By on June 20, 2008

01-int_02.jpgWarning: Today's question is not about your first car. Though we suppose there could be overlap. But what I'm interested in is the car that was used to teach you to drive. When I was eleven-years-old I got into a weird fight with my dad. He said that no Japanese car could be worth $20,000. This was in 1986 and the Legend (so to speak) had just been born. I explained to him that the buff books were all saying very good things about Honda's new luxury brand. My dad loved Datsun Zs and sporty Hondas, but just couldn't wrap his head around that level of sticker shock. So the two of us went down to the brand new Acura Dealer to investigate. A few hours later we drove off with a brand new champagne-colored Integra. It had leather seats (the first car my father ever had so equipped) and a $13,995 sticker price. I mention this because when it came time to get my learner's permit and then take the big test, that Integra served me well. But was it the first car I learned on? My memory banks are a bit foggy. I remember when I was seven or so sitting in the passenger seat of a Nissan Sentra wagon and yelling, "Clutch!" Dad was teaching me how to shift. Then when I was ten I remember he let me drive our enormous Buick wagon up and down a dirt road. His logic being that he learned to drive at twelve, and had never had an accident, ten-years-old would be even safer. But in truth, I gotta go with that brown on brown Integra. You?

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130 Comments on “Question of the Day: Which Car Did You Learn to Drive With?...”

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    1965 Mercury Comet (circa 1977). Baby blue, white top, 289 V8. Squirted forward like crazy, but with the lack of power brakes (drums all around) no power steering, and skinny bias tires, it handled worse than a John Deere.

    Twelve years old on the empty county roads in midwest corn country, swerving around grain haulers, ditch mowers, and pickup trucks. Grandma’s car was a hoot.

  • avatar

    My first driving experience was driving my parents 88 civic awd wagon on a property my father owned.

    He took me and a couple of my friends to learn how to drive a standard. One of them required 2 phoneboks to see over the wheel.

    But I actually learned how to drive on a 94 Ranger 2wd 5 speed 4 cyl.

    We lived on a rural dead end road where our neighbours were my aunt and uncle.

    I would drive back and forth for hours. Those were the days.

  • avatar

    Volvo 240.

    Built like a brick, with all the performance you’d expect, but with unexpectedly cheap and breakable plastic bits in the interior. Still runs, many many years later, with like a zillion miles on it.

    Of course, I’ve learned other skills in different cars, at later points in time. The Volvo was an automatic, so I ended up teaching myself stick on an old Dodge Stealth (long story). In truth, I got one prior lesson on stick shift from a farmer (a friend of the family), who took me out in some old domestic pickup whose make and model I’ve long forgotten.

    Further, I always like to imagine that I still learn new things about driving from time to time. Recently I learned, in England, how to drive on the left (i.e. wrong) side of the road — that was in a Vauxhall Astra.

    But the car that got me from learner’s permit to full license was the venerable 240.

  • avatar

    1986 Suzuki Samuri on a dirt road leading to a “construction” dump. Just one of many my dad dismantled or rebuilt.

  • avatar

    1984 Chev S-10…


  • avatar

    1988 Chevrolet Caprice 5.0 with the old man pleather top. Looked like a boat. Handled like a boat. Consumed gas like a boat. Felt like a rocket at highway speeds.

    Brought up some odd feelings during the 2003 Sniper episode in DC metro (Rockville MD, No.Va., etc.), especially when they showed a graphic of his car; exact same make, model and color, even down to the Jersey tags.

  • avatar

    I got my learner’s permit using a ’68 Dodge Dart (318 V-8) and a 72 Plymouth GoldDuster (anyone remember that option package??) w/ smogged-up 318 V-8.
    I learned to drive in a ’78 Champagne Ed Scirocco with hotted-up engine and a (mostly) Bilstein Cup suspension. Ooooooh man I miss that car! A street legal air-conditioned go-kart! (And a shout out and credit due to the Bertil Roos Racing School…)

  • avatar

    Let’s see…I did most of my original seat-time in a 1983 Mazda GLC (and it WAS a Great Little Car) with my sister barking commands next to me. After I got my license, my father allowed me to drive around the neighborhood after school in what was to be my first car, a 1978 Plymouth Arrow GT. As I progressed, he let me expand the radius away from the house that I could drive. Took about four months before I could actually make it out of the subdivision…

  • avatar

    Chevy Nova (fwd, 5spd). I was 11 at the time and we had a rental for several weeks after one of our cars was wrecked in an accident. Dad took me one day out onto the gravel roads out in the country (population 2,000) pulled over and said you drive. I’ve “moved” the car in the driveway before – just releasing the break in automatic so that wasn’t anything. This was the first time I drove and learned how to drive – stick shift for that matter too. We were out there for about 20 mins and he asked me to do some tests – hit the brakes and lock them up to learn what it’s like, or on this corner that was very wide to skid the car to see what it’s like. Well the county sheriff was out patrolling and saw me doing this and stopped us. Much to our luck and small town my Dad knew him well – and he didn’t ask me to stop – just be careful. I saw this as some right of passage with my Dad.

  • avatar

    Econoline Van in a parking lot.

  • avatar
    John R

    1994 Dodge Spirit…blech. Thankfully that was short lived experience during the summer as my high school started offering driving classes later that fall. And people blame Camrys for being so vanilla.

    I remember that car didn’t have a tach, which was fine as it was an auto. However, before I started my driving session with my Dad I was reading the owners manual and found that even manual versions (I think a 4-spd also) STILL didn’t get a proper tach and that drivers were told to listen to the volume and pitch of the engine to choose the appropriate time to shift!

  • avatar
    Matthew Neundorf

    88 Chrysler New Yorker… Landau Edition, with Ricardo Montalban pleasing Corinthian Leather. Oh yeah, “load level” air suspension too!

    I used to get fat friends to sit on the back bumper to get the air bags to fill, and then cruise wedge style.

    Almost blew it up “power shifting” the tree mount while racing a Pontiac 6000LE, staring down a digital speedo.

