The Golden Bullet

March 10, 2011

A few days ago, the lovely Christine reminisced about her first car, the Green Machine. If you haven’t read that post, I’d encourage you to do so here. It’s a lovely piece, full of winning detail. At the end of her post, Christine asked readers to share memories of the first car.

For people like me, who live their richest lives in their heads, a prompt like this is irresistible. So readers, meet The Golden Bullet.

Before I ever set foot in driver’s seat, The Golden Bullet had weathered two previous owners. The first owner, a lovely old lady from Pasadena, or Boise, or Pennsylvania Dutch country, rarely even drove the car.  When my father, searching for a gently used, reliable vehicle, laid eyes on The Golden Bullet, he knew he’d hit pay dirt.

“25,000 miles on the thing, new tires, not a scratch on it. It’s never been in an accident, the lady has all of the paperwork on servicing, and she’s just too damn tired to drive anymore. It’s going for a song.  Mary, it’s almost too good to be true.”


Mama remained skeptical. Daddy-o, true to his German roots, loved nothing more than a bargain. Sometimes those bargains panned out, and sometimes we’d get thoroughly schooled, like the time Daddy got a letter in the mail informing him that he’d won either 1) a 3-carat diamond tennis bracelet 2) a pair of first-class airplane tickets anywhere in the  Continental United States or c) a boat with motor.

“All we have to do is go to a very short–30-minute!–talk on a time-share development in Pensacola.”

“We’re not buying a time share in Pensacola.”

“Of course not! That’s ridiculous. We’re not buying anything. But look at these prizes! There’s not a loser in the bunch. And all we have to do is show up. I’m telling you Mary, we can’t lose.”

Reluctantly, Mama agreed, and Daddy was all smiles as they left. “What do you think we’ll bring home, kids?” he bellowed, waving as he pulled out of the driveway.

My sister and I, twitchy with excitement, spent the afternoon watching Charlie’s Angels re-runs and eating an entire container of Planter’s dry roasted peanuts.

Three hours later, Mama stormed into the house, clomped upstairs to the bedroom and closed the door.

We waited in the foyer, craning our necks, trying to see what Daddy had in his hands as he exited the car.

” I don’t see anything?” I said.

“Well, plane tickets can go in a pocket, dummy,” my sister said. “Same with diamonds. And I don’t think they’d just let you bring a motorboat home with you–you have to store those things.”

Good News: Daddy did not buy a time-share in Pensacola.

Bad News: Translation: Boat with Motor = an inflatable plastic raft with an eggbeater on the back.

Mama was steamed for three whole days. Then, in typical fashion, we decided that Boat with Motor Incident was hilarious and heckled Daddy to death about it.


True to Daddy’s word, The Golden Bullet was a real steal.

Alas, the next recipient of The Golden Bullet was my sister.

My sister treated that car like the Mechanical Bull at Gilley’s.

It was she who dubbed the car The Golden Bullet; probably because the only thing she loved more than that car were real Silver Bullets– icy cans of Coors Light beer–and believe me, there were always bullets in that ride.

The Golden Bullet took amazing abuse; my sister went “off-road” with that vehicle enough times to classify it a Monster Truck.

The Bullet also never needed things like oil or brake pads or Hell, even gasoline– I swear there was one stretch of road between New Mexico and Arizona where the Bullet ran on chi from Sedona red rock and kokopelli pipe music.  Headlights? Nah. The Bullet could navigate without them in a  midnight rainstorm and still be fine. No matter the occasion, turn the key, and that lady started.

By the time I got The Bullet, she was a little worse for wear. Amazingly, the girl still looked okay on the outside. I meticulously scraped all of the bumper stickers and propaganda off the rear with a straight razor, which made my sister snort.

“And now you have–a beige vehicle. A beige vehicle for a beige girl.”

She was right, I guess. The Bullet’s excitement quotient went way down once I took ownership. Other things went AWOL too, like the fan and temperature controls.  The Bullet became menopausal.  I remember watching her heat gauge rise upupup in stalled summer traffic, and cursing, I turned the heater on, full-blast, hoping to pacify her enough to deliver me home.

The Bullet also developed a voracious appetite for cassettes; she ate mix tapes like Chiclets, and I remember hitting eject, pulling out a shiny tangle of Maxell brown loopage, mourning the loss of John Waite and Howard Jones and The Stray Cats.

She was a temperamental old broad, but she carried me through.

When we  finally bought a new car, we handed over The Bullet.  The dealer, as part of the sale, had to drive her to Grand Junction, Colorado, about 5 hours away. By then The Golden Bullet had 133,000 miles on it.*

“Jesus,” the dealer said, looking at her.  “Is there any way she’s gonna make it all the way there?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Daddy said, handing over the keys. “But she survived two teenage daughters, so my money’s on her.”

