News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 11, 2014

Readers reminisce about first cars: ‘I still miss that tank’

Dozens of readers responded to the Tribune-Star’s callout for “Remember Your First Car” stories.

In April 1960, I was 15, and through an ad in the Terre Haute Tribune, I bought a 1952 Oldsmobile Super 88 convertible and owned it until August 2009.

I took my driving test in it, drove it through high school, and my wife of 49 years and I had our first date in it. I learned of president Kennedy’s death while driving it home from work. Waiting to be restored, it sat in different buildings from 1964-2009.

After building a home, sending three children to school and retirement, I decided the best thing for the car and me (financially) would be to sell it. Looking better than new, the Oldsmobile now resides in Tennessee with its new owner. In the November 2013 issue of “Journey With Olds” magazine, it graced the cover, Best in Show.

Owning this car for 49 years, I have a much larger story to tell than can be put into 150 words.

— Danny Weir

Hymera


 The first car I bought on my own was a 1968 AMC Javelin. It was blue and had yellow and orange flames painted on the sides. I bought it for $150 from a classmate and drove it for about a week! The best features were the new battery I put in it, and the handle on the glove compartment was a mini version of the door knocker from the “Wizard of Oz”!

Side note — it was a fixer-upper at best and way beyond my mechanical knowledge to keep it going!

It backfired at stoplights and the carburetor would catch fire. I kept a rug (it came with the car) behind the driver’s seat so I could jump out, throw the hood open, and beat the flames out. I drove it to a Christmas party at work and when I came out to go home (with a cute girl who needed a ride) it had three flat tires. So we both had to find rides and, it turned out, not in the same vehicle.

I aired up the tires with the help of the maintenance man and limped home. The next morning, I came out to go to work and the brand new battery had been stolen. I walked to work. Got another battery when I got off and put it in the car and drove it back to the friend I bought it from and left it with him. There were no hard feelings, I just couldn’t keep it going. I did, however, get many requests from his dad to remove it, but it didn’t run so I couldn’t.

— Jim Clayton

LaHarpe, Ill.


My first car was handed down to me from my dad when I got my license in 1977.

It was a 1968 Chevy Impala 2-door and was olive green in color. The doors were so big that a passenger could slide into the back seat without lifting up the front seats. The radio was nothing but static unless the sun shined and then it came in clear as a bell. Me and my cousin, Danny Budd, double-dated to our junior prom in that car, and we could fit all four of us in the front seat. It was the family car before I inherited it. We could fit all four kids in the back seat and Mom and Dad up front.

I loved that car. I called it “Thee Impala”! Drove that car for two years before the next Impala was handed down by my dad.

— Tom Sappington

Former Terre Haute resident


My first car was a new 1963 Ford Falcon, the color mint green.

I was a 19-year-old girl with no driver’s license. I loved the car but had to wait six months and pass the driver’s test, before I could drive it by myself. I purchased the car from Vandivier Ford Sales in Franklin, Indiana. My brother-in-law had purchased a Ford Fairlane there earlier that year, and he thought they would give me a good “deal” with his reference.

I still have the buyer’s order and the “new car” window sticker. The price of the car was $2,555; it was an automatic, with all vinyl trim. I financed the car for 36 months with payments of $62.66 monthly.

I found one picture of my car with my young niece standing beside it. My nieces and nephews loved to ride along with me with my radio tuned to WBOW or WLS listening to the great songs of the ’60s.

— Lynette (Wible) Inbody

Sullivan


When John Baker passed away in 1987, his grandson, William Edward Baker II, inherited “Grandpa’s” 1971 Chevy.

Bill (“Scooter”) drove the Chevy, which he called “a classic,” all through high school at Sullivan, taking it with him to Indiana University. In 1995 he sold the “Green Machine” and bought his first new car.

(Submitted by Bill’s mother.)

— Sue Baker

Sullivan


My first car was a 1951 Ford. No power steering, no power brakes, no seat belts, AM-only radio. Flathead engine and standard transmission.

You could tear them down and put them back together with no training. Also, the gearshift could be put on the left side. First gear was in and up; you just yanked it down to 2nd. It lasted me through seven transmissions. Wish I still had it.

— Bob Harris

In 1959, my first car was a 1949 Plymouth coup. I had a wreck when a car hit me on the passenger side. Dad wired the door shut and taped up the window, and anyone riding with me had to slide underneath the steering wheel.

Oh, what memories. I was only 18 at the time.

— Patt Welsh

Formerly of West Terre Haute and Liggett


1966 Chevy Corvair convertible. Loved that car! Wish I still had it.

— Matt Archambeault

Terre Haute


In ’63, I bought a ’62 Corvair from a fellow that got drafted into the Army. In ’65, I sold it because I got drafted!! Good car, otherwise!

— Daniel Lofton

My first car was a Chevy station wagon. When you would press down on the gas [pedal], the motor would shake so hard it felt like it would drop to the street. As I remember, it finally broke its motor mounts and my dad bought me a new car.

— Jan Mason

Powell, Ohio


1954 Mercury Sun Valley. Plastic sun roof, sea mist green, I think. Cruised the ’Bash in summer of ’64.

— Danny Brewer

Bridgeport, Neb.

Formerly of Terre Haute


My dad bought me a 1967 Buick — I don’t remember the model — to drive to my first job at the age of 18 in 1975, at Columbia House. I worked there for 22 1/2 years!

I still work in Terre Haute now, so I feel a part of this great town!

— Linda M. Bennett

Clinton


1974 Pontiac Ventura, vinyl top, seasick green, 8-track player.

— Ray Rickert

I bought my first car at Adams Pontiac near 14th and Wabash.

