AutoGuide Answers: What Was Your First Car?

Your first car often represents an unbelievable sense of freedom and independence. That connection is hard to shake, so we’re all usually pretty proud of our first set of wheels. 

Here’s what your editors drove as their first cars. Did you have a memorable first car? Tell us all about it in the comments below!


2003 Oldsmobile Alero – Mike Schlee, Road Test Editor:

“My first car ever was an Oldsmobile and no, it wasn’t a hand me down – I bought it new … Please stop laughing.

A 2003 Alero, I opted for the two-door coupe in base GX form. Though it didn’t have power windows, power mirrors or a power seat, I did splurge on a package that included 15-inch alloy wheels and a leather wrapped steering wheel.

The best part of the car, though, was its transmission. It was a five-speed manual. Yup, I owned a manual Oldsmobile. Under the hood sat a 2.2-liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine that was supposed to make 145 hp. I say supposed to because my car was widely regarded as a factory freak making far more power.

Being a 23-year-old, I, of course, had to modify the Alero because that’s what the cool kids did. Equipped with lowering springs, a massive air intake, tinted windows, a front strut tower bar and a near straight-through Magnaflow exhaust, this wasn’t your father’s Oldsmobile (yeah, I went there).

Anyway, the car was capable of 15.2-second quarter-mile times, which was faster than many sport compacts of its time. What’s worse than owning an Oldsmobile? Losing to one with your modified import at the drag strip.”


2004 VW Beetle Convertible TURBO – Jodi Lai, Managing Editor:

“My dad worked at a dealership, so we always had different cars on our driveway. We’d just drive whatever cars he had sitting on the lot until they sold, and I drove so many of them that I don’t even remember which one was truly first. But the car I remember driving the most regularly, one that we actually owned, was a new 2004 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Turbo. I would drive the Beetle to high school with my little sister, and my mom would always tell us to come straight home after school, but we’d always stop to get blue gas station slushies. My mom always knew what was up by the radioactive colour of our tongues.

The Beetle’s top would be down no matter what. Even at a young age, I understood that the top must always be down unless it’s raining. My parents taught me well. But whenever I got made fun of for driving such a stereotypically “girly” car, my only response was , “WELL YEAH, BUT IT’S TURBO!! So suck it!”

I’m also ashamed to admit that I got my first speeding ticket driving this car. And I still stopped to get a slushie on the way home.”


2002 Mercedes-Benz C240 – Sami Haj-Assaad, Features Editor:

“I don’t mess around: my first car was a real sweet ride, and I don’t mean that sarcastically like all the cool kids do. My 2002 Mercedes-Benz C240 may have been an entry-level car, but it still was a rear-wheel-drive luxury sport sedan and it was a total beauty. With its comfy ride and soft MB-Tex leather seats, I was always the designated driver throughout college, not to mention,the go-to road-trip captain. OK, maybe it was an old man car…

Done up with a gorgeous dark blue paint finish and a sexy tan interior, my C-Class boasted heated front seats, a sunroof and a totally awesome six-CD changer in the glovebox.

Under the hood, you’d find a 2.6-liter V6 engine that made about 170 hp when new, mated to a five-speed automatic. With its open differential and inability to completely turn off traction control, it was a headache in the snow, but taught me the real value of winter tires.

By the time I got rid of it in 2012, a number of things were not doing so well: specifically, all the electronics.

A costly car to repair, I quickly learned my lesson and got rid of it as the bills started to outweigh the baller status that came with it. ”


1999 Honda Civic Si – Jason Siu, News Editor:

“My first car was a 1999 Honda Civic Si that underwent numerous transformations and saw tens of thousands of dollars dumped into it for the sake of, well, I’m not even sure now that I look back.

The factory 1.6-liter DOHC VTEC engine went kaboom at the track one evening in 2001, but that was actually expected, since I already had an LS/VTEC engine waiting as a transplant.

I tried to sell it in 2002 but ended up repainting it and rebuilding it with a whole new collection of modifications. It ultimately got sold to a good friend of mine who still owns it today.

The Civic was my start to modifying cars and a never-ending spiral of automotive obsession that still won’t stop today.”