Mine was, too.

Feel free to wax poetic about your first vehicle in the comments section–I know there’s some good dirt out there!

*In normal circumstances,  a Honda with over 100,000 miles on it is not a huge rarity. But we pummeled that heap of iron.

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn March 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Oh you’re making me smile….I got a used 74 0r 75 Chevy Chevette…didn’t name it anything..but DID roll the windows down in the summer because it had no air, and hummed to myself because it had no radio. Had a roomate in college that had a Ford Pinto…yes before we knew they exploded on impact…and named her Penelope…we drove around in good ole Penelope a lot…trashed it on the inside. Those were the days.


bryan March 10, 2011 at 3:25 pm

My first car was a 1964 Chevy Impala (two years older than me) I got it for $250 . The metallic pea paint was marred only by a dent that most likely came from a snow plow. When my buddy and I finished installing the stereo we just set the sparkomatic speakers on the dash board because we couldn’t figure out how to install the damn things. Eventually I duct taped them down. The steering wheel was reminiscent of a boat’s and the dashboard was tattered pea green vinyl that matched the bench seats (tattered and vinyl).

here is a picture of a similar guy

I blogged about one of my more recent cars last summer if you don’t mind me doing a shameless plug…

Thanks for the Smile TKW!


Christine @ Coffees & Commutes March 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Oh my goodness, I just about snorted my coffee out my nose when you said she was menopausal. The funny thing is, we named our second car the Silver Bullet. Apparently there is something about bullets and cars.

Thanks for playing along lady! Love you.


Jennifer March 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm

’79 Monte Carlo. God I loved that car.

And no offense, but your sister sounds like a piece of work.


Cathy March 10, 2011 at 4:11 pm

My first car was pretty much the love of my life – a 1973 VW Super Beetle. It had a curved windshield and a dashboard, custom stick shift knob and could go 45 MPH in third gear (seriously impressive). The sound system was decked out, both the interior and exterior caught on fire. I should write this one up – it’s hilarious.


Keyona March 10, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I had a 2000 Toyota Echo. I called it the Tweety mobile. I remember it only costing 10 bucks to fill her up.


SuziCate March 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm

LOVE this story…you can tell a story like no one else! Mine was a faded red Pinto, and it sucked, totally!!!!! No point in trying to golorify the piece of crap I got!


Alexandra March 10, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Oh, you are so good with your stories.

I read every word, and loved it.

Mine was vintage, for 300 bucks. Only took LEADED gasoline!

Can you believe that??
And lap seatbelts!

Sky blue, and I loved it.


Erica@PLRH March 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm

1985 blue Toyota Corolla. I told everyone that it would grow up to be a Volvo some day.


Klz March 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I lament that my first car did not have such a cool nickname


jc March 10, 2011 at 6:59 pm

88 Chevy Nova. 100k+ miles on it, got it used in HS. She was a great little zippy car at first. She flaked out after a couple long cross-country trips during college, and then fell apart, piece by piece, over time. The ceiling fabric came unglued, plastic snapped here and there, the rubber rubbed off around the doors and windows, the tape deck ate my COLOR ME BADD on the way home from the Janet Jackson/Color Me Badd concert, and finally she full out turned on me, the bitch. If I got her above 60mph, she would shake violently and try to eject my speedy ass out the roof. She’d have her mood swings and not start, or stall at the first stop, I’d have to plan about an hour ahead to go anywhere. She went psycho full throttle and got me stranded on the side of the highway during a grad school interview! The professor I was interviewing with sent his wife to get me (several hours away!), and then they let me stay with them during the engine surgery. My little chariot was forever changed, and she got traded in for another Chevy when I got to grad school that fall. And it’s time to get rid of that car – she’s falling apart in the same fashion. This won’t end well, so I’d rather put her out of her misery before she inflicts misery on me. I’m liking the Chevy Aveo for my next ride.


TKW March 12, 2011 at 7:50 am

jc: I’m laughing at the psychomobile. Mood swings…ah, that sums it up perfectly, right? I mean, what kind of meanie eats your ColorMeBadd tape? And on the way home from the concert, even? MeanGirl.


tasteofbeirut March 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Excellent prose getting lyrical on your old car, hey? I have no such sentimental attachment to cars; just a machine to take me places. My first car was a 75 Datsun pick up. Fairly reliable thing.


TKW'S DAD March 10, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I’m glad that I’m retired, because I have to check all the time for my Daughters next blog in case I have to defend myself! Kitch is “spot on” with this one. I’ll never live down the boat and motor. I swear, the box it came in I knew wasn’t big enough for even a one man raft. Maybe one of those little rubber wading pools for 2 or 3 years old, with a hand mixer to go with it. The family will never leave it alone, especially when they catch me reading raffle stuff in the mail. By the way, the dealer did call me from Grand Junction, saying he did make it, although he couldn’t use the air con due to the engine overheating. And this was at 10,000 plus altitude!

