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What was Your First Car?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I found a similar looking one in a similar looking field!

The 21st Vintage Celebration kicks off today and runs through Sunday.

The name says pretty much what you need to know about the event: it's a celebration of vintage cars.  Cars that help diagram the lineage of the motorsports.  From the early days of dirt tracks and open-wheel racing, you can see the progression and development into today's feats of science.

The beauty of the Vintage as well is that the proud owners of these cars have spent countless hours of work and love maintaining and/or restoring them.

That's more than a lot of us can say we've done.

Most of us remember our oldest cars as piles of junk that are wasting away in a junkyard somewhere, stripped several times over for parts and never to return to the road again.

As a promotion for the Vintage Celebration, I designed a scavenger hunt on the website with all winners receiving a free infield pass, if they completed it correctly.  (The scavenger hunt runs through Friday if you'd like to take advantage of the offer, just click here.)  As a final question on the hunt, I asked fans a simple but reminiscent question: what was your first car?

Now, for the Vintage Celebration participants, it's worth noting that the "oldest" car they own likely wasn't their "first."  However, for the rest of us that will attend to view the cars that we only dream of ever driving, "old" is associated with words like: first, dilapidated and junker.

Scavenger hunt respondents put up some classic responses, like a Mitsubishi Mirage, bright orange Oldsmobile Cutlas and Fort festiva.  Mine?  A mud-colored 1992 Subaru Legacy station wagon (I didn't buy it until 2004, you do the math).  It looked just like the neglected beater pictured above.

My dad helped me find it.  Turns out he knew the guy selling it, but by "knew," I mean that he was an acquaintance from about 20 years earlier.  Odds are if you've lived in a small N.H. town for 20 years, you're an acquaintance with pretty much anyone in the vicinity.  So, needless to say, the seller wasn't a friend that might have told us to skip the thing.  He just wanted to sell it.

It was April and the car had been sitting in a snowy field for the entire winter.  But, I needed a car and my dad seemed to trust the guy enough, so we plunked down $2,500 and took it off the lot.

A few days later, I brought it to get inspected.  The seller had mentioned that we'd need to get a new boot, but that wasn't all it needed.  It also needed struts and a new windshield.  All in all, it was about $1,000 more before I could get it street legal.

In the meantime, I was pulled over because the inspection sticker said February, and again, it was April.  (I didn't get a ticket because I was within the 10-day legal window for it to pass inspection.)  It went to show that the car had indeed been forgotten and abandoned long before I bought it.

Over the next few years, the winter in the field and overall lack of love the car had received took a toll.  The bottom of the car was rusted out and always seemed to have issues.  Costing me at least what the car originally cost me to repair and raising questions why'd I'd spent that in the first place.

Finally, when I was away at college, I got the call.  The car wouldn't go over 30 mph.  A few days later, as my dad was trying to get it to the junkyard, it seemed to respond like a stubborn animal: breaking down a few miles early and refusing to move.  It was traded straight up for a tow, and to the best of my knowledge, continues to rust somewhere a few miles east of Lake Mascoma in Enfield, N.H.

However, that's not the kind of car you'll see this week at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway's Vintage Celebration!

The kind of cars you'll see are the ones that have been maintained, restored, and lack rust.

They were built a longtime before 1992 (or, technically, 1991, since that's when '92s were sold) and will continue to lay rubber to asphalt long after my old Subaru has gone from a stripped shell to a crushed metal memory.

That's the beauty of the Vintage Celebration.

We all keep getting older.  We develop new technology everyday be it in a garage, on the web or elsewhere.  But, these cars, they stay the same age.  They look just as pristine as they did 50, 60, 70 years ago, long after their original owner might have moved on.

Hopefully, you'll get the chance to check them out this week and learn about the lives of these cars.