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frenchyd SuperDork
7/17/18 1:29 a.m.
chandler said:

‘81 Dodge d150 from the back lot of the Chrysler dealer in moberly Missouri, $300. It’s  was 13 and my dad thought we could have a “project”. It was a 225 /6 with a three speed and overdrive. I swapped a succession of engines and trans into it over the thirteen years I had it; three junkyard 225s, a 318, a 360, a 331 hemi, a 383, an unknown small block with a ton of power out of a junk warlock I bought for parts that cracked the block while street racing and ended up with a interceptor 318 out of a diplomat. I sold it in 2006 when I was selling stuff off to move for $3200. Last time I was out there it was sitting behind the house of the guy I sold it to in Hopkins Park, Il.

I love things with a long history of engine swaps.  I’ve got a friend who is still driving a 1966 Mustang his dad got  new when he was 14.  That thing has had 9 different engines in it. Right now he’s planning on replacing the 351 with the Ford 5.0  cammer engine out of a 2016 pickup. So he’s over here a lot lately taking measurements.   

spitfirebill MegaDork
7/18/18 6:59 p.m.

This is an impressive bunch of first cars.  Mine was a 1956 VW convertible that I paid $395 for it.  I had to have the valves done later that cost $50 as it was done by a friend of my father that did lawn mower repairs.  I sold it to the pilot of the company aircraft that my father worked for for the balance owed, which was $200 at the time he picked it up.  I had fianaced it and payments were $25/month.  


Mndsm MegaDork
7/18/18 7:01 p.m.

6643.50 for a 1993 Corolla in 1996ish. Sold for 3300 with a used motor in 2000ish. 

spitfirebill MegaDork
7/18/18 7:17 p.m.

This is an impressive bunch of first cars.  Mine was a 1956 VW convertible that I paid $395 for it.  I had to have the valves done later that cost $50 as it was done by a friend of my father that did lawn mower repairs.  I sold it to the pilot of the company aircraft that my father worked for for the balance owed, which was $200 at the time he picked it up.  I had fianaced it and payments were $25/month.  


nutherjrfan SuperDork
7/20/18 5:16 a.m.

'82 Chevette.  200 U.K. pounds.  Still have it at the parents house. smiley

stu67tiger Reader
7/20/18 6:53 a.m.

It was a 1970 Fiat 124 Spyder, a year old when I got it.  $2500, IIRC.  Great car, the handling, the sound, the top went up and down so easily... In December 1972 I noticed a little bubble in the rocker panel.  I pushed on it...  My finger went in...

The  body shop guy checked it out and said he could make it look good, but I should sell it ASAP.  I found a victim, $1700. 


Gary SuperDork
7/20/18 1:06 p.m.

'61 Sunbeam Alpine Mk 2 for $400 in July, 1966, when I was 17. Yikes, 52 freakin' years ago! Am I that old?  (Interesting story on the negotiations  for that gem, which I've related in  another thread somewhere here a few years ago). Over the next few years I drove it, took it apart, rebuilt the mechanicals, drove it some more, then sold it in the eighties (along with a spare parts car which I had picked up in the early seventies for $50) for $500. Outer sills on both sides of both cars were completely gone by then. The $500 went into my IRA, a wise use of the funds.

Daylan C
Daylan C SuperDork
7/20/18 1:49 p.m.

Through weird father-son trade deals I don't think I ever really paid anything for my '89 D350, He gave it to me, I gave it back to him, then traded some other stuff to him to get it back, then after a couple years I sold it for $2,000.

preach New Reader
7/22/18 4:52 a.m.

1975 Opel Kadett 1900 was given to me by my step father in 1985.  I was 15 and never got it running for more than 15 seconds.  I do not remember the disposition of it, but the manual I got for it had a picture at the start of each chapter, Kadett Wagon, Manta, then the holy grail...the GT!!!  A 1971 Opel GT 1900 was the first car I purchased, restored, and drove.  I purchased it for $1200 nonop in 1988 and ended up totaling it a month after I got it on the road.

frenchyd SuperDork
7/22/18 7:38 a.m.
Gary said:

'61 Sunbeam Alpine Mk 2 for $400 in July, 1966. Yikes, 52 freakin' years ago! Am I that old?  (Interesting story on the negotiations  for that gem, which I've related in  another thread somewhere here a few years ago). Over the next few years I drove it, took it apart, rebuilt the mechanicals, drove it some more, then sold it in the eighties (along with a spare parts car which I had picked up in the early seventies for $50) for $500. Outer sills on both sides of both cars were completely gone by then. The $500 went into my IRA, a wise use of the funds.