  • avatar

    90 SHO at 14, my dad was going to give me the car but my sister wrecked it first.

  • avatar

    Dad’s ’76 atlantic blue BMW 530i and mom’s ’72 forrest green/vinyl “wood” Ford Country Squire wagon (which at least had a 429 4 barrel V8). Not hard to guess which one I preferred. Dad hid the Bimmer keys when they went out of town (which was guite often in those days), but of course I found ’em, and got my most valuable driving “lessons” thrashing that 530i to w/in an inch of its life (and mine!) on a regular basis.

  • avatar

    ’82 Delta 88. Excellent first car for all the low speed “accidents” (like a shoving match with a similar vintage Caddy in a parking lot) that I got into.

  • avatar

    1978 Toyota Landcruiser Diesel – still the best off-road vehicle I’ve ever driven.

  • avatar

    1984 Saab 900, and then a 1981 Mercedes-Benz 300D (the TurboDiesel Panzer Tank). Took my driver's test with a 1994 Dodge Neon Sport… and I thought it was cool. How ignorant I was…. I learned to "drive" racing an Audi Quattro, god bless AWD!

  • avatar

    1960 Ford Country Squire. I eventually totaled it.

  • avatar

    John R:
    drivers were told to listen to the volume and pitch of the engine to choose the appropriate time to shift!

    That’s the way we were all taught to drive back in the days before almost everyone developed paralysis of the left leg and couldn’t operate a clutch any more. A tachometer was something you might hook up to use when you were setting the points or maybe adjusting the carb (although that was usually done by ear too).

    I learned in a 1956 Chevy 210. Four doors, four-window air conditioning, three on the tree, straight six under the hood, AM radio, heater and power nothing.

  • avatar

    Dad’s 2000 Passat.

    He put a lot of trust in me. 1st time driving was in a parking lot for 15 minutes. Next day, I was on the road in the suburbs for 15. Day after that, I drove into New York City. Of course, this was all with my dad there, but it was scary as hell. That kind of fear made me respect driving for a long while.

  • avatar

    84′ Toyota pickup four speed. This truck was handed to me a few years my 1st car. The truck had over 300thow on it before it died.

  • avatar

    1995 Lincoln Town Car

  • avatar

    Can’t remember the year, but it was a mid 80’s Grand Prix with the Quad 4 engine and a crappy 3 or 4 speed transmission. Had that thing up to 110 one time on the way back from the Salt River and scared the shit out of myself and my friend. I took a turn at about 50 and swear the car was going to flip.

    Stupid, stupid! But a lot of fun.

  • avatar

    1993-ish Honda Civic hatchback. Definitely could’ve been worse.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    1970. I learned to drive in a few cars at once. My Dad’s 1966 Oldsmobile Delta 88 oriented me to behemoths. My sister’s 1963 Plymouth Valiant with the 225 slat six and pushbutton auto tranny to the left of the wheel was a lesson in lightweight traction. I learned to drive a stick in my best friend’s 1960 Dodge Lancer, three on the tree. Sports cars came after that.


  • avatar

    1984 Escort, 4-speed manual, carburetor. Had the WORST CLUTCH EVAR, and half the time it wouldn’t start because you either didn’t pump in enough gas or pumped too much and flooded the engine. Burned a quart of oil a week at 100k miles, and smelled like a refinery. Tacky, sticky vinyl seats with a pattern that left itself in your skin, even through clothes.

    I remember shifting into second to crawl up Wisconsin hills at 45 mph, the engine spinning at 6000 rpm and wheezing, wondering if I had got enough head of steam to make it to the top, or if I’d have to turn around and go a different way.

    After that car, ANYTHING else is a luxury. And it turned me into a damned fine driver, too.

  • avatar

    Volvo 740 Wagon. Absolutely indestructable and unflappable. Everyone should learn to drive on a RWD platform!

  • avatar

    1986 Chevrolet Chevette. RWD BABY.

  • avatar

    My driving lessons and test in 1979 took place in the then new BMW 316.

  • avatar


    My friend’s circa-2001 base-trim Civic is also a tach-less manual. And it’s a minor hoot to drive.

    Any driver worth his salt should be able to shift without reference to a tach, using only some combination of engine sound, vehicle speed, overall feel and exterior visual cues. I suppose its only real use to the driver is when one is pushing the engine to its limits, and actually wants to see the redline before hitting it.

  • avatar

    Frank said, “I learned in a 1956 Chevy 210. Four doors, four-window air conditioning, three on the tree, straight six under the hood, AM radio, heater and power nothing.” That pretty well describes my Drivers Ed ride, except it was a ’58 Ford Custom 300. And actually, the school had two of them; one was stick, the other auto. A few hours behind the wheel and we were ready for any driving challenge. (Or so we thought.)

  • avatar

    i’m 59 years old and my first ‘drives’ were in my grandfather’s new 1957 de soto – i got to sit on his lap and ‘steer’ many, many times. but that hardly counts.

    much more memorable was the car in which i first learned to operate a clutch and change gears. that was in my best friend’s 1965 widetrack pontiac catalina convertible, equipped with a 389 c.i. 4-barrel v8, positraction, dual exhaust and a factory-installed hurst 4-speed manual transmission.

    we spent a lot of time that summer, crusing woodward avenue, looking for girls and street-racing every 327 chevy impala super-sport we could find.

  • avatar

    Split between a 1990 Chevy Corsica and a 1982 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. That Caddy, even at 160,000 miles on the 4.1L still ran great in 1995. Took it loaded up to Chicago a few times without a problem.

  • avatar

    1991 chevy sprint (learned in 1996)…
    1.0L, 3 cylinder, 5 speed, 5 doors…

    thing would get 60 mpg… and maxed out at ~ 85 mph…

    surprisingly peppy if you were driving by yourself…

  • avatar

    1984 Plymouth Turismo

    and a 1988 Ford Tempo for stick shift

    oh joy!

