My First Car Story

My First Car – 1969 Camaro

My First Car – 1969 Camaro

by Jim Riga

My favorite was my second-hand 1969 Camaro.

It was a 2-door coupe,

gold with black racing stripes.

No car before that one, or since, ever handled the way that li’l gem did. In a way, after all these years, I wish I had kept it, because they’re worth a small fortune today.

Talk about “feeling the open road”, that car did it in spades, and made me feel freer than any bird! I souped it up because I was bitten by sports cars & racers from my early youth.

When I drove it, with the windows open, I could almost touch the road outside ….. that’s how low to the road it drove. I equipped it with extra-wide Good-Year tires (with white lettering), custom Kragar mag wheels, which cost a small fortune, even in those days, and I put it an ultra-small solid walnut steering wheel. You couldn’t do that today because of the central air bag system. In fact, the steering wheel was so small, and with no power steering, my mother, who borrowed it on one or two occasions, could not park the darn thing because you needed “muscle power” to just turn the wheel!

It also had a Lear Jet 8-track tape player, which someone eventually stole by smashing a window. And I remember that when the police took the report, one of the officers happened to be a friend, a musician whom I had played with in a band from my younger days. I eventually joined another band later, when I was teaching, and that same police officer was the guitarist for that group …… yea, it’s a really small world!

The car was also side-swiped one winter, when a snow plow smashed the door in near the sidewalk.

But that beauty never let me down.

And I especially enjoyed driving it to my country chalet in the Laurentians because of all the curvy & winding roads.

Yep, those were the days of “Route 66”, the days of freedom on the open roads, and I often reminisce of those days of my youth. Today, the ol’ geezer in me drives a more practical and ordinary SUV …… amazing how immaturity forces us to make foolish choices, AND as we mature, we tend to hopefully make wiser choices in our brief lifetimes!

That car was eventually sold to my brothers, who had it repainted, and it served them faithfully for a few years afterward.

The li’l sportster may be gone, but it’s not forgotten!

-Jim Riga

Jim Riga is a retired teacher from St. Pius X in Montreal. His passion has always been sports cars, but his “dream” came true when he bought this second-hand beauty. Today, that passion has been replaced by fishing & recreational trap & skeet shooting. But the “fire for the road” still burns strong.

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DEATH OF THE DART

DEATH OF THE DART

BY PETER ANTHONY HOLDER

The return of the Dodge Dart has more than a twinge of nostalgia for me. I grew up in a Chrysler family. Our first car was a 1970 Dodge Dart (pictured below). It was our first days of freedom and the last days of public transit for us.

The Chrysler Corporation, which was itself on death’s door not too many years ago, found a Sugar Daddy to save it, in the form of Italy’s Fiat. Now on somewhat solid road, the car company has brought back from the dead one of its most remembered nameplates, albeit this time on an Italian chassis.

The return of the Dodge Dart has more than a twinge of nostalgia for me. I grew up in a Chrysler family. Our first car was a 1970 Dodge Dart (pictured below). It was our first days of freedom and the last days of public transit for us.

Though only 12-years-old when this car came into my life it was almost entirely my choice of vehicle. I loved the Chryslers of my youth, enjoyed the sport model of the Dart that was driven by TV’s Mannix, and had major sway on my Dad who really knew nothing about cars (and truth be told, knew very little about driving them too).

But five years later we traded up to a more mid range 1975 Dodge Dart. Again, I had complete say on this deceptively fast family sedan with a .318 V8 under the hood. However, once again Mom picked the colour. Not wanting to beat around the bush with a choice that could look somewhat green (unless it was cloudy or dark outside), she went full bore with her favourite colour, which is green. (For the record, green is NOT my favourite colour. On the contrary, it is a colour I do not like at all).

This car was my baby. I got up early in the morning to drive my father to work, then took the car to school. I picked my Dad up after work, then went to my job as a theatre usher after that. On the weekends, once I made sure to take Mom to the supermarket for groceries, I was free to roam the world in that Dart.