I too owned a Sunbeam series 1 in 1966 ( mine was a 1960 )  I paid $300 for mine and gave it to my sister when I went in the Navy in 1967. 

mikedd969 New Reader
9/8/18 3:12 p.m.

Ahh.  My first car. Definitely NOT a "cool ride" but such good memories.....    

Short version:

Car:1978 VW Rabbit Diesel.  

Bought for: $400 from my grandfather in 1987.

Sold for:  0$  Abandoned.  

Long Version:

Let's jump in the "wayback" machine and travel back to 1987.  I was 19, and in my first enlistment in the Navy.  I'd just spent ~9 months at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in beautiful Waukegan, IL doing my initial training as an Electronics Technician. I had 3 weeks leave enroute to a follow-on school that was located at Ft. Gordon, GA, just outside Augusta.  Being without a car at Great Lakes wasn't too much of a hardship, there were plenty of public transportation options there.  That would not be the case at my next stop.  I needed wheels and I needed them to be cheap.  At least my hometown in KY was on the way to Augusta.......

My grandfather came to my rescue and sold me his old "commute to work" car.  He'd retired a few years earlier and it was just sitting there.  $400 bought me a tan, 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel.  4-speed MT, 4-doors, 160K miles on the clock and one or two.....interesting....modifications.  My grandfather had been a boilermaker for the Tennessee Valley Authority and the commute from his farm to the power plant was just about 80 miles each way.  Pa hated stopping for fuel, so he had removed the factory fuel tank and replaced it with a 25-gallon unit that he had built himself.  At 40MPG, that meant the car could go almost 1,000 miles between fill-ups.  It also meant that the fuel gauge didn't work.....thus I ran out of fuel numerous times in that car....which is a total PITA as there is no manual "priming pump" on those cars, and getting it going after running the fuel dry took some doing.....

At 140K miles, the massive 1.5L, 50HP engine had lost quite a bit of it's compression, and in temperatures below 40 or so, it could be kind of (very, incredibly) hard to start when cold.  My grandfather's solution was to put in a second battery and a big relay.  When you turned the key to "start" it would put the batteries in series, sending 24V to the starter only, everything else would remain 12V.  Sketchy?  Yes.  Effective?  Absolutely. Crazy? Ingenious?  Yep.  wink 

Honestly, it was a great little car.  It was super-comfortable, handled fairly well, and, all thing considered, it was pretty reliable, right up till it wasn't.  smiley It was not even remotely fast however. 0-60 could best be measured with a calendar instead of a stopwatch, and it maxed out, on flat ground at 83MPH. cool I was dating my HS sweetheart at the time, and I made MANY round trips from KY to Ft. Gordon (~600mi each way) in that car.  It could easily do the entire trip each way without stopping for fuel.  

Mechanically, it was actually pretty solid all things considered.  On one return trip form KY to GA the alternator died just past Nashville.  I stopped at the Truck Stop at Monteagle on I-24 and the service guy confirmed that the alternator was shot.  But, it was daytime, and not raining, and the only electrical power the car needed to run was just enough to hold the fuel solenoid open on the injector pump.  He put the batteries on the charger for about an hour and I drove the rest of the way, over 300 miles, with no working alternator......  Can't do that with many cars.  laugh  I rebuilt the alternator in the auto hobby shop on base later that week.  

Those early VW diesel engines had a mechanical vacuum pump, driven off of the intermediate shaft to run the brake booster and whatever other vacuum operated things there were.  It was located where the distributor would be on a gas VW.  That thing failed on me twice.  It was a simple diaphragm pump, much like a mechanical fuel pump, just larger.  The first time it failed, I was able to buy a kit and rebuild it.  The second time, the little cam-driven rod that acted on the diaphragm punched a hole through it's housing so I had to scrounge one from a junkyard. 

Despite the "supercharged starter" modification, at temps below 20, it was almost impossible to get started after sitting overnight.  My solution?  A toggle switch underneath the dash that would provide 12V to the fuel solenoid on the injector pump, bypassing the ignition switch.  If it was going to be very cold overnight I'd park it, put the transmission in neutral, set the e-brake, flip that switch, turn the ignition to "off" (car still running), get out and lock the doors.  The doors and the steering were locked, but the car would sit there and idle all night.....  

