Saturday, September 17, 2011

You kids today don't know you're born...

Roomie reminisces about her first car, a '64 Falcon with three on the tree.

Gun nuts know 1968 as the year gun laws changed dramatically with the introduction of the national Gun Control Act. What they may not know is that '68 was also a turning point in cars, with the government meddling in things automotive, too, with the promulgation of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards from the newly-minted DOT.

I've only owned one car from before that period, a '67 Dodge Coronet. In that pre-FMVSS car, you could remove the ignition key from the dash-mounted switch while you were rolling down the road and chuck it out the window, should the urge strike you to be piloting a two-ton missile with no way to turn it off. The steering wheel did not lock when the car was parked. The steel dash was innocent of the most rudimentary padding and bristled with chrome knobs, the acres of sheet metal on its sculpted flanks were unmarred by safety lamps or reflectors, and shoulder belts were eschewed as an effete euro affectation.

This four-door monstrosity, with its vinyl bench seats and three-Hoffa trunk, was a midsize sedan by the standards of the day, and was nudged down the road by the daintiest V-8 in Chrysler's lineup: a 318 cubic-inch engine with a two-barrel carburettor and not even a Christmas tree air-freshener in the tailpipe to give its carbon emissions a pleasant pine-y aroma.

By comparison, my first car, a '74 Ford, was a padded cocoon, with three-point shoulder harnesses and an exterior slathered in chrome bumpers and side marker lights and a plumber's nightmare of hoses under the hood, shunting exhaust gasses and vacuum pressure hither and yon for the sake of the environment. Even the Ford, though, was a stagecoach compared to today's vehicles.

Back then, these Detroit leviathans were just old cars; they weren't collectors' items, rather they were what kids in the '80s could afford to buy with baby-sitting and grocery-bagging money if mom and dad weren't going to spring for a Honda. I miss them sometimes.

39 comments:

dakotas5 said...

My first was a '52 International 3/4 ton. Now it would probably have turret on it, as much steel it carried.

og said...

I miss them too, I just don't miss the tuneups.

Add a modern ignition and fuel injection system to them, though, and you have something. There's a company called "Counterfeit cars" that takes old rides and fits them with modern brakes, fuel, and ignition systems, and makes them reliable and safe to drive. It's an expensive process, but for the same cash you'd spend on a new Chevy POS you could be driving a classic.

Tango Juliet said...

And then they were gelded in '72 and uglified in '74.

Mileage and charm dropped off accordingly.

I miss my old '65 Mustang at times even though I couldn't keep a front end or a set of points in it. At least it was all easy to access.

I like the idea of the "Counterfeit Cars" though. A '67 lime green 'Cuda with a modern day Hemi in it would be kinda cool, especially if it had brakes.

BobG said...

I remember my dad's '67 Camaro with a 327; that thing was a fun ride...

Anonymous said...

My dad brought home a new 61 Dodge Pioneer when I was little. It had a push button transmission that was a "new feature".

It proved to not be a benefit as he could not get it out of PARK the very next day.

Gerry

Desertrat said...

One of my more fun critters was the "Q Ship": A '62 BelAir 4-door that was "tweaked". 13:1 327 with a close-ratio T-10. Tuned exhaust. 4.11 Posi and rebuilt suspension. The problem in the 1960s was tires. Hard to find really good ones for playing in the corners. Dunlop Elites seemed to work the best.

96 in the 1/4; 130 top end.

Outran many a sports car on twisty roads.

Put a 283 back in it and traded for a 1961 Austin-Healey. Put the engine and trans into the Healey. Cops gave me tickets for "Parked with intent to speed." Good commuter car, though.

karrde said...

The good ol' FMVSS...

Because of them, we have words like PRNDL, CHMSL, BTSI (pronounced 'prandel', 'chimsel', and 'bitsy') in the Auto Biz.

The guys at NHTSA (pronounced 'nitsa') are in a process which may force every new car to have a Rear View Camera in 2014, to keep kids from being run over while the parent is backing up.

This is done because We Need A Law For the Children, so the Kids Transportation Safety Act was passed in '07.

Such cameras can be useful, but why should they be mandatory?

Anonymous said...

