My first car was a 1971 Chevelle. It was a beater that my Uncle Pol gave me. The grill was missing, there was significant rust damage all over the body. The floor pan on the driver’s side was gone, replaced by a piece of plywood. There was unfinished Bondo patched here and there. It only had a Straight Six engine.
But, I’ll tell you something: I loved that car.
It was my first. It was my gateway to freedom. It was driving down 237 West with no traffic, windows rolled down, sunset gleaming red/orange/yellow behind me, heading home to Milpitas. It was getting myself to Mark’s Books on East Calaveras without having to ask my dad for a ride. It was driving down to San Jose to meet my prom date’s family.
Sure, it wasn’t sexy or exciting. It wasn’t shiny or impressive. But, it was my first car.
I loved that car.
She had a few choice nicknames when I owned her. I called her the “Battle Wagon”. My high school buddies called it “The Bomber”. Later on, it became “****-Mobile” and “Endless Frustration”.
The Chevelle was breaking down. My dad and I weren’t gear heads. Trying to maintain it’s drive-ability was getting more and more difficult. We replaced the starter twice (later finding out that Chevelle’s had frequent problems with the starter). The wind shield wipers stopped working when I was driving home in the rain. The list of things to fix started piling up. She was starting to show her age. The luster of owning my first car had dimmed to owning a piece of broken down ****.
I had started to forget why I loved that car.
Eventually, I decided to give it up. I was embarrassed driving her around. I was young and eager to impress pretty girls. I gave her back to my Uncle Pol and never saw her again. I bought an 86 Accord LXi with a moonroof and nice wheels. I was caught up in the superficial. I never looked back.
I had totally forgotten why I loved that car.
This was before eBay. This was before the Internet opened up opportunities to find replacement parts, before learning how easy it was to find car clubs and online communities that would’ve guided me in her restoration, before the Chevelle became a sought after prize. If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve held on to her. I would’ve been patient. I would’ve saved my money, bought replacement part after cherished replacement part, and learned to bring her back to her original glory.
That was fourteen years ago. My memories of her, my 1971 Chevelle, are not as vivid as they used to be. And, though I regret letting her go, I now remember why I loved her.
She was my first. She was my gateway to freedom. She was driving me down 237 West with no traffic, windows rolled down, sunset gleaming red/orange/yellow behind me, heading home to Milpitas. She was getting me to Mark’s Books on East Calaveras without having to ask my dad for a ride. She was driving me down to San Jose to meet my prom date’s family.
She was my constant companion for three years.
I loved my first car.
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