First Car by Darrel Leland

It was 1982, and the car bug had bitten me hard. I was tired of loafing around on a bicycle, and I wanted some wheels of my own. My family noticed, of course. I must not have talked about anything else for weeks. All that summer I worked for a Burger King; flipping hamburgers, answering a million orders, putting up with life in the fast food industry. At the end of it all I had about $1000 saved. Early in the fall I announced my intention. Today was the day; I was going to go out and buy a car.
My father rarely makes mistakes like this, but he made one that day. He took me aside and gave me the lecture on practicality. “Get something sensible,” he said. “Get something that runs well and gets good gas mileage.” In other words, buy some boring Japanese econobox. I rode off with a vague sense of discontent, about the closest I ever came in my career to genuine youthful rebellion. I tooled around the used car lots for a while, looking. All the big dealerships were glad to see me, but just looked askance when I showed them my pitiful cash. “That’s a down payment, right?” one salesman asked, and I shook my head. Nope, it had to pay for it all plus registration and lord knew what else. I had to go back to school, so more large amounts of cash were not forthcoming. Lot after lot said the same thing. By the end of the day, things were looking bleak.
Then, towards dusk, I found IT. In the back corner of a dingy dirt lot, where the sales guy looked ready to pull up stakes and flee the country at any minute, there it was. A gargantuan brute of pure American automotive aggression; a 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado. It was painted a dull light blue, an evident cheap respray. The hood was six feet long, and underneath it lay a stormer from the good old days; 425 cubic inches (just a shade under 7 liters) of tire spinning, high compression, gas sucking fun. I was intrigued to learn the car had front wheel drive, most unusual for an American car of that size and vintage. It looked like the Batmobile, and it was only $500. My father’s words echoed in my mind, and that settled it. I paid for it in cash and drove it off the lot.

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