Oh, Opel!

February 3, 2009 | My Jottings

In early September of 1973, two things happened. I turned sixteen, and I became a car owner for the first time. My first car was a 1973 Opel station wagon. Back then Opels were sold at Buick dealerships, but made in Germany. You don’t see them anymore, unless you go to foreign countries.

When I turned fourteen, I started working at our local school district office after school and full-time during the summers, and saved my $1.65 per hour paychecks with the intent of buying my first car in two years. I had saved enough for the down payment by my sixteenth birthday, and my dad went and picked it up, driving the brand new car to my house with a huge red ribbon tied around it. I still remember him coming down the street with the basketball-sized bow affixed to the roof of the car, and the ribbons blowing. To say I was excited is rather an understatement.

The cost of my brand new, first car? A whopping $2800. After the down payment, I made monthly car payments of $75 per month for almost three years. 

Here’s a photo of my little blue Opel. It had a 4-speed stick shift and an eight-track tape player with nice speakers. I used to listen to Bread, Chicago, Linda Ronstadt and The Guess Who. I drove it to and from school and work during my junior and senior years in high school. My friends and I drove to the beach a hundred times in my little Opel, and later I even had a California vanity plate for my car that said JULIET. Oh brother. That’s one of many parts of my youth that has caused me to mutter in my middle age, “What was I thinking?”

When I was almost twenty years old, married, with a baby girl and living on Beale AFB in Northern California, I traded in my little blue Opel wagon at a Volkswagen dealership in Sacramento. My husband and I were headed for three years in Germany and we bought another German car — a 1978 VW Rabbit.

Years later when I was back in SoCal, I was driving my green Rabbit one Saturday on the San Diego freeway. One lane over was a light blue Opel wagon that looked identical to the one I had owned. It even had the same dealer’s name on the back license plate holder. It had a dent in the tailgate and looked a little shabby. I knew there was one way I could tell — I pulled closer and glanced over at the passenger dash board to see if a small blemish (from some goofball who touched the lighter against the vinyl years before and slightly melted it) could be seen. It was there. This was my first car, years later, being driven by a strange woman. Many memories, good and bad, came flooding back, and I watched a little wistfully as the car drove on past. I’m pretty sure I actually said aloud, “Ohhhh, Opel…”

So this brings us to the February blog giveaway! What was your first car? Tell us the make, the model, the color and the year. How old were you when you got it? How much did it cost? What did you like and dislike about it? What are some interesting things you could share about your first set of wheels? Inquiring minds want to know.

The seventh person to share a comment on this post will win this month’s bloggy giveaway. I am still deciding what the gift will be, but I promise it will be nice. 



  1. Sharon says:

    My first car was…

  2. Sharon says:

    Not very nice at all…

  3. Sharon says:

    Is this post #7 yet?

  4. Sharon says:

    Why would anyone respond before #7? 😉

  5. Sharon says:

    I had a gold hatchback…

  6. Sharon says:

    Toyota Tercel. With no radio. And a rusted out quarter panel.

  7. Just Julie says:

    Clever, clever! But I did say the seventh person, not the seventh comment. 🙂 And for this giveaway, I just might wait until everyone comments before posting them, giving a fairer chance to all…

  8. Dorothy Sooter says:

    A navy blue four door Chevy and do not remember the year. I was 18 and my sister Phyllis and I bought it together. My dad went with us and it was raining. Cannot remember what we paid for it but you have to realize I am 75 this year. I was dating the boy that I later became engaged to and he was furious as he said Phyllis always had the car. That was true.
    The car had many problems but my dad could make anything work even though it did not look to good. We were told that we should have never bought a car in the rain. When I came to Calif. I gave my part to my sister and she gave the car to my folks when she came to Calif. I did not have a car again until I got married. The Bus system in Santa Monica was great. Dorothy