My first car was a 63 Mercury Comet (I called it "the Vomit). Three on the tree, no radio, first delivered in Verdun, France. Tore up the freeways in Los Angeles until I was transferred back east, decided not to take it and made the terrible decision to move to a Ford Cortina (proof that we should have backed the Germans in WWI). Terrible rolling POS, and a significant reason why the Japanese have such a dynamic auto industry.

cap'n chumbucket

global village idiot said...

My first car was a '73 Mach 1. It had a 350 Windsor and Holley 4-barrel, a hole in the floor behind the driver's seat and you kept the passenger's seat up by wedging an ammo can underneath it. Got about a stone's throw to the gallon.

Bought it in Ft. Bragg for $1000 in June 1988 and sold it in November 1988 for $800, an M1 Carbine and two spam cans of ammo. I'm told they go for about $30,000 now.

I really regret getting rid of the carbine.

I don't miss the old cars. I really don't. I saw this video (I think I first saw it here) and never looked back:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJrXViFfMGk&feature=player_embedded

This presentation had the same impact (pardon the pun) on me vis-a-vis cars that FerFAL's testimony from Argentina had concerning revolvers vs. automatic pistols. Before I read what he had to say I was a determined wheel-gun shooter. No more. Still love 'em dearly (my S&W Mod 15-3 in particular), but won't carry one.

gvi

Brad K. said...

It was a four year old 1970 "Torino 500". It came out as the factory was changing over from the Fairlane 500 line to the Torino that replaced it. This was before the Gran Torino. There were both Fairlane and Torino markers on the car. It got 22 mpg on the road, ran like a top.

I still resent the Ford dealer that convinced me I needed to trade for a new Granada because it gave "Great Mileage". I never got better than 16 mpg. The dealer said, "That's great!" I wasn't amused.

paulinmordor said...

My first car was a late '60's Chevy wagon that a friends father had committed suicide in. I traded him a Harmon Kardon cassette deck straight up for it.

I ran straight pipes from the headers back to a pair of Cherry Bombs. The neighbors hated me, but that 350 4-bbl made some sweet music (at least to my 16 year old ears.) I remember driving it from Joliet, Il to Warren Dunes, MI and back with nary a drop of oil showing on the dipstick. When I got back it took over 3 quarts to show on the bottom of the dipstick. I drove her at least another year after that.

My late father would borrow it from me "to keep the miles low" on his Volvo wagon. I knew what he was up to though. He'd creep out of the neighborhood but then stand on the gas going on US Rt 52. I've always wondered if he knew I could hear him...

Thomas F said...

First car I bought on my own, Oldsmobile Delta 88, I forget which year but I am pretty sure that it was an eighth generation, the heat was either off or the "Fires of Hell", and something like 10 gallons to the mile....

Mattexian said...

you could remove the ignition key from the dash-mounted switch while you were rolling down the road
Which I did once, and leaned over to lock the glovebox, as my best bud was messing with it, and afterwards he looked between the glovebox and ignition, bewildered. I had a '49 GMC longbed 1/2 ton, with 3-on-the-tree too, and a 4.11 rear-end, powered by the standard flat-head Six. Since Sammy Hagar had sang "I can't drive 55!" I joked "My truck can't do 52" and "Zero to 60 in three days."

WV: hables- Si'! Yo hablo Espanol, un poquito. (Sucks not having a Spanish-capable Tex-Mex keyboard, tho!)

rickn8or said...

I knew I'd reached old-itude when number two son drove my '71 Nova for the first time and made a big deal out of the dimmer switch being on the floor. Thought I'd moved it down there for some reason...

Desertrat said...

My actual first car was a three-way ownership deal in 1951. A 1933 Chevrolet roadster with a rumble-seat. We gave $35 for it. Just the thing for college kids. :-)

Will said...

Yeah, those old style brake systems could be "entertaining". One leak, and no stopping. Had that problem a few times.
For heart-stopping automotive design idiocy, I'll nominate the '60 Chrysler Crown Imperial my father brought home for family use. Power everything. Including the steering. No, not power assisted, full hydraulic I believe. If the engine stalled, the steering died. The steering wheel would not move at all. And, to further spice up the situation, you got one shot at the brakes. Dare you back off the pressure you applied to the pedal and all boost was lost, turning it into the equivalent of a brick on the floor.
Car had a restricted fuel flow problem, which manifested itself by starving the carb of fuel shortly after opening up the secondaries of the 4bbl. For some reason, I was the only one who encountered this problem :)

Knew of someone who had his new Corvette overheat on the Garden State Parkway. Turned off the ignition, and then tried to coast around the offramp. Locking ignition switch engaged as he steered into the curve, and off the embankment he went. Totaled.

