Easy enough, right? A few rules though lest you get confused otherwise. A) Let’s define “immediate family” as you, your significant other, your parents, and your kids. No grandparents, cousins, uncles, etc. Or perhaps you’re one of the likely few to never have partaken of the otherworldly goods, that’s okay too. B) We’ll also define “foreign” as from a different country than wherever you were/are. In my case I believe we always had German cars (VW, DKW, Audi, Ford) in Germany until we moved to the States and then there was a Pontiac Ventura that was replaced around 1983 by a 1979 Mazda 626 coupe that eventually became mine. That Mazda 626 would be my answer I suppose as my Dad bought it and it was his first non-domestic vehicle based on where we lived. (Note that Ford can be considered domestic by Americans, Germans and Brits, it’s a bit weird that way and adds a wrinkle). And if your home country doesn’t have a local auto industry, then just whatever was well outside of the norm back then.
The ’04 Camry above, although significantly more “American” than plenty of what we’d call American cars, would be considered foreign for these here purposes to anyone living anywhere but Japan. The brand’s origin is what matters in this QOTD, not place of manufacture. (I’ve really just needed a place for the last two years to share this ghastly picture, it has no other significance.)
A second hand Fiat 1500 in 1965. Before that, the Websters were Hillman families. Both paternal and maternal grandparents had Hillmans. .
Sounds similar to mine, a Fiat 1500 Cabriolet I bought with $750 of my own summer job money in 1968. I wish I still had that car! No previous furrin’ cars in my immediate family, though I was impressed with my cousin’s Volvo. Though I’d been privileged to learn to drive in my Mom’s Mustang, I yearned for something different.
Mom had a ’65 Anglia with repaired front-end damage for her first car in 1966, but the real first ‘foreign’ car was my sister’s 2002 Subaru Impreza, followed by Dad’s first 2003 Avalon, and my 2003 Legacy. My youngest sister got a Corolla to replace her 1991 Grand Prix n 2006, and my mother junked her 1995 Caprice for another Avalon in 2009..
That was a lot of business for Detroit to lose over the course of that decade.
My paternal grandfather purchased a VW Bus in 1959 to run his mail route. After that it was a long dry spell until my sister purchased a mildly used ’09 Passat wagon which she still has, along with a 2019 or 2020 Jetta she has since added to her arsenal.
As for me, it was the 2014 Passat we still have. I did have a ’92 Crown Vic which was technically an import, but that doesn’t quite follow your rules!!!
Does a powertrain built elsewhere count? If so, we could include the ’88 Dodge Dynasty my maternal grandparents bought as it had the 3.0 Mitsubishi engine.
I cousin of mine purchased a Kia Sephia in 1995. He was so impressed by that little ride so he traded it for a ’97 and years later purchased a Kia Optima (Magentis down here in Brazil). I also had a ’95 Sephia from 2009 to 2010. Excellent little ride. Thrifty on gas. No issues during my usage.
In the late 90s I had a Sephia, a 95 I think, as a ” loaner ” while my Honda Civic was being worked on. I was quite impressed and had it been possible I would have tried to trade my Civic for the Kia. Of course, Kia was still kind of new to the U.S. and I was concerned about the brand’s and the car’s longevity. But in nearly every other area the Sephia seemed to have the Civic beaten.
My father had a Daimler DR450 in the states.
Unfortunately after he passed it was moved around and stored for many years, ultimately the engine was locked up and it was sold for parts…
Hopefully the new owner can get it going or drop in a Chevy motor. The interior was near perfect
From Denmark: The car we had when I was born was an Alfasud. While not exotic in Denmark, these were not the common choice either. After that we had a Rover P6 V8 which my dad rolled on black ice after 12 days. People said he was lucky to survive. So then he went and bought soomething a bit more common due to its safety reputation: a Volvo 242 DL.
Befor ethey met, my mom had an Austin Allegro. So the first common/obvious choice for its class car they had was the Volvo I would say. So it’s perhaps more the other way around.
Every car in Denmark is foreign made, as far as I know!😏(As in Norway..)
What’s the most “common” or considered the “domestic” or normal thing to buy? I would have imagined Saab and Volvo, no?
My parents got swept up in the original import boom of the late 1950s with both a Karmann Ghia and an “English Ford” Anglia – I am not sure which came first, but both would have been from around 1959. Both were gone by 1961, the Ghia remembered fondly and the Anglia not so much. What is odd is that each parent died without ever driving another non-US car.
In the “modern era” (whatever that is) the first was my sister and her new husband who bought a used 1977-ish VW Rabbit in about 1983. I would have been next with the 1985 VW GTI bought new.
Actually, my GTI was a Westmoreland VW, so the 1988 Honda Accord that I married into might have been it.
And I am loving your photo! Nothing shows how the Camry has cemented its status as the most Buick-ish of foreign brands than the carriage roof treatment. You did not take any interior shots to show if there were any leftover Jerry Vale cassette tapes or AAA stickers on the visor. 🙂
I couldn’t get closer than that, the Repellent Force Field was strong in this one. One pic is all I got, the camera warned me it might break otherwise. The vinyl roof with gold package combo is a strong one, and not to be trifled with. No doubt there were Cracker Barrel and Perkins receipts scattered about too.
I have never thought about this, actually. My family members were so far flung by the ’70s that I have no clue what cars my brothers owned. So, I have to answer, “Fiat 131 Mirafiori”. My Dad and I bought it together new in 1975 (well, he bought it for both of us) to commute from our home in Orange County, NY to Nyack. He had rented a FIAT 130 to scuttle around Europe in with Mom when I was studying in Rome several years earlier, and it had been a revelation to him. So when the 131 was introduced, he rounded me up and we made a deal on a white one with a cordovan interior.
It was a beautiful package. Nimble and comfortable, but it began eating breaker points almost immediately, and had to be towed with a fizzled fuel pump within months. I drove it 200 miles up to Boston that winter to meet friends and there was so much cold air rushing in through the firewall after installation of air conditioning by the dealer that I had to wrap a blanket around my feet to keep my toes from freezing. Chastened by our first foreign foray, we ordered a ’76 Dodge Aspen with a Slant 6 and the 4-speed stick. That car, strangled by mandated emissions controls was a complete dog, and Dad traded it in on a comfy New ’77 LeBaron sedan with a 318 that needed a new engine top-end right out of the factory, but proved comfortable and reliable afterward.
