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Your First Car, a Rite of Passage

I came across a fascinating newspaper article recently which asked the question: “Do young people of today still think of a car the way we baby boomers used to?”

When I was a young teenager in the early 60s, owning a car was a rite-of-passage into adulthood. I was just 16 when I sat for my driver’s license, not even able to drive, and within a week I had bought my first car.

Photo from Google Images. I paid £150 for my first car, a 1949 Austin A40, 60 mph flat as a tack, with the big ends knocking

Photo from Google Images. I paid £150 for my first car, a 1949 Austin A40, 60 mph flat as a tack, with the big ends knocking

A car to the baby boomer generation represented so much freedom, and we loved our cars, it was an extension of who we were!

We couldn’t afford to buy really ‘cool’ cars, sports cars or powerful V8s (although some kids soon had twin-carbies and the like). We were happy to settle for an FX or FJ Holden, Ford Consul, a Zephyr or Prefect, an old Vauxhaul or Vanguard, or whatever our parents drove (usually dad) and had in the garage for us to borrow.

Experts say that a car now is less important to today’s teenagers due to the explosion of social media. Car ownership just may not be as socially important as it used to be.

“What we used to do in cars, young people are now doing online,” said one analyst at a recent oil conference.

Remember when we had a 'column stick shift'?

Remember when we had a ‘column stick shift’?

The ability to meet and interact with people on the Internet is largely replacing the need to hop in a car and cruise down the main street.

Couple that with more recent restrictions on driving — later ages for licenses, limits on how many people can be in the car, restrictions on mobile phone use — and the Internet may be surpassing the car in the category that gave cars so much appeal: freedom.

“When I got into a vehicle, it represented me going to meet my friends,” said Craig Giffi, car practice leader at the consultancy Deloitte. “For them, it cuts them off from their friends.”

This is particularly true for the youngest, most digitally-connected members of Generation Y. Forty-six percent of 18-24 year-olds would choose Internet access over owning a car, according to a recent Deloitte study.

It’s a trend the car companies are noticing as well. “With this generation, what owning a car means is completely different from previous generations,” said Annalisa Bluhm, a spokeswoman for General Motors. “It was a rite of passage. Now the right of passage is a mobile phone.”

With the Baby Boomers, Bluhm said three-quarters had obtained early life’s five big rites of passage by the time they were 30 — buying a car, leaving school and getting a job, getting married, buying a house and having kids. Now less than 40% of the under-30 crowd has all these things.

What’s more, 30% of Baby Boomers considered themselves “car enthusiasts,” said Bluhm. Less than 15% of Gen-Yers say the same, and they’re flocking to more practical models.

“They have a number of things that validate them,” Bluhm said. “The car is no longer their first purchase, they’re more likely to prefer a computer.”

I paid £150 for my first car, a 1949 Austin A40, 60 mph flat as a tack, with the big ends knocking and yet I still remember that car to this day and some of the experiences I had in it!

What memories do you have of your first car?

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9 Responses to Your First Car, a Rite of Passage

  1. Joseph January 27, 2015 at 6:35 pm #

    I had a 91 camry sedan as my first car 10 years ago (age 16).
    for me it was transport to my fulltime job and DEFINITELY FREEDOM!

    I was the oldest of my mates and was the taxi but i didn’t mind because we always had a good time.


  2. Neil January 30, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    It was’nt my first car, but one memory that comes to mind (frequently) In 1981 when I was working in Warrigo, a mine west of Tennant Creek in the NT.A hambuger trip to Brisbane via Mount Isa and Townsville (1839 miles or 2979 ks if you like. 5 of us planned the trip while on Thursday night shift, finished work at 7:00am, in my car, (a Torana Hatch) by 7:30, got to Brisbane about 8:00am the folling day. Got back to camp running late in 21 1/2 hours with about 30mins to spare before starting work at 3:00pm on Monday. You do the maths on how fast we were going, I don’t like to admit that we were speeding, although back then the Northern Territory had no open road speed limit. you may be asking, WHY would you do this, two answers, what else was there to do on the weekend in Warrigo, but, more importantly, BECAUSE YOU CAN. Many more stories, but as you can see I can’t keep in a text message form of under (boring) ten words,

