My First Car – Turning 16 in America

In the summer of 1973 I purchased my first car, a white 1962 Ford Fairlane.   I had managed to save about $175 dollars by mowing lawns for several years, and I hoped my savings would be enough to cover the purchase of the car and any parts needed to make it roadworthy, as well as insurance and gas.  I knew very little about cars, but my Grandfather liked to tinker with cars in his spare time, and I planned the purchase carefully with his help.  He was friends with a mechanic who also had a wrecker and salvage service.  They kept their eyes open for a good deal.

I didn’t even have a driver’s license yet–I would not turn 16 until the end of the year–but buying the car that summer would give my Grandfather and me several months to complete any work that needed to be done on it prior to my eagerly-anticipated 16th birthday.

When we finally found the car, the price was right, a whopping $60! We knew the engine needed work but the body and interior were in decent shape.This car was not as fancy as the newer cars that many of my friends had been given by their parents, but it was all mine, bought with my own money.

For the next several months Grandpa and I worked to get the car in roadworthy condition.  I use the term “we” loosely, as my Grandpa did the work while I handed him parts or tools.  The car was finally ready to drive in October.

My family lived in Oklahoma at that time, and before I got my license my Dad would take me out to the oil leases to drive.  The roads were mainly rutted dirt paths worn down by the trucks that routinely drove over them to service the oil rigs.  The only danger was going over a rut with too much speed, or hitting a pumping rig.  Even an inexperienced driver like me could avoid a pumping rig in the middle of a field.

On my birthday in December I took and passed my drivers test in my car.  The very next day I drove to school.   For the next several months my Ford Fairlane gave me the freedom of the road.  The drives to Ken’s Pizza, Sonic, A&W, or just cruising the drag, provided endless hours of fun.

Unfortunately, the ongoing expenses needed to repair the car strapped my budget and patience.  By the end of the summer of 1974 I heeded my Dad’s advice and quit throwing good money after bad.

It cost another $65 to have my car towed to the salvage yard.  I learned a good lesson but was left with great memories of my first car.

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