Sunday, May 16, 2010


Over the years, I've heard every "used car salesman" joke in the book. None were terribly flattering. Most gave me pause.

My dad was a car salesman.

As a kid, I couldn't understand the jokes about con artists, crooks, rip-offs and the likes. And I didn't understand the visual that was usually associated with the stereotype because my dad did not wear wild plaid jackets and he never smoked a stinky cigar.

When I was older, I realized there are all types of car salesmen and my dad was one of the good guys. Sure I'm his daughter, but Dad literally sold cars to three generations of families and never, to my knowledge, had an unsatisfied customer. Living in a small town where everyone knows everybody's business, I'm pretty sure I would have heard about it if he had.

There were perks of being a car salesman's daughter. Dad always drove a nice car with that new car smell and he was more than happy to drive my friends and me to school every morning. And my mom always drove nice, very reliable used cars that never so much as had a flat tire.

But there was one disadvantage to having a dad in the car business and that came when it was time to buy my first car in 1978.

Finally brave enough to get my driver's license at age 19, I was sure I'd be able to get a great deal-- ala the "Daddy Discount", on a hip, hot looking, red sports car with the whopping $800 I'd saved.

Dad had other ideas.

In selecting a "good used car" for me, Dad surrounded me with a lot of metal so it was ultra safe and would hold up well in the inevitable new driver fender-bender. That translated to a very used 1972 Dodge Dart.

There was nothing hip or cool about it despite it being red. It was an old person's car. A boring car. With a little rust. And, and, and, it was so very ugly and big and not my idea of a cool car.

I wanted to cry but that wasn't an option. I knew that even though I was 19 and even though I was buying it with all my own money, this was the car I was going to get. Period. Dad had spoken and red Dodge Dart was parked in our driveway.

My family name their cars-- All are bestowed with an affectionate name that the car is regularly referred to. We've had Teddy, Harry, Cosmo, Betty, Madonna, and Big John to name a few. I named my ugly red Dodge Dart-- Unfortunate.

Just to put this in perspective-- Remember Al Bundy's ugly car on "Married With Children"??? A Dodge Dart. (I rest my case.)

I hated that car. Seriously-- I really, really hated it, but my friends loved it! After years of them driving me around it was my turn. Since it was big with four doors it was easy for my galpals to pile in the backseat without messing up their disco dresses.

But.... Unfortunate got me through snow storms, hail, rain and bloody hot and humid Ohio days despite not having air conditioning. It drove me to colleges to visit my friends and to work every day without fail. Other than the (very) occasional oil change, I do not remember it ever being in need of significant repair. And, like Dad said, it even "protected" me in the fender bender I was in-- but was NOT my fault.

By the time the odometer rolled over to 100,000 miles I'd driven Unfortunate for a good five years. It gave new meaning to "it takes a licking and keeps on ticking" but it was one beat up car.

Dad came to my rescue again-- without my even asking. One cold winter night after work, Dad drove home a brand new white Buick Regal and handed me the car keys-- along with the payment book. But it was an affordable payment and the trade-in on Unfortunate was part of the deal.

Dad, being the car salesman he is, knew it was time for an upgrade and a better set of wheels for his second daughter. Honestly, it had not occurred to me that I could afford a new car. But, unknowingly, Dad had been asking me questions and figuring out my finances enough to know that I could swing the cost each month. And he knew I thought the Regal was a "sweet ride".

No, it wasn't a red sports car-- something I've never actually had and eventually didn't want, but it was a dream car compared to Unfortunate and I loved it. As silly as it sounds, I remember this car and the timing as a turning point to "real" adulthood. Not because it was a nice "grown-up" car but because I'd been granted the responsibility of a car loan by a major bank.

As relieved as I was when the Buick was paid off four years later, I was really proud of the accomplishment-- Which I have my car salesman Dad to thank for. Without his insight I'd have eventually driven Unfortunate into the ground and then gotten another very used car purchased with too little cash instead of stepping up and committing to a loan myself. That loan helped me learn how to budget, save and take responsibility of my finances with an eye towards saving money.

So now, when I hear a used car salesman joke, I never take it personally. I smile and think about Unfortunate and the positive experience that car turned out to be for me.

What was your very first car?
Welcome to - Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit - Cartoon: © caraman -


  1. My first car was given to me by my grandparents. It was this huge, white, Oldsmobile. Hey, at least it was a car.

  2. I love this story, my wife's dad supporting his family as a used/new car saleseman most of his life. And my dad was a salesman all of his life... when he wasn't serving in WWII. Judge us not all equally... I think Lincoln said that?

    And my first car was from my grandparents as well. An ancient 72 Toyota Corona Mark VII. Loved that piece of crap right up until the time I rolled it.



