While it wasn’t the prettiest car, nor was it the fastest, my Buick Skylark was, and still is, the greatest ever for a 15-year-old’s first car.
The Buick Skylark is the greatest first car ever. There, I said it.
Mine was impeccable. It cost me all of $800, and it was worth every cent! I didn’t care about the crummy gas mileage, as long as it got me somewhere, anywhere, and did so at my convenience.
To me, this is something that some people need to realize these days. Just having something to drive around in with your buddies on a Saturday night made any car magical.
Sure, it wasn’t much to look at. It was a faded metallic blue with one of those 1/2 vinyl tops the designers thought were great for some reason. Some of the top was ripped off by the time it fell into my hands, but who was looking at the minor things like that? Not us!
We had the best-washed car in town because, to us teenagers, that’s what you did before you took your car anywhere. I swore that my friends and I washed that car more often than I’ve washed my current car in the past two years I’ve owned it.
Back then, as it always has been, we were always looking for ways to make it better than the other guy’s car. Most of the time it was something like an add-on cassette player in the glovebox. We could play the radio and the 8-track player, and it was usually installed by some lunatic (that lunatic was my uncle, by the way). That way, we could blast the latest mix tape we made from the songs on the radio the week before.
Look, all I’m saying is that (for most kids) getting a first car, any car, will be a religious experience. It doesn’t have to be fancy with all the latest high-tech goodies. Some low-tech cars can make for the most fun! Who can forget playing games like “How much gas do we have because the fuel gauge is broken?” Or the always fun “What’s that sound? Let’s turn the radio louder and see if it goes away…”
I also realize that this isn’t going to be my son’s first type of car. His mom would never forgive me. I mean sure, it won’t be that year’s model, probably not the last 5 to 10 years either if I have any say so. But it will be a safe car, a reliable car, and especially a boring car that he won’t be able to get in too much trouble with.
That’s why my first car was that Buick. It was just enough to get me from point A to point B without letting me tear across town like a rocket.
Not that I didn’t try, if I’m being honest, but I digress.
We’re not talking about my son’s first car. We’re talking about my own semi-reliable, mostly junky, extremely boring hunk of metal that I loved like a child when I got it. Like I said, I bought it at 15, during the fall, even though I didn’t turn 16 until February of the next year. I had to be ready, and this was my first chance to be in the big leagues with the other driver’s licensed car owners. I already thought they were all cooler than me.
This Buick was going to take me into a whole new territory.
So, I bought the car and drove it in and out of my parent’s driveway for months. I did flying tackles over the roof of my car, lest one leaf fell upon it. I even dug it out of the snow every time it snowed. You know, just in case I was called upon to rescue someone from their house and drive them to the hospital. That was a completely valid reason to be prepared for, at least in my teenage brain.
The day came for me to get my license and we took my mom’s car to the DMV, because there was a chance I wouldn’t pass (you know, like the same chance that hell may have frozen over).
But sure enough, I passed with flying colors, and was officially a legal driver! Only, we caught every red light on the way back home, had a flat tire, got stuck behind at least 12 school busses full of children, and, per my mother – “Took the scenic route.”
I think now that she was probably delaying it one last bit, but it was inevitable. You should have known that, Mom.
We finally made it home and I rushed inside to get my keys and right back out to my pride and joy, the Buick Skylark. I couldn’t wait to cruise off without a care in the world.
That’s when I heard the dreaded words. The words no freshly licensed teenage boy wants to hear.
You think you know what’s coming, but you don’t.
See, the Buick Skylark, in addition to having a large backseat, also has gobs of trunk space. It’s really an amazing amount compared to what I drive now, a MINI Cooper.
“Since you’re going for a ride, take…”, my Mom said. She wasn’t really going to say it, was she?
Could this get any worse? How could I, an adult who was finally able to drive a car, be expected to look awesome with his sister in backseat?
And then she finished the sentence: “…and pick up these groceries.”
That, my friends, is the story of my first car, the Buick Skylark. A vehicle of empowerment. A symbol of reliability and safety. A canvas on which to experiment, especially with sketchily installed audio systems…
But it was also a grocery getter, and a car pool opportunity for a family with kids.
Still, it was mine, and it was awesome.
This post was originally published on September 5, 2017.