Got my drivers license in '68. First streetable car I bought was a 2dr '57 Chevy, straight six. Think I paid $75. Drove it home with no brakes. Think I had 4 of them, last was a ragtop. All came with that six. Put a '68 big block in it, that would put daylight under the front wheels shifting into second. Brutal car, scared off other musclecars on the street, due to the radical idle it exhibited. The entire car rocked side-to-side. Even down at the Fri/Sat night streetracing scene in South Philly.

Kevin Baker said...

My first car was an import - a 1969 Simca 1118, imported by Chrysler from the cheese-eating surrender monkeys. It was my dad's, but in 1977 he bought his very first new-off-the-showroom-floor vehicle, a custom-ordered Ford F-150 pickup, and his insurance agent told him, "Don, you have a new driver in the family. The company is going to see New Driver and New Vehicle and put 2 and 2 together and come up with a 125% increase in your premium. Put the car in your son's name." So he did.

Zero to sixty, take your lunch and eat it when you get there. I told the DMV ride-along on the driving test that I only had to pump the brakes if I really wanted to stop. He told me to come back in a real car. I took the test in my mom's Mercury station wagon.

My second car was a '72 Olds Cutlass, a smog-strangled weakling compared to my best friend's '70.

I've also owned a '67 big-block Mustang, but in Arizona, '67 and up has to pass emissions tests. I've since sold that, and now have a 2011 GT.

You know how you can tell you're an old fart? You're jazzed that your 400Hp musclecar gets 24.9MPG at a steady 75MPH with a trunk full of guns, ammo, and accessories.

Drang said...

67 Mustang, 318 Cobra Jet, I paid $200 for it in 1977 so I could to my summer job. Detroit was still using salt on the roads in winter, my mother said it looked like it had syphilis there was so much rust, not to mention big holes. I occasionally I regret not keeping and renovating it, then I remember that I replaced three water pumps in the summer I owned it, and that it would have been a certified bondo-mobile.

At least it would have still run after the great EMP Bomb Attack...

Joe in PNG said...

Right, I was blessed to share a '66 Mustang back in the early 90's with my sister. She didn't like driving a car in Florida with no a/c, power steering, or good brakes, so I usually wound up with it.
It only had a straight 6, but it could still burn rubber rather easily. I miss that beast.

Pathfinder said...

Meh, pussy cars, every last one of them!

My first was a '58 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, and yes, it was as large as it sounds, could probably hold at least 2 Coronets - in the front eat alone. Pushbutton transmission, power windows - including the inward slanting rear window, 383CID engine.

Luckily gas was 30 cents a gallon, tho . . . .

Murphy's Law said...

I started out with a '64 VW Beetle "Baja" dune buggy then graduated to a '66 Mustang. No shoulder belts, no safety glass, nothing under the hoods but simple engines--no emissions controls--and solid steering columns just waiting to cave your chest in if you hit something head-on. Great cars. Wish I'd kept them both.

RonInAz said...

First car was a two door 69 Galaxie 500. 390 with a dreadful 2 barrel carburetor.

Room for eight to sit reasonably comfortable.

Bought a UK government motors 73 TR6. That care made me a great mechanic. I still bear a grudge against government owned motors and British engineers.

Old NFO said...

63 Corvair Spyder, 66 Goat, 67 Vette were my first three... sigh...

Scott said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFZyThd9hVo The only American muscle car I've ever owned. I don't have any video left but this was the track we ran and the class.

Chas S. Clifton said...

1962 Ford F-100 pickup, 292 cid V-8, used, a graduation gift from Dad. Drove it for something like twelve years.

And then I sold it to an economics professor from Colorado College who gave it some name like "Old Paint."

Roy in Nipomo said...

1st: '56 Chev 2dr, 6 banger, 3 on the tree plus overdrive. I put lap belts in so I could stay behind the wheel when I cornered. 2nd: 64 Olds F85 Cutlass 4dr (grandparents' car), aluminum V8. 3rd: 68 Triumph GT-6.