  3. My dad owned and operated a salvage yard and repair/towing service. All of us kids drove an old car that had been fixed up for us. The first for me was a brown Nova station wagon that I had to share with my step sister. We went everywhere in that thing.
    The first car that was mine all mine was a fixed up '72 Dodge Colt. I loved that little car!
    Dad made sure us girls knew how to change a tire, change our own oil and do the maintenance on it ourselves.
    A couple of years after high school, Dad went with me to buy my motorcycle and a year later helped me buy my pickup.
    Again, just 6 years ago he went with me to pick out the car I'm driving now.
    He's guided me in the purchase of 3 new vehicles and has never owned a new car himself.
    Love my dad!!!

  4. My first car was shared with my twin sister. It was a '62 Ford Falcon, powder blue. It didn't have seatbelts, the horn got stuck and smoke came out of the steering wheel. We named it Twin's Big Blue. When it made it to the destination, we cheered.

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. At least we were in good company, you with your Dart and us with our Falcon.

  5. Great story...good to know there are a few good ones out there. My first car I shared with my sister a Ford Granda...first car I bought Red Rabbit GTI loved that car! Got a lot of tickets sporting around in that. Love your car names worst car I named putt putt! Have a great day!

  6. l just borrowed my boyfriends when he was at work....and it didnt change to recently!

  7. What a neat story. Your dad knew his stuff, and how to teach you responsibility. That was the best lesson out of all of this. My dad got smarter the older I got. I wonder why? LOL

    My first car was 1965 Pontiac GTO with a 389 cf engine. Black over green. My dad bought it when I was still in the 8th grade, and I inherited it when I turned 16. Let's just say that baby would "get up and go".

  8. My first car (that I OWNED, not my husband)... was a little blue two door Vaxhall Viva! I loved that wee car too... I could fit in my first 4 little kids and bettle off where ever I wanted to go.
    After that I met Stew and we got a bigger family car... and then the bigger family! LOL

    I love the sound of your first car...even if you did hate it.

  9. JJ - the more I read of you and your blog, the more I am convinced of this: You are in that group of people who bring sunshine into every experience! Even the fringe experiences that most people would think are below them or soooo undesirable.
    You can find something good in just about anything.
    That is why I love it here so much!
    Awesome lady - you rock!

  10. My son is driving his Dad's red truck. He asked me if the car is his and I said yes and that is how the car becomes his first.

  11. What fun memories! My Dad helped me get my first car too. It was the cute one I wanted, it was the bigger one, he thought would be better. And it drove well for about 5 years. Dad's are pretty smart that way.
    PS - We have a good friend who is a used car salesman. It's a blessing to know a good one and I';m sure there were lots of people who felt that way about your Dad!

  12. I feel so selfish saying this - my parents got me a second-hand mini (obviously the original Issigonis version). They made a big thing of the surprise on my birthday, telling me to look out the window. My heart sang and then I saw - it was orange. It was probably the *one* colour that I definitely wouldn't have wanted. It was, however, tremendous fun to drive.

  13. it was a grey mazda SE-5 pick up truck...with white pin striping...probably made your dart look

  14. Your stories always make me think back!! My first car was a 1964 Chevy Impala...which when I saved enough money I had painted blue metal flake. Loved that car.....and I think it cost about $400~~

  15. My husband's first car was a Pinto - These cars were one of the unsafest and had a history of starting on fire. We always had marshmallows with us - just in case.

    My car was a toyota tercel. loved it and it hauled me everywhere!

  16. My very first was a Camaro.. 1972, I think it was their 'limited' edition? anyhow I had it for about 8 years.. I bought it myself w/the help of dad.. Bought meaning my money that I earned by working... Back in those days cars were cheap... it was about $4k.

  17. The Dart looks great now but I can see how you didn't want it back in the day. Your dad sounds great. I had my parents brown Pontiac Lamonze in college. I loved it; wish I had it now.

  18. This sounds very much like what my daughter is feeling right now. My husband chose the first car we gave her too. And she is not a FAN! :) But she is thankful for the car, it´s just those little remarks she makes, that tell us she doesn´t LOVE it....
    My hubby isn´t a car salesman, but a mechanic and he knows which cars are cheaper to repair and maintain. And since she´s still studying and reliant on us to pay the bills, she just has to "bear it". haha
    Once she´s working though, I´m sure she´ll get a different car....

  19. Great story, and maybe car salesmen will be lifted up a little from their previous lowly positions after people read this post. My first impression of this post was a big sigh partly of envy and mostly happy for you to be brought up in a family like yours. Your father participated in a way I cannot even begin to understand. I love hearing stories of how a normal loving family brought up children and taught by example and training. So this post means so much more to someone like me than what you intended when you wrote it. Thank you for writing this and for your sharing the essence of family with me.

