By the time I was of legal driving age (15.5) I was already a pretty confident and capable driver. I was the exact reason the state of Maryland puts restrictions on youth drivers' licences - I raced my parent's cars on the street. Thankfully, I never hurt anyone or damaged any cars, but looking back, I was really, really stupid.
The first car I called my own was a 1969 Buick GS California I bought in November 1985 from a car broker in North Carolina. This car was very rare, being one of only 1,500 made that year. It was a "one owner" originally owned by a church-going older couple - I kept their church bumper sticker on it until I began restoring the car. By the spring of 1986 though, a few of the little secrets that the broker forgot to tell me about began to come to light. The engine was re-built and the transmission was overhauled all within the first few years of ownership. My $2,500 purchase now had $2,500 in repairs. Finally my parents stepped in and with my fathers help we began to do a fairly comprehensive restoration on the car. By 1990 we had a show-quality, award winning vehicle that we were both very proud of. The car is still with my parents today, living comfortably in their garage. It is for sale too - e-mail my dad Wayne if you are interested.
In 1989 I needed a daily-driver to replace the Buick. My family was a Volkswagen family so I picked up a really solid 1986 VW GTI that I then drove over 100,000 Miles without a major service! Amazing for a VW, eh? This was a great car to drive, especially in rural Southern Maryland where I was going to school at the time. Finally in 1993, with 175,000 miles on the odometer, the GTI began to tell me it was time to go - the expensive electronic distributor died, the shift linkage broke, the electrical system started acting up - I had to face the reality of getting a new car.
I really wanted to get another GTI but 1993 was a terrible year for VW and due to striking workers they failed to introduce the new Golf/Jetta III until late summer (calling it a 1994 model). Sadly, there was no 1993 GTI available and while the Golf/Jetta was a nice car, I just wasn't ready to buy a "family" car.
Back in 1989 Mazda introduced the MX-5 Miata to the world. I really liked the car but at the time I could only afford a used car. By 1993 the Miata was much more common and available and I already had a year of earnings saved from my job. The time was right for me to buy a Miata! On October 11, 1993 I picked up my Mariner Blue, base-model MX-5 Miata.
Over the years I have come to love this car - I joined the Miata Club of America, the local Mazda Sportscar Club of Washington (MSCW), and Miata.net. Through the MSCW, I ran my car at Summit Point Raceway, a road course in West Virginia. I kept the car for as long as possible - the impracticality as a family car forced me to sell it in February 2000. Like my GTI, the Miata had been a solid, reliable car and I look forward to the day when I can own either again...
In early 2001 I purchased a one-owner 1977 BMW 320i from a co-worker. I will be creating a section just to chronicle the revitalization of the car. The new section is here.