  • avatar

    1985 Mercury Lynx. 1.9 that ate head gaskets like candy. Turn the A/C on at 55 and watch your speed drop 10 mph. It could go through foot-deep snow because it was so gutless and the wheels just wouldn’t spin no matter what you did. I took my test after an ice storm and got a perfect score.

  • avatar
    IC Turbo

    1979 Buick LeSabre 2-door in 1998, but I took the test in an 89 Celebrity. I initially learned to drive a manual about 3 months after I got my license and got my first car, a 1987 Hyundai Excel. Since then, I have learned a new skill or technique with every car I’ve owned and moved up the automotive food chain quite a bit.

  • avatar

    I’m very sorry to say, it was a 1975 Ford Mustang II. Yes, the one based on a Pinto. Oh, the horror!!!

  • avatar

    1984 Ford Country Squire wagon. No wonder I failed the parallel parking portion of the driving test.

  • avatar

    The very first car I started learning on was my dad’s Lexus GX470. Looked and felt massive. Of course, as I’ve said before, none of my other learning vehicles were small. Cadillac Deville. Silverado Crew Cab. Chevy Equinox.

  • avatar

    70’s Olds Wagon. 12 years old. Parking lot. DONUTS.
    That was an isolated incident, and my introduction to body lean.

    The real learning came four years later in a barely used ’85 GTI. Every car (and stage of life) since then has been tinged with melancholic nostalgia for that time behind the wheel, at that age.

  • avatar

    A 1990 Buick Park Ave here (Antelope Firemist in colour)…..that car had 322,000 miles on here when it was all said & done.

  • avatar

    A light blue 1969 VW Beetle, standard trans, no A/C and the radio didn’t work if I remember right. By the time I got my learners permit, Mom had moved up to a Chevy Chevette, 4 on the floor, not much better than the VW, but still fun to smoke the tires a little bit…

  • avatar

    Euro-spec 1971 Ford Escort…a rattly old car if there ever was one, but perfect for learning the basics of driving a manual transmission, hand signals and always looking over your shoulder.

    Then I got hold of my Dad’s 1989 JDM Honda Accord and THEN it was on.

  • avatar

    1993 Ford Escort wagon. Red on grey. I now own it.

  • avatar

    I learned on three cars: a 1985 Crown Victoria (grandma’s new car at the time), a 1984 E-250 Club Wagon 15-passenger van (my mom’s ride), and my 1968 Plymouth Fury III. Dad’s car was off-limits.

  • avatar

    I did my early learning on a 1978 Mercury Zephyr ES. It was the Euro-Fairmont… 4 cyl/4 spd, ran like stink. Well, sloooooow stink. But, it did help me get the basics down. Once you got it up to speed, you had to learn how to drive in order to maintain speed.

    RWD lessons: My 1986 Mercury Capri 5.0 Sport Coupe mit automatische. Essentially same car as the Zephyr, just a LOT more power. Learned a much about how short wheelbase cars handle in all situations.

    FWD lessons: 1988 Dodge Lancer ES Turbo 5 spd. Understeer? Oh yes. But you can overcome that with enough boost and the parking brake… The foot actuated parking brake… (Note: I’m a drummer, and ambidextrous) What fun!

  • avatar

    Makes me feel good to know so many other people had ‘humble’ beginnings.

    I learned on a 74 Ford Capri, 2.8L, 4 speed. A lot of fun, and poles apart from my secondary learner vehicle, a 78 Chev Caprice. I took my drivers test in my dad’s company car, an 82 Malibu wagon with a 267 V8 (the most underpowered North American vehicle I have ever driven).

    Honestly, I don’t know anyone who learned to drive in anything remotely interesting.

  • avatar

    1978 Chevy Malibu Classic. Silver 2 door, landau top. The engine was the infamous 3.3 liter V6 with 98 horsepower! Only built 2 years because of lifter problems!

  • avatar

    1980 something Caprice Classic Wagon.

    A related story: Back in the 90s my brother let our Mom try out his new manual transmission S-10. She took off in first and didn’t plan on shifting it until it got up to 35mph because that how’s she learned to drive a stick in the 60s in her Dad’s 3 speed Buick. The sound that S-10 made and the vibration is something I will never forget. That engine lost 50,000 miles off it’s lifetime that day.

  • avatar

    A 1950 Olds 98, with no power brakes , or steering. I won a lot of drag races though.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    My aunts old ’79 Buick Skylark, circa early 90’s. I used to drive in through the cemetery while going to my grandma’s grave.

  • avatar

    A 1988 Dodge Aries K wagon. That puppy ran like a tank. Had the radiator fan blades come off the shaft one day making the engine overheat. I slogged through 15 miles of traffic to get it home. Next day, I went to the junkyard, found a replacement, slapped it in, and it kept on running with no ill effects.

    Transmission held up just fine too.

    Sadly, my sister crashed it making an ill-timed left turn. Had I known then what I know now about Turbo’d K cars…

  • avatar

    whew, I can see I’m not a part of this demographic. MGTD in the park across the street from our house, then Jag XK120 at VIR where my Dad did SCCA racin. :) I could barely see over that huge wood wheel in the TD and when I went for the clutch, I was REALLY behind the wheel. Wait…that’s why I was in the park.

  • avatar

    It was 1991, I learned in a 1982 orange Datsun pickup and, when I was lucky, a 1984 Mazda 626. Both manual 5-speeds. The 626 still might be my favorite car that I’ve regularly driven.

  • avatar

    I learned on my father’s 1988 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale. Which I also wrecked twice (first wasn’t my fault, second was). That car had some friggin’ float to it at high speeds like you can’t believe. Handled like it, too. I think I learned most of my emergnecy driving techniques spinning that sucker out in an ice-covered abandoned parking lot. And that has saved me many times over, with the odd weather and terrible drivers around Pittsburgh…

  • avatar


    Old 1960s era Land Rover Defender on my grandparents property. A true spartan no frills off road vehicle. It was always left in 4LO for tooling around the property.