  20. My first car was a 1969 Chevy Malibu. My roommate's father who owned a car dealership helped me get the car. I really loved it after driving some family cars that I didn't love so much.

  21. I love old car memories. Isn't it amazing how cars are such an important part of our lives, and we have an almost-sentimental attachment to some of them? Love your post.

    P.S. Here in Detroit, we have an annual summer Dream Cruise, where people show off cars of all vintages up and down Woodward Avenue, which is much like your Colorado Blvd in Pasadena.

  22. Even though I didn't get my first car until 1992, it was very similar to yours! Grandma gave up driving and sold her 1974 Chevy Nova to me for $1.

    I had a little mantra I used to describe it: No radio? NoVA! No A/C? NoVA! No power brakes? NoVA! No color? NoVA! It was a nondescript gray/green/brown, depending on the light and whom you asked.

    On the other hand, it did have a cigarette lighter--even though neither of my grandparents nor I ever smoked!

    I only drove the Nova for 4 or 5 years, through my last year of college and my MA. Sadly, the car outlasted Grandma; when I sold it to a German student, he had it repainted and even re-chromed. She looked awesome, but I haven't seen her since.

    Thanks to Grandma, though, I've never had to have a car loan.

  23. I did a similar post a couple of years ago, listing all my cars I've owned over the years. Sweet memories!
    My first was a used, '79 Ford Pinto, called it Beany-Bunceford. My first new car was an '86 Mazda B2000 pick-up. Loved that vehicle!

  24. It's truly sad for the kids these days that they just don't make dads and cars like they use to.
    My first car was a Volkswagon Dasher.

  25. My first car was a brand new, bright red, 1067 Volkswagon Beetle, the month after I graduated from college. I loved that bug!

  26. There are a lot of stereotypes that are false. The biggest one is when people assume that blue collar workers are not as smart as college educated people. I know a lot of guys who shovel dirt who are pretty damned smart.

    Not all politicians are crooked and not all salesmen would sell their souls to make a buck!

    My first car was a 1980 ford mustang!

  27. I remember my Dad drove a brown Dodge Dart in the 70's...drove it for well over 10 years and he never did any maintenance it had to he a good car to survive his neglect.

    My daughters learned how to drive using our Dodge Aries...another good car and my oldest daughter still talks about how she misses it. It was squarish four door with the full front seat and great visibility.

  28. I love old everthing,.... I bet you were smokin in your dart! ;)

  29. What great memories and a fabulous life lesson!! I too remember my first car and my dad picked it out for me too. It was a great little Corvair...white..and I loved her. He picked my second car out too and I didn't love it so much but it was a tank. Saved my life in a head on collision (not my fault)! All I got was a bruised ankle. Thanks Dad!

  30. lovely story, Joanna, you might as well just let us know when you will be penning the whole autobiography!

  31. Your dad sounds so fantastic. We have a former car salesman for a friend and his expertise is INVALUABLE. We never buy a vehicle without his help.

  32. Well this is the thing, I too wanted a red sports car, but I got a bright yellow canary Comet, that I paid for through the bank. I had no choice in it either. It was eventually passed to my younger sister, and then to my younger brother. that car got us all around. Loved your story.

  33. sweet story! My first car was a 1968 Fairlane station wagon about as big as a bus and I was teased constantly about it unless people wanted to go somewhere then all 8 of us AND our band instruments (including a baritone and a trombone and a bass drum) would fit into it.

  34. I recently watched a program on the change from horses to cars. Being a car salesman was a very cool job to have at that time. Most people didn't know how to drive including the salesmen who often learned on their first morning of work. It a while for people to realize that holding the wheel tight and yelling "whoa," didn't work in an emergency.

    There were glory days for the car salesmen too.

  35. Someone sold me a Vega for a dollar and a boy I liked crashed it before I even got my license.

  36. You're right. Darts were old lady cars!!!!

    My mother, who is past 90, quit driving last year and offered me her car. New and paid for, but a total old lady car. I said thanks but no thanks, even though I am driving a 13 year old heap. But the main reason I said no is because I know there are no "gifts" with her.

