Wrote this article in 2012 and thought you might enjoy seeing it. Had a blast talking to all of those who contributed their memories.
Hey, Tell Me About Your First Car!
Everyone remembers their first, and most of us have fond (or maybe not so fond) memories of their very first car. Mine was a 1972 Mercury Capri that my aunt Lois was selling. I was so smitten by it, that I went out and found another one a dozen years ago, and have restored it to take to car shows etc. I spoke with several racers at MIS, Spartan, and Toledo to find out what they remembered about their first street car. I had an absolute blast talking to all the racers for this article.
Ken Schrader; “My dad had a used car business, so I had stuff to drive, but the first one that was really mine was a 1965 Dodge Window Van. It was great because I could haul around my dirt bike in the back.”
Todd “The Onion” Bodine; NASCAR driver; “Mine was a 1972 Chevelle 4 door hardtop with big rust holes in the floor & trunk and saggy springs. My brother Geoff and I drove it from Stafford Speedway (Ct.) to Richmond (Va.) one time and had to drive the whole way with all the windows down, so the fumes wouldn’t go through the rust holes.
Brian Keselowski, NASCAR driver; “I had a 1987 Chrysler LeBaron. It was a piece of crap & I mean a total piece of crap. It was my sister’s car and after she wrecked it and blew it up it was just sitting there. I was 14 working in the race shop for $20 a day, and wanted to work on it so I had something once I got my license. I think it ran on 2 cylinders and leaked more oil than it burned gas. In high school I had a class where we made a video. (author; the Keselowski brothers attended Rochester HS, my alma mater) My dad (Bob) had a 1973 Charger and in my video I miraculously transformed my LeBaron into his Charger. I only had it a couple months and replaced it with a 1992 LeBaron. I loved that one; it was a 6 cylinder, but fast!” (author: What about your brother Brad?) Brian; “Brad had a 1994 LeBaron which was my mom’s old car.”
Abby Looman aka “Little Miss Dangerous” Spartan Pony Stock driver; “My very first car is still the car that I am driving!! His name is Fabio. It’s a blue ’06 Ford Taurus. That car has been so reliable for me! I can run it to the very end and it won’t run outta gas. I have had it for 3-4 years and the only things that have happened to it were the water pump and alternator. Darren and I did the alternator ourselves. That was an adventure!”
Frank Kimmel, 9 time ARCA champion; “My first car was a 1967 Pontiac Firebird. I blew the engine the first week I had it, and put in a 283 Chevy engine. Ask my brother (Bill Kimmel, Crew Chief) about his. He took it over to the High School and did some laps around the cinder running track.” Bill Kimmel; “It was a ’66 Impala. My dad was so mad that he took away both the car and my license after just one day.”
Brian Boesel, Spartan Pony Stock driver; “1978 Olds Cutlass with a 455 engine. I turned it into my first street stock race car when I was 18 yrs. old to race at Lorain County Speedway in Ohio. So, not only was it my first street car, it became my first race car too!”
Joy Fair, Michigan racing legend, also my friend and hero; “I had a Ford Model T that I found in a field and paid $5 for. I took it home and my dad couldn’t believe I wasted good money buying it. I rebuilt the whole thing and drove it for quite a while. (author: I miss ya everyday, buddy)
Larry Wallace, Spartan Speedway Modified driver; “A 1932 Ford five window coupe. I got it when I was 13 and didn’t yet have a license. I just about wore out second gear driving around in a field. I drove it on the street anyway and got tickets. You know, I still have it! We drive it around for fun, and I am working on getting it finished. It was a ‘Model B’ with a 4 cylinder, and I thought about making a V8 street rod, but decided to keep it original since I’ve had it that long. It even still has the mechanical brakes” (author; “Larry showed me some pictures and I can’t believe he still has it!”)
Chance Rice, Spartan Speedway Modified driver; “It’s a 1985 Porsche 944. I still have it, but just got a Chevy HHR. Now I have A/C that works! Going to keep the Porsche and have some fun with it.”
Ralph Young, retired ARCA driver and former ARCA championship crew chief for Benny Parsons; “I had a 1949 Dodge with a flathead six. It was a lot of fun going to football games and stuff with it, but the engine would lock up all the time and I always needed a push from everyone to get it going.”