    1994 Ford Aeromax 9000 with a Cat 3208 and 7speed transmission. It had minor accident damage that took it off the road but was still serviceable for yard use.

  • avatar

    1963 Rambler Classic station wagon was the first car I drove on the street. I already had some experience with a 1938 International tractor, but I dont think that really counts, because it was “off road”. My buddy’s dad also had a late forties English Ford that he allowed us to drive in a nearby open field, as long as we pushed it there and back (only one block).

    Our high school had a Plymouth Fury wagon and VW beetle as driver training cars, both “dual control” pedals and both were donated by local dealers. I took lessons in the VW because I wanted to learn to properly drive a stick.

  • avatar

    My Dad taught me to drive a stick in his 64 VW Beetle. Shame he didn’t want me to drive his new 911 after I got my license. Not sure why…
    My prep school didn’t have drivers ed. So I went to a Driving School the summer I turned 16. They had Slant-Six automatic Dodge Darts. Finally passed my driving test in my Mom’s 66 Ford Country Squire.

  • avatar

    Ford Fiesta 1990 I think it was.
    Twas a little smaller them my current Expedition.
    But it was a load of fun on the back roads of Ireland. :)

  • avatar

    Audi A4 1.9 TDI
    Audi A4 2.5 V6 TDI Avant

  • avatar

    First car I actually drove, and the one that I got my license in was an ’87 Chevy Celebrity sedan with the 2.8 V6 and a 4 speed automagic. What a POS.

    I learned to drive a manual transmission in an ’85 Jetta diesel. I went out at about 2 or 3 AM and taught myself how to drive it while there was no traffic on the roads.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    taught myself to drive in a series of sub 20$ woods buggies. 53 Ford, 54 New Yorker, a 53 Packard, 51Ford. Went for my road test in a 65 VW microbus.

  • avatar

    C’mon, does ANYone actually use the tach to shift? You kinda need to be looking forward when accelerating, not staring at the instrument panel, Puh-LEESE!

    It’s there for informational purposes, not as a driving instrument!

    My wife had an ’89 Tercel with manual and no tach. Great little car… till it threw a timing chain and mangled the engine beyond recovery :,(. $500, 5 years.

  • avatar

    I was 14, an old GMC 1970 pickup out in the fields of Wyoming while hunting prairie dogs. That was 1984. It had a tough clutch, so once I mastered that old beast I could drive anything!

    A year later I further learned on a 1980 RX-7, which later became my first car, which was pretty cool to have in high school!

  • avatar

    1972 Pontiac Grand Ville hardtop coupe. The 455 V8 was a torque monster. Fun could be had by gunning the engine, which would make the whole car rock from side to side.

  • avatar

    1977 Buick Le Sabre… in 1978.

    Learned to drive stick not long after I got the real license, in a 1980 VW Rabbit. Diesel of course.

    I’ve never owned an automatic transmission car. My wife has had a few, but I’d kill myself before I drove another slushbox.


  • avatar

    1983 Volkswagen Rabbit (gas, not diesel), with four-speed manual. My parents always ended up with stripped models — this one didn’t have a radio, power steering, or air conditioning.

  • avatar

    1986 Mazda 626 (my mom’s company car) and an ’86 Renault 9 (Or what you knew as a Renault Alliance). Both great cars BTW.

  • avatar

    My father started letting me steer the ’57 Chevy when I was 6, did the gas when I was 7, on the side streets of Belmont Mass. Learned to shift at 9 on the ’57 Plymouth, a car with a monster clutch, and a bad case of body rot! Boy did I buck that sucker at first. The Chevy had a much easier clutch, but my mother had taken it that day.

    Took my first legal drive on the ’65 Peugeot 404 wagon, Hyannis to Wellfleet, on Cape Cod, about 30-35 miles, right after getting my learners permit. My late mother, bless her heart, didn’t even get nervous after the first few miles.

  • avatar

    Datsun (that’s right, none of this Nissan stuff)…Datsun 310 GX. 1.4L 68 horsepower.

    I loved this car. It didn’t accelerate much, it would understeer on dry pavement even at low speed, but it gave me my freedom.

  • avatar

    1963 Cadillac Eldorado. Driving this land yacht with top down in San Francisco was a blast!

  • avatar

    1989 peugeot 405 Mi16 5 speed, burgundy or wine colour leather and white exterior in peru

  • avatar

    I believe the first time I drove my buddy let me drive his parent’s custom Econoline. I think I was 13 or so.

    When I was 14, I stole my sister’s 84 Escort for a joy ride. She got me back, though, when she hit my new car the day before I was supposed to get my license.

  • avatar

    Great topic! I’m probably one of the older submitters at 61. Learned to drive in 1964 on two cars simultaneously.

    1956 Mercury Monterey 4dr Sedan – absolute tank, sat high on the road. Had power brakes that was so sensitive that it would throw you into the windshield until you got a feel for it. No power steering so it steered like a big truck. Forget about “handling” – pretty much just wallowed through turns.

    1959 Renault Dauphine (does anyone remember these?) – no power anything but it was not necessary. Had a three speed stick on the floor that was about as thick as a pencil. It just sort of wobbled around, so there was no way to tell what gear you were in by looking at it – you just sort of had to feel your way in. Rear water cooled engine about the size of a sewing machine. It was a real piece of crap but had the benefit of a plastic floor covering that made it easy to wipe up beer spills. Also very cheap to run – over 30MPG at a time when regular was about $.27/gallon.

    It was my Dad’s commuter car but he was good about letting me take it on Friday and Saturday nights. Would throw in a buck’s worth of gas on Friday night which would do for the weekend. Good times.

  • avatar

    A ’67 Chevy farm pickup truck, straight 6 with 3 on the tree. Sure miss that old thing, that’s when trucks were for working.

  • avatar

    Steering: ’69 Alfa Romeo GTV, sitting on my dad’s lap.