That car, which was affectionately known as “Betsy” was everything to me. And I put her through a lot. In the eight years I had her, she saw almost 300,000 miles (long before the days when we counted distance in kilometres). At the time of her death I was living in Brockville, Ontario working at a small radio station (two and a half years of my life I will never get back. I went there to cut my salary in half and double the Black population. A story I may or may not share another day).

During my Brockville days, I drove Betsy home every weekend. It was a two hour plus drive to Brockville, but only a 90 minute drive back to Montreal (I told you, I didn’t like Brockville and the Dart did have a .318 V8).

That car had been through a lot, least of all my adolescence. I can truly say that with all the car had endured, it stood up to the challenges. And at the risk of sounding old, they don’t make them like they used to.

To say I was distraught at the loss of my beloved vehicle might not be too far off the mark. But I got through my grief by placing an obit in the Brockville daily newspaper, The Recorder and Times (apparently they would let you write anything in the classifieds as long as they saw the money . . . . again another sad story for another day).​

THE OBIT (PICTURED BELOW) WAS ENTITLED GOODBYE DEAR FRIEND. IF YOU CAN’T READ THE ACTUAL NEWSPAPER CLIPPING, WHICH I STILL HOLD NEAR AND DEAR TO MY HEART, HERE’S WHAT IT SAID:



We respectfully direct your attention to the following unfortunate incident. A 1975 Dodge Dart, a.k.a. “Betsy”, a.k.a. “The Little Green Mean Machine,” passed on into the great metallic unknown on Monday, February 21st. She was eight years old. Its demise was diagnosed as acute complications due to old age. The Little Green Mean Machine is survived by H.D. Holder of Montreal, its one and only owner; and Peter A. Holder, principle driver. She led a long and productive life of faithful service and will be missed by all concerned. She is currently a 3,200 pound green cube in Montreal. All donations to the CAA will be greatly acknowledged.

What can I say?

We all grieve in different ways. So in this millennium, as a once venerable automotive giant looks to its past to try and rebuild for the future, with ad campaigns and much hype over the return of a treasured nameplate, I will quietly applaud them for their attempt. But I will also look back fondly, with a smile, (and maybe a tear) knowing that the glory days of my youth were truly enhanced by my relationship with that 1975 Dodge Dart.

And I hope that out there somewhere is another teenager, with or without a sense of history for the name, who might fall in love with a Dodge Dart of his own and begin the journey on the highway of memories.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it

PETER ANTHONY HOLDER

PETER ANTHONY HOLDER IS A 35-YEAR BROADCAST VETERAN, INCLUDING A 20-YEAR RUN AS THE HOST OF A LATE NIGHT MONTREAL RADIO SHOW AND A FORMER TELEVISION NEWS ANCHOR/REPORTER. CURRENTLY HE’S THE HOST OF THE STUPH FILE PROGRAM, HEARD WORLDWIDE ON MANY PLATFORMS, INCLUDING ITUNES, STITCHER, SEVERAL RADIO STATIONS AND SHORTWAVE RADIO. HE’S ALSO THE PRODUCER OF THE JUST FOR LAUGHS SIRIUSXM RADIO PROGRAMS AND A FREELANCE WRITER. ADDING TO THE LIST OF WRITING CREDITS IS A BOOK SLATED FOR RELEASE IN 2017 ENTITLED GREAT CONVERSATIONS: MY INTERVIEWS WITH TWO MEN ON THE MOON & A GALAXY OF STARS. THE STUPH FILE PROGRAM IS AN ECLECTIC SHOW FEATURING INTERVIEWS FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE AND SOME OF THE ODDEST NEWS STORIES YOU’LL EVER HEAR. SIT BACK AND ENJOY THIS WEEKLY HOUR OF FUN!
HE CAN BE REACHED AT
HTTPS://PETERANTHONYHOLDER.BLOGSPOT.COM/

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My First Car – 1979 Beetle Convertible

My First Car – 1979 Beetle Convertible

by Peter Hehm

As a teenager growing up in the eighties, films and movies had a tremendous influence on my friends and I when it came to “cool cars”.

On TV, there was Miami Vice with Crocket’s pseudo Ferrari Daytona and then a real Testarossa.

