My First Car

Real Estate Agent with Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc.

1958 Plymouth Belvedere that looks identical to my first car

Regrets, I've had a few.  I have learned you do not get many 'do overs' and that the choices you make can be the harbingers of your future. Take for instance my first car - a green 1958 Plymouth Belvedere.  It wasn't my first choice to be my first car.  It was what I could afford.

But before I bought the Plymouth, my dad and I went to the used car lot at Luby Chevrolet in downtown Denver in the winter of 1964. The dealership actually was located on some very valuable ground, except back then a lot of old buildings and parking lots occupied spaces that today are worth millions and millions of dollars. As I was writing this I remembered part of a little tune that Luby Chevrolet ran on TV and the "...Lawrence to Larimer on 15th Street".

1957 Pontiac like the one I dreamed of owning

It was a cold over-cast day.  But I got all fired up when I spied the car of my dream.  It was a bright red 1957 Pontiac. The red shined bright and the chrome gleamed against the gray day in downtown Denver. Any red blooded teenage boy would be proud to own such a beauty. I don't remember the price. I had to buy my own car and pay for my own insurance. I had saved my money but the red Pontiac was more than I could afford.  

My dad worked with the guy who owned the 1958 Plymouth. He told my dad the car ran fine and there was nothing wrong with it.  Why would anybody lie to someone potential buyer about a car? And who would suspect a co-worker of trying to pull a fast one on somebody he worked with-somebody he would see everyday? And who try to stick it to a seventeen year old kid who had worked and saved the $350 necessary to buy the car? Who, indeed.

So I bought the car and washed and waxed it as soon as I got it home. I bought my insurance and took the car to school to take my friends out for a ride. I lived in Lakewood, Colorado which is a western suburb of Denver. After school I took two or three friends on a ride to Golden where they brew Coors beer. Then I headed north along a state highway that ends up in Boulder, maybe forty miles away from my school parking lot. Some after school trek. So what if I didn't get  the Pontiac, the Plymouth was mine and I paid for it.

Everything was fine until one Saturday afternoon. I was in the left turn lane at the intersection at 44th and Wadsworth when my car died. The engine would not turn over. I am in traffic on a hot spring afternoon at a very busy intersection. Cars are backed up, and I can't do anything.  Then my brother's wife drives past me in the right lane and waves at me, smiling.  She pulls in front of me and turns the corner and incredibly drives away. I was sold down the river. I was past frantic. I got out of my car and ran across the street to the Conoco gas station. I explained my plight and the guy agreed to go over and tow my car to his gas station. I called my dad who showed up a few minutes later.

In 1964 many gas stations actually did automotive repairs. The Conoco guy said he'd need time to figure out what was wrong and give us a price. It took him a few days to determine the transmission needed rebuilt. That repair would cost a couple of hundred dollars.  Back then I had a part time job where I earned one buck an hour. And I earned it. I worked on a furniture delivery truck. I didn't need to go to gym: I made muscles the old fashioned way, I lifted heavy furniutre.   A lot of the kids in my high school were from very rich families. I was born into the wrong family! I didn't get what my classmates got. I was thrifty and saved my money. I bought what I could afford on my terms.

My Plymouth Belvedere worked fine after I got it back, that is until a friend of mine and I decided to drive up to Estes Park. It was late spring, maybe the end of April or early May. We drove up to Estes Park to apply summer jobs at some resort. The manager was nice enough, but he wasn't interested in either of us. We got back in my car to head back to Denver. I turned on the ignition after which the car lit up on fire. Smoke was pouring out from under the hood. One of us ran inside and got a fire extinguisher. The guy who didn't hire us came running out and helped put the fire out. Surprisingly, the stupid car started up and I was able to drive it back home. But on Monday morning it was dead forever. I put an ad in the paper and eventually sold it for $75 or something like that.

I sometimes wondered how my life might have taken a different course had I bought the red Pontiac. Would my life played out like some John Hughes movie? Would I have dated some cute girl and maybe got into trouble and become a teenage dad like one of my classmates?  Would my sense of self-esteem made me too big for my britches? Maybe I on that first ride to Boulder I would have driven way too fast and run off the road and killed myself and the guys in my car.

If I think long enough I could come up with a lot of "what if" scenarios.  The point isn't "what if" because I didn't buy the car of my dreams. I ended up with something less than perfect and accepted it thinking it would do.  In the long run I ended up spending just as much money or more and certainly ended up with a lot less.  Being frugal did not work out for me, at least in that case.

I get emails from would-be buyers who want to buy a place in Key West. Some buyers set a budget and will only look at properties within or under their budget. Some buyers who want more but who are not willing to the price of a house that meets their needs or expectations are often willing to buy a fixer and are willing to do some work in order to save money.  Like me so many years ago, some think they can get almost all they want but not pay for it.  I learned a very valuable lesson on how much cheap can cost in the long run. Not all cheap deals turn into nightmares. But enough do.

If you are looking to buy a place in Key West, CLICK HERE to search the Key West Association of Realtors mls database. If you see something you like, please consider contacting me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or by email at I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.




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Daniel J. Brudnok, REALTOR
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach, REALTORS - Exton - PA License #RS-225179-L / Delaware License #RS-0025038 - Downingtown, PA


Thanks for sharing this that made me think of my 1968 Monte Carlo......dark green w/a black right front fender that was there when I bought it and I never replaced it.  It was a great car, old and worn when I got it.....but very reliable.

Jun 25, 2012 11:12 PM #1
Dan Hopper
Keller Williams Realty Downtown LLC - Denver, CO
Denver Realtor / Author / Advocate/Short Sale

Great article, Gary.  I enjoyed reading your story and relating it to my youth.  Growing up close to the neighborhoods you reference in the story, brings a closeness to what you experienced while living in the Denver area.  Those old cars with the "finned" panels.... they looked COOL!!

Jun 25, 2012 11:19 PM #2
Andrew Capelli
Hill Elementary - Troy, MI

Gary: Thank you for sharing that story.  Well, no matter what, you've got some good anecdotes from owning that car!  My first car was a 1976 Chevy Nova with a straight-6.  It was dented and puke-brown with plaid seats- not very helpful in securing dates as a teenager!  :) 

Jun 25, 2012 11:23 PM #3
Linda Blumenthal
The Corcoran Group - Sales Agent - 631-466-4087 - Westhampton Beach, NY
CBR - Certified Buyers Representative

Good morning Gary.  I loved reading your story.  Look how much that first green Plymouth taught you about life, and how responsible you were, even as a young teenager.  My first car was an old bomb, but I paid for it myself and I loved it.  It also knew how to break down in front of gas stations, which was an added plus.  Thanks for a great story!

Jun 25, 2012 11:29 PM #4
David Grbich
Realty One Group - - San Juan Capistrano, CA
Orange County Real Estate - 949-500-0484

Great story and thanks for sharing. My first car was a 1979 VW Rabbit with lots of like stories as well.

Jun 25, 2012 11:41 PM #5
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