Eventually, at around 180K miles, the end was near.  My buddies and I were in the car, on our way back from the Navy base in Charleston SC  (we had to go buy some uniform stuff that we couldn't get on an Army base) in the middle of the August heat. We are tooling along down the highway at about 70MPH when, all of a sudden, that little car, all on it's own, starts accelerating like a bat out of hell!!  It was almost like a Nitrous Oxide hit.  The car had never had that much power before.  I immediately took my foot off the accelerator, and it had mo effect whatsoever, the car is still accelerating. I stomped hard on the brakes, and once I got the car slowed down a bit, everything returned to normal.  I was really confused, but, other than running a little hot (not shocking considering that it was at least 98 degrees that day) nothing appeared to be wrong.  20 min later, the exact same thing happens again. This pattern repeats several times, each time, it is harder and harder to get it to stop.  Finally, it happened and no amount of braking would make it stop.  I pulled to the shoulder, and turned off the ignition.  No dice, the little engine is screaming like it's under WOT and will not stop.  I stood on the brakes and popped the clutch.....the clutch just slipped (and stank) and the engine kept on screaming.  Finally I got out, popped the hood and put my hand over the air intake tube leading into the airbox and the engine finally shut down.  It did start again, and we managed to make it to within 50 miles of our destination before throwing in the towel and calling AAA for a tow.

When we got it back, I started poking around and saw that the inside of the intake manifold was covered in oil.  The blow-by past the piston rings had finally gotten so bad that it was blowing motor oil out of the crankcase, up the PCV line and into the intake.  The engine was literally running on it's own motor oil!!  I'd never even heard of such a thing at the time. Remember, this was 88 or 89, way before the Internet and Google.  smiley

I pulled the head, dropped the pan, and popped the pistons out.  Surprisingly, there was no detectable rod, piston, valve or head damage.  I gave it a quick dingle-ball hone, new rings, rod-bearings, head gasket and timing belt and it fired back to life.  It actually ran much better than it had since I'd owned it.  All thing considered, I was pretty proud of myself.

Shortly after, I finished my school at Ft. Gordon and received orders to Italy.  I drove the Rabbit back home to KY, parked it behind the barn at my grandfather's farm and left it there.  To my knowledge it was still there several years later when the farm was sold.  I have no idea what happened to it, but it's no longer there.

I'll say this for that little car, it was rugged, very well built, and simple to work on.  I loved it.




OFracing Reader
9/8/18 7:50 p.m.

$200 - 1965 Dodge Dart (in 1972), looked like it was repainted (puke green) with a roller. Drove it for 2 years and got back ended poarked at a red light by a drunk. Pulled the straight 6 engine, 140K miles and put in a 69 Belvedere. Sold the Dart by the pound, think I got around $10 (no engine).


mike h

frenchyd SuperDork
9/8/18 9:40 p.m.

In reply to OFracing : I once sold a driver I had ( 64 Pontiac ) by the pound to scrap yard. 

Before I did I drove around the Navy Base auto hobby shop tossing junk that had been sitting around for months.  It went over the scales at over 7500 pounds!  

Made $48 

90BuickCentury New Reader
9/9/18 7:42 p.m.

Was 17. Paid $2,500 for an 11yrold Accord with 195k miles. Now it's 21yrs with 248k and still going strong. Original 4cyl and auto trans. Just did all new timing belt, water pump, drive belt, tensioner, battery, radiator, all fuel and brake lines, front pads, and muffler last year. Due for an oil change and maybe plugs and wires and tranny fluid change. Front rotors could be changed too. Just did 4 new Hankooks this year after having 2 of the 4 8yrold Uniroyal Tiger paws blow within 250 miles of each other. Hope to drive it to 500k or more.

dean1484 MegaDork
9/19/18 7:52 a.m.

Let’s see. I am not sure this was the first but it is what I remember. I got a 1975 formula 400 4 speed car.  It would have been in 1983 or so. I paid $2400 for it drove it for two years or so. Took it across country two times and to Florida a couple times. It was well used by that time. Traded it for a 1965 T bird hard top that was abandoned at a body shop. It had been in for a complete paint job meaning every bit of chrome was off and the interior was completely out of it. The owner just showed up just after the paint was done and signed the title to the shop owner and left. No explication. It had all the body work done and fresh paint. I had to put everything back on it.  That took about three weeks of nights and weekends but I ended up with a absolutely perfect car when I was done.  It was so nice that I really could not use it as a dd. I drove it some. In 1986 I was offered a 1983 firebird with 15k miles on it and $5000 in cash for the T bird. I jumped at that as I liked the T bird but never really connected with it. I drove the firebird for many years. Loved that car for some reason. I think I eventually traded it for a mercury tracer with low millage but the details of that are fuzzy as I would routinely have multiple cars as projects or DDs. I know I also had a bunch or RX7s in there as well so I may have traded the firebird for an FB. 