But the Kitch left out the best part on that car. Ask her to tell you the graduation present she gave her Dad:-).


TKW March 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

Daddy! Shhhh! Dana vs the Driver’s Ed Car is a family secret, and shall remain so!!


Contemporary Troubadour March 10, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Kokopelli pipe music — HA! But seriously, how did you become familiar with the Mechanical Bull at Gilley’s? Or is there one other than the legend that resides in Dallas? (Or did I somehow miss that you’d been there?)


TKW March 12, 2011 at 7:51 am

CT: Urban Cowboy, girlfriend!!! John Revolting at his finest!


Maria March 10, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Oh, Kitchy! You had me snorting! I had a piece o’crap 86 Hyundai Excell. It was brown, which I thought was very appropriate, given the heap of crap it was. It went through two alternators, a couple of batteries, endless stalling and too many to count opportunities to learn how to clean out a flooded carburator. I swear, there were times I could hear the Korean hamsters running on the wheel to move that thing.

But I loved it. It was my first car. And it gave me a taste of freedom that I desperately needed. Thank you for letting me relive those moments.


Ink March 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Hi Kitch’s Dad!!! *waving* Very exciting to see you here. :)

Mine was an ancient red Volkswagen Rabbit that lived for approximately two years before keeling over. Shared it with my sister, too, though I am pretty sure that I, as the older sister, didn’t share as much as I should have…


Privilege of Parenting March 10, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Hey KW, I like the Golden Bullet. My first car was an asthmatic and arthritic Olds that rode low and mean without meaning to. It seemed to have a lot of unresolved trauma from its shady, but unknown past, and was prone to freezing up in the face of other cars (which are hard to avoid on Chicago’s streets). Soon after getting this limping steed the rear-view mirror broke right off. My brother and I dubbed it the Deathmobile, for there was no looking back.


TKW March 12, 2011 at 7:53 am

Bruce: I love the idea of the car having a shady and mysterious past. Do write about it? Pretty please?


Katybeth March 10, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Honey Bee Datsun–with the Honey Bees on the side. Loved my car. She took such good care of me. The problem was she was such a “noticeable” vehicle. Nothing “beige” about her. . .I have never put a bumper sticker on a car since.


Leisa March 11, 2011 at 2:04 am

Snorting @ ‘eating mix tapes like Chiclets’.

My lovely spouse gave me my first car for Christmas one year. We had a car that we’d bought together but this baby was my very own. She was a 1972 Datsun 1200, orange paintwork with a black interior – The Jaffa! He had bought her from an auto wreckers for a few hundred bucks and kept her at a friends place where he worked on her in secret. He was never home, I was sure he was having an affair.

She was small, she didn’t go very fast, she overheated. There was no air-con, the AM radio did not include a tape deck and the steering wheel was so big it would have been right at home in a school bus. I loved her!
By the time I traded her in she was plain old scary. Every time you braked they would lock, tyres would squeal and the steering would pull sharply to the left. Embarrassing!! I got $260 trade-in for her. She was worth every cent!


BigLittleWolf March 11, 2011 at 8:38 am

Love it! (The Golden Bullet suits you.)

I’ve always been a red car woman, myself (surprise, surprise), though the first was a little silver toyota! (Great on the beep beep, and it was cheap!)


Gale March 11, 2011 at 8:50 am

1990 Volvo 240 sedan. Burgundy with black interior. What can I say… I was preppy. Drove it from the age of 16 until I graduated college when I got… another Volvo. :)


Jenna March 11, 2011 at 9:35 am

Confession: I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 24. The story is simple: I grew up in Spain where you can’t get your license until you’re 18, but as soon as I was 18 I was hightailing it to the States. Since my parents couldn’t exactly teach me how to drive long distance, I got around via bus or my two feet or bumming a ride.
My husband finally taught me to drive when we got our first (and only car) in Delaware. Thankfully, a few years later we moved to Chicago where we wouldn’t need a car, so we’re free and car-less again. Phew! =)


elizabeth March 11, 2011 at 9:36 am

Oh, my Purple People Eater Saturn–it ended up being much nicer than my brother’s car because, being a girl, my parents insisted on getting a car that was more reliable than the one they got him.

Being a younger sibling does sometimes have its benefits.

The really funny thing was that I wasn’t even there when they bought it–my parents have this quirk in that when they have it in their head to buy a car, they will head down to the dealership and just buy it, and boom–a new car is in the driveway. But I digress.