Knightrider was a talking Pontiac Trams-am! (see above)

The Dukes of Hazzard had a Dodge Charger named the General Lee.

In the movies, we were teased by all the exotic cars chasing Aston Martins in the James Bond movies!

My friends ended up buying Honda Accords and CRXs, Volkswagen Jettas and GTIs and Chevy Camaros and Firebirds!

What did I end up buying?

An old Beetle!

For today’s generation, that’s a Beetle with the engine in the back!

I remember reading in the classified ads of the Gazette in the spring of 85 (that’s how you shopped for a car back then), a low mileage Karmann Beetle Convertible. I asked my friend Eugenio to come and see it with me since he had a car.

Before I went into the dealership, I asked him to go inside first and tell me the condition of the car. When he came out, he smiled and said nervously:

“Don’t go in,

unless you really want to buy it”.

So I went in.

Right next to the Beetle was a 1957 Thunderbird for sale for the same asking price!

I looked at both cars, same asking price, 14,500$.

One was in showroom condition with 11,000KM, the other a multiple car owner with reliability issues according to the (honest?) salesman!

Both convertibles, so a winter car also needed to be calculated into my budget.

The decision from a “car guy” prospective was a no-brainer, go with the flashy looking car to get the girls!

But then as a first time car buyer, realistically you have to be rational about what you will buy as you first car.

Is it because you need a car to travel to work, mobility because you want freedom or because the vehicle is an extension of you?

My Italian friends ended up with Camaros! My other friends Hondas or GTIs. All great cars but none really had any “personality”.

At the end of October of that year, I took possession of the 1979 Beetle Convertible!

Countless stories and history has been written about Beetles, more that any other car, and for good reason! It truly has a personality that is undeniable.

Just ask Walt Disney!

Prior to his death, he wanted to make a movie about a car with a soul! The story goes that Disney asked his employees to pick a car in the parking lot on their way home. Among the dozen or so “casting cars” chosen, the overwhelming favorite was the Beetle!

My car was named “Alyson” for no other reason that the name just came to me! Alyson the Beetle! She became an extension of me. She was the queen where ever I went! People would start a conversation with me, tourists wanted a picture with her, everyone wanted a ride! She had trouble keeping up with buses but everyone’s eyes were on her!

Alyson was always the star! Among all the Corvettes, Porsches, Alfa Romeos, she out-shined them all! I had one gentleman in a blue Ferrari pull up to me and ask if the car was for sale because his wife sitting next to him wanted the car because the color matched the Ferrari!

A “his” and “hers” in the garage!

She was so beautiful, Alyson was cast in two movies shot locally in Montreal. One movie called “Green without Envy” a Harlequin made for TV romance and the other starring James Brolin (Josh Brolin’s father) called Back Stab.

Alyson was also the car chosen by Eugenio for his wedding, as well as 4 other friends and countless strangers who requested her! As the saying goes…Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue! She was all that!!

My Beetle is the most reliable car ever made! I have replaced the alternator once, brakes pads, spark plugs and oil filter regularly and that’s it!

Since 1985!

For those that are not familiar with Beetles, the engine is air cooled!

There is one belt and fan! That’s it!

I will never sell her!

I have a Mercedes-Benz as my “daily driver”.

A Porsche 911 as my “stress relief” car and

a BMW motorcycle as my “freedom vehicle”!

After owning her for 33 years, she is about to get a heart transplant! Not because she isn’t reliable, on the contrary, her next heart, like the rest of her, will require no maintenance at all! In fact, all I will need to do is change brakes pads!

Alyson, like all cats and Beetles that have nine lives, is going electric!

-Peter Hehn

Peter Hehn has been an automotive enthusiast his whole life. He fell in love with cars at 10 when he first saw a picture of James Dean in a Spyder. Peter also enjoys riding two wheels, motorbikes and bicycles! When not obsessing over “wheels”, he works as a recruitment and branding consultant. He began his career in commercial real estate and is still a managing partner in developing resort properties in Tremblant. He is now obsessing over acquiring a VW Westfalia!

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