sales. I may be stating the obvious, but I am a die-hard car enthusiast – I love all types of cars; exotics, tuners, muscle cars, imports, SUVs, trucks, and I’ve been religiously attending car shows for over a decade. I started out with local cruise-ins my dad would take me to. Now I travel and plan road trips specifically for car shows. There are still many car shows I have yet to see and even more I’m eager to discover. This is why I’m excited about Car Show Safari. They’re dedicated to helping us enthusiasts find and learn about car shows.
There are lots of reasons we enthusiasts are enamored by automobiles; the way they look, the luxury, the performance, the sound, the mechanics, the history. This physical presence is most obvious. It’s not just the tangibles, however, that draw us in like moths to light. The emotional experience is what ties it all together. The emotions that come from driving cars and talking about them, and the experiences we have with them. So here’s something a bit off the beaten path. Let’s have a look back at the car that got us rolling; a car with a lot of emotions and experiences. The First Car we drove.
This is about my first car, and your first car. Everyone’s first car is special. Everyone remembers their first car. When someone asks, “what was your first car?” you’ll be able to answer right away, year, make, and model. It doesn’t matter how long you had your first car. It doesn’t matter if you know anything about cars. Be it six months or five years, you still remember it. It’s one of those life experiences that will remain prominent in your memory. Your first car marks a significant shift in your life. It marks the acquiring of a new freedom.
Most of us got our first car around the same time we got our driver’s license. Some had parents buy a cheap used car for us. Some of us bought a junker with a few bucks we saved from our high school job. A lot of us, like myself, got our first car as a hand-me-down from a family member. It might have belonged to a parent, passing it down after they got a new car, or inherited from a grandparent who passed away, or from an aunt or uncle who just had no use for an older car. However your first car was procured, chances are it started its journey with some pre-developed character.
For the vast majority of us, our first car was a classic love/hate relationship. The love came from having our new freedom. You were ecstatic about your new freedom. You no longer had to rely on older siblings, or friends, or friends’ older siblings for rides. Going out was now a simple matter of weaseling a “yes” out of your parents. Getting this first vehicle was the beginning of the major transition into adulthood. This was the vehicle that got us to and from high school and possibly college. With this vehicular freedom spawned some of our fondest memories, which we recall with a smile and a great story. Even your family and closest friends will remember your first car.
We also tended to resent our vehicles from time to time. This was mostly due to them being, for lack of a better term, pieces of crap. Some had frequent, minor inconveniences. Others would break down every few weeks. There were cars that had to be stopped and shut off at ten minute intervals because they kept overheating. Maybe your car only started when the steering wheel was in a certain position. These were cars that required special care to run properly. The mechanical ailments our vehicles suffered contributed to the character that our first cars developed over the years. Your first car just wouldn’t have been as special if it ran properly and didn’t need a shop visit every other month.
It was a 1998 Mitsubishi Montero Sport. This was not a spectacular vehicle. Under the (bent) hood lay a 3.0 liter V6 cranking out roughly 173 exhausted ponies. The transmission was a 4 speed automatic with OD. It cracked sixty from zero in a blistering 10 seconds. The sticker price on this bad boy was $32,000 brand new, which was actually quite a lot for 1998. The value of this vehicle, however, had plummeted all the way down to literally zero by the time I acquired it in 2006.
This Montero belonged to my aunt and uncle who bought it used in the early 2000’s. After they drove it for a few years, my cousins had free reign with it and beat the ever loving hell out of it. Come late 2006, its condition was rough. My aunt and uncle told me to come down and, if it started, it was mine. There was no radio, no speakers, the heated seats didn’t work, the A/C worked sometimes, and the hood and brush guard were bent from my cousin hitting a tree. Some other issues, of course, arose during the six years I drove it. Electrical problems were prominent, most notably, the oxygen sensors. The four wheel drive stopped working after a few years (and then started working again shortly before I stopped driving it). The tailgate wouldn’t open about year before I got rid of it. Yet no matter how many problems befell this car, the engine and transmission never once gave me a problem.
The Montero was my commuter car during my junior and senior year of high school. It soldiered through many 6 hour trips between home and college. It even got me to my first job out of college. I went off-roading with it. I drove it (literally) through campus grounds. I did donuts in the snow with it. I gave my little brother and sister rides when my parents didn’t want to. I drove my friends around in it. I even managed to score a few dates in it. There were countless instances when I was mad at it and resented it. I got frustrated with how slow it was, or at the check engine light coming on for the ninth time. Like many others, I also made some modifications to it. Here’s what it looked like in its final stage:
I painted the stripes on with a friend and the side graphics I did myself in a short ten hour span. I used old computer speakers glued to the dash for music, and my cup holders were made out of duct tape. The racing stripes, of course, added at least 15 horsepower.
We whine and complain about our first cars. We’re constantly wishing we had a nicer vehicle. We eagerly await the day when we can get a “real” car. And when that day comes, we’re excited to finally be rid of it. I was no different. It has now been three years since I got out of the Montero and I can say with 100% honesty that I truly miss it. The problems and experiences gave these cars character, and that is ultimately why we look back at them so fondly. Not to sound cliché, but it’s only when they’re gone that we begin to appreciate exactly what these vehicles did for us.
Images by Chris Coffin