1972 Plymouth Duster (© Chrysler Group LLC)

1972 Plymouth Duster

My first car was a powder-blue 1972 Plymouth Duster that I purchased from a friend of the family in 1984 for a buck. While many of you might be envisioning a classic Mopar muscle car, my Duster was the exact opposite — a heaping hunk of steaming junk. The dash and vinyl seats were cracked and sun-damaged. In the cold, I had to hit the starter with a hammer to get it to turn over. The driver's-side ball joints needed replacement, so the car frequently changed lanes by itself as a result. And the 2-door coupe's body was so rusted out that I think the effeminate paint job was the only thing holding that big metallic beast together. But it was mine, and I loved it.

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The Duster's pluses weren't many, but they were important to me. It got me to and from high school, work and the beach (most of the time); it had a big enough trunk to carry my band's equipment from gig to gig; and the back seat was plenty spacious enough for me and my girlfriend — all things essential for a hormone-addled 17-year-old.

I remember my dad wouldn't let me park it in the driveway. He would bellow, "Get that piece of [bleep] out of my driveway," if I blocked his spot. And when I went away to college, he gleefully sent it to the crusher. I was devastated. But there were other fish in the sea, as they say, and I have had a few vehicles since — none of which has been as memorable as that Duster, though.

So why was that hulking chunk of metal so unforgettable? It was my first, and gave me a feeling of freedom that I had never had before. For this reason, and this reason alone, many people hold their first car in high esteem, no matter its condition. Here, the staff of MSN Autos shares stories of their first automobile with you — what they drove, why they loved it and how they still miss it.

2000 Toyota Echo

Click to enlarge picture2000 Toyota ECHO (© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.)

2000 Toyota ECHO

Josh Condon, blog coordinator, Exhaust Notes
After college, I lived in New York City and didn't have much need for a car. But after several years, I missed having access to one. So I paid $1 to the family of a college friend for a 2000 Toyota Echo. It was dorky-looking, unlovely and a bit dinged up, but it ran beautifully and was the perfect city car: no frills, ultrareliable, small enough to park anywhere and incredibly fuel-efficient, and you didn't care if it suffered the occasional indignity. Perfect for running errands in town and the occasional weekend getaway. That fire-engine-red little Echo really gave me an appreciation for the type of freedom a small car can provide.

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1977 Chevrolet Chevette

Click to enlarge picture1976 Chevrolet Chevette (© General Motors)

1976 Chevrolet Chevette

Charles Plueddeman, contributing writer
I graduated from high school in 1976, and within six months was married and a father. My wife came with a 1966 Ford Falcon sedan, but we wanted something newer and a little more reliable. There was a Chevy dealer in our small Wisconsin town, and he made me a great deal on a new 1977 Chevette. It was ruby red and ordered from the factory with a few options. I upgraded to cloth upholstery, the optional 63-horsepower 1.6-liter engine, and a dash package that added a tachometer and a little aluminum trim to the steering wheel. I recall the car cost about $3,600, and there was a $300 rebate from Chevy. The dealer took off another $300 to get me to exactly $3,000. The Chevette was not the Lotus Europa I'd dreamed of owning, but it was the car I needed at the time.

1967 International Harvester Scout

Click to enlarge picture1967 International Scout (© dave_7/Flickr)

1967 International Scout

Marc Lachapelle, contributing writer
My first street-worthy wheels were bolted to a 1967 International Harvester Scout 4x4 pickup truck. My Scout had initially led a pampered life for a gritty, off-road-worthy vehicle; it carried machine parts and other light stuff for my dad's construction company. The only mechanical casualty was the clutch, ground to dust after months of stop-and-go traffic at crawling speeds. It was powered by a small, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, and there were three shift levers: a taller one for the 3-speed manual gearbox and two short sticks to engage the front and rear axles separately. I worked a whole summer to earn the $750 it cost me.

On the road, it was boring. But it got exciting on dirt roads. I loved shifting the levers like a juggler. It was a tough little machine and stone-reliable. The interior was as Spartan as they come, with a vinyl bench seat and a painted-metal dashboard. The windshield wipers had separate controls, and to this day, my kid brother chides me for not letting him turn on the right-side wiper, to "conserve energy."

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