Back in the Day: First cars — beep beep, beep!


This Back in the Day column originally appeared in the Fairfield Daily Republic on April 13, 2012

By Tony Wade

“Here in my car I feel safest of all, I can lock all my doors, it’s the only way to live, in cars” — Gary Numan

“I’m in love with my car, got a feel for my automobile” — Queen

“She’s ported and relieved and she’s stroked and bored, she’ll do a hundred and forty in the top end floored, she’s my little Deuce Coupe, you don’t know what I’ve got” — The Beach Boys

As a teen, I was embarrassed driving my parents’ Oldsmobile station wagon. Especially after my oldest brother Orvis was gawking at a girl walking near the old Americana Theatres and smashed the front grill when he rear ended someone.

I got my first car, a 1974 Mercury Montego, in 1982. On Saturdays I’d lovingly wash and wax it before taking it on the cruise downtown at night. These days, I wash my truck only when I absolutely have to and there ain’t no love involved.

Other locals looked back on bygone vehicles:

Terry Lanham: I bought my first car in 1971. It was a 1955 Pontiac Star Chief nicknamed “The Pig.” I bought my second car the same year: a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. I bought my third car in 1973: a 1970 Pontiac GTO. I’ve had other cars since then, but “The Pig,” “The Bug” and “The Goat” were my favorites.

Chris Digiorgio: At the height of the 1970s gas crunch, I had a two-cylinder Honda 600cc that got 45 mpg. It had a 6-gallon tank so I could fill up for less than $5. Reverse didn’t work, but I’d just do the Flintstone foot with the door open.

Debra Merritt Bruflat: My first car was a 1966 rear-engine Corvair. The wind gusts in Fairfield could blow that empty front end into another lane. Later the exhaust was blowing into the car instead of out and I had to drive with the windows down. The day I traded it in for a Luv pickup, the muffler fell off while I was driving it to the showroom. I think it was mad at me.

Bill Griffin: I bought my first car, a 1977 Vega, from my sister. It got buried under volcanic ash from Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines when it erupted.

JoAnn Hinkson Beebe: In 1963, I was 15½ and my dad took me car shopping. The last thing Mom said as we walked out the door was, “Don’t you dare come back with a convertible!” At Woodard Chevrolet, wouldn’t you know it, they had a desert sand Impala convertible on the showroom floor. Dad bought it and I drove that beauty to the PG&E office where Mom worked. I parked in front of the huge window to the office, honked the horn and Dad and I both waved at my poor mom who was standing there with her mouth wide open.

Mary Lynn: My mom drove a white Pinto station wagon, my sister had an orange one with black interior and my first car was a silver Pinto . . . oh, and I had a real pinto horse at the time, too — we were a four-pinto family.

Dan Root IV: A ‎1959 Vauxhall was my first car. I had it for three days or so, went to show it to my then-girlfriend Kathy Bowman, and some stupid lady ran a stop sign and totaled it.

Danny Cordova: In 1970, I was at West Texas Street Park with a friend in my 1957 Ford Fairlane. This beauty had a V-8 with a three-speed on the floor and we saw some cute girls so I decided to burn rubber. I revved the motor and popped the clutch. Bang! First and reverse exploded, we sunk down in our seats and barely got out of there as we limped away in second gear. Epic fail.

Darrell Anderson: My first car was a 1965 Dodge Polara. I broke the speedometer going 100 mph down Hunter Hill into Vallejo. I got pulled over for speeding on the Carquinez Bridge a few weeks later. I told the officer, “My speedometer is broken, can’t you cut me a break?” He pointed out that it was stuck on exactly 100 mph and maybe I outta just shut up and take the ticket.