A while back, I posted a little callout on LinkedIn and asked folks to share stories about their first cars. I had no idea what a nerve I'd touch with that one. Dozens of stories came crashing into my comments like a 16-year-old who forgot to make sure the garage door is up. People shared tales of hot rods and junk heaps, compacts with barely enough room for two and massive wagons that hauled packs of friends. We've assembled some of the best stories and photos for this gallery. These are a fun ride. Buckle up.
Geoff Millener, senior program and operations officer for the Enterprise Center
We bought my 1971 Innocenti Mini Cooper on eBay in 2006, when I was a junior in high school. A gentleman stationed in Italy brought it back with him. We looked for a LHD Mini, so that I could at least learn how to drive a manual on the same side of the road as everyone else. I grew up around a bunch of family friends who would always talk about how much they loved their first car and how they wished they still had it. My dad, a Kiwi, worked for a mechanic in school and was always telling stories about the beach buggy he built, or the time he ended upside down in his little Fiat Bambina. So I wanted something different, fun and that I would be able to work on with my dad. She's needed a new clutch for a bit and the rust is a constant battle, but I still have my first car. I learned all manner of things working on her with my dad, Philip Millener. People left notes on my windscreen all the time — offers to buy her, memories of a Mini or just older car in their lives. Excellent conversation starter pulling into a parking lot. Also, you can always find/make a parking space. I did once get rear-ended on Barton Avenue, and the guy who hit me admitted he was taking a photo of my car when it happened.
Makaylah Ariazi, marketing coordinator at HHM CPAs
My 1993 red Mustang was my older sister's first car and mine, as well. I was the first of my friends to turn 16, so I was very proud to drive them around and go to our high school basketball away games in it. The 'Stang was faithful for many years. My first year of college at UTC, a group of friends and I wanted to go to a UT Knoxville football game. We loaded up in the 'Stang and it broke down only a few exits up. We had to wait on the side of the road for it to cool down. Not thinking it would make it all the way to Knoxville at that point, we turned around and went back to campus before heading back to Knoxville in a different friend's car! Although that may have been the end of the road for me and my first car, my dad is recently retired and working on getting it fixed back up. Who knows, maybe it will be my niece's first faithful car, too.
Dalton Daughtrey, Reliance Human Capital Management
My first car was a 1999 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer edition, gifted to me when I was 15. It hadn't run in years and was going to be a fixer upper, and $700 and a new fuel system later, it was up and running. For the next couple years in high school, it served as a local taxi as I would pick up my friends on my way to school and they would pay for the gas. My rates were fair. I bought a little sedan when I moved off to college — something with less than 300,000 miles that didn't rattle and shake so much. It wasn't until my senior year that I would summon ol' Eddie once again. The love of my life was studying abroad. I knew I was supposed to marry her, but I didn't have a ring. The only thing that I had of real value was my BMW 338xi, so I did what any other unreasonable love-drunk college student would do and sold it and bought a ring and a plane ticket to Costa Rica and my life has never been the same since. Thankfully, the old Explorer, who had been in a deep slumber for several years, was there for me when I returned as an engaged man. With a little air in the tires and a little charge on the battery, he was rattling like the good old days and this time came back to finish college with me. We actually recently donated him, and it's been less than a year since we parted. Still ran when we got rid of him.
Jean Wenn Luce, marketing brand manager
I had an AMC green Hornet wagon with lime green tweed carpet on the ceiling. Gaskets blew after a particular drag race home, side-by-side with my work buddy. She had a Mustang, and the Hornet was no match for it. Good memories!
Debbie Cecil, retired from Unum
I had a 1965 steel blue Mustang with a black hardtop. I saved for months when I started work at Provident in 1971 to buy that car. I would kill to have that car now. By the way, I was not drag racing with Jean Wenn Luce in her Hornet!
Rob Reagan, co-founder and chief technology officer at TextRequest
I had a fully restored 1981 Jeep J10 pickup. This was a full-size pickup made by AMC. Lots of chrome, and a great four-wheel drive vehicle. Which was useful, since my friends who drove Cherokees were always calling me to tow them out of mudholes. It had four on the floor, and a Grant walnut steering wheel. I wish I still had it today.
Jim Tanner, lecturer in communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
I had a 1974 VW bug. Canary yellow. Had it just a few weeks and drove to meet a friend to watch "Footloose" at Eastgate Theater. Came out and it was gone! I was traumatized. Never saw it again, and I never completely forgave Kevin Bacon. The cherry on top of this story is that my mom in her wisdom had insured the car for everything EXCEPT THEFT!