    Driving an Auto: ’85 Ford Bronco and ’89 Chevy Camaro IROC

    Driving a Stick: 1985 Saab 900 Turbo

  • avatar

    My high school drivers ed program was supplied with a 1970 Ford Galaxie 500 and a 1970 Chevrolet Caprice, both new. I can’t remember which one I lead-footed first.

  • avatar

    ’50 Ford PU w/ a flathead eight and 3 in the arboreal region.

    Well actually it was an older Ford, 8N with a flathead 4, 4 speed, PTO, 3 point hitch (year uncertain. Would run over a pretty good sized tree, traverse streams and climb surprising grades even with my little bro’ on the drawbar.



  • avatar

    Red Toyota Tercel wagon (’87 I think). 2WD version with a manual tranny and I’m pretty sure it didn’t have a tach. Fantastic car, but I hated it at the time because I was a teenager and it was red and I stood out like a sore thumb all over town. I’d love to have it again.

  • avatar

    1963 Mercury Comet Station Wagon, with the rare 260 V-8 engine option. No power steering or brakes, not even a radio. But man would that thing go. Not a heavy vehicle, it was designed for a 6 and Ford put V-8s in a limited number towards the end of the production run.

  • avatar

    I leared to drive in my moms Saab 9-5 Wagon. It was fast, fun and safe… It’s a good thing it was safe to because 2 years after I got my licence I was driving it to work when i got a little (a lot) stupid. I was tearing down back roads with 30 mph speed limits at a perfectly reasonable um… 80 to 95 mph! I slowed down for this one corner (slowed to about ehh… 75) and hit a puddle and hydroplaned! The car spun 45 degrees and flipped, and flipped, and flipped, and flipped and flipped. 5 times in total. before i came to a rest when a rock wall stopped me. (and the car demolished said wall) I came to my senses. (the car was on it’s side pointing in the original direction of travel.) I pushed the door open and fell head first onto the ground. The engine was still running and their were visible flames coming from the engine compartment. (I booked it!) After the police came… (cop was an asshole, I could smell the bacon a mile away) My license was suspended for 3 months and i had about 1,100 dollars in tickets. Plus the 5,000 my parents needed to afford a new car. (but I honestly forked that money right over)

  • avatar

    I learned on both of my Parent’s cars at the time…first just moving them around the driveway to learn the clutch, then out on the road once I was legal:

    86 Subaru GL Wagon with no options, and I mean none…no A/C, no power steering, two-speaker AM/FM Stereo.

    89 Audi 80 Quattro best Audi my Mom ever owned. It was exepensive and underpowered, but Audi was giving these things away to keep customers coming back in those days, so they took care of the expensive part. Heated everything, Torsen center diff and a rear locker made winter hilariously fun back when AWD cars were a novelty.

  • avatar

    1986 Chevy Nova. I think it was an Isuzu rebadge.

  • avatar

    I learned on several cars over the course of several years.

    Driver’s test was done on my mom’s Pontiac Bonneville (not sure the year), but I still knew very little about driving. Subsequently crunched the fender on that one coming home from a job interview. Dad saw the other car at the wreck yard and said, matter-of-factly, “wow, you really did a number on him.”

    It was her car, so Mom wasn’t happy. Dad just shrugged and banged out the fender with a hammer, the Pontiac always looked like a beater after that, and life went on. Oh, and no…I didn’t get the job, either.

    As time went by, I drove several other cars. I guess it could be said that I learned on all of them, including the one I drive now, and it’s been like 23, 24 years…

  • avatar

    hitman1970: 1986 Chevy Nova. I think it was an Isuzu rebadge.

    Actually it was a Corolla. Great used car, Toyota quality with Chevy resale!

  • avatar

    Man I had to really think. At 13 my grandparents let me move this gigantic Bonnaville around the drive way and up the street a little in Puerto Rico. And when I was 14 I got to manuver this ill handling Dodge passenger van where you had to fight the power steering that only wanted to be locked all the way to the right, that was interesting. I offically learned to drive on my dads ’87 Mazda B2000 truck, stick of course. And my mom’s ’83 Datsun Sentra wagon, that was a fun car until I turned it into an accordian at 16. Replaced with a ’92 Ford Escort that I really hated.

  • avatar

    An ancient Willys Jeep and a ’62 Ford Country Squire with a 260. The Jeep was my stepfather’s hunting car and he rigged a tuna tower on top with a rope to operate the brakes, a long pipe with a pedal welded to it running down to the clutch and a cool articulated dealie to extend the steering wheel. Couldn[‘t drive the thing more than about 5 MPH in Low so the rope brakes were enough :)

  • avatar

    I learned in a 1984 Caprice Classic station wagon, wood grain and all.

  • avatar

    1993 Saturn SL-2 (manual; the original saturns)
    2000 Saturn LS-3 (with the V6)
    2000 Chrysler Town and Country

    I was initially afraid to drive the SL since it was a manual, but once I started (and figured out how to drive it without stalling in the middle of traffic), I was hooked and wouldn’t drive anything else.

  • avatar
    Martin B

    Ford Taunus 17M station wagon with bench seat and column-mounted stick shift. On dirt roads through the vineyards in South Africa in 1966. Two years later my sister learned on the same car.

    Man that was a good car. The 1.7L I4 engine was an unusual size, but powerful and economical. The car was made by Ford of Germany, hence the funny name. It was the first vehicle to have curved side windows for better aerodynamics.

    It had a totally plasticky dashboard, and that’s the only thing bad I can say about it. Otherwise it was cheap, spacious, fast, economical, us kids thrashed it, and eventually my dad sold it to the garage that serviced it. The garage owner reckoned it was one of the best cars he’d ever taken care of.

  • avatar

    The guy who “officially” taught me to drive had a Mitsubishi – a late 70s fun fur and velour trimmed brown metallic thing. It had a nice gearbox but no other good feature.

    The one I really learned to drive in was an original Mini – 40 of our commie red horses from 1 frenchie “leetre” of engine. Overtaking required weeks of planning.

