What Was Your First Car?
Probably more than any other group, fleet managers show that a love for vehicles runs deep and begins early.
1967 Ford Mustang.
As with first love, owning your first car is a rite of passage most of us remember fondly. And, this is even more so if you’re a fleet manager. It’s no surprise that a fleet manager’s first car elicits about the same nostalgia as a high-school crush.
Note: You can click the top photo to see all the vehicles mentioned in this article.
Over the past several years, I have collected reminiscences about fleet managers’ first cars for the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA)’s Spec Sheet newsletter (visit the archives here). Some of the highlights are shown here:
National Oilwell Varco Fleet Manager Kimberly Fisher’s first car was a gunmetal gray 1981 Pontiac Phoenix coupe that featured a bench seat and “had the best air conditioner ever,” she said.
“I drove that car like it was the greatest sports car ever made,” Fisher recalled. “I was just so pleased that I had my own car that I did not like to complain about any minor little maintenance issues. I drove it until I had to use both feet to drive it — it was an automatic. The problem was, if I pressed the brake pedal the car would die, so I just learned to brake and give it gas at the same time; a little tricky in Atlanta traffic!”
Boehringer Ingelheim Senior Manager of Fleet Services Lee Miller’s first car was a 1977 Mercury Bobcat purchased from a Swiss intern that had been working for her dad.
“After Chris [the Intern] returned to Switzerland, my dad offered me the car. The deal was he would ‘chip in’ $1,500 — a tradition in my family for the first car only! I think it cost me $3,500 at the time,” she recalled.
The “Black Beauty,” as Miller nicknamed it, was, unsurprisingly, black with gold pin-striping and a dark tan interior. And, it was a well-loved set of wheels. “I kept it meticulous, washing it every weekend. My mom used to say, ‘you’re going to wash the paint right off it!’ To me, it was the sportiest thing out there with its sleek taillights and all-glass hatchback,” Miller said.
Miller eventually traded in the car in 1981 for a brand-new Toyota Corolla.
It’s any car enthusiast’s dream: A classic car in mint condition found gathering dust in a little old grandma’s garage. For Lisa Kneggs, a fleet manager in Dallas, that was the story of her first car: a fire-engine red 1967 Mustang with a 289 hp V-8 and automatic transmission. “This was in 1975; I absolutely loved that car,” she said. “It had signal indicators in the hood and even had a ‘pony’ hood ornament. I’ve never ever seen one on another Mustang.”
However, when Kneggs graduated from high school, she wanted a more “grown-up” car, opting for a Cutlass Supreme. In the years since, she has owned three more Mustangs, but “none compare to my first ’67,” she said.
It was 1969, and Jim McCarthy, fleet manager for Siemens Shared Services LLC, was fresh out of boot camp and on his way to NAS Glynco, a military base in Southeast Georgia, and had $350 in his pocket that was supposed to be earmarked for his transportation south from Maryland.
Instead of using the government cash to buy a bus ticket, McCarthy used it and $150 of his own money to purchase a moss green 1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Coupe with 65,000 miles from a neighbor.
“The car was worth every penny and more,” he said. “During the two-plus years that I was stationed in Georgia, I drove that car silly — back and forth to New Jersey six or seven times, round-trip to Chicago three or four times, and countless round-trips to the newly opened Disney World in Orlando. All told I put an additional 50,000 miles on that car, and did nothing more than change the fan belt six times and had the dual carbs tuned four times. Sure, it had an occasional oil leak or two (or three or four), but that was to be expected with the mechanics associated with the air-cooled engine.”
While McCarthy moved on to other vehicles — a 1965 Mustang and 1969½ Mach 1 among them — to this day he is still on the lookout for another Corvair, preferably a “nicely kept convertible or Monza Spyder,” he said.