The PPE got me through the rest of high school and college–including a summer of driving around SE PA and central Jersey with bread in its trunk–and the only issues I ever had with it was a small slide into a guard rail (stupid rain and the reason I refuse to drive in heels now) and an unfortunate run-in with a bread truck.


Barbara March 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

We must take into consideration two things: I went to boarding school….no car. But by college, there was an old blue Buick. You can imagine, I’m sure. We’re talking 50’s here. With wings.
My first “real” car (that I owned, not my father ) was a yellow wooden-sided Ford station wagon. OMG. Traveled all over the US in the Air Force with it.

We got the kids an old mustang in the 70’s and it went from the oldest on down, as each graduated from high school. By the time they all were gone, the car had well over 100,000 miles on it and it would barely drive. Couldn’t sell it so we actually donated it!
Thanks for the memories!


TKW March 12, 2011 at 7:54 am

PLEASE tell me there’s a picture of that Buick.


Futureblackmail March 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

My first car was a 1992 Saturn LS1 (I think LS1) but what I loved about that car was that I bought it before I could drive it. It was a stick-shift and I only knew how to drive an automatic but the price was right so I figured I would learn. :)


TKW March 12, 2011 at 7:55 am

Future: Now THAT is optimism.


Donna March 11, 2011 at 11:48 am

I got an old hand-me-down toyota corona from my mom. When I finally traded it in years later it had over 300,000 miles on it, a hood held down with a chain and padlock and a trunk full of pieces that had fallen off over the years.


Belinda March 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm

You look adorable in front of the Golden Bullet! And I just love a family that can up and go for a shot at a boat with a motor. Lots of warm fuzzy memories as well as some awesome lines here, Kitch. Love how you tell a story. xx


Stacia March 11, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Kitch, you are anything but beige. And I mean that in the most awesomest way.


Paula (Salad in a Jar) March 12, 2011 at 9:09 am

I read this entire post out loud to my husband as we both roared.

Mine was a 1963 Ford Falcon which was vintage even back then. Parents paid a 100$ for it and then spent 500$ worth of time and scrubbing to try to get the smoky smell out of it. Didn’t work. I wrecked it once losing control on the ice. My sister was thrown out of the car and through a fence on a country road. No harm done to sister or car.

One thing about it, never had trouble with my pride when driving that little white “beauty.”


Tiffany March 12, 2011 at 1:35 pm

My first car was an ’86 Chevette….now that’s stylin’!


Heather March 13, 2011 at 7:26 am

A 1980-something Chevette WITH a sunroof! Candy apple red. Good condition, ran great. Got me from Fargo, ND to college in Rockford, IL safe and sound many times. But those bald ass tires:( Got me in the ditch once upon a time on the way back to school after Thanksgiving break. I hitched a ride with some guy in a conversion van – amazing that I’m still alive!!! – to call a tow. Drove most of the way back to Rockford but stopped for the night cuz’ of an ice storm. Had to scrape about 2 inches off her the next morning. Ventured home for Christmas and spun out on the highway and hit a guard rail. Managed to drive it the rest of the way home – again, crazy I’m still alive! – where she was deemed no longer safe to drive and was sentenced to death. Perhaps, in looking back, it’s possible she had a magical bubble around her that somehow kept me safe!!!


TKW March 13, 2011 at 8:19 am

Heather, that is a harrowing story! I think you did have a magic bubble!


becca March 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I had a silver bullet in my life too! Must be like the fact that EVERYONE has a friend named “Sully” somewhere.

My first car was a used red rabbit. Stick shift. I loved that car. Everything from the manual windows, barely working heat, and the fact that my license plate ended in EPT which to a high school student is a ball of laughs.

I think your first car in a way defines you. At that stage in your life when you’re so impressionable, that car… says a lot.

Hysterical post kitch – i’ve missed you!


Kelly March 13, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Love the photo and the story accompanying it … but now I need to hear about the driver’s ed car. Perhaps a guest post by TKW’s DAd?!


LJRich March 13, 2011 at 9:11 pm
Dana March 14, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I’m still driving my first car!


subWOW March 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Give me a time machine (AND a sex change) and I would be running after you and your Golden Bullet mama! :-)

Not growing up in the US I did not have my first car until … um… 27? Ha.


Jane March 14, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I called my first vehicle “The Flintstone Mobile” – if you lifted up the floor mats on the passenger side you could actually see the road flying by through the rusted out holes.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri March 15, 2011 at 8:51 pm

I had a car with the same color as the Golden Bullet. Mine was a Toyota Tercel. It had a backside so big, it was so hard to miss. Thanks for the trip down car memory lane.


Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac March 19, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Yes on the mixed-tape eating cars…totally takes me back!! I remember keeping a pencil handy so I could wind the tape back up.

My first car was a 1984 Bronco we named The Beast. It could easily hold 15 teenagers up to no good.


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