  9. Christy says:

    The night I graduated from high school (1966) while everyone else went to grad night at Dizzyland, I hopped a plane and flew to New York where I lived for the next year and a half. The purpose of this “escape” was to get away from my parents who in their love and wisdom were causing my 18 year old life much grief.A year and a half later when I figured out that there were no community colleges in upstate NY like there were in Calif., I returned to Calif. to go to school. Those very same parents that I didn’t “need” in my life gave me the family car….a 1962 Rambler station wagon.Although it was 6 years old,it was in perfect condition because that is the way my father took care of his belongings and although this was a wonderful and generous gift, I hated the car. At the time, it was full of unhappy memories…..fights with my mother, being dragged somewhere I didn’t want to go, discussions about my report card….and my younger bratty sisters jumping around in the backseat. I received their gift like they owed it to me and though I didn’t “wreck” the car, I also did not take good care of it.Along with the car came an auto club membership which I now understand was not for me but for my loving fathers peace of mind. I wasn’t wise enough to appreciate that either….I was able to upgrade from that vehicle in 1974 and did not experience a moments sadness as I watched that car live next door to me at the neighbors house. Fast forward to 1994….Sat. morning and my dad drives up the driveway to our ranch and gets out of his brand new Toyota Camry. Daddy was beaming with pride as he said “this is probably the last car your mother and I will ever have”. The next year my precious father died and the car then belonged only to my mother. She was 71 and drove everyday but not very far away from home. In 2002 she also died and through the unbelievable generosity of my two sisters I became the new owner of their Toyota. This 8 year old car had 52,000 miles on it and of course…..it was in perfect condition. Not a spot, not a dent, not a squeak or a groan and I cried with joy as I drove it from my mothers home in Calif. to my own home in Tn. This car now has 226,000 miles on it and does have a few dents….(deer hits) but my dad would be so proud. I never get into that car that I don’t thank God for His loving provision and a “second chance” at appreciating the gift of a car. My dad would so appreciate my husbands excellent stewardship in caring for this car…. he keeps it as well as he possibly can, fixing every little detail needed as promptly as possible. So when I look back and remember daddy saying……this is the last car your mother and I will have, I chuckle thinking it is possibly the last car that my husband and and I will have too. Daddy would laugh and be so happy…..

  10. Kay says:

    It was 1985 when I purchased my first car. I was 18 years old, a senior at Proctor High School, and I worked as a waitress at the Proctor Country Kitchen…usually the night shift (weekends) The car was a two-door 1979 Mercury Monarch. It was black and had little rectangular opera windows in the back seat, red faux leather upholstery, a cassette tape player, and a Texas A&M decal in the rear window (from the previous owner). The asking price was $2,000…but my dad, being an expert in the art of negotiations was able to talk the owner down to $1,700. I had to finance $1,200 and had it paid for in the first year.

  11. Tauni says:

    What a wonderful story Christy! Jules, I remember your little Opel!! We weren’t hanging out together much then, but I do remember it.

    The first car I ever drove was a 60’s something Chevy Impala stationwagon (we had six in our family and we ALWAYS owned stationwagons!). I took my driving test in our much newer (1973) Chevy stationwagon but did not get to drive it much. I am sure Julie and my mom remember more specifically what they were. What can I say, much to my husband’s dismay, I am NOT a car buff! Anyway, the first car I owned and paid for myself was a 1974 Baby Blue Pinto (you guessed it) Stationwagon, 4 speed manual transmission. It was the one I learned to drive a stickshift in. My father owned a business and always leased his vehicles and as a result this one was leased as well. He made my first two payments of $89.72. But I became the owner when I paid the lease up four years later. I bought the car before I even knew how to drive it! My boyfriend at the time, Chris Matthews, taught me how to drive a stickshift in a parking lot in the San Fernando Valley. He promptly went back to the Air Force Base in Littlerock, Arkansas and I had to drive it home from his folk’s house. I think I stalled about four times!! I eventually got the hang of it and actually enjoyed it. My husband and I eventually traded it in in 1981 or 82 for a mint green Toyota Corona four door hatchback. The Pinto began behaving badly and with two small children I couldn’t run the risk of getting stuck somewhere. Wow, thanks for the trip down memory lane Jules!