I found a 9-year-old Chysler 300 coupe, in the mean time.
Dad also owned our family’s second and 3rd foreign cars– a ’59 Mercedes 190-SL, and a ’78 Audi 5000, which he lamented selling when assigned a disappointig ’80 Chevy Citation by his employers.
I live in England and while I was growing up, my father only ever had British cars.
Through the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s there were many Rootes offerings along with the odd Jaguar and Wolsley. Even his company/business cars in the early 70’s were BMC.
One day in 1978 (after another Hillman Avenger had bitten the dust) he bought a very second-hand Fiat 128 Rally. A foreign car.
Why dad, why? – ‘It was cheap and different’. It was very different. The fuel, oil, and temperature gauges were marked in Italian, the engine revved like crazy, it was not just another car.
It finally stopped working and was replaced by a Datsun120Y coupe (as I was working at a Datsun dealer at the time), and then a Peugeot 504.
He never bought a British car again.
On the other hand, a 128 “first car” would put him in league with Jerry Seinfeld, who recalls his fondly😁
My (future) B-I-L bought a new Fiat 131 in 1980. It was a piece of crap that he replaced with a Toyota pickup truck in 1984.
I popped the family cherry with a new Toyota Corolla sport coupe in 1981. It was a just-introduced model and I thought I was hot stuff. It was a great car that I (and finally my dad) took to 180k miles until it was stolen and stripped in 1993.
Have been Japanese-centric since then as my main driver with an occasional wander off the path (Volvo, Saab, Ford Edge). I work too hard for my money to tolerate engineering or reliability nonsense.
Heartening to see another disappointment in the FIAT 131 dept. That way, one feels oddly vindicated. When Dad and I had our new one for only a few months, he told me he went into a rest room at work, and, noticing that the door latch had “Fiat” cast into it, worried that he might not able to get out of the stall.
Hmm well if there’s no grandparents or cousins the first foreign vehicle in my family was a 1983 Subaru GL Coupe. Dad bought it for his commuter and it was also the first vehicle I drove with a manual transmission.
It was a very fun car to drive, despite only being 2WD I recall it being quite good in the snow too. Sadly we only had it about a year, my sister got rear ended at a stoplight and the Subaru was written off.
Don’t have a picture of it but it looked a lot like this, except the paint was a light silver-blue.
A 1960 Renault 4CV in 1960.Came with a 750cc engine. Later rebuilt using a 850cc JC Whitney kit, a hotter cam and shaved head. Gave the Volkswagens fits. Followed by a long string of foreign cars. I now drive a 1998 Ford E-350 Econoline with a Chinook conversion.
I never really thought of this before, and realizing the answer is kind of surprising. Dad was first, with a 1973 Datsun 240Z. Only one personal car of his after that was American, a 1995 Ford Econoline conversion van. His company cars sometimes, but most were Geo/Chevy Prizms, so do they blur the line being American made Toyota designs? Or his ‘05 Acura TL, an American made car from a Japanese company with no rest-of-world equivalent or market?
Mom went about it different. Tired of her 1969 Plymouth Road Runner being broken into while at work, she moved on to a 1976 Honda CD175, and only had Honda bikes from then on for some time. Her last American vehicle was an ‘85 Chevrolet Cavalier Type 10.
Between my sister and I, only one vehicle that wasn’t an import; my 2001 Ford Focus ZX3.
Used 79 Ford Fiesta S, bought in 1984. Under no conditions would my father ever consider owning a ‘furrin’ car, to the point of turning down an offer from Volkswagen of America to open a new dealership in a nearby college town after he left the Chevrolet dealership.
This attitude was why my first three modern cars were all Chevy Vegas/Monzas. They were the closest I could buy to what I really wanted to own.
Dad got a used celery green Volvo 122 (Amazon) wagon in 68 69. Had a used valiant wagon and I think a friend or a friend of a friend pitched him on the technical merits of the Volvo. Apparently it worked because he bought a brand new 1970 Volvo 145. I was 5 at the time and I think I imprinted heavy on it. Actually was a pretty bitching car in its day twin carb ,header style manifold 4 wh l disc with dual triangle circuit,rear wash wipe defroster infinite seat back adjustment with an adjustment mechanism I have only seen in this car. It was a simple 90 degree rotating lever that would lock the seatback at your desired angle. rotating it would slowly disengage what must have been a friction collar/plate. You simply push back or pull forward on the back of the seat while releasing the lever as needed and then relooking . Add to that stalk mounted hi beam awesome nylon weave Sears shoulder belts cool under floor storage amber turn signals And probably some thing else I forgotten. Sorry for the run-on but like I said I am printed heavily on it and even at that age were impressed with all the things that it had that contemporary American cars didn’t.
That question takes me back to Germany and my youth. My parents never had a domestic car. Car 1 was a 1971 Renault 4 TL. Car 2 was a late 70’s Renault 4 TL. Car 3 was a FIAT UNO. Car 4 was a FIAT Punto. Car number 1 we loved and appreciated the most.
1979. When my brother bought a 1970 Toyota Corolla Sprinter. Or does my 1970 Honda CT70 count?
New ’84 Honda Accord, for which we traded in a very problematic ’76 Chrysler Cordoba. (nicknamed “the Cordoba from hell”. I swear that car knew when payday was and would crap out a part on that very day. It got so bad that that my wife and I would not discuss finances in the car lest it hear us.) But I digress… The Honda was everything the Chrysler was not, well built, reliable and economical. We’ve only owned Japanese since then, other than the unfortunate ’95 Mazda 626 which made the Cordoba look like a Camry in terms of reliability, but that’s a story for another time.
I was born into a Foreign Car Family, so my parents’ first foreign car came along long before I did.
Dad bought a Karmann Ghia in about 1960. That was followed by a Peugeot 404, which in turn was followed by a Triumph TR-4, pictured below outside my folks’ Philadelphia apartment.
These foreign cars were interspersed with American cars occasionally too, and the first foreign car that I actually remember was Dad’s 1975 Scirocco.
Of course, I rebelled, and developed an affection for big American cars, much to Dad’s dismay. The first two cars I bought on my own were Fords.
