Back in 2007, I got my first car; a 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix SE Coupe from my uncle. He had bought the car new back in 1992 and passed it on to me for my 16th birthday. At the time, I was in love with Pontiacs, my dream car was a 2002 Trans Am WS6. Though it wasn’t the Firebird I wanted, I grew to love and adore my little Grand Prix. It got me to school and back for two years with little issue. The Grand Prix was my ticket to freedom and adventure, It was my gateway to explore and hang out with friends. No longer did I have to rely on mom, dad, or my grandparents when I wanted to get out.
My Grand Prix was the car that solidified my love of cars. It wasn’t the fastest car, it wasn’t the newest car, or the coolest car but it was my car. My Grand Prix came with the GTP appearance package, factory dual exhaust, steering wheel audio controls, power locks, power windows, power mirrors, power seats and the honeycomb wheels. The front seats were nice, very comfortable and supportive, and the back could comfortably fit two people. Among the things I miss about that car were the “control” pods for the headlights and windshield wipers. I don’t know what it is about pods like that, but they added an extra cool factor in my humble opinion. One of the projects I wanted to tackle, but never got around to was retrofitting the driver information center and heads up display. When the new generation of Grand Prix’s debuted in 1988 they offered a driver information center that mounted in front of the shifter and beneath the radio. It could display, instant and average fuel economy, estimated range, average speed, compass direction, and a vehicle systems check. Along with the information center, there was also a heads up display that put your speed and turn signal indicators on the windshield. For a car from 1992 it certainly had a lot of features that starting to show up as standard features in cars today. At some point in the 90s my uncle had upgraded the sound system and added some subwoofers in the trunk, exactly what any cool first car needs. In my mind it was pretty cool for a car that just as old as me. The Grand Prix was not the safest car however. With the steering wheel consumed by buttons I had to do without an airbag. The seat belts were mounted to the door and there was no ABS.
Like many teenagers in the USA, my car was my ticket to freedom. I went to highschool about 45 minutes away from home, this meant many of my friends lived all over the city. When we started driving it let us all hang out more. It made us closer and it let us experience more things, from late night fast food runs to adventures through the city and country. A teenagers first car is a major right of passage in the USA. A car signifies your first major responsibility, a sign of your parents trust, and often the first step towards independence and adulthood.
Up front the car had what Pontiac called mini quad headlights, peeking out from the bodywork and optional fog lights. The original fog lights had cracked and broken at some point over the years so I replaced them with some autozone specials, giving off a nice blueish glow that I thought was so cool at the time. Under the hood was GM’s indestructible 3.1L V6 with “Multi Port Fuel Injection”. It wasn’t the most powerful engine but it lasted well enough. One day I managed to kill the engine though. I had taken the car to the shop for a smoking and overheating issue and they returned to me claiming it was fixed. After driving almost 50 miles on the highway to school and then back, the engine finally gave out. Turns out the head gasket had blown and now the engine was toast. Luckily the shop covered the replacement engine.
My first car gave me so many lasting memories, Like the first time I had to drive in the snow after school in a major snowstorm. The snow was coming down so fast that if I didn’t keep my rear defroster on, the back window would be covered in snow almost immediately. My usual 45 minute drive turned into a three to four hour ordeal. Up and down steep hills and then stuck in traffic on the highway the old car never gave me any trouble. I had my first ticket in this car for “running a stop sign” that was in a parking lot. Luckily the ticket later got dismissed as the officer had lied on the report. This is also the car that I took my first girlfriend out for our first date in. I had the mix CD she made me in the radio and a photo of us over part of my instrument cluster. I showed her a picture of that the other day and the first thing she told me. “You were obsessed with that car”.
I was completely obsessed. I jumped at any chance to go for a drive. I cared more about my car than most other things at the time. Though that is something that I still carry on today. It was a car that at the time stood out a little bit, it wasn’t just a cookie cutter beige Camry, Corolla or Civic. I’m glad I got my Grand Prix over anything else at the time, it was the perfect first car. The freedom you gain from your first car will never be replicated. You'll own faster cars, nicer cars, more expensive cars but that first car is such a pivotal point in a person's life.