I blame Joe for this one. On today's Open Thread Thursday, commenters were asked to describe their first car. For me, it's a vivid memory.
Here was my response:
"My first car was a brand new triple yellow 1977 Chevette Sandpiper with a high output 1.6 engine, four speed trans, yellow gold and cream striped "Reef" cloth interior, and gold birds on the quarter panels. His name was Biff.
Dad and I were looking at new cars at the Chevy dealer when the transport truck drove up and deposited the lonely yellow Chevette before our eyes.
Many years later I was featured on CNN with his near twin, Puff.
Long live the Nerd Car!"
In early 1977, Dad promised me a car if I ran errands for Mom. We disagreed strongly on what car it would be. He suggested Chevy Vega, the car with the molten aluminum blob passing for an engine. I suggested the brilliant but pricey Volkswagen Rabbit. He countered with the Vega-based Buick Skyhawk, with a godawful odd-firing engine and hostile shift linkage. I made a last minute play for Chevette Sandpiper.
I figured we would land on Chevette, an ordinary little car but at least it ran without unexpected explosions. I upped the ante for the designer Sandpiper edition, in Reef Gold (yellow) with an awesome yellow interior- yellow dash, carpets, door panels, headliner, seat backs- and a tri-tone cloth seat of yellow, gold, and cream (pattern repeating on door) Add distinctive rear fender flock-of-birds decals and the package was complete.
Now to find one in stock. Despite being in a major Chevy market, I couldn't find even one on a dealer's lot. And I called them all. Weekly.
By May, 1977, we had just about given up and were at Al Serra Chevy looking at a used, base engine, automatic Sandpiper. It was a slug, but it was a "Piper. I was just about to acquiesce when a car transporter pulled up to drop off a car. It was pretty unusual for a transporter to make an evening delivery on a Friday night. The cargo was a lone Chevette Sandpiper.
We inspected the solitary little lemon drop and found it to have a high output engine, four speed stick, AM/FM, raised white letter radials, deluxe molding packages, and many more options. In short, it was a virtually loaded Sandpiper. Our salesperson quickly checked and verified that it was available.
Jeff, meet Biff.
Below, Jeff and Biff. Grand Blanc, MI. May, 1977. Photo taken by Polaroid SX-70:
Fast forward 25 years. My boyfriend Chris, the car crazy Texan with the deepest blue eyes I had ever seen, was out to lunch and saw a very clean early Chevette on the street. He came back to work and typed "Chevette" into Autotrader. Up popped a one-owner Sandpiper from an elderly lady's estate.
Jeff, Meet Puff.
Puff was all but identical to Biff, except more loaded with air and automatic. I bought him sight unseen and dialed him in to show quality. We never attended a show together without him receiving some type of award. Puff's proudest hour came on Good Friday, 2002, when he and I were featured in USA Today together for a Nerd Car story.
The following week we were on CNN.
From USA Today, Good Friday 2002, Burbank, CA: Jeff and Puff:
A better shot of Puff. He won a handsome plaque at this show which I still have:
Look at those crazy striped seats:
Thanks, Joe, for the reminder. Weren't those wild seventies colors fabulous?