It is written in The Annals of Teen that one’s first car must be a sexy beast*. My first car fit this definition to a tee. It was a 1981 dark brown diesel Mercedes that already had 300,000 miles on it when my dad picked it up for me for a grand. It weighed no less than nine tons and it rattled like a junkie when it idled. Its paint was chipping and all but one of its speakers were blown out. But it had a sunroof.
*Book of AC Slater, Chapter twelve, verse twenty-three. It’s there.
We named it The Turd.
News that The Turd was purchased for me came one spring evening. I saw it parked in my parents’ driveway and turned my nose up because it looked like the kind of car a cigar-chomping businessman would replace with a tiny red number whilst in the throes of a midlife crisis. But it was wheels, and once I sat down in its tan cracked leather interior, felt the violent rattle of the steering column in my hand, and took in the aroma of diesel fuel and stale tobacco, I knew I could make it mine. I slapped a Smashing Pumpkins sticker on that thing before the day was out and took it on a spin to my Geo Metro-driving boyfriend’s house.
My friendship with The Turd grew fast that spring, even if the car couldn’t go over 70 MPH. It was my weird friend that announced my arrival a mile before I reached my destination with its puttering rattle. I felt a touch of pride whenever I pulled in to my school and the freshmen looked up from their gel pins to see my giant brown boat settle in among the standard Explorers and Civics in the junior parking lot. I whispered sweet nothings to it as I filled it up with diesel at the one gas station in our town that sold it. Occasionally, when we were livin’ wild, Turdington and I would go to a local head shop and buy semi-obscene bumper stickers for it. This is before Pimp My Ride, before we could rely on Xhibit to put a Jacuzzi in our backseats.
My first summer with that car promised to be an amazing one. It would be the first time when I could be free from the shackles of my parent’s cars and my boyfriend’s erasermobile. Whenever my friends wanted to go anywhere within a 30-mile radius, I volunteered to be the one to drive because I loved the way I felt behind the wheel and the power that mobility gave me. For this reason, I hung out with a lot of rising sophomores that summer who knew no better than to be jealous of my big brown car.
It was during one of these early summer days that I was driving two younger friends across town to a coffee shop where we likely wouldn’t actually buy anything, but laze around all day and talk about bands as teenager are want to do. I was drunk from the power I gleaned from these fifteen-year-olds who trusted me to guide them through the elements of coolness that only a seventeen-year-old could impart. As I zoomed down the major boulevard of our city, I pointed out a music store that I had on good authority sold instruments to B.B. King’s band. I liked the idea of my proteges thinking that I had an in with the Memphis blues culture, but in actuality I had no idea if B.B. King even played with a band at all, as I was busier taping Third Eye Blind off the radio.
It was at the moment that I gestured to the store that the three of us felt a violent jarring crash that I couldn’t blame on The Turd’s nervous tendencies. I had crashed into the SUV directly in front of me so hard that the force of the collision had propelled my crashee into the car in front of it. I was mortified and scared, not because I was afraid that anyone was injured – what’s bodily frailty to a teen who believes she will live forever? – but because my sweet innocent Turd had been ruined and I was about to look like an idiot in front of kids who hadn’t even been exposed to a world beyond Algebra I.
As all my human victims lumbered out of their compromised vehicles, I realized I was going to have to call my parents and tell them about my error. After the police were summoned to properly assess my inability to drive, I called my parents on the cell phone of Car #1, who was a really nice lady who actually told me she could get me a job at Kroger if I wanted it. I know. I was relieved that my mom picked up the phone because she was better at dealing with her children’s major gaffes than my dad was. She came to fetch my friends and me and shuttled us back to the suburbs in silence.
My friend The Turd was left to spend the night along the roadside, and my dad arose earlier than his usual 5AM to have it towed and to ground me from my precious car that wasn’t even running for the remainder of the summer. I’m sure this pained him as much as it pained me because he wasn’t a fan of the idea of me relying on my boyfriend to cart me around for the rest of the summer in the sticky Memphis heat.
But what’s a first car if you don’t crash it? All the extra thousand dollars laying around in the world only exist so that teenagers can spend them on cars doomed to be loved with the same fervency as they are destroyed.
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I love how you describe every single car in this post. It wouldn’t get you a job at any dealerships, but funny no less. Crappy first cars are such a rite of passage for teens…I almost feel sorry for kids who get brand new cars.
I do too! The one exception is my best friend. She got a new car when she was around the same age and paid it off all by herself, and she’s still driving it.
That is pretty impressive!
I was unaware Slater had written a book. I must have this.
Oh yeah, it’s a good read. It also tells you how to shop for wifebeaters.