My wife, on the other hand, followed a much different course. She acquired her first foreign-branded car in 2010 when we purchased our Honda Odyssey (her grandfather worked for Ford, and foreign cars weren’t exactly welcomed in her family).
My wife had almost the exact opposite experience of yours. She has driven nothing but Japanese cars. Her dad is a Ford man but he bought her a Camry as her first car. When we met she was driving her ’99 Civic. We kept it for sometime as it was still pretty new and low mileage, but it has since been replaced by a couple of Japanese cars. I am looking at replacing her Outback at some point and will probably get a Rav4 Hybrid.
I, on the other hand, have almost exclusively driven American V8 powered RWD cars and trucks. That was until about a decade ago when driving old Iron as a daily driver became too impractical, so I bought my first foreign brand vehicle, my Tundra. That said, being US built and designed, maybe I am still driving sn American V8 RWD (4×4) vehicle? 10 years on I have no regrets and likely will stick with Toyota trucks in the future. Despite my experience, I have long recommend Japanese cars to family and friends.
That apartment wouldn’t happen to be Drexelbrook, in the Drexel Hill neighborhood just outside the city? That’s where I lived from age 0-3.
Similar-looking apartments, but on the other side of town. These apartments are on Blue Grass Rd. in Northeast Philadelphia.
Original early 1960s artists rendering below… featuring typically anonymous cars:
My Dad bought a ’71 Mazda 1200 around 1973 to replace his rusted out ’65 Impala. It was an okay car, but wasn’t particularly well suited to winter climate and ran poorly in the cold. Overall he wasn’t happy with the Mazda and stuck with American cars until 2007 when he bought a new Honda Civic. Now all of my immediate family drives Japanese branded cars, other than the old cars or specialty cars (Corvette, Camaro).
1978 Datsun Z, right from the show floor in April of that year. Still have it.
My late father buying a VW Beetle in the mid-late 1960s. (The purchase happened before I was born, so I don’t know the exact year) It passed on to my ham-fisted sister as transportation to college and her first job. She eventually killed it. 😞
Long before I was born, my parents replaced a problematic Rambler American with a 73-ish Toyota Corolla. Not sure if it had a 1.2 or a 1.6, but either way it was handicapped by a 2-speed automatic, so it would’ve been very punishing to drive up any incline during their weekend trips around the mountains of Colorado.
My parents bought a brand new Datsun 510 4-door sedan in 1970—and it seems that several of my aunts and uncles were pretty intrigued by the little car, as well. They knew a good thing when they saw one, and by the end of the model run in ’73, there were four other 510s owned by members of my extended family. Aside from I think one VW Beetle purchased by an aunt in the ’60s, it would have been the first foreign car for all of them.
I sold my 1978 Bonneville in 1980 because of the coming gas shortage and bought my first “furrin” car, a 1980 Datsun 510 wagon with a 4sp. Great gas mileage, but rust? oh boy! Paid $6258 for it.
My parents did something similar, they traded in a couple year old Buick Estate wagon for a 510 wagon with a manual (ordered in blue but they ended up with a brown one). I’m pretty sure they traded it to the same dealer they had bought it from at a huge loss. That car lasted until the early to mid 90’s (with a fair amount of rust despite rusty jones treatment and warranty) when my sister rolled it into a ditch.
I was told to leave my phone number and when a wagon came in, they would call me and….yes or no. I said yes for the blue one. Speaking of rust treatments, I paid a bunch of money for them to drill holes in the door jambs, spray some gook in there and stick in a rubber plug. Only problem was a couple of years later, it started to rust badly right around where they drilled the holes!
My father bought his (he still has it ) 1959 TR-3 around 1966-67 I think. I would say that it was a toy but it was his daily driver until around 1980. My Grandmother bought a Corolla new in 72. I think on my fathers side he was first with a foreign car. Interestingly my father’s side is Swedish, but it was my mothers parents who owned Volvo’s and Saabs in the 50’s and 60’s. This might more be demographics as my father had high-school educated working class parents and my mothers were college educated, and working in education (my grandfather was superintendent of schools). I have heard very few stories of either sets of grandparents (my parents have never talked about family that much) but I do recall my dad saying my mom was driving my grandfathers old 2 stroke 96 when they met.
Not a lot of ‘furrin’ cars in the GTXcellent family.
Parents bought a brand new Opel Manta Rallye in 1971, traded that in on a new Volvo 242GT in 1975 (my first car ride home from the hospital). They kept that for 4 years until my little brother came along and they traded that in on a Pontiac Bonneville and haven’t had a foreign car since. My in-laws have NEVER owned a foreign car (although my FIL does have a Fiat diesel powered White Field-Boss tractor).
As for me personally, the first foreign car was our ’03 Miata (although the MiSSus bought a new Mitsubishi Galant before we were married) and our only other foreign ride was the ’06 Saab Aero.
Here’s a wild swap. In 1980, mother traded in her 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham for a new 1980 Volvo 244GL! After she was done with that, she got the most “foreign” American car of the era, a 1988 Eagle Premier LX.
This question is interesting and so far the answers are earlier then I would have guessed. I actually still know a few families that have never owned a foreign car. Most have a deep connection with one brand or another. GM families Ford families etc.
In my immediate family, my sister bought a Toyota Matrix in 2007 (she now drives a Renegade, which is basically a FIAT), and her husband currently has a VW Tiguan. My father-in-law has an Outback, but my parents, wife, and I have only ever driven American.
Always surrounded by foreign cars. My father’s first was an Opel in 1959. He replaced it after an accident with a 1959 VW Beetle convertible. Then he fell in love with a SAAB, but couldn’t decide if he wanted the uniqueness of it during long distant vacations, so he settled for a 1964 Beetle with a crank sunroof. During this time, our family cars were a Buick LeSabre, Oldsmobile Dynamic 88, a Pontiac Tempest and then a Ford Galaxie – my mother drove those.
As for me, I drove Valiants until I got Fords. I ended up with a need for an inexpensive pick up, and had a 1972 Toyota HiLux. I only drive US brands today. It is good for the environment and good for our economy.
Oh, man. In my dad’s retirement, my parents traded the most “American” of all cars on the road at that time, a ’92 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, for a new Nissan Altima. If the Ciera wasn’t my favorite, I hated the Altima for being smaller and even more boring than the Ciera. It was dead reliable, though, and they liked it. So it grew on me a little.