I'd love to have any of them back (particularly the Chev or Triumph). I always had to work on the Triumph, but with the hood up, you could always sit on the tire.

Keads said...

Oh, don't get me started on this one! '66 and '71 Mustang in my garage right now. The 5 MPH bumper crap resulted in the '72 looking like it had a cowcatcher on it! The 64.5 Mustang and the '67 Caddy are excellent rides.

You do have to tell people to pump the gas once for the choke to kick in and oh, about another 20 things.

Anonymous said...

65 Corvair Monza. It both burned and leaked oil. Still pretty fun to drive for a 16 year old, when he could keep from ground looping it. Someone put an enormous horn in trunk that would dim the lights when honked. I could creep up behind cars and let them think a semi was on their bumper.

global village idiot said...

RoninAZ...

Did you know that a few years back Triumph considered getting into the electronics business but later decided not to?

Turns out their engineers couldn't figure out how to get a television to leak oil.

gvi

David said...

1951 Olds Rocket 88 with a hydromatic transmission - an automatic transmission that you could push-start if you could get that monstrous piece of steel up to about 5 miles an hour.

No seat belts, no padding, large curved steel dash. Double walled steel fenders, solid steel bumpers.

In 1979 I was waiting for on-coming traffic to clear in order to make a left turn into a parking lot and was tailed ended by a VW rabbit that was going about 20 mph when he hit me. I heard the squealing brakes just in time to lean my head back against the headrest and push hard on the brake pedal. My Olds was was shoved forward about 6 feet and the back bumper suffered two dents and small crease in the middle of it. I was completely uninjured. The Rabbit was totaled. We could not even push it out of traffic. The engine was shoved up against the front seat. I don't know how the driver walked away, but he was pretty beat up.

You could sit four teenagers across the front seat and we had as many as 7 in the back seat at one time, and I could still see out the rear view mirror. I slept stretched out across the back seat more than once, it was very comfortable.

It got about 15 mpg and cruising down the highway at 75 felt like a leisurely Sunday drive.

It had a starter button. Turn the key and nothing happened. You had to push the small unmarked button near the steering column to get it to start. No Park setting - you put it in reverse and turned it off.

Man, I really miss that car.

Mark Alger said...

My first car was a Dodge Colt wagon. Nothing special. About a 73-74 vintage. Like I said: nothing special.

But I once had custody of a 65 Mustang. Converible. White, with a red leather interior. I remember getting it up to about 125 n I-75 coming back from CVG one day. By surprise. Had no idea I was going that fast until I looked at the speedometer.

M

deadcenter said...

1967 Chevy BelAir Station Wagon with a 267 (i think) V-8 and a hi-lo automatic transmission. perfect for a teenage boy with delusions of adequacy.

TIM said...

Man I miss my first car should have kept it.It was a 1969 chevy elcamino SS396.The guy I bought it from had just painted it Iroc blue with a purpleish metalic under coat with pearl white stripes on the hood.It was a damn good and fast when you could get traction car.

Chalkie said...

My first car was a '72 Olds Cutlass with a 350 Rocket. What was up with those vinyl tops? Those things were a terrible idea!

roland said...

I should be done restoring my first car ('69 Camaro) by the end of 2012. Dunno how I managed to hang on to it for 26 years, but I'm damn glad I did.

Leaddog said...

OOOOOO 70 Chevelle 307 11:1's, full race cam, 3 something rear end, slip and slide power glide tranny, 30 seconds to 30 and .02 from there to 130+. Had the same hideous vinyl top as the cutlass above. Got about 20 or so day in and day out. Traded to my Mom for her 77 Firebird formula (big mistake) she gave it to my brother who ass kissed a Caddy about 3 weeks later. That happened 30 years ago and seems like yesterday.

WV jolsto The question asked at the gate of the drivein movies when driving Dad's 72 Electra 225 with 4 kids in the front 8 in the back and 10 in the trunk "Jolsto anybody in the trunk?" "No Sir!"

DirtCrashr said...

Sometimes I miss my 1960 Egg... But it had so much bondo holding it together it was really a moving crumple-zone.

Larry said...

72 Fiat 128 sedan. Green. With yellow wheels.
Yes, it was as hideous as it sounds.

Anonymous said...

I like classic cars myself, but say what you want about the safety regulations - I'd rather be in an '09 Chevy than a '59: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdKWpIBZJgw