We take a look back into our special firsts Here's a quick look-see at the cars that helped us hone our skills and shaped our identities as car guys.
We decided to do a compilation of nostalgia of our team’s history of first cars. Here’s a quick look-see at the “special cars” that helped us hone our skills and shaped our identities as car guys.
Adi Desai – Editor-in-Chief
Around the time I started driving regularly, there were a few vehicles around the house that I was free to borrow whenever I wanted. The first car that was truly “mine” didn’t come with an epic purchase story like those of some of my colleagues, nor was it as cool as an MX-3 V6 or an Integra. My father purchased the black 1999 Toyota Camry new in July of ‘99. It was the first brand-new car he had ever purchased, and he babied it. Though his maintenance schedule has always been meticulous, my father has been known to rack on the miles. By the time the car was handed down to me, it was rather tired with over 230,000km on the odometer.
Not to worry; the 17-year old rev-happy version of me had no issues driving it to school and back roughly 65km per day. It was boring and basic, but it was mine. 2.2, 4-speed auto, and no ABS. Despite being a basic “CE” model, the Camry had ice cold air conditioning and a decent stereo that happily pumped out the latest and greatest by the likes of Ja Rule or Shaggy while sporting my flat-brimmed Yankees hat. Yes, I was one of those teenagers.
Eventually I decided to upgrade to something significantly faster and a lot newer, so the Camry was sold to a friend of the family. Initially I wasn’t too upset to see it go because I got to see and drive it all the time, but I eventually realized that seeing your car poorly maintained by somebody else is a terrible feeling. It was bounced off stationary objects, parts replaced by improper replacements, and the body eventually rusted out. The Camry was ultimately disposed of by them as well, so I have no idea what its fate was. Last I saw the car, it had well over 370,000km on it and was puttering along just fine. Louis’ line is very true; I’ve driven the latest and greatest, but I will never forget my first. The Camry’s rear license plate still resides in a photo frame in the living room of my condo.
Robert Maduri – Creative Director
My first car was also my older brother’s first car. He purchased a 1993 Acura Integra RS in his second year of university. While he was attending law school, I purchased the car from him when I was in high school. The Integra was as base as base could get. It had no power windows or locks, featured a fan without air conditioning, and safety features were an afterthought. No airbags, ABS or traction control. It was a 1.8L 4-cylinder attached to an automatic transmission. It was black on black, which made the summer months a little more intense.
I immediately tinted the windows, put in a stereo system with two 10-inch subs, followed shortly by a cold air intake and Momo steering wheel. I did the latter two myself with my uncle and immediately became hooked. It was satisfying to work on my own car; I replaced the igniter module inside my distributor and started to customize it. I had the bug and decided to purchase a second car that would facilitate my need to further modify my Integra. That included two GT28RS turbos, GReddy this and that, all queued up and ready to be installed.
There was one thing I couldn’t fix myself, and that was rust. We took the car down to bare metal to replace any trace but it was too ambitious and never completed. As such, my first car is sitting to this day tarped up and will likely never see the road again. Although I do find my fingers drifting over to Kijiji routinely these days to see if there’s another Integra that I can swap my parts over to and perhaps make my car live on, however indirectly it may be.
Louis Vo – Writer
The start to my automotive career was a fairly humble one. I wasn’t one of those unfortunate kids who were gifted a shiny new car as soon as they turned 18. My first car was owned by an elderly Italian man in the neighbourhood: a 1994 Volvo 850 sedan, in burgundy. It was 2008, so the car was already fourteen years old at this point. My dad picked it up for a whopping $900 and gifted it to me. Why so cheap? It wasn’t starting reliably – but once it got running, it stayed running. A little bit of internet research suggested the fuel pump relay was bad. Changing out this $40 part made the car reliable for years to come.
The body was solid (as most old Volvos are) and almost everything worked, except for A/C. Summers were rough with the hot, black leather. The car was dead slow but that didn’t matter too much. You accepted all the flaws that your first car exhibited. I regularly detailed it and kept it clean, and drove it for a few more trouble-free years. It was well-built and the sensible Swedish ergonomics are still relevant, even today.
I ended up giving the 850 back to my dad when his Toyota 4Runner decided to catastrophically blow a head gasket. He drove it for another two years before retiring it – the 850 currently sits in our garage, a little more tired than when I had it, but still in running condition. They say you never forget your first. It will be a sad day for me when it goes.
Krish Persaud – Writer
Though not technically my first car, my 1993 Mazda MX-3 Precidia was the first car I bought with my own hard-earned money. At the time, one of my close friends had one and I liked how it drove and handled. As great as my buddy’s MX-3 was stock, I kept having the underlying thought that I could improve its already good qualities and learn how to work on cars at the same time.
I found my baby on AutoTrader; it was painted a faded red and already had the KLZE 2.5L V6 from Japan swapped into it. I drove it, I liked it; so I bought it. Within the first three weeks of ownership, I did a custom exhaust, lowered the car, and put some Konig wheels on it. I eventually rebuilt the engine myself two years into ownership and even painted the car a custom colour. I became an active member of the local MX-3 chapter and learned to both work on the car and drive it to its potential. In its prime, my little Precidia ran 14-second times in the quarter mile.
I had the Mazda for 3 years and put on 140,000 dead-reliable kilometers. The only repair I ever had to do was replace a ball joint because I had the tendency to corner way too hard. I was a crazy kid with a little Japanese sports car; could you blame me? I eventually parted with the car by giving it away to a friend who was in financial need at the time. The last time I saw it, it had well over 300,000km on the body. Do I wish I still had the MX-3? Absolutely, and I hope to someday own another one.
Zack Zeraldo – Writer
When asked about my first car I usually end up talking about the first “car” that I ended up driving a significant amount. I was 16 and had a licence hot off the press, getting ready to go to university. It was decided that I needed something reliable and reasonably practical to get myself to school and back. Pickup trucks were becoming really popular, and being a bit of a GM guy, I eventually set my sights on a GMC Sonoma – it had to be an extended cab and it had to have the sport suspension and stepside bed. After months of very anxious searching, I finally found a nicely maintained, fully loaded 2000 Sonoma. My dad and I made the short trek out to the town of Binbrooke Ontario to pick it up.
It was only a few years old at the time and I remember how fresh and new it seemed compared to everything else I had played around with. The truck quickly became my ‘chariot’. Unlike many teenagers and their first cars, I babied mine. I dedicated most of my free time to cleaning it, polishing it, modifying it, and protecting it …it was my baby. I vividly remember finishing class at 10pm in the middle of winter and driving directly to the shop to wash any traces of road salt off of it. Sure it was just a cheap little truck from a rather dark age for GM, but at the time, I couldn’t see a single fault with it.
Eventually, life became busy and silly things like reliability and fuel economy started to matter, so eventually the Sonoma was retired from daily service. Today, at 13 years old and 230,000kms, I still own, drive and enjoy the Sonoma. Not because it’s a great truck or anything, but because I become that anxious teenager again every time I get behind that wheel.