  37. I enjoyed this story so much. My husband had a used car named Little Blue Thunder. It was a little Ford Fiesta. That is what he was driving when I first met him. Of course his car before that was a Camaro. I obviously didn't marry him for his car. We sold Little Blue Thunder a year after we got married for the same amount of money he had paid for it a few years previous. Every person should have a car story. I have one too, but too long for the comment section. I hate that my neighbors buy their kids Mercedes and BMW's and they are still in highschool. I think it is really sad.
    ♥ Joy

  38. Boy did this post bring back some memories for me. My dad fixed cars for a living which is probably worse because he knew what cars looked like after the "fender bender". I did not have to pay for my first car, but that left me no choice but to accept what my parents chose. (Like I'd have had a say otherwise even if I had paid for it.) They found a 1978 Thunderbird. (Not, the 1969 convertible my Uncle Glen had. A sporty car and to this day in beautiful shape. I'm not sure he ever drives it.) No this thing was a box. I, too hated it. However, I named it Nikki Raven after two of my favorite soap opera characters. And I drove her for 7 years when she started to have electrical issues and I sold her. She got me through many an Iowa winter. I drove her into the ditch two or three times. No sports car could have survived me. Or me it. By the time I had to sell her, I had written a college paper about her and had come to realize that I actually loved this car, so I was sad to see her go. And until this day I crank up 'Til Her Daddy Takes the T-Bird Away and sing along.

  39. Great story and a fine tribute to Unfortunate. I'm curious to know what you named the Regal...

  40. Hi There, I’m glad to hear you been to Wertz Brothers... I go in about once a week, no set day..maybe we’ll meet up for a coffee at NORMS!
    I never had my own car...sad but true...we share one car and always have...I would love a Dodge Dart!.

  41. What a great story!

    My first car was a Nissan Micra - blue... Little and feisty.

  42. Haven't time to read all of your comments, but my first car, over thirty years ago, was a little green Morris Minor that blew smoke, and smelt like oil all the time.I somehow managed to avoid getting it defected,and it was my escape vehicle from a bad marriage. I did literally leave in a cloud of smoke.My husband, who swaned around in a company car, didn't even know I had lessons and passed a driving test! Really close we were!

  43. Yeah those Darts were not the hot popular car like a camaro or mustang but it just did a good job for you.

    My first "new" car was a Vega. I would have been better off your used Dart. Oh well.
    Stereotypes never really work.

  44. Great story about the car and your dad. Probably got ya beat here. My first car was a light green and white Rambler station wagon. Soooo, not a cool car but I could use the third row seat to haul around a ton on sorority sisters or lay all the seats down and steal a fraternities very large mascot. Her (the car) name was Daisey Mae and had a big old daisy right in the middle of her horn. She served me well during my college years.

    Have a super great day Joanna!

  45. Ha! On my you have made me laugh.....
    My first car was a "school bus orange/yellow" Ford Pinto other words.....death trap.....
    Well, in defense of my parents, it was new, cheap, and forced me to learn manual transmission shifting....smiles.

  46. I prefer to sit in the passenger seat of life...

  47. I just gave you an award on me blog.

  48. I drove my parent's Oldsmobile Delta 88. I sympathize with the plight of driving an old person's car.

    PS My BFF drove a brown Dodge Dart exactly like Al's. We sure had some fun. :)

  49. Can I tell you how much I relate to this post? When I was 15 my Mom ventured back into the work a car sales manager. At that time one of my Dad's interests, he owned a Dry cleaners. I have heard them all!

    My first car was a Datsun 200 sx loved that little safe piece of junk:)

  50. The Dodge Dart was as solid as the jokes around it were fun. I enjoyed this post a lot.

  51. You were so lucky to get your own car whatever the make. I didn't even learn to drive until my fiance taught me.

  52. What a lovely and poignantly told story about your father and your first car.;) Yes, I know too well all about stereotyping; scientists are often portrayed as mad and that is so far away from the truth.;)
    I guess my first car was a big American one.;) A red 77 T-bird.;) I drove it in the 90s while living in NC and I still have very fond memories of it to this day, even dedicated a blog post to it a while back.;)
    Thank you so much for your very generous comment the other day,

  53. The first car I ever drove?? A WHITE BUICK REGAL! V8 - yea BOY - it was my Dad's car and it was ROCKING. My first car that I OWNED? An ugly orange colored Datsun B210 hatchback. Perfect for college - used of course. I had never driven stick. I remember buying it, going in a parking lot so my mom could start teaching me and crying, 'I can't even drive my own carrrrr!' Of course I learned, and learned to drive really REALLY well with a stick - but I'll never forget crying, or backing up in to people on hills the first week LOL!

    Your Dad ?? VERY WISE.

  54. Oh man! How funny is that. You'll always remember your first :) Mine was a 89 Ford Mustang, and boy did I think I was cool.

  55. I love this story! What a great dad and wise I might add.

    My first car was a 1963 Ford Falcon named Tuna Boat. I have no idea how I came up with that name but I loved that old piece of junk. The window went down if you slammed the door too hard and the passenger seat flopped back if you sat in it too fast. It was custom! :-)

  56. That is a sweet story about your Dad. My first car was an '86 grey chevette!

  57. My very first car was a beat up Toyota Corolla that needed a screwdriver to get it started. I think I paid about $500 for it in 1979.


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