I’ve been looking for some good wifebeaters, coincidentally.
Ahahahaha! Turdington, how I loved thee! So much awesomeness occurred in thee! I have no memory of this crash, I guess because I wasn’t there, but you must recall that I crashed my mom’s car three days after getting my license. I am so skilled. I think I took that picture of you with the sun shining down on you, and I LOVE it! Also, remember those cup holders your dad and Trevor made for your car? They were so rad. Thanks for driving me around anywhere and everywhere, because Daft Punk just sounded better against the backdrop of the Turd’s gentle chirpings:)
I didn’t know that you did that! Our poor parents’ cars. Also, I should give you full credit for taking that photo! There were some real gems from that one particular shoot, but that one was my favorite. It always looks like a Crest ad.
Oh wait! I seem to recall an accident where someone drove a car into your boyfriend-at-the-time’s parents’ mailbox. Is that the one you’re talking about?
Oh the feels. My first car was a 1996 Toyoto Tercel I lovingly “crashed” while backing out of the driveway with the door open, hitting a post holding up the awning beside the garage, bending the drivers side door back all the way. Later on, the door only stayed shut thanks to a big metal clamp, and because of the clamp, the door could not be reopened…ever. I spent my sexy, teen years climbing over the passenger seat, the center console, and sliding into the drivers seat where I couldn’t roll down the window either. Ah, youth.
BTW, +1 for the gel pen reference. Ask me how badly I want a shit ton of those right now. Go on…ask me.
Tell me about your need for gel pens! I’ve got some around her somewhere that you’re welcome to. Since they’re at least ten years old, though, I’m pretty sure they’re actually just translucent powder pens now.
As a gal who has never owned a car, I’m slightly envious of your cool car crashing story…!
Cars are so overrated. Consider yourself lucky!
Funny – seems like first cars are like first loves, they all seem to crash! My first was a 1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme, which we call The Boat – it had V-8 and could go. It also saved my life when I crashed it, it was totaled but thanks to all the heavy steel I somehow survived! Loved that car!
That’s why I LOVE those old cars! They are near impossible to flip because they are such tanks!
Emily, I didn’t have my first car until I was 28! I totally missed out on this one. I had a bike in college. Can you believe that one? So, my first car was actually brand new and I still have it, but it doesn’t run now. It sits in my garage. I need to get rid of it!! My brother, however, smashed quite a few cars.
Mother Earth thanks you for holding off for so long on getting a car! My husband and I are now paying our penance for driving gas chuggers for years. We now have a Prius (which we share), and while it’s a bit more expensive, at least we aren’t contributing as much to pollution.
Wow, our first car (which predates me) was turd-like too! In fact, a vagrant once broke into it and laid a turd in the front seat.
You wouldn’t happen to live in Sunnyvale Trailer Park, would you? ;D
Never had a car in h.s. and so envious of this uber kool first car! Brilliant story! “I was mortified and scared, not because I was afraid that anyone was injured – what’s bodily frailty to a teen who believes she will live forever? – but because my sweet innocent Turd had been ruined and I was about to look like an idiot in front of kids who hadn’t even been exposed to a world beyond Algebra I.” Brilliant.
Thanks! That car was such a beast. It made it all the way to 350,000 miles before we had to take it out to pasture. RIP The Turd.
An amazing feat, by any standard!
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Ahhhh my first car. It was an 1989 honda accord with brown interior and no cup-holder. That was rough. The girl ran me three solid years, even after graduation. But it’s eventual fate was bad. It got STOLEN. I know, who would want an 89 honda in the year 2004 but SOMEONE did. It sucked. And my next year had to be shitty as well cause I had no money from the first one! Damn joy-riding thieves!
My first car. A beautiful 1980 Ford Mustang (not the sweet body style, the ugly boxy style). Her name was Little Penny because of her paint job (a combo of brown and orange) and my love for Anfernee ‘Penny’ Hardaway. My mom covered the seats in a sweet burnt orange fabric that complemented the fake wood paneling inside. Add the gold Pimp Daddy sticker on the window, a really loud stereo (note I didn’t say good quality, just loud) and you have a 16yo’s dream. But then one night, I fell asleep driving home from my boyfriend’s house and totaled my dear friend. I was genuinely sad to lose her! We pulled many shenanigans together.
I felt like I could really smell the interior, and I coughed.
Ah – my first car was 11 years old when I got it – a 1990 Mazda 626. It last another 3 yrs before the repair shop finally refused to fix it. THAT was a sad day. As for teen driving – ah yes! My last accident (knock on wood) was at 19. I hit a cop. I figured I’d never top that, so I’ve been clean ever since :)
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