I almost wrote “1974 Toyota Hilux longbed”…my dad bought one new and in many ways it was impressive – even though the engine lasted less than two years!
ACTUALLY, our family’s first import came eight years before.
It was a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle. Dad owned it for a year, it got great gas mileage which helped with the 100-mile round trip to work that he was taking in those days. We owned it for a year and then it was traded for a ’65 Mercury Park Lane. By then dad had a company-furnished truck for that 100-mile drive.
BUT HERE’S THE POINT…
By 1966, at least in our neck of the woods north of Pittsburgh, Volkswagen – while we ALL KNEW its German origins and import status – had nevertheless so ingrained itself into the fabric of American Pop Culture that it seemed almost American. Even though it was so clearly different from everything else that was American.
In fact, VW seems more like an import to me today than it did back then.
A 1961 red Renault Dauphin supplied to my Dad by his job. He never seemed to keep jobs so this didn’t last long. It’s great advantage according to Mum was to warm up an apple pie on the rear shelf over the engine.
Given the tight circle drawn, I’ve got nothin’. Zip, zero, nada. If my siblings were drawn in, the ‘furrin invasion would be on.
My folks came close, to the point that I’ve actually had my body in the package shelf well of a VW Bug when my parents did a test drive. It would have been a first second car for my parents, but they didn’t pull the trigger. Oddly, for that brief pursuit of economy, their first second car was a Caprice that joined our LTD. Throw in my father’s frequent use of a company Delta 88, and we had a fleet of Shermans holding the battle line.
I’ve flirted with an Accord for one of my kids, and an Accord Sport for my wife and I, but the stars never quite aligned. I’m likely a bit of a unicorn at this point.
Edit: Opps, need a judgement call here; my folks briefly owned an Opel in Germany when my dad was in the service 1960-1961. Hmm, American car company – it was a ‘furrin car in Germany! And in the US!
Nope. Opel in Germany was absolutely considered a player on the home team!
Mom and Dad’s only new car was the 1958 VW Beetle in which I was brought home from hospital:
Mom drive the Chevy that replaced the Beetle in my post, and Dad bought a Very Used Hillman Husky for his DD.
1969 VW Beetle (w/autostick) in 1969. Fond memories of reversing the windshield washer, pumping up the spare tire (which powered the washer) and having fun with unsuspecting pedestrians in crosswalks at traffic lights.
Wow, this thread really took off!
My mother bought an ugly lemony Subaru in 1977 or ’78. She got an Accord in 1989 after her divorce from Satan.
She currently has an ancient but clean Toyota pickup. (Wyoming; no rust)
My wife and I started with nothing (and have most of it left) so in the beginning we got whatever we could. We got an Accord in ’94. An Accord in ’98, a Geo Metro in ’03. A Tercel in ’04. An Avalon around 2016.
My wife and I traded our spotless, but trouble-engine-prone 250 ci 6 cylinder ’69 Nova for a new ’71 VW Super Bug at Downtown LA Volkswagen. The VW had far better front seats than any of the few cars I’d owned at the time, altho that also included many new Oldsmobubbles and used cars I had sold by then.
My wife fell in love with that Super Bug, it was “personal” to her. We drove it all over L.A. and southern CA with “good” gas mileage for 1971. It was so loaded it even had a AM-FM stereo with cassette deck: the dealer had added everything they could to increa$e the VW’s limited gro$$.
Looking back on that already obsolete VW design, the also stagnant USA car designs certainly showed through with their 1940s vintage origins holding forth. No wonder VW Bugs sold like they did given their perceived quality over Detroit’s iron
It was the Japanese invasion that really managed to move the American market products forward; however Detroit seemed to fight better products every step of the way. It wasn’t until I bought my first Civic in 1988 that the dramatic differences in quality and driving dynamics really penetrated my awareness! OK….I’m a slow learner, despite RIDING Hondas since 1964! DFO
My Dad went temporarily foreign with a 1957 Volkswagen Beetle, after some older Chevrolets and a couple of Studebakers. For some reason I remember the VW’s license plate: California MFN368!! It was gold in colour, the “Gold Bug.” Gold was prestigious to that generation Chinese-American, along with outward appearance, which did not apply to that VW, but which we would see later.
Then followed Chevrolets as he aspired to climb the Sloan ladder, which he leapfrogged with a 1963 Cadillac, a splendid car followed by other Cadillacs, each more Chevrolet-like.
His next foreigner: a Mercedes-Benz W126 300SD Turbodiesel.
After decades of being a General Motors man he was turned off by a 1980 Chevrolet Citation and a 1979 Cadillac Eldorado Diesel. No more GM for him, and the Chinese-American in him placed value in “face,” or outward appearance. So he got a Mercedes, the big Diesel sedan…and he had not been put off Diesels, only the GM one.
His next “foreign” make vehicle: a 1998 Nissan Quest minivan, built in USA by Ford. He bought no more vehicles after that.
My brother bought a Honda Odyssey minivan to replace a Plymouth Voyager…it promptly ate its transmission, and it was not the first one; then to supplement it, a used Toyota Sienna on which the air conditioning never worked through a summer season. He went back to American after that, a fourth generation Ford Taurus.
For my family, it was a Datsun/Nissan 810 Maxima around 1981. It replaced a 79 Toronado. My father was an Oldsmobile man for at least a half dozen years before that. I can’t recall any real issues with the Toro, other than the low gas mileage. He had a daily drive from Livonia to downtown Detroit and his car was our routine errant car too. My mother’s Olds 98 was used much less.
The 810 was nice, and it talked! Quite a novelty in the neighborhood at the time. It was a good car but it was RWD which was a drawback in the winter, especially compared to the FWD Toro that it replaced.
My father bought a 1951 Morris Minor convertible used in about 1955. It was troublesome. It was his only foreign car. He kidded that it was his only car that ran on petrol. Our family being of English descent and England being on our side during the war made it seem not so foreign. A much more reliable 1952 Nash took its place.
Pretty sure it was this Renault 4CV around 1954. My parents were looking for something that used less gas than their 1950 Buick, and it did that. Who knows where they found a Renault in Tennessee, but it looks quite snazzy with the two-tone paint and yellow wheels.
