What was your first car? Tell us your story
Do you remember the joy you got when you acquired your first car? Assuming you’re not a trust-fund kid, maybe you were handed down the old family wagon, or you had to share your sister’s pink convertible. Or maybe you had to work hard, whether to cough up the down-payment on an affordable little hatchback or to pay up front for a really old sedan. Here’s what the editors of DriveArabia.com did.
Editor-in-Chief Mashfique’s first car was a 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E. It was the 2.6-litre inline-6 variant with several AMG bits. He bought it in 2004, in the same year that he started this little website, after scrounging together AED 13,000 from some part-time work and a bit from family over a 6-month period. It was either that or a BMW, but after hours of scouring the net, the decision came down to the Merc for its perceived solidity. The look of the AMG version sealed the deal.
It was one of those Japanese-imported versions, with supposedly “only” 44,000 km on the clock. While generally clean, it had a lot of issues in its first year, involving a head gasket, suspension, faded paint, coolant leaks and other minors bit, but by the second year, it was reliable enough to take to college.
Eventually, about AED 10,000 was poured into it in general maintenance repairs and mods such as an original AMG spoiler, Sony sound system and a red-black leatherette interior. It was all worth it, as it still cost less than the cheapest new car.
Since the car came with completely worn tyres, the lack of tread depth made the rear-wheel-drive car very tail-happy as it slid all over the place on turns. On the day he bought the car, he replaced the tyres with ones of the same size. The first set he bought were from the cheapest brand he could find, due to a lack of budget.
They were 205/55-ZR16 tyres, as marked on the sidewalls. At the time, he had to dig up what that meant — “205” is the tyre width in millimetres, “55” means the sidewall-height is 55% of the width, “Z” is the speed rating, “R” means radial tyres, and “16” is the alloy-wheel diameter in inches. Putting on the wrong tyre size may mean the tyres could rub on the car’s body or your speedometer reading may be wrong, which he also learned the hard way.
One of the tyres sprung a slow leak within months, while another got a nail puncture. Then all four tyres were changed to Michelin, just to be on the safe side, this time in 205/50 size, slightly thinner in profile, which eliminated the body-rub issues.
A looming old-car ban forced its sale for the throwaway price of AED 3,000. By then, Mashfique already had another car anyway. The ban later got cancelled, and he bought a smartphone with that money.
Long-time Sub-Editor Marouf’s first car was a 1987 Toyota Supra Twin-Turbo. It came with a Japanese-spec engine swap and a bunch of performance bits. Now, we wouldn’t recommend this thing to anyone as a first car, but he picked it up for only AED 5,000 in 2007, having saved up from a summer job during college. It was murderously fast, but it was also murder to drive in traffic, as it was fitted with a racing clutch, an extra-loud exhaust and partially-working gauges.
It was in horrendous condition when bought from a dealer in Sharjah, and wasn’t particularly reliable. It once died on the road as the clutch pedal sunk, and the brakes were uneven. Once even a rear tyre burst at 140 kph on the fast lane of the highway, and aside from a loud bang, there was no loss of control as the car was slowly moved to the side of the road. It was a good wake-up call to be paranoid about checking tyre condition from then on.
The key to safely stopping after a burst tyre is to not hit the brakes and to not make any sudden steering movements, while letting the car gradually roll to a stop. Of course, to complicate matters, the Supra did not have a spare, so Marouf had to take the wheel to the nearest tyre shop to get a new tyre balanced and fitted.
It was eventually cleaned up with new paint and new parts, but it was a pain to get passed every year during registration-renewal due to its mods. Oddly enough, the car had electronically-adjustable suspension and it worked great, in a car from 80s!
It was finally sold for AED 8,000, having become tired of holding up tissues to stop water leaks during car washes as well as getting pulled over by cops for its loud exhaust. The police never gave anything more than warnings and offers to buy the car.
Our offroad-happy Contributing Editor Vivek wasn’t always an offroad expert. Long before he became famous on our pages for antics involving his Mitsubishi Pajero, and even longer before he became the unofficial brand ambassador for the Ford Mondeo (he’s owned three!), he started off his driving life with a brand new 2003 Chevrolet Barina. It was a base model, motivated by a 1.4-litre powerhouse of an engine. And the choice was, oddly enough, entirely intentional.
Doing long drives for college and work, he wanted a car that would be fun and economical, hence the manual gearbox and the engine choice. As life would have it, the car was neither fun nor economical, with a poor drivetrain and even poorer fuel economy, not to mention unreliable and relatively expensive to maintain for a cheap car, even under warranty.
Apparently the only thing he didn’t have trouble with were the tyres, and that’s only after he switched to new ones. When one of his old tyres burst, Michelin was the only brand that had the right tyre size for his Mexican-built car, and he was far more happier with the balance of grip, comfort and wet-weather performance. Sometimes it is better to get an all-rounder tyre for a daily-driven car rather than just buying the most expensive high-performance tyre.
After suffering for three years, he finally got rid of the Barina while taking a face-punch on resale value, to buy the first of his three Mondeos. Needless to point out, the Barina model doesn’t exist in the UAE any more.
For more information about tyre safety and driving tips, drop a word to Michelin Arabia.
Do you have an interesting story about your first car as well? Tell us below!