Jeff Bloom, Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame Sprint Car driver; “Mine was a ’55 Chevy with a six cylinder. One day I decided to do some laps around the high school cinder running track. I got caught by the principal, and he made me pick the cinders all up and put them back on the track.” (author; Jeff and Bill Kimmel could have had a pretty good race with each other, I guess!)
David Howe, owner of Beacon Sales & Service and sponsor at Spartan; “I had a 1974 Plymouth Barracuda with a 340 engine. It’s all restored and I still have it.”
James Hylton, Finished 2nd in NASCAR Cup points 3 times and winner of 1972 Talladega 500; “1936 Ford 5 window coupe. They had cable brakes back then, so I put 1948 Ford running gear and engine in it. The 1948 engine was better than the 1936 with 100 horsepower and I had 3 carburetors on it.” (author; James still competes every week in ARCA at the age of 77!)
Dave Stehouwer; Spartan Super Late Model driver; “Mine was a 1963 Pontiac Tempest, but I didn’t have it very long. I totaled it on the very first day I drove it. My dad had a used car lot, and picked this car out for me and fixed it up. It had a 326 engine. My dad asked me to go pick up some parts for him. I was 16, so I decided to take the long way home past my girlfriend’s house. I was getting on it a little, got to the top of a hill, and there was a 1964 Ford just parked there in the road. I tried to swerve, but hit it so hard that the trunk of the Ford was pushed all the way to the back wheels. I had to call my dad and have him come and get me. After that I had a 1962 Corvair 4 door with big holes in the floor and an automatic. (author; I could tell from his voice that he really liked that Tempest, and after all these years still regretted what happened to it. Also, he still hates that Corvair)
Trina Wurmnest, Spartan Pony Stock driver; “My first was a hand-me-down from my sister. It was a VW Bug bright orange and they called it the great pumpkin at Dansville High School. During Halloween they decorated it as a pumpkin. In the winter time I had to cover the motor when I parked it to keep the motor warm and covered myself up when I drove it.”
Matt Crafton, NASCAR Truck Series driver; “Mine was a 1991 Chevy S-10. Nothing special really, just a truck.”
Dan Loughan, Spartan Modified driver; “I had a 1965 Pontiac Tempest. It was bought and paid for before I ever had a license. I had a 326 c.i. engine and I used to do a lot of street racing with it. I would drag race it 12-14 times a night and even wired up a switch so I could turn off the brake lights in case I needed to avoid the police.”
Karl Busson, 1967 IMCA Sprint champion driver and winner of 1968 Little 500; “My first was a 1932 Ford roadster with a Mercury engine and three carbs. I had no fenders on it, so I used to get pulled over a lot. I ended up putting a chopped and channeled ’32 Ford 5 window coupe body on it, and also changed the Flathead to a Buick engine.”
Bill Venturini Sr., 2 time ARCA champion driver and team owner. Father of TV commentator Wendy; “Mine was a 1964 Pontiac Bonneville 4 door. I only had it four months and then got a 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 with a 428 engine and 4 speed. There were only 48 cars built like that, and I am trying to find one to buy right now”
Jim Froling, Toledo ARCA Sportsman driver; “I had a 1981 Buick Century that I got from my grandfather. It was a good running car, but for some reason, every time I drove by a Bill Knapp’s or Sign of the Beefcarver restaurant, it kept trying to pull in the parking lot for the early bird special.”
Mike Westphal, Spartan Pony Stock driver; “My first car was a 1983 Mustang 4 cyl 4 speed. I bought it for $400 and from the outside it didn’t look like a car that had been sitting for ten years, but it sure ran that way. (the girls liked it though!) I drove it for two weeks and the clutch went out so we fixed it, and then it made it three weeks before the trans blew up. I sold it for $800 so it kinda worked out for me.”
Darrell Basham, long time ARCA driver, “My dad picked up a 1958 Chevrolet Convertible for me. It wasn’t the best, but man I felt so cool driving it around.”
Dennis Whisman, ARCA Figure 8 driver; “I had a 1967 Camaro that once belonged to my sister. It looked fast with red paint and mag wheels, but it only had a six cylinder, so it was actually pretty slow. The exhaust was loud, so it didn’t sound too bad, but I always had these guys with muscle cars pull alongside to try and race me. They always got ticked off when I wouldn’t take their bait.”