It was the first of a long series of imports for my folks, who would not buy another domestic car until 1994.
My sister and I have no idea who it is in the picture.
Love that picture, and that two-tone paint job is fab.
Très belle! Quelles couleurs! I’m into tiny cars, and would love to have that one.
My dad got a brand new ’70 VW Beetle, white with a red interior. I hated that car because I was stuck in the back seat with no heat on those cold winter days, and the battery leaked acid all over the floor in the back with a constant, acrid nose-burning odor. He traded that in for a ’72 Vega, in which he and I both thought was a major upgrade, but promptly wrecked and totaled it before it had a chance to self-destruct. Then he got a Pinto which provided years of reliable, if very uncomfortable service. He bought only American cars from then on.
My parents shook their heads when I bought a ’80 Renault LeCar (my P6 Ford Taunus didn’t count as I was in Germany when I had it). For such a small (really small) car she rode like a dream. Later moving up to a Renault 18i, somewhat disappointing but still comfortable, and then on to several Alfa-Romeos, then Hyundais.
My dad had always owned American. Chevys, Buicks, Pontiacs, Plymouths, and an AMX that I remember. I figured it was curtains for the US auto industry whey my dad bought a ’90 or ’91 Honda Accord. He couldn’t believe the quality – something his trade in, a Pontiac 6000 sorely lacked – and went on to own Honda’s for the rest of his life. My daughter still has his last one, a ’99 Accord V6 coupe – still looking good and running well. Currently, if you would have told me I’d own two Chevys – a Spark and a Bolt – both electric I have told you that you were crazy but I do and I love ’em.
Imports entered our lives when Dad bought a ’60 Mercedes 190Db in 1966, replacing a ’52 Cadillac Series 62 sedan. What an about-face! But owning a Mercedes diesel had been a dream of his. The car had lots of good points–comfortable, great handling, put together well. On the other hand, there was that diesel, 1.9 liters of smoky, incredibly noisy sluggishness. I learned to drive in that thing.
When we met decades ago, my husband-to-be had a ’72 VW. It was a fun car, his first car, with an unpredictable electrical system that could leave one stranded. He never did figure out why it would fail suddenly. (He did have another car, a ’71 Impala Custom, given to him by his parents.) At the time, I had my first import, a ’77 Honda Accord. It followed a ’70 Torino Brougham.
In 1986, we bought an ’84 Mazda 626 to replace the Impala, which at about 150,000 miles decided to kill a cylinder.
1978 Volvo 242 DL purchased in 1980 to replace a 1977 Chevy Impala. My dad treated himself to a premium paint job (burgundy). As a gesture of goodwill, the guy who painted put a full tank in it. He thought DL meant “diesel.” Needed new engine.
Dad was a WWII vet, so Detroit iron was always in the driveway till he got burned with a 1984 Mercury Comet. Best of 12 MPG, interlock, warped brake discs, etc, etc, etc.
Replaced with a Toyota Corolla because he was duly impressed with his company car which was a Corolla as well as my Corolla (see below). Next car was a Nissan Maxima, then he settled back to Detroit with a Buick Century before he passed away.
I’m the flip of above: First a ’63 Beetle (so loved that car and the 1st in the family with a “foreign car”); ’69 Beetle (POS); ’75 Corolla (got me thru college); ’83 Cutlass (very nice with bucket seats); ’97 Camry (31 MPG @ 70 MPH on I-55); ’05 Escape AWD (great in the NY snow belt); ’12 Escape (Ok, but the ’05 was better).
TYPO above: Should been a “1974” Mercury Comet….it was still a POS…
A 1965 Opel Kadett A that my father bought that year as he needed a commuter car for his drive to Johns Hopkins. It was replaced in 1968 by a Dodge Dart, so we can assume he wasn’t overly happy with it, especially after it needed a valve job when it was less than three years old.
Minty fresh, though!
I was the first. in 1974, a new Audi Fox saloon
Plymouth Cricket. My mom drove one in 1980-1982.
Was born into it here, Dad had a 80 something Saab 900 and Mom had a 85 Jetta. So the story goes that got them out of American cars was the new 1982 Lynx that overheated and needed an engine replacement early in their ownership after visiting my grandparents who had just moved to Denver. After it was repaired they went to a VW dealer and my Mom got a Rabbit and my Dad got a Jetta GLI company car. I think he had a Taurus company car briefly thereafter but they were pretty solidly foreign car buyers after that. First Japanese car came in my lifetime though with the “Mercury” Villager(Nissan), and shortly thereafter my Dad got a Maxima
Short answer: 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit for myself. We were a loyal Chevy family up to that point.
Background: I had saved up about $1000 for my first car in 1975, which I thought would be enough for a 3-4 year old Oldsmobile Cutlass or equivalent. Unfortunately like rust, inflation never sleeps, and a grand would not be enough. I recall a ’68 Valiant being advertised for $800 in the classifieds, and didn’t want something that old 🙂
So I asked my mother if she could loan me another grand for my desired Cutlass. She emphatically didn’t want me to buy a used car (someone else’s problems and all that) and offered up enough to buy a new one! My choice was a VW Rabbit, which turned out to be a reliability disaster. No doubt that Cutlass would have been a better choice as it turned out.
Mine looked like this one (same color but was a 2-door).
my parents bought me a 1974 VW 412 in 1980 as a college commuting vehicle. What a mistake that was. Spent a fortune repairing it over the years in a classic case of bad money after good
Considering how bad my new Rabbit was in the reliability department, I can only shudder thinking about a 6-year-old 412!
My parents drove a Nash Metropolitan early in their life together. I think it replaced a late 1940s Studebaker. But those were family hand-me-downs. In 1956 they bought a new English Ford Consul. When that was totalled in a head on crash that my father walked away from with minor bruises, they bought a 1959 Zephyr. I guess he was impressed with English Fords. We’ve been a foreign car family for the most part with the exception of a new 1968 Checker Marathon and a year-old 1994 Dodge Caravan. After driving the aforementioned Checker for a few years I went through a couple of VW Rabbits. Now my blue 1993 Corolla wagon has worn out and I’ve got a new Forester on order. Blue of course.