  3. Rob February 22, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    I left school and started work when I was 14. This gave me money to buy my first car before I got my licence. It was an Austin A40 Ute –

    I sat my written test on my 16th birthday 5th November 1962 (Guy Fawkes) at the Glenelg Police Station in Mosley Sqr. My Dad taught me to drive made the appointment for my Practical driving test (I think it was only 3 or 4 weeks later). I remember that my appoint was just before morning tea time. I did my test at Glenelg, I parked outside went in, the police officer came out put the parking sticks in the back of the ute. I drove down along the Patawalonga had to do a 3 point U turn. He said OK lets head back so I can get my cuppa. I had to pull over to the curb on a bit of a rise and do a Hand Brake start. (Of course the Ute was Manual) That was it I went straight into the Rego office to get the Licence. I was free.

  4. Kathryn Joslin February 26, 2015 at 10:51 pm #

    I must have been 18 I reckon, I bought a Volkswagen, from the supposedly dodgy dealer who was across the South Road from Castle Plaza at Daw Park.I can’t remember how much I paid, probably only $200.00
    I drove it home along South Road, to my parents place at Findon. Half way up Grange Road to their house, I ran out of fuel. My dad had enrolled me in the RAA… and I called them… within about 10 mins the service guy arrived and told me how to access the secondary tank (I think it was a button on the floor… not sure) I have a picture of it, if you would like..

  5. Dave C May 6, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    I remember my first car well. In April 1972 I bought an EH Holden from Coventry Motors yard on the corner of Morphett Street & Gouger Street. It cost $799 & I paid cash – quite an achievement. I started work in the former Savings Bank of SA in January that year, just before my 18th birthday. I worked for the preceding 18months or so packing groceries at Erindale Foodland, starting when the store first opened. I also did some orange picking in the Riverland from where a school friend was originally from during a few school holidays. One of the best decisions I ever made was not smoking. As such I saved most of what I earnt. Most of my friends smoked but I chose not to, even though both my parents smoked. I just could not see the value in smoking. A couple of longnecks of “green death” (Southwark) were my only extravagance on Saturday nights.

  6. paul s June 15, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

    I remember my first car back in 1974 a morriss 1500 bought at salisbury on finance of course.
    We went everywhere in that car even a fishing trip down to browns beach with nothing but rods and beer.
    loved going to the drive in and down
    to aldinga beach.
    so sad when it finally blew up and put a conrod through the block on main north rd, after putting a hot head on it Oh the memories

  7. Alan Behenna August 30, 2016 at 6:38 pm #

    I sat for a 10 question written test for license (in the country). I received it 10 days later in post. I couldn’t drive but I just did! My first car was a 1936 Ford flathead v8 coupe. It was so cool. It leaked oil everywhere and overheated constantly but would always start on a short downhill slope! In those days cars were a statement of arrival, of belonging, of existence. I am so thankful to have been alive in that particular age of motor cars. Cars are wonderful.

  8. Col Bailey August 15, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

    In 1955 I bought my first car, a 1926 Humber roadster. Quite an identity that little beast. Sure it was an antique, even back then, and I was taught to drive by a woman back in the days when women drivers were definitely not the flavour of the month. I honed my skills driving round and round our cow paddocks sending the cows bananas in the process. Then the army got hold of me for nasho in 1956 and thanks to them they really taught me to drive. Let loose at the Eastern end of Rundle Street in peak hour traffic and told to drive to West Terrace. It was horrifying hair raising stuff but it sure brushed away the cobwebs. I survived and now, 62 years of continuous driving later I am still have to have an accident, so they must have taught me something right. Once the little Humber died I purchased a few Chevs and then branched into Holden and never looked back.

  9. Steve Wray, now in England September 1, 2017 at 2:19 am #

    Yes, I do remember column gear levers. That looks like an FJ Holden in the picture. Column gear levers persisted into the 1960s, and were then replaced by floor levers, except in North America, where they lived on for decades.

    Column gear levers are a great idea, because you can get three people into the front, making a sedan a six-seater.

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