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Richard’s Ride Extra: What Was Your First Car?

Richard Piet
Richard Piet

It’s not usually something one forgets easily: Your first car! Mine? A 1977 Pontiac Phoenix, shown above. Well, it was sort of mine, and yes, there’s a story there.

The Phoenix (GM’s X-body platform, derived from the Chevy Nova) was really my grandmother’s car. Yes, it’s one of those stories – kid ends up with Grandma’s car. In my case, though, I actually lived with my grandmother for a while after I graduated high school. Along with that came the responsibility to take my grandmother where she needed to go, from time to time.

Grandma didn’t want to drive, you ask? True. See, she only learned to drive in her early 60’s after my grandfather died. And even then, she only did it out of necessity; between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., in fact. Any other time and there might have been too much traffic. You wouldn’t catch her out there during rush hour. Or on the freeway. Ever!

Now, don’t misunderstand: She wasn’t going 5 below the speed limit in the left lane with her turn signal flashing incessantly. Actually, there were a few times I rode with her and she was grinning, going 5-10 mph over the speed limit on one of Dearborn’s main drags.

Heck, the Phoenix did haveĀ a V8, after all! It was a base model Phoenix, though, so my guess is the engine was the Chevy 305 2-barrel with 140 horsepower; up-trim models of the Phoenix could come with a 350 V8. Nevertheless, if Grandma had a choice, she would rather ride than drive.

The Phoenix was garaged well, hardly ever rained on (if it was, Grandma expected it to be towel dried promptly after pulling it into the garage) and was in pretty good shape in 1989 when I started driving it. In fact, that year, it only had 8,000 miles on it – and it was 12 years old!

Eventually, I went on to buy my own car (a 1988 Ford Thunderbird LX!), and so Grandma decided to sell the Phoenix. Sad to say, it was sold to family friends and met its demise quickly thereafter. I really wish I’d had more presence of mind to convince Grandma to keep it. Boy, would it turn heads today – you just don’t see too many Phoenix models around now!

NEXT: More Richard's Ride!

Check out the gallery to see more of the Phoenix – and some other Richard’s rides!

Hear The Richard Piet Show weekday mornings from 5:30-9 on 95.3 WBCK.

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