My father was against buying foreign cars for fear of the scarcity of parts or access to service. We lived about an hour outside of NYC, and in the 70’s there weren’t a lot of dealers within a 15 miles radius, so I suppose it made some sense. He finally gave in when my mother fell in love with a 1982 Dodge (Mitsubishi) Challenger. He only relented because it was bought from his good friend’s dealership and it was branded as a Dodge. (He thought his clients and business associates expected him to own “mainstream” American cars, and nothing too flashy.) That Challenger was passed down to me a couple years later and Mom got a Conquest (also acceptable for the same reasons as above). Shortly thereafter a string of Jaguars ended up in our driveway. I never quite understood how Dad decided he could justify those considering his previous attitudes, but conspicuous consumption was in vogue by the late 80’s.
1956 English Ford Consul. Replaced by 1959 Zephyr.
Our first foreign car was an early 70s Suburu DL(?) four-door sedan bought around 1983. It replaced a Pinto that had the front seats held up with 2x4s. Dad needed something cheap (less than $500 as always) and I found it in an Auto Buyer’s Guide of some kind. He wasn’t sure about it, but the price was right. It was an odd looking car, but Dad ended up loving it until it too had tragic rust issues. My favorite recollection of it (other than being the first manual I tried to drive) was when Dad had to pick me up on a super cold Wisconsin night after a high school basketball game. He did not want me to take the Impala because it had a habit of stalling when cold out, but my friends and I convinced him it was an important game to see. Dad had to pick us up in that trusty Suburu. I remember being inside the Suburu and twice an inside door latche broke in my hand as I was trying to get out, both times leaving a very small part left on the door. That didn’t help my standing with Dad, but I laugh about it now. My first car was a 1979 Fiat Brava (131) which a couple people have mentioned as first cars. Got it in late 1986 and had it through college (1992 or so). I loved mine (warts and all) and continue to be a Fiat guy to this day.
My mom had a Renault Dauphine in 57 or 58. She fell victim to the swing axle suspension and rolled it one rainy day on a gravel road. Totalled it. My grandfather (her future father in law) made her go out driving the next day so she wouldn’t be afraid.
My parents stayed with small European cars for a long time – the next car was the Volvo P544 that brought me home from the hospital, followed by a Saab 95 2 stroke wagon.
When I was born my folks had a 1956 Olds Super 88 sedan, later replaced by a ’61 Buick Le Sabre sedan. When it came time to buy a second car, they got a ’63 Peugeot 403, which was traded in fairly quickly for the only used car they ever bought (’63 Olds 98 convertible) — about 180 degrees different from the 403.
We had a Renault Dauphine ca. 1960. The family’s primary car at the time was a ’53 Pontiac. My father once said, “I decided that there was no sense in having two of the big gas-eating monsters from Detroit.” Our dirt road beat it to death in a couple of years. I have memories of various American cars my family had around this time, and one of them would have been the replacement for the Renault, but I don’t remember which one.
My dad bought a new Dauphine in ’61. He was a Francophile, having landed on Omaha Beach on 9 June 1944 but spending most of his time in Le Havre. He felt sorry for the poor citizens of that city, many of whom had been bombed to death in September of that year, but was very impressed with the survivors’ determination to rebuild. He was also impressed with the ingenuity of the residents to keep their cars and vans going.
Gosh, lots of Dauphines here!
In 1958, my maternal grandmother significantly “helped” my parents buy mom a new ’58 VW Beetle. This being her first car, she had to learn to drive a manual transmission, and I wasn’t sure my parents relationship was going to survive this period. But learn it she did, and she was a good driver. In 1967, my grandmother then bought them a new ’67 Beetle to replace the ’58. Fortunately, mom was the one to teach me how to drive a manual transmission, and then my grandmother bought me a new ’71 Super Beetle.
In 1950, my paternal grandfather bought a new Hillman Minx. Even though this was in California, I bet they never mistook someone else’s car for their own in a parking lot.
Another ‘50’s Minx in California?! That was my parents’ first car there in 1953.
Yes, in the East Bay, even. I never remember seeing one myself, my grandparents Hillman was gone in ’55.
I remember my dad occasionally making light of the car over the years, but I only saw a photo of it for the first time a few years ago when I uploaded their family photos. It was red.
The more relevant question for me is what was the first non-foreign car, as my parents always had imports starting with their first car in 1953 until the last met it’s demise in 2010. My older sister’s first car was a Mk2 Cortina, a year before I bought my own first car, a Volvo 122S in 1975. But a year later I replaced the Volvo with my Vega, which came a few years before my sister moved to a farm and bought an F150 (F100?). Since the pickup, she’s owned one or two VW’s but mostly Japanese cars; I however have owned a Pontiac and two US-made Fords among mostly German and Japanese cars and light trucks. Today our fleet consists of two Mexican-built cars, a VW and a Tacoma, and a Missouri-built Ford Transit.
First in my family was dad’s ‘64 Karmann Ghia. It was purchased well-used around 1974 and needed an engine pretty much out of the gate. There weren’t any nearby VW dealers in our part of southeast Ohio, so he and my oldest brother rope-towed it about 100 miles to the one in New Philadelphia, Ohio using his ‘69 Chevy Impala. A factory rebuilt 1500 cc engine was installed and the Ghia performed admirably for several years on his 50 mile daily commute. It was first in a string of used VWs for him, but the rest were all Beetles.
My first foreign car was a rusted out ‘74 Datsun B-210 hatchback in the stereotypical butterscotch yellow hue. It was really a smoker when the engine was cold! I’m talking mosquito abatement level smoke! I worked for an auto parts store at the time and parts for old were cheap. Out came the engine for home brew hone and re-ring job. I had the head reconditioned by one of our machine shop customers. Afterwards, that little 1300 ran like a top . I got a couple of years out of it as a daily driver / winter beater until the left front shock tower separated due to the rust. I sometimes miss that little turd!
My mother had a thing for Opels. Never understood why. I have very dim memories of her green Kadett B 4-dr, which was replaced by an equally green Kadett D circa 1983.
She apparently knew Opel would be French-owned sooner or later…a remarkably prescient lady. Was it that Opel green that’s similar to the avocado hue that was sort of common on the W123?
