Saturday, January 15, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Week 3: Cars

Week 3 Challenge: What was your first car? Describe the make, model and color, but also any memories you have of the vehicle. You can also expand on this topic and describe the car(s) your parents drove and any childhood memories attached to it.

Who can ever forget the first car they owned? I'm not referring to the Ford station wagon that belonged to my parents that I learned to drive in, but the first car I bought with my own hard earned money, the one I paid insurance on, the one I paid to put gas in, the one that gave me Freedom!

It was 1972. I was 21 years old, a senior in college and was just hired in a full time job. I had some real money. Well, let's say I  had the ability to borrow money for that first car. I suppose that having worked in a bank all during college and knowing all of the loan officers probably had something to do with my loan being processed on the spot.

I had my eyes on the cute little Chevrolet Vega. All that mattered was that it was blue with black interior and had a cassette tape player. This model was introduced in 1971 and Chevy stopped producing the car in 1977. It was rated the Car of the Year for 1971. In the mid 70s, the Vega was in the top ten best selling American cars.

Once I had it in my head that the Vega would be my car, my folks and I headed to the local Chevrolet dealer to see what they had in stock. They didn't have what I wanted on the floor or in the lot, but some were on order and coming in soon. The only thing was that the blue Vega did not have black interior - the interior was beige. I had my heart set on a Vega, I wanted it NOW, so if I had to settle for beige interior, I could live with it.

The 1972 Vega

I don't remember how long it took for the new shipment of Vegas to arrive, but it was probably a couple weeks. The salesman called and said my car had arrived. Again, my folks went with me to get my car. We went back to where they were detailing it and low and behold, it had black interior! And a cassette tape player. You'd think that I'd be able to remember exactly what the car cost, but I think that my loan was in the neighborhood of $2,700. The monthly payment was about $77 over 36 months. I could fill up the tank for about $2.75. Gas was about 33 cents a gallon.

I loved my little car! It got me to and from work, weekend trips to Kansas City, Denver and Lake McConaughy near Ogallala, Nebraska.

It soon became known that Vegas just didn't last very long. They had problems with rust and started to require quite a bit of maintenance after the odometer passed 35,000 miles. It reached the point where I was always carrying no less than 6 quarts of oil in the hatchback storage area. On a weekend trip to Lake McConaughy, I would have to pull into the rest area, check the oil and add a quart of oil about every 200 - 250 miles. That was just part of being the owner of a Vega. I had some really good mechanics and they kept that Vega running well beyond its natural life. The gizmo that you use to prop the hood open rusted and fell apart, so my guys rigged a piece of wood that stayed under the hood and was used to prop the hood open.

I drove that Vega until 1979 and it had only 55,000 miles on it. For a Vega, that was about 15,000 more than the average Vega seemed to last. I traded it in on my next car, which I then drove into my gas station where my mechanics worked. They laughed when they told me that a potential buyer had driven my Vega in to have them check it out before he bought it. They popped the hood, saw the piece of wood and recognized it as my car. They advised their friend not to buy it because they knew its lifespan was over.

Since then, I've driven every car I ever owned until it was on its last leg. The next two cars after the Vega were each driven for 14 years. Three years ago I bought only the fourth car I've ever owned and returned to the same Chevrolet dealer for an Impala. The selling point? The auxiliary jack for my mp3 player! And black interior. Some things never change.

About 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Amy Coffin of We Tree Genealogy has created a third year of blogging prompts for genealogy bloggers. 


  1. Great post. One of the best features of my new car is the USB port for my ipod. Ah, technology!

  2. I've also driven most of my cars until they are on their last legs - you just get to know a car so well, that you don't want another one, even when you KNOW you need another one. My current car is British-built and beautiful but horribly unreliable, to the point where I have a 2nd (ancient ugly) car, just-in-case! Jo