My first car – I couldn’t drive it, but I loved it!

1982 Four-door Ford Escort hatchback, photo courtesy of


My dad agreed to buy both my brother and I our first cars. Any vehicles we owned beyond those, we were on our own. I was a lucky kid and I knew it.

I wasn’t picky about the car I got. After all, I wasn’t paying for it, so how could I possibly afford to be picky? I only wanted three things:

1. Any color EXCEPT brown
2. No manual transmissions
3. Good gas mileage

Then, we stumbled upon a used vehicle at the Ford dealership in a nearby town and I knew it was the perfect one for me. It was a four-speed, brown (it was really more of a dark tan) Ford Escort and I loved it.

My fellow classmates learned how to drive a manual transmission during driver’s education. (This was back when driver’s ed was an elective class for high school curriculum.) Being one of the youngest in my class, I delayed taking it until my junior year, when the driver’s ed car was an automatic.

So, now I had a car and absolutely no idea how to drive it. Everyone I knew could drive it with no problem. But not me.

I started out behind the wheel with my mom in the passenger seat. While she was a teacher, her expertise in that area did not allow for the amount of patience required to teach me how to operate a manual transmission vehicle.


Driving with my older brother lasted approximately one session before he was ready to kill me.


Dad had a lot more patience than anyone else. I don’t remember if he just explained it better or if he was simply a lot more tolerant of the jerky starts. Maybe it was because he was the one that did most of the “buddy driving” with me when I first got my permit and he already knew what to expect.

Once I got the basics down (in other words, I could successfully get things moving about 75 percent of the time) my high school boyfriend stepped in to teach me some of the more advanced driving skills required with a manual transmission. It took a while, but eventually I could slip the clutch perfectly. I was relieved that I no longer rolled backward when stopped at the top of a hill and even more so that the experience did not prove to also be the end of our relationship.

I drove that car through my freshman year of college, until it met an unfortunate demise. And I loved every minute of it.


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