What is the car that most people lust after more than any other? Lamborghini? Ferrari? Cobra or Corvette? Well, for most car fanatics, the make and model that brings the fondest memories is often your first car.
That’s certainly the case for me, as my ’74 Buick Century is the only car that I still have dreams about. Apparently, I still have the old Buick at the back of the garage, and I drive it every once in awhile just to keep things oiled up. Actually, I sold it more than 20-years ago, but the sleep-induced fantasy that I still have it squirreled away makes me sleep better.
I took a job at a full-service car wash when I was 14. It actually was a pretty hard job for a 115-lb kid, and it was a two-mile walk from my house. I also had to walk uphill, both ways, in the snow. Kids today have no idea …
Anyway, unlike most of the guys there who actually needed to pay the rent, I was working for one reason: to get some wheels. My dad and I always liked to troll used car lots and just look at what was out there anyway, so it didn’t take long to find a worthy candidate for my first ride.
Dad spotted the 13-year-old Buick Colonnade coupe on the back lot of Don Stein Buick in Overland Park. It really didn’t look like much, sitting there with its trash can lid wheel covers and missing urethane pieces around the taillights. It wasn’t exactly the new IROC I had in my brain. Nevertheless, $820 later and it was in our driveway.
Now this was my car, but I know dad was as excited about it as I was. His first order of business was to take it directly to Car-X and have dual exhaust with loud mufflers and chrome tips fitted up. I think he figured it would make me forget about the IROC idea and make me lust after old Buicks. And it actually did help quite a bit. There was a crabby old man who walked around our neighborhood all the time, and whenever he walked behind my car while it was running, he’d plug his ears. I have to admit, tormenting that old coot was pretty cool.
As time went on, the Buick of my dreams (literally) began to take shape. Buick Road Wheels from the junkyard changed the whole attitude. The broken stuff around the taillights was fixed. I had the seats reupholstered. It was pinstriped at a hot rod show. I learned how to work on things that I couldn’t afford to fix. Actually, now that I’ve become older and lazier, I am not willing to tackle many of the things I did back then.
The Buick changed my life in so many ways. That hike to the car wash became much easier. I became the go-to guy when people wanted to go out to lunch or “go do somethin’” after school. I could do a killer one-wheel peel. Dating became more fun. Gas was only like 78-cents, so I could easily feed the Buick and buy a couple of dinners at Olive Garden with my car wash scratch.
Then one day, a couple of years in college, Mother Nature sealed the old beater’s fate. I must have waxed it 100-times, but it wasn’t enough to protect it from the baseball-sized hail. It was irreparable, and unacceptable. I convinced my insurance company that it was worth $1,650—almost double what I paid for it—and they let me keep the “totaled” car to sell. It took one day for someone to offer me $1,000 cash, hail and all, and the Buick was gone.
Except for Kojak, not many people ever cared about ’74 Buick Centuries. But, for old-time’s sake, I still have them as a favorite eBay search. I really do miss the old tank—my first true love.