My parents were early Honda adopters. Our ’67 Pontiac LeMans 2-door was replaced by a 1974 Honda Civic hatchback. I remember as a kid that other Civic drivers would honk their horn at us as they passed by. It was like joining a club. We could never have imagined back then that Honda would outlast the Pontiac brand.
The first foreign car in my family was my first car purchase.
I was a junior in High School. Bought a ’67 Bug in extremely decrepit condition from a co-worker at the restaurant I worked at. I have no real idea why I bought the thing…I knew it was a rolling wreck and the guy I bought it from was a total pot-head son of a Military contractor at the end of his contract, moving back to…Seattle, maybe. Boeing-brat, I think. I was young and stupid, and sick of driving a hand-me-down ’66 Biscayne 283 2-barrel/Potatoglide which I had named “The Pig”.
I paid $300 for the Bug (crazy money, considering the condition) during lunch break at school. Drove it back to school, went to a class or two. Left the school parking lot at end-of-the-day. As usual, the traffic was backed-up at the stop-sign at the end of the block. So I stopped at the end of the line of cars, and very soon a Pinto pulled up behind me, and stopped.
The guy behind him didn’t stop, in fact he was doing a burnout. He nailed the Pinto, who got shoved into me.
I owned that car for two hours and ten minutes before it was “totaled”. (The Pinto did not burst into flames.)
I had not bought insurance, and I had not told Mom I was buying a car at all. Of course, I was cited for failure to have insurance, but the other guy’s insurance gave me $210 for my car, which I kept. It cost $28 to get a body-shop to pull the fan out of the shroud, and that made it driveable although the bumper and engine cover were rumpled.
I sold that car to another guy at school during my Senior year after many problems including but not limited to having the engine stall because the distributor popped up out of the engine and quit turning. One day he’s late to class. We, as a class decided he was late because the Bug burned.
Turns out we were right. He shows up an hour late…”my car caught fire” was his excuse.
The Pot-head I bought it from had a saying:
[Mock German Accent]
Ve Germans iss ze zuperior race.
Ve haff ze blonde hair. Ve haff ze blue eyes. Undt ve has ze Folksvagens.
Undt everybody knows, two out uf three issn’t bad.”
[/Mock German Accent]
COTD here. I literally LOLed.
Are we counting cars our parents owned before we were born? My Dad had a Datsun 411 when he lived in Southern California in the early 1970s, I’m told, but that car was long gone by the time I was born. And he owned Honda motorcycles before that.
During my lifetime, the first would be a 1979 Corolla wagon, probably purchased in late ’79 or early ’80 (Dad probably got a deal on it because it was leftover from the previous model year). Which would mean be bought it just a few months before I was born.
Yes we are counting those, especially when it’s a Datsun 411! We don’t hold your youth against you, it’s not your fault.
My Dad finally switched from the domestics (besides his 2014 Mustang) to the Japanese brands in 2004, with his first Japanese car, an Acura RL. He still talks about that one, and loves the 2017 Accord that replaced his Mustang because it reminds him of his RL.
Prior to that he’s always owned mostly GM products, with the rare Chrysler and Ford exceptions. Ironically, his second Pontiac was an ’85 Grand Prix that was built in Canada. But per today’s rules, that car doesn’t count. Heck, his Acura cars over the years may not count either. Aren’t they built here in the USA now?
For me personally, it’s my 2016 Civic Coupe. Up until then, it has always been the domestics, although various wives over the years have had Japanese cars. My second wife’s ’84 Celica GT was a particularly fun car to drive. 😉
Acuras (and Hondas etc) count as they are a foreign brand (even though Acuras are labeled as Hondas elsewhere), doesn’t matter where it’s built for this exercise.
Interesting though that you do sort of consider them domestic, I don’t really disagree with that either. An Ohio-built Honda/Acura or Kentucky built Toyota Sienna that was probably designed mostly in the US does far more for the economy here (i.e. workers and their dollars to spend) than a Ford EcoSport from India or perhaps even a Mexico-built Ford Maverick or Bronco Sport etc. That’s just my opinion.
Not just your opinion, Jim. I agree completely. Wasn’t the Ford Fusion Mexican as well?
My “Japanese” Honda Civic was assembled in Canada, with an engine assembled here in the US.
Such is the way with our global economy. 😉
I started buying VWs and Renaults and Saabs and Morrises as soon as I had money. My parents were “liberals”, but for some reason didn’t follow the “liberal” fashion for foreign cars until very late in life when they finally got a Honda Accord.
My dad bought an 80 Saab in 81, which he drove for a couple of years before trading it in on a new 83 Oldsmobile 88. It was the first foreign car in the family that I can think of and the last for my dad who went back to American cars, but not the last in the family generally. Having a Saab in Dallas in the early 80s turned out to be a constant frustration in finding mechanics that were willing to work on it.
I also have a memory of him leaving me in the Saab parked at the curb while he went to attend to something at one of his rental houses. I promptly knocked the gear shift out of gear and the car rolled into the car parked in front of it.
2012 Acura MDX
My brother was the first “furin” car owner, bought a Honda, sometime in the 70’s. My dad and oldest brother were not impressed. Dad was a WWII vet and still held resentment of the Japanese and Germans.
My wife’s dad wasn’t a car nut but loved buying cars. Had been pretty solid GM guy working up the tree from Chevy to Buick and then Olds. One side trip to Ford for a loaded 84 T-Bird. After his fling with the Olds, 91 Tornado and similar vintage Olds 88 he bought his 1st Toyota, mid 90’s Camry, then a ’98 Avalon fllowed by three Lexus, last one was a 2010 GS350. My wife ended up with the T-Bird, 98 Avalon and the 2010 Lexus. The Avalon was bland and had some issues, crapped out struts and strut mounts at 11,000 miles, expensive failed heater controls. The Lexus was passed on to the daughter, wife had a 2010 Fusion Sport at the time and was not impressed with the Lexus.
My first was a 2008 VW GTI. Loved that car, DSG trans, what a fun car. Only regret was I didn’t put a thermostat in it, VW refused to replace it under warranty and I passed this car on to my son when I bought my F150. Its a darn good thing I don’t have a pole barn as a lot of cars I owned would otherwise still be here.
Every car we’ve ever owned was furrin, as we never had a DAF, Donkervoort, Spyker or anything that was built in a Dutch plant, like (these days) VDL Nedcar.
