Residents remember their first cars

Staff writer

Talk to men about their first cars, and their eyes light up with pleasure as the memories come flooding back.

Kim Hill, 57, of rural Lehigh was 15 when he got his first car. He bought it from an uncle for $1,600 with money earned through part-time work at the Kerr-McGee service station in Hillsboro.

The red 1968 Ford Mustang was equipped with an automatic transmission, factory air-conditioning, and power steering.

“It was a beauty,” he said. “I was frustrated at first because I couldn’t drive it much. I had a restricted license and could only use it for school and work.”

The vehicle had 60,000 miles on it when he bought it. Back in the early 1970s, gas was cheap, 19 to 20 cents, and gas wars were common, driving the price even lower at times.

“You could drive forever for almost nothing,” Hill said.

After he got his full license, he spent Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons cruising city streets. He washed and waxed the car constantly and performed his own maintenance.

He owned the vehicle for more than 20 years and spent $1,200 to overhaul the motor.

After storing the Mustang in people’s garages for several years, Hill decided to sell it. He thinks he got $2,200 for it.

“When a vehicle sits awhile without being used, the gas gets old, and expenses like insurance and tags are there every year,” he said. “Packrats are always a threat, too. I wanted to sell it while it still was in good shape.

“I wish I had it now,” he added.

Dennis Penner, 63, of Hillsboro bought a 1963 Chevrolet Impala in 1968, when he was 18 and a high school senior.

He paid for the vehicle using money he earned working on his grandpa’s and uncle’s farms.

Penner’s father ran Hillsboro Body Shop and often fixed up and sold cars, like the one he bought.

It was a beige two-door hardtop. Penner equipped the car with red-walled tires and half-moon hubcaps. He kept the hubcaps shiny and clean to prevent them from getting rusty.

The car had a 283 V-8 engine, automatic transmission, and radio.

“It was nothing fancy, but it cruised Main Street real well,” Penner said.

He covered all expenses associated with the car and sold it to a younger brother after owning it two or three years.

When Eric Carlson, 32, of rural Lincolnville bought his first car at age 18, it replaced his parents’ 1988 Oldsmobile that he used for going to school.

He was a college freshman when he bought a sporty, red 1993 Ford Probe, a two-door hatchback, for transportation to and from Kansas State University.

“If I found a spot no one else at K-State could park in, I could park in it,” he said.

He used money earned from working on the farm and selling cattle to pay for the vehicle. He said it cost about $3,200.

The Probe had a stick shift and headlights that popped up.

After his junior year in college, Carlson obtained an internship at a General Mills flourmill in Los Angeles. He felt he needed a bigger, more reliable vehicle for making the trip to California, so he traded the car for another one.

He’ll always remember his first car, though.

“It wasn’t very comfortable to ride in, but I liked driving it,” he said. “It was a lot better than that big Olds.”

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