Illustration for article titled The six cars that could have been my first

Picture it: Connecticut, 2000. I had just turned 16 and was eager to get behind the wheel of my first car. It would be shared with my brother, so my parents agreed to chip in if he and I collectively paid for at least half. A lot of you know that I got a ‘99 Mitsubishi Galant ES (that I still miraculously have, 18 years later). But you don’t know the story of the six cars that nearly could have taken its place.


First, the ‘76 Fiat 124 Spider. Sky blue metallic over black leather. My uncle had just restored it, top to bottom, and offered it to me for free. My parents quickly put the kibosh on that, saying it would be too unsafe for two 16-year-old boys. So my uncle gave the car to my grandmother (who never drove it), and took it back a year later and sold it to an enthusiast.

Around this time, I had a strange affinity for the Infiniti I30. It was comfortable and nice, without being too nice. So I found a white ‘97 at a used car dealer, and went with my parents in tow. The leather! The chrome! It was lovely. But the dealer wouldn’t budge on price, so my parents deemed it too expensive. But parked across from it was...


...a beautiful green ‘94 Mitsubishi 3000GT. And I wanted it the moment I saw it. (Of course I did; I was 16.) The dealer sweet-talked me, but Mom pulled me away, saying, “You’ll get stopped by every police officer in the state!” She had noticed another car a few spots over, and my heart sank when she pushed me toward...

...a green ‘96 Toyota Tercel sedan. “I just LOVED my 1984 Tercel!” she exclaimed. “This is so practical...and it’s a Toyota, so it will never break!” She pushed. I held my ground. Anything but a Toyota Tercel.


The next car my dad found. “Patrick, did you know there’s a BMW in your price range?” And I immediately knew which one he meant — BMW’s sales-flop of a hatchback, the 318Ti. Dad had found a green ‘96 model at a dealer, so we went to see it. I drove it, and while I was underwhelmed, I wanted it because I was 16 and it was a BMW. But Dad (who admittedly has limited car knowledge) only found out after our test-drive that it was RWD. To him, this meant it was impossible to drive in winter, and I was forbidden from considering it any further.

Then I discovered the Mitsubishi Diamante. What a beautiful car, and thanks to depreciation, what a great price! I found a silver ‘97 LS model nearby and showed my parents the listing. Dad was all ready to take me to see it. Mom put up a fight. “It’s too big. It’s too nice. It’s more car than he needs.” I lost that fight. We never went to see that Diamante.


That’s when Dad sat me down and told me to find something simple, inoffensive, and practical. It was the only way I was going to get buy-in from both parents. So I took a close look at the Diamante’s little brother, the Galant. It was actually rather pretty. I could see some E36 BMW in the lines, which tapered cleanly into a sleek nose. Dad found a silver ‘99 ES for sale on Long Island with 30K miles. We went. We drove. I liked it. My parents liked it. We bought it.

I’ve had it ever since.

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