It was the hot summer of 1977. I was 15 years old and dreaming of hot rods, motorcycles, and girls… probably in that order, too.

I was in between 10th and 11th grades that summer. I was sporting a cool set of “Elvis” sideburns and had a tape box filled with the latest and greatest Rock and Roll 8-track tapes. All I needed was some wheels. No. Not a bicycle. I needed some big boy wheels… a car, a motorcycle… something with a motor. I dreamed about a ’57 Chevy or a cool Harley-Davidson raked out chopper, like Cap’n America’s bike in the movie Easy Rider.

That was also the summer that my mom and dad let me know that I was going to be getting my very first (official) car in September, once I passed my operator’s license test. I only had a restricted license up till then. My mother was in a hurry for me to get my license and car because, as she said then, “I’m tired of carting your ass around.” Mom was a plain-spoken country girl from Avon Park, Florida. She usually told you like it was; no BS from momma.

I say “official” because my first “unofficial” car was actually a 1963 Pontiac Catalina Safari station wagon real similar to THIS tank. It was originally our family car, but my dad sold it to his and mom’s business a few years earlier. It was recently retired and sitting in my yard. I adopted it. I started working on it and tinkering with it till one day when my father asked me what I was doing. He and I had a bit of a round and round over that car. He was for selling it. I was for keeping it. He won the debate. That was the end of my hot rod station wagon dreams.

So anyway, September rolled on by. I passed my operator’s license exam. And within a couple days, was driving my first “official” car, a hand-me-down (from mom) 1969 Plymouth Valiant. It was just like the one pictured here, but mine was monkey puke green. OK, it wasn’t no cool hot rod. It had a six cylinder; not a speed demon. However, I actually wish I had that car nowadays. That 225CI slant six Mopar engine was one of the best plants to ever come out of Detroit. It got 35mpg on a bad day. I installed some coax speakers in the back deck and a hand-me-down 8-track tape player and off I went… a 16 year old with the world in the palm of his hand.

I didn’t drive that ol’ girl for that long. I was into a real hot rod shortly thereafter. The Valiant was given to my uncle Aaron, my mother’s brother. He drove it for about  a month till some idiot turned left in front of him one day. The ol’ girl was totaled. Uncle Aaron was alright, though… just car-less again. A sad ending for such a great little car. Oh well, that’s the way it goes sometimes.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

Till next time, folks…

~Elvis, er… I mean Eric

Note: This article first appeared on my Nocturnal Slacker/Lockergnome blog (now defunct).

About V. T. Eric Layton

vtel57, Nocturnal Slacker

4 responses »

  1. Great first car story! You recently read my first car story on my blog. Didn’t go quite as well as yours. 😉

    My lavender and white Corvair convertible

    and the follow up posting here:

    Evening Orchid Corvair!

    But it was all still fun! We sure knew how to bounce back when things didn’t go quite right.

    • I’m trying to gradually repost some of these good articles from my old Lockergnome blog. For some reason, this one struck a nerve with a lot of folks over there. It was one of my most commented on article during my time there. I was visiting with two childhood friends yesterday. We laughed like hell talking about the first car stories and other memories from our misspent youth. 😉

  2. You should see the first cars we drove in the UK. Compared to the one above they looked like lawn mowers.

    • Hello Mr. Jackson. Yes, you’re right about those cars. BIG Detroit iron and muscle was unique in the world. Sadly, as with all things, that time has moved on.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading/commenting. Also, I like your website. You’ve been bookmarked for future visits. 🙂


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