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The Cost Of My First Car


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The Cost of Owning My First Car
When I was sixteen, I bought my first car, a 1951 Mercury. I paid $300, and insurance was $500 per year. It was all on me. Owning a car comes with ongoing costs, such as gasoline, maintenance, tires, and any improvements you might want to make.
As a young teenager, I soon discovered how to minimize these costs. Of course, I changed my own sparkplugs and oil. In those days (1957), sparkplugs lasted about 5,000-10,000 miles. And distributor points needed attention and replacement.
Tires did not hold up as well in those days. Flats and blowouts were common, and tires were expensive. If you had little money, used tires and re-caps (re-treads) were available. White sidewalls were the way to go in those days. The thinner white walls were replacing the wide white walls of the past. Service stations always had a rack of used tires with some remaining tread and were very cheap. Re-treads cost a bit more but were half the price of new tires. Later, re-treads for autos were banned due to safety concerns, but in 1957, safety was not high on the list. Seat belts did not appear for another six or seven years. If you crashed, there was a good chance you would be thrown through the windshield, but that only happened to others, not us.
Gasoline was cheap, about 25 cents a gallon, but still, there were times when you needed help. In those days, gas stations did not lock their pumps at night. You could go to a closed station and drain the remaining gasoline from each hose into a gas can. After visiting a few stations, you would have enough gas to cruise a bit at zero cost. I was amazed at how much gas remained in each hose. Friends sometimes chipped in a quarter or fifty cents so we could cruise.
You definitely had to make some changes to your car to “customize” it. One step was to have one or two coils cut off your front springs, which would lower it to get the desired “rake.” Hubcaps were a very important and personal thing, and they were not cheap. You needed hubcap locks, or they would end up on someone else’s car. “Spinner” hubcaps were popular, as were “moons” and “baby moons.”
Custom upholstery was desirable. If you could scrape together $200-$300, you could get a tuck and roll interior done in Tijuana (I went several times with friends.) If that was not an option, there were a myriad of seat covers available at budget prices. Stores like Pep Boys had a huge selection.
You could replace your car’s grille with one from another make or year, and I put grille pieces from a 1953 Desoto in my 51 Merc. Junkyards, such as Calvin's carried anything you wanted.
Clutches and transmissions were often casualties due to racing and “laying rubber.” I overcame my clutch issues by having Stu’s Clutches (in North Long Beach), beef up my pressure plate. Used transmissions could be bought from junkyards for as little as $14 exchange. They came with no guarantee. Sometimes we just had to buy another. We helped each other swap transmissions and clutches almost weekly, it seemed.
Paint and pinstriping were additional costs for some. We would sometimes rent a paint booth and spray them ourselves. If you had the money, there were several big-name painters such as Larry Watson, who were available locally. The professionals were a big step up.
Once you had your car running well, you took it to Lion’s Drag Strip to see just how fast it was. Most of us came away disappointed. It seemed much faster on the streets.
My first car was pretty average, although I would gladly have it back today. It was a simpler time. I was very fortunate to have had those experiences and lived this long to remember what fun it was.

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My first car was a 1981 Ford Courier.. It was an Old construction truck from a friends soils company..He was sending them to auction and had me come down to his shop and said pick one out and then said 500 bucks and take it away.In No way was it fancy at all it had an AM radio and no carpet Bench seat and as Plain as it could be and well worn out..I thought it was Great at First and replaced the Battery and starter and Alternator as it would always have an issue starting. The solution to that always seemed to have friends along so we could Push start it and get going.Well I got frustrated doing that sold it too a Neighbor who owned a custom car business he repainted the truck and wheels and interior and drove it for 100k without an issue..lol..

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The first car I got for Christmas was a 1955 Ford Victoria (not the Crown Vic) my report card came shortly after and my parents took the car back.  Short lived excitement. Saved my money from working at Knotts Berry Farm. I bought a1969 Cougar and drove that for a few years and did a lot of street racing.  

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my first car was a 1972 Subaru DL 2-Door.  someone my mom used to work with "gave" it to me, but my mom said I had to pay something.  So, I donated $100 to the Lady's church.  everyone was happy.  I BEAT that car mercilessly.  If I yanked on the steering wheel & "power shifted" it, I could "get rubber" in all 4 gears.  LMAO.  by the time I was done with it, I had to skip 3rd gear & goto 4th, because it would pop out of 3rd...... 

My second car (which I owned @ the same time) was a 71 or 72 beetle.  I had to have 2 cars because the motor was out of the bug more often than it was in it....  LOL.

My third car was an 86 Honda Iterceptor

My Fourth car was a 1958, Aircraft Carrier, USS Independence.  I spent 4 years working on her & never got to drive her.  LOL.

From there on its been a blur...

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