Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ode to my first car

In the course of the thirteen years I've been a licensed driver, I have only had three cars, believe it or not. My current one I've had for about six years now, and it's getting up there in the mileage so in the next two years, T and I will have to get a new one for me before this one dies out. I'm pretty tough on my cars, I will grant you that. That, and I'm not one of those people who really cares about what kind of car I'm driving. So long as it gets me from Point A to Point B, I'm a happy girl. Also, being able to see over the steering wheel is a big one, too. Now don't laugh, but I actually had to sit on a pillow during drivers ed to see well enough to drive. Sad, I know, but true. Anyway, my father is normally the guy I go to when thinking about purchasing an automobile, but that role will soon be going to T. (Lucky lucky guy). My dad has done a pretty stand up job in picking my cars, with the exception of the first one.

As I'm writing this, I'm hearing Adam Sandler's song "POS Car" playing in my mind. Granted, the first car I got was one that I purchased. Yes, yours truly. I worked my butt off after school and during the summer scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins and watching children after school at AYS (At Your School Afterschool program). I saved my money, and I was able to buy a 1992 Dodge Shadow convertible. From what I remember, we got it for about $3,000, which isn't too shabby. I was so stoked to have a car, and a convertible at that? I was in heaven. The first day I got the car, I swore to my dad that I would take really good care of it and wash it and everything. Of course, about three weeks later I hit my first of many parked cars, held up pretty well. However, the thing was NOT without its quirks.

First quirk. The key could come out of the steering wheel and the car would continue to drive and run. I remember the first time I realized this. I pulled into the drive-thru ATM at my bank and was shifting around in my seat to reach the ATM machine when I knocked into my key and the thing fell out of the ignition. Scared me to death, but wouldn't you know it? The thing kept running! So I played around with it. While driving, I would pull my key in and out, and the thing kept going. Back in high school, I used to play pranks on my friends when we'd be driving to the mall or to the movies, I'd quickly pull the key out and freak them out. All in good fun. Of course, towards the end of my relationship with my car, I often thought about taking the plates off of the thing, leaving it on a street somewhere running but without the key.

Second quirk. The dashboard lights would go out, and you would have to bang your fist on the dash repeatedly to get them to go back on. I discovered this little lovely aspect of my car while driving home from work one night and my lights on my dash just went out. I couldn't see the speedomoter, so I totally freaked out. I pulled into a bank parking lot and restarted the car. It wouldn't work. So I hit the dashboard really hard with my fist, and the lights magically appeared. This quirk also got a little old after awhile. Nothing like taking your friends or boyfriend for a ride in your car, and you have to beat the crap out of your dashboard before you can go anywhere. It kind of interrupted conversation, if you can imagine.   That and I looked like I just had a huge anger problem.

Third quirk. The convertible top. While I was SO excited to have a convertible, I thought putting the top up and down would be so easy. Um, yeah, not so much. I basically had to jump up and lay on the top to get it to lay down flat it enough to put it back on the car, and it took all the strength I had in me to hook the thing back on. A real pain. Also a huge inconvenience when taking a road trip and it starts raining. My friend Erika and I had that happen to us once when driving to Ball State. We had to pull over and quickly put the top down, which was always a hard task, let alone on the side of a highway. Plus the sides of the roof weren't flush with the car so when it rained, the car leaked. And it leaked a LOT, too. I would keep extra beach towels or trash bags in my car to sit on when it rained. In the winter, since moisture could get in the car, I'd have to scrape my windshield on the outside and inside. Scraping on the inside took some creative manuevring on my part.

Fourth quirk. Windows. They were automatic windows, but the motor for them was dying so I would try to roll them up, and the window would just get stuck about halfway through. So I would have to push the button to push them up and then take my other hand and pull the window up the rest of the way. It would make this weird groaning noise, too, like I was hurting it when doing it. Very interesting.

Fifth quirk. No AC. Now, granted I had a convertible, and everyone always told me "oh, when it's hot out just put the top down." Ok, that so doesn't work when it's 1) raining; 2) you're going somewhere where you can't have the top down; and 3) when it's really hot out, you're just blowing hot air back onto you if you have the top down. I remember some summer days, my mom would feel so bad for me and worry about how it would affect my asthma that she would drive me to work because the temperatures were too hot to handle without AC. Considering how little we paid for the car and how much it was worth, my dad and I couldn't justify paying to fix it.

Sixth quirk. Towards the end of my stint with this car, the front hood kept popping up. For no reason, too. I'd be driving along, and it would pop up. Now, don't think it popped up all the way and think of that scene in Tommy Boy when they hood flies open and they crash. The safety would catch it so it would only be slightly open, but everyone and their second cousin would point it out to me when I was out driving. "Hey, did you know your hood is open?" Yes, I do. Please stop asking me. One winter, I had to come home for winter break from IU, both the hood and the trunk wouldn't stay closed so I had to duct tape them both closed. I couldn't have been anymore classy.

Seventh quirk. The check engine light was permanently on. We weren't sure why, and I can't imagine that was a good thing, but it was on constantly.

Eighth quirk. It was two-toned. My senior year of high school, my boyfriend's mom hit my car on the passenger side so we took it to get fixed at this real stand-up place in a bad side of Indy. The guys who fixed it said that it would look as good as new, and the paint they put on it matched the car until it sat out in the sun for a day. Then the door was a lighter shade than the rest of the car. It was hot, baby, it made the car.

Ninth quirk.  The muffler fell off.  It did this one day as I was driving to the store.  I crossed this bridge through town and heard a loud "clunk" and some scraping.  Before I knew it the entire muffler and exhaust pipe were lying in the middle of a bridge downtown in my hometown.  So I pulled around, parked and walked back to get it.  I didn't want to leave the thing where it was because it would cause accidents, so I thought I could carry it back to my car.  Of course I underestimated how heavy and how hot those things are.  Picking it up, I realized that it was a little heavier than imagined so I struggled carrying it back to my car.  So if you can picture, if you will, a short little high school girl walking alongside traffic on a downtown bridge, carrying a muffler.  People weren't about to help me, and one girl even rolled her window down and shouted "is that YOUR muffler?"  I looked at her and said "No, I just collect them."  My dad thought that story was absolutely hilarious, and in hindsight it is.  It took us a month to get it fixed, and for that whole month, my car was so loud.  You could hear me coming a mile away. 

I could say the tenth quirk is that it had a cassette tape player, but this was an early 1990s car, so that was to be expected. However, it was very cool when I had to plug in my discman to play CDs in my car, let me tell you...

I drove this car from 1997 through 2000 when my parents decided enough is and they decided to get me to lease a 2000 Saturn. I actually found a sucker willing to buy the car for $500, which was being generous. The person who bought it said they were going to drive the car down to Florida to school from Indiana. My dad and I both prayed to God that the car would make it. Luckily it made it. I said good bye to my car and hello to the world of CD players, cars that have working AC, dashlights, windows, and did leak on you whenever it rained. My experience with my Dodge Shadow made me appreciate quality.

And now, here's a picture of my baby the day after I got it. I think this was after I washed it, and it was one of the very few times I did that.  Isn't she a beaut?

"Piece of s**t car, I've got a piece of sh**t car..."


  1. My first car was a Plymouth Champ. It had no heater to speak of. We have cold snowy winters here and I was always scraping the inside of the window--sometimes going down the road. But it was a car and it was mine.

  2. I think there is something really rewarding about having a car that is yours. I worked hard and earned money to buy that car, so I appreciated that all the more when I had it. And I truly think that everyone's first car should be a piece just so they can know what it's like :-)

  3. I too saved up forever and bought my first car. I was so proud! 3 days later the hole in the head of the engine that the guy slickly patched with putty blew out. Hello new engine. You would think that would make it like new? Not so much, every day a heater hose or 2 would get a hole in it too. I can't tell you how many afternoons I spent on the side of the road hoping to meet nice boys to help me fix my car or give me a ride. Oh to be care free and 17 again... :) I think today I would find it much more frustrating, at the time I just laughed it off. I remember happily kicking the tires as I traded up to the next car, it wasn't much newer but it was WAY more dependable!

    Good times!

  4. Your blog is such a pleasure to read!

    HOT CAR! ;-)

    Jen @

    "jump up and lay on the top to get it to lay down flat"

    All of them were funny, but this one really got me. I'm still laughing.

  6. Oh how I miss that car...I will never forget you smacking the dash to get the lights to come on. Priceless...

  7. Whoa, your car was running even without the key in it? Scary! It could have been stolen very easily! Still, I’m sure you and your friends have many fond memories of your very first car. What car are you driving nowadays?

    Leisa Dreps


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