Saturday, May 10, 2014

The story of my first car... (every day in May)

In high school, I drove 'Big Red', an aging magenta Falcon. It was the family car, but as I'd loaned my Dad the money to fix it so often, he promised it was my car too.

Driving Big Red was a learning experience, to say the least. It was petrol and LPG. LPG was at that point under 30c/L which meant that unlike my friends, I didn't really have to worry too much about the fuel bill. I mean, petrol was something horrific like 77c/L back then!!!

I also didn't have to worry about reversing. Big Red didn't do reverse... unless you had your right leg dangling from the driver's side, Flintstone style, or you had a friend to push.

Big Red also didn't have a door handle on the driver's side. Every time I got into the passenger side to slide over the seat to the driver's side, I felt like I was being watched - and that every person watching thought I was stealing the car.

I remember the day that door handle fell off. I'd dropped my Mum at her ultra-early morning bakery job and was making the long drive home to our house (25 min) to get an hour of shut-eye before I drove back for my own corner-store job. I needed some gas, so I was stopped at the service station with a hideous black and fluoro hoodie on over my jammies (it was Winter and the nineties). I was safety conscious and all the doors were locked except the driver's door. After paying, I went to get back into the car and to my surprise, the handle just came off in my hand. How embarrassing - here I was, on the main street in my jammies, with the world just starting to wake up. Any minute someone would pull up behind me and I'd have to explain my ridiculous situation!

Lucky a nice, hairy man on a bike had seen the whole thing and knew a way to break into the passenger side! He did it with such speed and ease, I hoped that he noticed how crappy the car was on the inside! I sent him message via ESP, "This is not the car you are looking for, nothing here to see".

My mum junked poor Big Red some time while I was away at uni.

The first car I actually bought was a Honda Civic. I remember going to the bank to extract all my savings with J (my now husband). I was surprised at how small a bundle of notes making $1000 really looked. I considered asking for it all in tens!

We looked around some car yards, with him offering to loan me some money once we saw what was on offer. He had a compact little car and had never had to drive a 'bomb'. I, of course, was too proud. I told him, "I'll know it when I see it."

I'd already picked a name - Cecilia. Like the Paul Simon song. Of course, after Big Red, I totally expected any car I'd be driving to be, "breaking my heart... shaking my confidence daily". But when I saw the tiny white car parked in the corner with just the right price tag ($999, of course), I knew this was a great car and there was no way I could give it that name.

So Geraldine (Geri - like the Spice Girl) came into my possession. While Big Red had been an auto, Geri, being a '74 model, quite obviously was not. I had an SA licence (which didn't stipulate manual/auto) and I'd only really driven auto since my three driving school lessons several years earlier. Uh oh. And did I mention that we were buying this car to take home to our very own garage in the house we'd just moved into... FOUR HOURS AWAY?

Let's just say, I learned to drive 'four on the floor' by the time we'd hit the eighth or ninth set of lights and I've never been so happy that the Bruce Highway is reasonably straight and long!!! J drove ahead the whole way and I just focused on his tail lights and alternated between prayer and swear words the whole way home.

This was after my brother had added a few nice touches
like fuzzy dice and car seat covers. Must be naughties 
because my hair isn't permed! 

Geri lived in our garage for several years. I often drove around town looking for missing hubcaps (poor J's attempt to pimp it out), occasionally for missing parts of my muffler and exhaust. She had a screwdriver to hold up a window after the winding mechanism broke.

She often squeezed six passengers inside if I drove friends home after a shift at the nightclub where I worked. Thank goodness her windows fogged quickly, I never got pulled over for an over-filled car like some of my friends! She was used to ferry passengers from the reception after our wedding.

When it rained, she surprised me with crops of mushrooms growing out of the ancient carpet in the boot. When I saw those mushrooms waving, I would slam the boot so fast!!! 

My baby brother drove her for a few years after that, and then just as she was about to hit vintage status, we realised we could not keep her going any longer. My brother and I cried when we took her to the wreckers. They gave us a hundred bucks, mostly because I think they felt a bit sorry for us, all red eyed and heartbroken. I still have the Honda and Civic badges, they used to be stuck to the top of my monitors until I got a touch screen.

No other car has held quite the same attachment for me. She was the very start of my new, grown up life. She gave me my independence and I loved her!


  1. I love the Big Red story!! Especially reversing.

  2. Big Red - what a cute name - my brother called our car 'Mucous'.
    Geri sounds a but like my first car - a mechanic's dream.

  3. Such a great topic isn't - love going down to memory lane. Love this story of Big Red!

  4. Sounds completely awesome! I love how you name your cars! I am going to do that!

    1. My current old girl is named Hildebrande - Hilda the Holden (built in Belgium). At the time I had a six month old and was preggers with number two. I imagined her as a plump European nanny who would help me haul the double pram from place to place. She's mellowed in her old age, doesn't mind the odd banana peel or the kilos of biscuit crumbs. She's looking more grey than shiny silver, too ;)

  5. Big Red - Love it. My first car was red too and it was called Martha :) xx


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