  • avatar

    Martin B
    The 1.7L I4 engine was an unusual size

    It was even more unusual as these Ford Taunus 17M had V4 engines.

  • avatar

    1966 Plymouth Valiant. Slant 6 engine, 3 in the tree automatic transmission, non-power steering, drum brakes all around. Still one of the best power trains I’ve ever driven.

  • avatar

    2 cars actually, started on a 1997 Ford Taurus sedan. Once I got the basics down I learned to drive stick on a 1994 Jeep Cherokee.

  • avatar

    1973 Ford Pinto wagon.

    …then I learned to drive a stick in a deuce and a half in the USAF.

  • avatar

    My dad, bless his heart, let me at age 15, drive our brand-new 1958 Plymouth Belvedere (like Christine, only a 4-door and dark blue) around the block. Since the car I would really drive after I got my license was a ’61 Fury, I was only able to drive cars with push-button controlled automatic transmissions. Wish they had Miatas with them.

  • avatar

    Thinking back, my fisrt lesson was in a 19-eighty something Toyota Corolla, …though I learned more watching my dad operate a Toyota Hiace half tonne flatbed pickup. I think my first experiences behind the wheel were stolen moments when he was away on assignment or training.

  • avatar

    My mothers ’86 Buick Skylark.

  • avatar

    i learned to drive on my dad’s 1980 Subaru GL Wagon 2WD auto. slow as continental drift, but i thought all the orange dash lights were really cool. (PS – why doesn’t Subaru offer 2WD cars anymore?)

    i eventually moved on to a string of big V8 panthers (comfy and so cheap to buy) and even ’67 fleetwood.

    years later, as an impoverished grad student, i purchased a 12 year-old 1989 Acura Integra 5spd, same color as the one in the photo but a 3-door. it was my first car with a manual and i drove it everywhere, even cross-country a few times. i was sorry to sell it.

    the Integra made me enjoy driving (for the first time) and indeed made me a better driver. its reliability, utility and fun factor also totally cured me of my fondness for the big, sloppy american rides.

    yup. that’s the car that “schooled” me in more ways than one.

  • avatar

    1967 Chevelle SS 396 Convertible….bought it off my uncle for $500 in 1977. To this day, although I am riht-handed, my left calf appears to be much larger than the right.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Mid 1990s GMC Suburban. It was just fantastic. Why? Because I was driving a car. Any car.

    Funny story though:

    At about 13 while on vacation with my parents, I hopped into the driver’s seat of our rented Jeep Wrangler, while parked with the engine running. I insisted I be allowed to drive. My dad told me to put my foot on the brake and move the column shift into gear, which I saw him do a million times on his Econoline at home. So I did.

    Except it wasn’t a column shift car. I sprayed myself in the face with windshield wiper fluid. I moved back to the back seat and shut my mouth.

  • avatar

    First car was a 1977 monte carlo….
    First manual car was a 2000 golf
    First bike was a gs500F/tw200

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    1987 Acura Legend L with Leather, Sunroof, and that sonorific Yamaha engine. It was mom’s, but between the two of us we put over 60,000 miles on it in 1 year.

    It was a twofer for me. First car I ever drove on a regular basis, and the car where I lost my virginity. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who can say that.

    It was a wonderful car… I still see more than my share of them on the roads here in Northwest Georgia. Some even still look good after all these years. However you have to keep them garaged or the leather literally rots out of em’.

  • avatar

    Learned to drive in a VW Quantum station wagon (based on an Audi 100, if I recall correctly). The tach display did help whilr getting the hang of it!

    Funny thing is that I learned in a countryside gated community. So I was driving it all around by 14 (and spent hours doing it. Bless my dad for footing the fuel bills!!). By 16 I was allowed to take the 6km road to the small town at the community’s border for chores and nightime fun.

    At 18, Dad gave me a Fiat Uno 1.5 that ran on alcohol (ethanol for you Americans). Real blast. It even had a lever to delay the ignition point to help it start up on cold days! With this car, driving all around I really learned.

    Sped, did doughnuts all the usual teenage BS. Had my first and only serious accident (almost died, don’t ask…yes alcohol, yes speeding, yes going down a mountain-hahaha). The car spent 2 months at the shop. Don’t know why it wasn’t totalled. Gave me a real respect for FIAT cars. Yes Fiat cars. No matter what shit I threw at it, and at the time I was non too picky on maintenance either, the car just turned on every morning, did its work, ran like hell, always entertaining to drive.

    But that wasn’t my first accident. My 1st accident was in a Chevy Opala. I was 5. Dad turned it on, forgot somethnig in the house, ran back in to fetch it. Of course, I jumped into the driver’s seat and though it was a stick, I managed to engage and accelarate and destroy a wall of the house!!!

    Bless my Dad again, I do love that man.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    A beautiful 1965 Pontiac Catalina with a trophy 389 V8. Drove on Interstate 85 near Concord, NC when it was under construction in 1969. The concrete was laid, but had no shoulders; only a 10-inch dropoff. And my dad trusted me. Oh, I was 12, by the way. Got ‘er up to 50 out there!!! The governor kept me in check (dad saying “OK, that’s fine…” I son’t remember how we got into the construction zone, but it was on a Sunday and he knew the roads…I guess we went around some gates and security wasn’t what is is now.

  • avatar

    ’95 Ford Taurus in the parking lot of the local airport.

  • avatar

    well if you don’t officially count the 88′ Buick Skylark when I was 6 years old i’d have to say my dads 96′ Oldsmobile Ciera. It was just as lofty but with a longer hood. Eventually it became my first vehicle. Joy oh joy.

  • avatar

    My mom insisted that my sister and I both learn to drive in a car with a manual transmission. My sister is almost three years older than me, so she had been driving a while before mom started teaching me. She had already sold her first car (’85 CRX) and traded up to an ’85 Nissan 300ZX. Since the Z had a 5-speed manual, it was the car that I learned to drive in. I also took my driving test in it on my 16th birthday.