1998 Ford Contour Sport – Craig Cole, Associate Editor:


“My first car was a 1998 Ford Contour Sport, an Americanized version of the company’s European Mondeo. Its compact dimensions, impeccable dynamics and tasteful design translated surprisingly well from Old World to New, but other attributes simply fell off the boat in transit.

These cars were noisy at speed, had cramped rear seats and more functionality missteps than a fall-down drunk rendition of Riverdance.

On the plus side, mine had the up-level 2.5-liter Duratec V6, which provided 170 smooth horses. Unfortunately, the transmission, a CD4E automatic supplied by Mazda, clunked through gears like some sort of industrial stamping press.

Adding insult to injury, a buddy bought an SVT version of the Contour shortly after I got mine, which gave me fits. His car handled better, accelerated faster and was equipped with a proper transmission, a five-speed manual. In short, it was the Contour I should have purchased (if there EVER was one). I’m still bitter about the whole experience.”

1992 Honda Civic Si – Colum Wood, Director of Editorial


“I almost bought a 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra. And I almost bought a 1991 Toyota Supra Turbo Targa. I almost bought a lot of awesome cars. Sensibility, and my limited bank account, won out and I bought a 1992 Honda Civic Si.

It had 204,000 km on it. My father was convinced I had just lit $5,000 on fire.

I didn’t know how to drive stick so my buddy Fahim brought it home for me.

First came the clear corner markers. Then the taillights. Yes, they were Altezas. In my defence, there was a time when Alteza taillights were actually cool.

Yes, there was such a time.

The tuner bug bit hard and from there I expanded to performance modifications and an obsession with wasting my money on car parts. I also met a lot of great guys (and terrible internet trolls) through local car clubs and that Civic helped launch me into my job as an automotive journalist.


One Saturday night on my way to work, I spun out on a hill in freezing rain. The car survived with minimal damage. I exited it just to see a blue Chevy Malibu spinning uncontrollably towards me. I rushed to safety. The impact sent my pride and joy flying through the air.

My car, I later found out, was a write-off.

When I went to sleep that night, I found a piece of glass in my sock.”


1993 Honda Accord EX-R – Stephen Elmer, News Editor:

My 93′ Accord was a fully loaded model complete with power windows, locks and a sunroof, finished in a special shade of beige that made absolutely no statement whatsoever. This car was a hand me down and I was the last in line to receive it, so by the time it got to me, it had seen its fair share of abuse. And I wasn’t any better to it.

Winter time meant handbrake turns around every corner on my bald all-season tires, eventually leading to a meeting with the curb that left my rear passenger side wheel permanently out of alignment (I was quoted $300 to fix it, but I really wasn’t worried about uneven tire wear). This came as a blessing in disguise, because afterwards, my car sounded like a time machine.

Rust began to eat into the body, with the rear quarter panels getting hit the hardest. A rust hole in the flex pipe was also growing, and if the conditions were just right, exhaust fumes would pour into the cabin, coating the occupants with the strong smell of burned fuel. A sheet metal patch sufficed until I eventually ended up losing most of my exhaust after a particularly large pothole on the highway. Luckily, the exhaust was repaired before the windows stopped working.

First it was the rear driver side window motor that gave up. I salvaged a new one from a wrecker and spent the better part of a Saturday installing it, only to have to experience catastrophic failure again just days later. That’s when I installed my trusted wooden wedge, which held that window up for the final years of my Accord’s life.

When the Accord came off the road, I couldn’t find it in myself to sell it, instead stashing it at my family’s country property with hopes of one day giving it a proper goodbye in the form of a demolition derby. So far, my dream hasn’t come to fruition, but I can tell you this: It has been sitting outside, covered by only a tarp, for the better part of two years. Mice and I’m sure every other creature have used it as a hotel, while a steel structure building collapsed on it, leaving the windshield cracking in the worst way.

The holes in the quarter panel are big enough to fit my fist in and it smells horrible inside.

But, it still runs. Charge up the battery and she fires right up. I’ve been saying it for years. The body will completely rust away, but that motor will never die.

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