As I was looking back through old photo albums the other day, I came across a picture of me with my very first car. It was a 1972 Chevrolet Vega. I was just about to wash it, when my Dad snapped this picture. I was upset as it was always clean!

I had never been so excited and although the year I got it was 1976, to me a 4 year old car, that I owned with my name on it was so exciting! Even though it was really the Bank and me owning it, and my insurance was horrendous, I had been approved for a car loan, I had been working right out of high school, saved up for the down payment, and this was my dream, to have my own wheels, my first car, with my own loan (no co-signer!).1972 Chevrolet Vega

My Dad was a huge Chevrolet fan at the time, and the subcompacts were trying to make their way into the market. I remember learning to drive on his HUGE Chevrolet a year before (I swear they were the size of small countries!) I had not gained my height yet, as I was a late bloomer, so I felt like I was peeping over the steering wheel, and that was before power steering. You would turn those steering wheels forever no one needed arm exercises back then! Trying to park those big old Chevrolet's was a nightmare! Plus everyone else was driving even bigger cars! I wanted something a bit smaller.

1972 Chevrolet

We went shopping for my first car, my first 1972 Chevrolet, just when GM was trying to break into the subcompact market. The 1972 Chevrolet Vega seemed like a small car at the time, but by today's standards it would almost be considered a mid sized car since it came equipped with a 85 horsepower, 2.3 Liter engine.

Never the less, I was on cloud nine. No more having to borrow the car from my parents, no more taking the bus. My first car was as good as freedom to a 17 year old. Of course it already had a few miles on it, but I cleaned that car daily, more so than my room! I was still living at home, so every Saturday, I washed and over waxed this car. I bought bottles of the Turtle wax! My siblings always wanted to go for a ride, so they would help me clean this 1972 Chevrolet Vega. It was a copper rust color, which in time I learned would sort of hide the rust that was to come!

It did not run its best from the get go. The 1972 Chevrolet Vega was on the market to compete with the ever increasing Toyota's and Datsun's, that were being imported and at a much cheaper price.

The design of the 1972 Chevrolet Vega had its faults, it had a poorly designed valve system, that had the car burning through oil very quickly.

1972 Chevrolet Vega - 2 Dollars for Gas

But at the time I didn't care, it was my first car. I drove everywhere in it. Even when money got tight, my friends would pool their money so that I could drive them to the movies or the mall. Compared to my Dad's large Chevrolet at the time, my 1972 Chevrolet, my first car, got pretty good gas mileage (not by today's standards though!) I remember I could put 2 dollars in it to get us around town, I don't think the gas nozzle would even squeeze a drop anymore at that rate! That used to give me a 1/4 tank.

It had its problems, and I often shudder when I think of the rural roads, with no cell phones back then. I had the fan belt go on the way home from work one day, and I opened the hood (my dad had taught me how to change a tire and check a few things under the hood). The engine did not take up the space the modern cars do now, you could see the road still with all the space in my 1972 Chevrolet Vega, there was no air conditioning or any of the emission equipment, just the basic engine .

So, I saw the fan belt hanging there, and knew that was why the alternator light had come on. So, with no phone and miles from home. I took off my panty hose (luckily I was wearing a skirt that day) and tied it to the pulleys, and was able to limp home with the alternator light only flashing occasionally. My Dad was so proud! I wouldn't dare touch a modern car engine now, I don't think I could even find the fan belt.

My First Car - Time to Say Goodbye

But finally a couple of years later, the excitement started to wear off. I was having to spend my whole pay check just to keep up with this car. I still loved my first car, and I was still cleaning and waxing it, (I swear by now it had a inch of wax on it!) but it was going through oil quicker than it was going through gas. I was buying the oil by the case, and it was sucking my wallet dry. This was definitely not good for the environment. Finally I saved up enough money to take my 1972 Chevrolet Vega to get a valve job, hoping that would fix my first car, my baby!

A mechanic we knew well took it apart, and saw all the deep gouges and scratches on the cylinder walls, and put it back together and told me to "get rid of it".. I had been reading at that time that the 1972 Chevrolet Vega was about to hit "the all time worst car list". So, I guess they felt sorry for me when I went to the dealership with my Dad 2 years later, to trade it in.

They gave me great trade in on my first car, which I put towards a 1976 Chevrolet Nova, since I think they wanted all the Vega's back! But I loved that car, my 1972 Chevrolet Vega, my first car, and still to this day, many, many years later, when I see my son tinkering with his cars, I remember fondly washing and waxing my very first car.