It was a ’50 Pontiac and was five years old. I think I paid about $800 for the 2-door Catalina hardtop. My next car was a ’63 Corvair Spyder. It was a fun car to drive. Looking back, however, I only got 24 miles per gallon from that turbo-charged engine. In 1964, gas was only about 27.9 cents a gallon. Many cars in the ’70s only got 10-12 mpg and [they] didn’t care about that.

— Paul Black

1952 Ford convertible. Flathead V8, 3-speed on the floor. I could never afford a good battery (rolled down my driveway to start it; I took guys home from school so they could push). On dates I had to try to park on a hill. I remember the clutch went out once while taking a girl home, and I had to slow down as slow as I could in first gear and she jumped out.

Wish I still had it, it was a lot of fun.

— Thomas Powell

The first car given to me was a ’65 VW beetle. Back then they were 6 volts, so I had to stick a 12-volt battery under the front hood to run my 8-track player. The first car I bought with my own money was a ’70 Nova.

— Tom Ferris

Prairieton


1977 Honda Civic. I think I could pick it up with one hand. Black vinyl seats with no A/C. Stick shift, which I had to learn. High school graduation gift from my dad!

— Olga Imperial Keegan

Carmel

Formerly of Terre Haute


1973 VW Super Beetle. Bought it brand new for about $2,100. Crashed it in 1974 and bought a 1974 Camaro, which was a lemon, and I kept it about six months and traded it in on a 1974 Sun Bug.

— Jimmie Jeffers

My first car was a 1961 Plymouth Belvedere. A big 4-door tank with a Lucite steering wheel and a push-button transmission. It had been my mother’s.

I still miss that tank.

— Richard Wright

Terre Haute


1959 Ford, bought it for $350 from “Little Detroit,” where I worked part time on Saturday mornings washing cars.

— John Lyman

I would say my actual “partly-owned” first car was a 1950 Studebaker, when the gang and I chipped in and bought it from Sussman’s junk yard for about $50.

There were about seven or eight of us boys that somehow managed to start that old busted up wreck. It wouldn’t do more than 25 miles per hour, as we coasted, for the most part, along the back streets of West Terre Haute. I felt like we were in the old Rubble mobile Fred Flintstone used to paddle his feet wildly to get going. What a piece of junk, but it was fun while it lasted …  before it finally gave up the ghost for good down in the Wabash River bottoms. We all got out, looked at the smoldering remains, shrugged, and left it where it died. I wonder sometimes if it’s still there after some 45 years!

The first car I “actually” owned as a senior in high school was a dark blue 1963 Chevy Impala SS that I bought from my brother-in-law. I just wished I would have taken better care of it and had it now! Loved that car!

— Mark Atterson

Purcell, Okla.

Formerly of West Terre Haute


Mine was a ’63 impala. It was red.

— Curt Hicks

1957 Ford Fairlane.

— Connie Brady

’66 Mercury Comet. Totaled it, replaced it with a ’66 Dodge Dart.

— Dennis L. Cook

I had a ’63 Impala SS. Great car.

In ’69, I was in a serious accident where some 15-year-old kid ran a stop sign and broadsided me. Totaled.

— Ron Clarke

San Clemente, Calif.

Formerly of Terre Haute


It was a 1969 Oldsmobile Delta 88. It had already been through three of my sisters and by the time I got it … well, if cars could talk.

It was big and roomy and could carry lots of friends. It became known as “The Party Wagon” and “The Barf Car.” For obvious reasons, I think.

— Russ Inserra

Indianapolis

Formerly of Terre Haute


Mine was an olive green with black vinyl top. It “is” a ’67 Chevelle SS 396 4-speed, and I bought it from Fred Cooper Jr. at Terre Haute North.

What luck would have it that they have become quite the collectible vehicle. Worth 50 times more than I paid for it back then. The good part of it all is, after dragging it around the Midwest all these years, I’m prepping to paint her (again) and put in a new interior. This May will be 37 years with it. Still my baby.

— Jerry L. Kinney

Lebanon, Ind.

Formerly of Terre Haute


Mine was a 1972 orange Chevy Vega. I drove it two years.

Bought it off a friend of my first husband — $1,200 and paid for it myself.

— Deb Little

1968 green Volkswagen Beetle. Stick shift. I had a friend take me to the Meadows shopping center on a Sunday afternoon to learn how to drive it!

— Carla Wehrmeyer

Terre Haute


’74 red Vega. $800. My dad co-signed a loan at the bank. Payments were $60 a month!

— Michelle Dery

Terre Haute


1970 blue Buick GS 455. Great car, wish I had it today.

When you floored it, everything went silent for about two seconds, then the back two barrels on the Quadrajet carb kicked in, and it threw you back in your seat and took off like a rocket. …

— Christopher Brown

Terre Haute


I bought my first car, a 1930 Model A Ford Coupe, in the summer of 1944 after I had saved enough money from my wages (65 cents an hour) working at the Pennsylvania Railroad 35th Street Car Shops between my junior and senior years at Fontanet High School.

The Ford was black (what else in that era), had a rumble seat and 17-inch wheels and tires. That Ford was my pride and joy as I could drive to activities and take friends instead of always riding with someone else or riding my bicycle which was inconvenient on dates. The rumble seat came in handy on double-dates, except when it would rain and all four of us had to get inside the car. That was a little crowded but we enjoyed the togetherness.

Since gasoline was rationed and we had stamps that we could only get four gallons per stamp, that curtailed how much we could run around. The answer to that was to find friends that had family members with extra stamps, even though that wasn’t legal but many people were doing the same thing. The Ford also gave me transportation to my part-time jobs during the school year and after graduation in 1945 until I joined the Maritime Service. I have very fond memories of that 1930 Ford and of my friends of those years.

— Eugene Burroughs

Bullhead, City, Arizona

Formerly of Vigo County

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    March 12, 2010

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