  12. Jessica says:

    When I was a junior in COLLEGE, I got my first car. I hadn’t really needed one until then because I had the same boyfriend from 9th grade through my sophomore year in college and he drove me everywhere I needed to go. I wanted to get one slightly earlier than I did but my dad told me if I waited ’til my junior year, he would buy it for me. So I did. One of the few smart decisions I have made in my life. It was a 1989 Dodge Colt, teal in color, stickshift. He had it at my parents’ house for me to test out and drive but I couldn’t drive a stick. My boyfriend at that time (now my hubby) kindly took me to a parking lot and I learned. The next day I drove it back to Duluth, which had to have been one of the most terrifying rides of my life since I had just learned to drive a stick. And I knew I would have to get up the hill to UMD from the highway. I contemplated all kinds of backroads and alternate routes but when push came to shove, I realized that if I avoided the hill then, I would avoid it forever and I just needed to get it over with. So, I went for it. And amazingly, I made it. I prayed the whole way and God turned all the lights green for me so I never had to stop and then start again, rolling back into the car behind me, which was my biggest fear. I continued to drive that car through college and during that same year, one weekend my boyfriend/hubby and my roommate and her boyfriend randomly started thinking, “What should we do this weekend?” And promptly hopped into my LITTLE Dodge Colt, and drove to Memphis. Because isn’t that what all people do when they need a little entertainment? Go see Elvis? We did. We drove down, visited Graceland, had a bite to eat, crashed for the night (not in the car) and got up and drove back to Duluth. I have many other stories about that trip. Anyway, the Colt was THE MOST RELIABLE vehicle ever and I often said it would live longer than me. It is actually still in our driveway but unfortunately, it has lost its reputation for reliability and is waiting to find a new home. In a dump. When we first realized that this was its fate, I told my hubby that I knew we couldn’t drive it anymore but that I needed time to prepare myself for parting ways. I get emotionally attached to EVERYTHING. So, now I am ready, but we have yet to work out the logisitics of relocating it. And it doesn’t look as good as it once did, due partly to age and mostly to an unfortunate, but humorous, accident had by my hubby.

  13. Rob Franck says:

    I bought my first car was when I was a junior in college, a 1982 Honda Civic sedan previously owned by my parents that I purchased from them in the fall of 1984. I have only owned 6 motor vehicles, and never the same make, though I didn’t plan that, always buying used. I try to keep my vehicles as long as I can, averaging about seven years per vehicle so far. Besides the Honda Civic I’ve had a Chevy Chevette hatchback, a Pontiac 6000 station wagon, a Dodge Caravan, a Ford E350 12 passenger van, and a Toyota Highlander.

  14. Deb says:

    Hi Julie. I hope this is landing on the right page. After your excellent directions, if this fails – I give up! 🙂 Did you get the story about my 1966 Ford Falcon? My first car; powder blue, $750 price tag, 36,000 mile on the odometer, a great radio and 4 good tires. The tires impressed my dad! I was a sophmore in college (1972) and was TIRED of the city transit system in Rochester. I used my federally insured student loan to by the car; the interest rate was perfect and I paid back every cent!!! I happily drove that car until we sold it to a friend in 1976. This was Dean’s idea, not mine. I cried when she drove off with it. We’ve had many cars since then, but nothing really compares to “your first set of wheels”, does it!

  15. Just Julie says:

    I agree with Deb above – nothing really compares to your first car, no matter how dilapidated it might have been.

    My daughter Sharon (the first commenter on this post, referring to her gold Toyota Tercel) didn’t do justice to just how rusted out her first car was. It was so rusty that it was close to being a Fred Flintstone car, with holes in the floor to stick your feet through. Almost…

  16. Mike Welch says:


    I remember riding in that car. Lots of good times!

    You were right about my first car. It was a Plymouth, but I didn’t have it long. I picked up the Cougar during my last year in HS. My favorite car that I have owned, was a Corvette. I bought it in 1978. It was beautiful. I got married in 1979 and kept the car until my son was born in 1982. Needed a backseat.

  17. Steve says:

    Hi Julie –

    As for my first car, it was a ’63 Buick Special (from Reynolds Buick like your Opel), and at the time, I thought that the monthly payments of $32.50 would never go away. It was a dark, midnight Blue and had a bright White top. A 2 door hard top, with a little V-6 engine, but it was mine and I felt like I was on top of the world, because of the independence it afforded me. I had to work part-time all the way through High School just to pay for it. But I didn’t mind that much, for it took me where I wanted to go.

    To all of those Christmas Balls and dances. To all of the football games and sockhops. Oops, there I go again showing my age. And I can still remember it hauling me and my teammates to all of those summer league games. My, how times flies when one is having fun. I can also remember when I took a date to the San Diego Zoo, and 5,000 miles all of a sudden appeared on the odometer! I was stunned! Had I driven that many miles?

    I can also remember going shopping for Mom, at her grocery store (Alpha Beta on Citrus Ave) of choice – and how proud I was of that Buick Special! And did I ever love to wash that car! As for that Green Rabbit of yours, whenever I am on the 5 freeway, I remember the day when I saw (you waved at me when zoomed past me) heading north to LA at your usual breakneck speed. You told me later that you had were delivering some important documents and had to get them there by a certain time. With that incredible memory of yours, you probably can recall what those papers were for and the time and the day you delivered them! Right?

  18. Ginny the computer challenged friend says:

    OHHHHHH! Here it is! LORD have Mercy I was lost and now I am found!!!!!!!

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