Automatic Memories: You never forget your first car

Editor’s Note: Joe Schneider, 37, is the agency principal at the Joe Schneider Agency. Here, he recounts the story of his first car. 


My dad bought my first car – a 1984 Renault Encore – from one of my sister’s friends for $250. My dad was always looking for a good deal (and this wouldn’t be my last cut-rate car from him).

It was by no means my dream car at age 16. I grew up in Virginia, outside of Richmond, and I felt lucky just to have a car, lucky to have that freedom.

The car was a 4-speed manual, and I remember putting it in reverse didn’t entail moving the stick shift to the right and down like it should have been, it was to the left and up. There was a lot about this car that was a little backwards. The ceiling was just exposed foam—years of driving had worn out the cloth and it had been ripped out. So my friends and I made it into a sort of yearbook; we’d carve our names into the ceiling foam. After months of etching, it all just started to flake off and pieces would get in passengers’ hair, like bits of snow.

To really personalize my wheels, I decided to do some updating. I put in my own stereo with a tape deck and speakers, since, for me, driving to music was a must. I attempted to tint the windows but quickly learned that there’s a reason you hire an expert to do tinting for you.

We’d pack the car with friends and drive 10 miles through the Virginia countryside to get to our ultimate destination, the mall. Occasionally, we’d go to the big city of Richmond and cruise the strip, but we spent most of our time at the most happening place in town, the McDonald’s parking lot.

I rode my first car hard and was lucky that it lasted 12 whole months. One day, it inevitably stopped running. We were cruising down a country road, coming down a hill and the motor just stopped. The car rolled to a stop, and that was all she wrote.

For the $250 investment, it was well worth it, and I learned a lot from that car, like how to diagnose problems with cars – a valuable skill that I have used on every other car I’ve owned. I also practiced my stick skills, learned to change the oil, install brake pads and a stereo, and change quite a few tires.

My dad found a few more good deals after the Renault— a 1983 Cadillac Seville in need of a new transmission, a 1980 Volvo manual 4-speed, and an old police car—but, it’s true, you always remember your first.

We want to hear your first car stories! What was the make and model of your first car? How old were you when you got it? Do you remember anything special about it? Tell us your story in the comments section below.

Allstate Agent Joe Schneider and the Joe Schneider Agency are based in Chicago. Address: 521 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL 60610. Phone: (312) 787-0221

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