    It was an ’85 300ZX 2-seater with T-Tops and had the oh-so-80’s digital dashboard. The color scheme was also very 80-s- the exterior was white (a little plain, but looked okay) but the interior was burgandy velour (about the same shade as a bloodclot). Nissan was also into using silver metallic trim all over the console and parts of the lower dash.

    At the time, I thought it was the coolest car in the world. It felt quicker than it actually was- especially with t-tops out, windows down and listening to the growl of the 3.0L V6. The electronic instrument panel added the illusion of speed with it’s massive bar-graph display of engine rpm- wind it up to 5,000rpm in 1st and the green bars would sweep both across and upward, though a digital numberic display above it showed the revs as well. It felt like a BEAST!

    I can only imagine what I’d think of its performance today. My Mazda3 5-door has the same amount of horsepower, accelerates faster and handles a thousand times better than the Z. But the early/mid-80’s were the very dark times for performance.

  • avatar

    High school driver’s ed: a POS Toyota Corolla, maybe an ’80, when it was a rear-driver! Gutless wonder, couldn’t climb a hill to save its life (instructor kept telling me to floor it just to get going; I said I was!!), but my friend (also learning) said it would be easier to maneuver than the school’s Buick Century Turbo (the triangle-shaped one).

    Away from school I practiced on a POS 1980 Ford Mustang (mom’s) with a stupendous 88 bhp from its 3.3-liter straight-six. Engine just wouldn’t rev. Post-dated memo to Ford: one-barrel carburetors just don’t cut it.

  • avatar

    I did drive the family 0ldsmobile station wagon over 100,000 miles, sitting in my dad’s lap, when I was about 10.

    I learned to drive in a ’76 Plymouth Volare station wagon, and learned to drive a manual in a ’61 International Scout. It had 3 fwd gears (6 if you count lo-range) and 90 hp and could get to 55 mph only on a downhill.

  • avatar

    1960 Ford Anglia 4 on the floor, 1959 Ford Consul 3 on the tree, 1960 Plymouth Fury 2 speed auto. In 1962 when I was 14. All highly illegal driving as the family lived on a dirt road 6 miles from town, which was itself in the boondocks, and I drove without permission when the family was out on trips in one or other of the cars.

    If you rev a 39 hp 997cc Anglia engine (the basis of Cosworth’s Formula Junior engine and their first money maker) to about 4 or 5 grand and dump the clutch, it will dig up a lot of gravel for, ooh, say, 20 or 30 feet, due to the overall 17 to one low gear ratio and miniscule 13 inch tires. What fun!

    A year or so later, just before my 16th birthday, my Mum let me drive that Anglia for about 30 miles illegally on a cross Nova Scotia paved highway with zero traffic, with her as tutor. Discovered that driving is really about steering properly. Wasn’t expecting that. To this day, I find only about half of people can really steer well. They just don’t get it.

    Just last month, as I passed six cars at one go on a rural two lane, The Leggy GT maxed out to 6900rpm in third, my 88 year old Mom had a big grin on her face over in the passenger seat. “That was fun!” she said. Best female driver I was ever driven by, made my Dad look like a piker back in those old days, and well-known in our parts in the early sixties for driving everywhere at 70 to 80 mph, SMOOTHLY. Inspired me to be a skilled driver if I really tried. Unusual tale but true.

  • avatar
    Martin B

    these Ford Taunus 17M had V4 engines

    The Taunus 17M P5 model had a 1.7 L V4 engine from 1964 on. I referred to the previous P3 model which had a 1.7 L I4 engine. The Taunus engine was a V4, but the Taunus model had a variety of engines.

    My dad’s next car was a Ford Corsair with a V4 engine. It wasn’t a bad engine as I recall, but there was no real benefit over an I4 and it was more expensive to make, so they dropped it.

    A V6 or V8 is quite a bit shorter than the inline version, but not so much with a V4.

  • avatar

    1972 Nova in 1983, my San Diego driving instructors car. He watched the girls in bikinis on the beach while I became a “certified” California-licensed driver. It was great!

  • avatar

    Dad’s 1970 Plymouth Satellite and a 1975 Hornet Driver’s Ed car.


  • avatar

    1996 Ford Windstar

    3.8l V-6 engine
    Suspension and brakes from an oil tanker

  • avatar

    1965 Mustang Convertible 289 4 barrel 4 speed.

    What a fun car. It was brand new, and I abused the living bejeezus out of it. Blown clutch, two accidents, blown engine. (Sorry Mom and Dad.) But considering the way I treated it when they weren’t looking, and the fact that it did last 100,000 miles, I can’t really complain.

    Hauled everything around in it including friends, and once my Honda CB 160 motorcycle in the back seat.

  • avatar

    well i piloted my first automobile when i was twelve… it was a 1998 Ford Expedition XLT 5.4L 4WD. In an empty parking lot, but i still managed to hit a fence and dislodge the front bumper!

    My driver’s ed car was a real turd… 1996 Chev Cavalier, 2.2L OHV with a 3-speed slush-o-matic. You floored it get on the highway and… it just made more noise but didn’t go any faster, at least uphill. Oh, and it had 180,000 miles on it. A Cavalier with 180,000 driver’s ed miles on it and the small engine and a 3 speed automatic.

    First car was a Volvo 850 sedan. Perfect first car.

  • avatar

    My dad began teaching me to drive with my mom’s 1985 Skylark (which would go on to be my first car) when I was about 12. He taught me how to back up using the mirrors and he’d let me back it out of the garage a lot. I must have been pretty good because he was soon taking me to an apartment complex and letting me pilot his beautiful almost new 1986 Cutlass Supreme Brougham (Can you see why I am so obsessed with those cars?).