AngryCorvair MegaDork
9/19/18 8:51 a.m.

summer 1983, my dad paid $100 for a non-running 1972 Monte Carlo, and we put a cam gear on it in the PO's driveway and drove it home.   i drove that car through my senior year of HS and the seven years it took to earn my BSME, plus a few months of my first job after college.   parted out in 1992 for powertrain and brake swap into a crappy '66 cutlass convertible.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
9/19/18 9:35 a.m.

Summer of 1986 I bought a 1966 Chevelle two door coupe for $350....including the patch panels for the rear quarters.  It had the 283 / powerglide, and burnt about a qt. of oil every 40 miles or so. 

My brother and his buddy were convinced it just needed a head job, so we took them off, had a nice valve job done, and put them back on the car----with high hopes that I'd now have a "hotrod".  When I started that car up (now breathing well) it smoked like a mosquito fogger---we were crestfallen.   I drove that car throughout my Jr. year of H.S. until a control arm bushing gave way.   I sold it for $250 to a guy who wanted to make a helicopter out of it....Poor car.....it should've been left to die a long time before I got it!  

rdcyclist Reader
9/21/18 5:24 p.m.
frenchyd said:

I was about 16 when I bought a Morris minor for $15 ( minus the battery ) without working brakes. My buddy and I decided to tow it home behind his pick up.  Tied a knot in his long rope and told him I’d put it in gear and let the clutch out if the rope got slack.   Worst case the parking brake seemed to sorta work.

My first car at 16 was a Morris Minor I bought for 35 bucks in 1972. Lasted a year of high school. I spun a rod bearing driving harder than I should have; hey, I was 16 and had one speed when driving: As fast as it would go. Good thing I only had old slow cars then. I have no idea how I got out of my teen years with no accidents or moving violations. That certainly hasn't been the theme for the rest of my driving career.

A friend of a friend had a '60 Rambler Cross-Country wagon for 125 bucks so I bought that, rebuilt the Minor and sold it for 150 bucks. The Rambler was a 3 on the tree with Overdrive! If you shifted into overdrive in second, shifted back when you shifted to third and then back up to OD, you had a redneck Five Speed! The E36 M3 we thought was cool in the early '70s...

The other part of frenchyd's post that caught my eye was the bringing the latest victim home at the end of a two rope. I've flat towed way to many cars in my life. Most have been within town but my brother and I flat towed a Datsun Roadster 40 miles from Walnut Creek to San Jose on 680 (a freeway) behind my mom's '65 Olds wagon. Haven't had to do that for what, two years!

keithedwards New Reader
10/17/18 5:46 a.m.

My first car was a 1967 Triumph TR4A I bought for $975 in 1973. Sold for $2500 in 2016, in need of an engine rebuild, and probably a transmission rebuild. It had 80k miles when I bought it and about 190k when I sold it. It languished in my garage for close to 20 years.

On the subject of towing cars home, I towed a couple of fully-depreciated Triumphs behind this Triumph, back in the '70s and '80s. I put a trailer hitch on the TR4A in '75 and bought a cheap towbar. I think I only used a chain in a 8' pipe to tow a Spitfire home once... Obviously required a daring driver to steer the Spit.

Matt New Reader
10/27/18 11:13 a.m.

I had a few cars before this one, but they were bought with my parents money, not mine - and they had a purpose; transportation (boring), parts, "its a killer deal, dad you gotta buy it", and hobby/race cars... But this one was different. I bought a 72 Vega from the local bakery with my own money - no "parental pre-purchase inspections", it was a freedom purchase, no accountability! It was my 2nd year of university. An old Romanian guy named Bela and his remarkably older mother ran this little neighborhood bakery. I walked past the Blue Star Bakery and this Vega my entire childhood, This lights from the nearby hockey rink would reflect off it as I played hockey all those frozen winter nights. I saw it parked and it never moved. My Grandmother and my mom both sent me to get bread and buns, from the Blue Star when I was as young as 8 years old. Bela always gave me a cinnamon bun for free. I never asked him about that car or the 66 Dodge Polara beside it, neither ever moved. One day my Mom came home and said "they are tearing down the Bakery, if you want that orange car, he said you can have it for $100."  It had been a few years since I'd been there, but I went over right away - if nothing else I hoped to get a cinnamon bun! I went and found out that Bela had passed, his mother had as well some time before and I was buying the car from the estate. I asked about the Polara and he said "its being picked up this week".

