When I graduated from college, way back in 1991, I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the USAF. Back in the day, we had to wait to enter Active Duty until we trained so we had to wait around for the Air Force to put us to work. My Dad found me an awesome job driving truck for a whopping $19 an hour, that's about $32 per hour in today's economy. I had grand plans of working for around 6 months and buying a Porsche 928.
The phone rang: "Lt Mosqueda, we're putting you on duty immediately." That changed my plans entirely. I no longer had time to save up a bunch of cash (and trust me I knew how to save money at the time). So, I started shopping around. I decided it was time to own a brand new car. I found the best mix of fun, sportiness, and cost was the 1991 Ford Escort GT.
The Escort GT was actually pretty peppy. It featured a Mazda BP 1.8L DOHC engine pumping out 127 hp in the Escort's iteration. The Escort GT actually had a fairly sophisticated suspension (for a cheap 90s econobox) including an independent rear suspension. Looking at some old reviews the car scooted from 0-60 in 8.0 seconds. Again, this is 1991 and fast cars were doing 0-60 in 5.0 seconds, so this is pretty good for an inexpensive hot hatch. Check out the Motor Rend review below. As for me, on one blast through Monument Valley in Utah I hit 127 mph. That's pretty fast for a small car back then.
I started my professional life by driving from Michigan to Arizona for my first assignment with a stop in Colorado Springs for some training. It was an excellent road trip.
I really loved that car. Shortly after I paid it off some idiot decided he didn't need to stop at a red light and t-boned me, completely totaling the car. I was sad. Years later I bought a near exact duplicate of the car for only $600. I put in ceramic coated headers, a cat-back exhaust, and put some gigantic 18" lightweight alloy rims. It looked pretty good and was a bit faster than my first Escort GT. I gave it to my brother and he promptly ruined it.
Early cars are great memories. I'm sure we wax poetic about them. But it truly was fun and I enjoyed it very much.