    I was almost 16 when my dad bought a slightly used 1990 Nissan 4×4 pickup with a 5-speed. He would take me out in it and try to teach me how to drive it, but the constant yelling and screaming from him every time I stalled it out caused me to throw him out and teach myself! And yes, I did quite well, thank you very much :)

  • avatar

    ’55 Buick Century 2-door hardtop–non-power steering, wheel as big as a steamboat’s. Couldn’t parallel park for shit, as it had just a driver’s side outside mirror.

    Learned stick on a ’60 Chevy Biscayne. Learned to relax and have fun behind the wheel of this “smaller” car. Handled much better despite no power steering since it only had a 6 up front.

  • avatar

    89 toyota corolla

  • avatar

    1968 FIAT 124 Spider with the 1.6 liter engine.

    Later on, a 1972 Buick Riviera “Boattail” with a 455 cu in V8.

    The Buick is the car I took my road test in.

  • avatar

    1977 Honda Accord
    1980 mazda GLC
    1975 Datsun 610
    1978 Buick Skyhawk
    1981 Chevy Citation
    Take your pick, we had all of them at the same time

  • avatar

    1961 vw beetle

  • avatar
    John Williams

    1986 Pontiac 6000LE. The suspension was worn out, so it creaked like an old boat. Accelerated like one, too. There was no opportunity for hoonage — I doubted it would go past 75 or take sharp corners and live to tell the tale.

    At least the 2.8L V6 was relatively smooth and was surprisingly fuel efficient.

    After that, I ran through a succession of Motor City iron — and then I bought a LS400, which pretty much killed any future desire to own another car made by the Big 3.

  • avatar

    1935 Fordson tractor when I was 11 years old. A mean machine.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    At driving school (1998): Peugeot 306 with a fire-breathing 68hp diesel.

    First own car: 1989 Nissan Sunny 1.6 hatch. Enormous fun, no a/c, power nothing.

    First time driving an automatic: A few days later… ’95 Mercedes 300 turbodiesel wagon (I never want an auto)

  • avatar

    1984 Corolla SR5
    5-speed manual RWD
    Silver / Blue

    My mom took me on a country road and made me practice getting the car to move without applying any throttle.

    Took my drivers test in the same vehicle on my 16th birthday which was a day we recieved enough snow to cancel school yet the DMV was still open.

    Great Car

  • avatar

    My grandfather sold used cars and trucks so I got to drive all sorts of former state and federal gov’t cars (the plainest of the Janes) around the yard from about the time I was 11 or 12. That’s not saying much. At least I knew where all the buttons and levers were.

    I learned to the drive on the road around 1984 (14th birthday) in a 1935 Ford Fordor sedan. Think big flat-head v-8 gangster car. With mechanical brakes. WHY Henry Ford stuck with those mechanical brakes for as long as he did I’ll never know. Maybe it adjusted just right they were better than the ones in our 1935 Fordor. Dunno. Anyhow I could steer it, could shift it, and could start it but I couldn’t stop it. I just wasn’t strong enough though my legs were long enough.

    Went from that to a mid-60s 327 powered Impala (or Caprice?). Put that one in the woods (no damage) b/c of bald tires, WAY over-boosted brakes, and WAY WAY over-boosted steering. The times I have driven cars like that since feel very, very unsafe b/c the controls are so numb. This was a former country preachers car and carried about 400 lbs of mud under the chassis. We pulled the engine for a hot rod Dad built and the rest of the car (in good condition but needed paint) went to the crusher.

    Go down to learning to drive in an 1983 Celica 5 speed. Nice little car. Not much power but it did it’s work well and last far beyond our expectations. Sunroof, gold/brown paint, a/c, RWD, five speed. Was a good little car.

    Got my first of three Mustangs when I was 15 or so. First one was a 1966. Had to restore it to make it presentable. Learned to do brakes, paint, interiors, engine rebuilds, etc. What a piece of junk. It was eagerly anticipating it’s return to Mother Earth so it rusted as quickly as it could no matter what we did to slow that. It was a piece of junk b/c of the abuse the previous owners had given it. Prob 5 or 6 teens had owned that car before me. Suspension creaked. Rearend howled. Transmission was wornout. Driveshaft splines were worn. Leaked all of it’s fluids constantly. Three speed tranny. Drum brakes. Leaned like a ship in a wind-storm on the curves.

    Brakes went out TWICE going down the mountain where we lived. Darned signle circuit brakes so if one wheel cylinder failed they all failed. No wreck – somehow. Was in rush hour. Three speed tranny was awful. Driven other three speeds that were better I think. Not really enough power to go from 1st to 2nd. Ratios were too wide. Then the same problem from 2nd to 3rd. COuldn’t stay in 3rd once you got there b/c the engine didn’t have enough power. 3rd was still geared too low for highway use so 60 mph made the old six scream. All 120 HP of it. Or so the spec sheet promised. Later got a ‘64.5 convertible. Never restored it. After that got an ’81 with that same six cylinder from the retired lady next door. This time with all the smog equipment it promised 90 whole HP from a 3.3L six. How smoke it was a lazy engine – and not in any kind of good way. Power everything and a slushbox. Slushbox went out 6 months later. Apparently it preferred to be left in drive all the time. No shifting for it. Worn clutches.

    Like so many above have said – these cars all taught me something about driving. I loved them all for different reasons – sometimes the same reasons. The antiques taught me how easy modern cars were relative to the 1980s. The two 60s Mustangs showed me what owner neglect would do to a car and what a partial restoration would yield (problems forever). The ’81 Mustang taught me how to travel b/c it went to college and the US Navy with me.

    It was my trips overseas that Dad claims ruined me b/c I haven’t owned another domestic vehicle since. An ’84 Rabbit ‘ver I had over there taught me how to drive 100mph+ without getting killed. It was all about rules of the road. Folks around here don’t have enough road discipline to drive like that all the time.

    I’d like to have all of them back with a shop big enough to store and work on them, money to properly care for them, and time to drive them.

  • avatar

    69 Mercury Cougar. My Dad’s ride. Black Cherry, 351 w with auto.
    Long hood. thought I had a rocket ship to pilot

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