The Vega was actually a GT model with the "peppy 2 barrel carb and sport gauges", but it was on 4 very old, very flat tires. It had sunk to the rims on the grass spot near the curb it had been on all those years. Ironically, the first time I had a real close look at the car was after I gave the guy the $100 and went home to get tools and stuff - I was gonna start it up because i didn't care!!! Freedom - even from logic!! The interior was near mint, but I couldn't fit in the car and the seat didn't move back. Bela must have been a lot shorter than I remember because he had the seat jammed up as far as it would go, and then some - I'm 5'11" and felt like a sardine! The tires held air, the tank held gas, the engine held oil, trans fluid was red, antifreeze was green - it was unexpected to say the least. The data folder I got with the car told a story. Bela had bought the car new in 72 and he maintained it very well, oil changes and records for everything. At 60K he had the motor rebuilt and sleeved to the tune of $1100 in 1982. Also in there was the papers that said he could no longer drive due to poor vision. But he couldn't get rid of that car, it had 65K on it when I got it. It was fall and right around freezing temp, but it started remarkable as it sounds, and I literally drove it over the curb and straight home, it was shaking and bouncing like mad only at 10 mph! Mud and random stuff was flying off as I left a "debris field" upon my exit! The tires were square, but it ran great. I lived not even a 1/4 mile away, so when I got it home I went through the car in more detail in the days to follow. I drove it til I finished school, it was a great car. My friend was in need of a daily driver and offered me his 72 wagon (project, roller) as a straight trade. He was going through a tough time and the Vega had served me well, so I said ok. He was bigger than me and even though I got the seat to move back it was still not enough - but I made due... he found a hockey stick Bela had cut off jammed up in the track right there on the spot, pulled it out and the seat went right to a normal seating position...OMG I was floored!! facepalm moment for sure...LOL!!

I gave that wagon and a turbo 3.8 buick/TH350 (left over from another project) to my older brother and helped him put in. My brother drove the wagon for a few years (it was quick!) until he stored it at a friends house and the friend moved and he lost track of both. My buddy got through his divorce with the Orange Vega and I haven't seen him since. Funny how things work out....and I could keep writing but my wife just texted me to go out for coffee, good time to stop!

frenchyd UltraDork
10/27/18 4:37 p.m.

In reply to Matt :

First new car I bought was a 1972 Vega GT hatchback.  Now I was racing in SCCA D production then so I was familiar with speed and handling, with a Jaguar XK150 against Lotus Super Sevens, Datsun 2000 roadsters, Jensen Healey, Austin Healey 3000 & 100/6  but my biggest competition was Hal Richardson in his XK120  updated with XK 140 rack and pinion steering and XK150 disk brakes. The early XK120 had an aluminum body and the engine was further back for better handling( but less leg room. ) 

I digress, anyway that Vega impressed me with its flat and nimble handling and power!!  I remember running the back roads with that car flat out! Running away from MGB’s and even faster cars if the owner wasn’t willing to absolutely commit to edge of the limits driving. 

It originally  came with a set of Goodyear Polyslides er polyglass  but I was working at a Goodyear dealer when I wasn’t busy flying in the Navy.  They sold me at cost a set of the new Goodyear radials and took my near new Polyslides er polyglass bias ply’s in at 80% of retail if I offered to use my car as a demo.  So 2-3 nights a week I explored the limits of traction and sold nearly every one I took for a test ride  a set of the new radials. 

I racked up nearly 60,000 miles in the slightly over a year I owned it. But then the fuel shortage hit and I sold it for only $400 less than I paid for it.  The demo drive turned the buyer white faced and gasping for air but he handed me the cash and drove off with a big grin on his face 

Matt New Reader
10/28/18 9:50 a.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

pure awesome.

purplepeopleeater Reader
10/28/18 1:28 p.m.

Bought my sisters '59 Renault 4CV for 2 months storage when she got married & moved to Spain in '64. Miserable little car, my knees rubbed against the dashboard & an athletic 3 year old on a tricycle was faster off the line. Drove it back & forth to Luray Va for my summer job after HS. Wasn't allowed to take it to college even if 700 miles was feasible in that car. I think my mother gave it away.


imgon Reader
11/4/18 8:04 a.m.

My first car was a 72 Dodge Coronet with about 70k miles, for $200 in the fall of 77 . I knew nothing about cars and even less about why a car would be cheap to buy. I think the exhaust  made it a week before it started falling apart.  The car continued to fall apart around me for a couple of months. I drove it to a junkyard and got $75 for it and used that money to buy Christmas presents for my family that year. The shortest time I've ever owned a car, but not by much, it took me years to learn what not to buy.

californiamilleghia Reader
11/4/18 8:31 a.m.

A pair or Renault 4cvs for  $25 , drove one to high school for a year or 2 , 

No idea what I got for them , but not much !

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