The first one was a mid-seventies, three-door Simca 1100. It was a seven-seater, sometimes.
Well sure. Our family of four plus my uncle, aunt and niece. My brother and I were sitting in the hatchback’s trunk. Enough drinks and snacks aboard too. Beekse Bergen here we come!
My 1989 Honda CRX. My first new car and still my favorite of all the cars I’ve owned. I would have kept it but it was eaten by rust.
Dad has a Lexus ES. His first foreign car. Mom is on her 5th Civic.
Well, it took over 90 posts for someone to say “Simca”…and Johannes didn’t grow up in the US 🙂
Simca 1000 for my family in Baltimore in 1964. The little car in my family was always foreign. This continued to be the case until my folks were done entirely with domestic cars by around the early 1980s, whereupon all of their cars were imports.
Western Canada: My dad bought a 1956 Porsche 356 before there was a dealer in the province, and later traded it for a new 1960 356 (which I still drive) when a dealer started selling them. When my older sister came along, mom wanted dad to have a more practical vehicle, so he repeated his theme a bought a Saab 850GT long before Saabs were sold in Canada. Dad didn’t always think practically but we always had cool cars.
That’s one extremely nice hand-me-down.
After Austins, a Hillman, a Jag and Fords, Dad bought an ex Demo Lancia Beta in 1975. Due to the rust the only option to replace it was another one. Which was worse.
After that his employer offered company cars which had to be British. He chose a Triumph Acclaim which was every bit as dull as the Honda it was. Then more Austins. It took almost 2 decades to go foreign again with a Citroen Xantia which piddled hydraulic fluid all its life. The Renaults were better. He has the Mercedes now that he should always have had. He’s 92.
Mum however never had a British car. 2 DAFs, a Fiat and now a VW Up.
I’ve had 1 British car out of 49. A Lotus with a Toyota engine…
I don’t think most British people now have any idea where cars come from – and that Ford is American
My Mum got a Peugeot 104 (previously seen on these pages) in 1980. My Dad got a VW Jetta in 1986, and neither had a British car again.
I sold my second Austin Metro in 1994; that was the last British assembled car (as opposed to a car with British built engine – Ford Focus) in the family until Big Brother bought a Jaguar F Pace in 2016. That was his first British car.
My Dad bought a 1953 VW Beetle, and picked it up “at the docks” in New Jersey immediately after it was driven off the boat. He switched back to domestic cars – primarily Fords and Mercuries – when the Beetle became too small for our growing family.
That ended in 1996 – in retirement – when Dad became frustrated with his experience with Ford products, and simply couldn’t stand the ugly “ovoid” Tauruses and Sables. At that point, he switched over to Honda Accords, which he continued to drive until he passed away in 2012.
As an Aussie, all our cars have been foreign owned.
Dad got a Morris Oxford in 1950; not sure whether that was imported or locally assembled.
Various aunts and uncles had Austin A30s in the fifties.
My wife had a locally-assembled Toyota when we married, followed by two locally-assembled Mitsubishis, then an imported one. You can throw in a ’10 Mini Cooper there too, not sure just where that was made.
My first imported purchase was a Mazda 3 in 2005, following two locally-assembled Fords.
My kids have always had imports; two Hondas, two Mitsubishis.
I assume your parents weren’t in the market for a car during the brief period when the Hartnett was in production, or they didn’t think it suited them. It wouldn’t have been my car of choice to drive across the Nullarbor Plain.
No way! 🙂 Dad’s business travels took him from Melbourne up to Far North Queensland on occasion. He’d rather trust a brand he knew than the then-unproven Holden.
I’ve often wondered what those long trips were like though – better than the 1927 Essex it replaced, I guess.
Before my immediate family were my immediate family, my mother’s parents bought an early (’50something) VW Beetle. They handed it down to my mother, who eventually cracked its engine block, thus eventually preventing my ever getting hold of those same grandparents’ loaded ’72 Dart.
Next one after that was my folks’ new ’90 Jetta.
Our first family car was my Mom’s well used Morris Minor convertible, soon replaced by a new ’56 MG Magnette ZA sedan when my kid sister was born. Dad then bought a ’59 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, which had the optional seatbelts at my Mom’s request. That car would be banished by Mom after an unfortunate incident involving said sister on the transmission tunnel “seating” position and several stitches to her forehead. So it was traded for our first and only sensible “foreign” car, a ’62 Chevy II. That car left such a lasting impression that the family went through a couple of Swedish and French cars before settling on Japanese cars. As you can imagine, I grew up reading Road & Track.
When we moved to upstate NY in 1968 my dad bought an Opel Kadett to commute back and forth to work. 6 months later, after it had spent 3 of those months in the shop, he traded it on a Pontiac. He never bought another import.
Before I was born, my mom had both a Fiat 500 (first car) and a Volvo (122?) Amazon (college car). My Dad had an Audi Fox when they met and after they got married, they bought a VW Rabbit. Not long after I was born my dad bought an Audi 4000s. So in my lifetime, the Audi 4000s and before me my mom’s Fiat 500.
My brother’s first foreign car was a Saab 9-3 Convertible and my first was my first car a Toyota 4Runner.
Coincidentally, I’m just making a list for my grandson of cars that I’ve owned. Definitely more European and Japanese names on the list. Very first car was 1960 Sunbeam Alpine – great fun for a 17 year old but needed lots of ongoing work. Still, I wouldn’t trade that experience. There was an interim 1956 Pontiac (winter beater) while the Alpine got some repairs. Followed by a 1957 VW Beetle that someone had hopped up. I’m guessing it made maybe 65 plus HP, pretty quick, and sounded great.
Then 1969 BMW 2002 – had to borrow ALL the money to buy it but at 19, it made so much sense. Loved that car too.
Lots of forgettable cars on my historical list, but the earliest and the quirkiest are the fondest memories.
The first foreign car I had was my very first car, a 1962 VW Beetle. I learned to drive stick on it, but it didn’t last through the first winder I had it. Great memories of that car, although I only had it for a short time.
I didn’t buy another foreign car until I got a 1998 Honda Accord, in 2005. My wife drove it, and then my son. It was succeeded by a Honda Civic.
I checked the rules to see if there was anything regarding owning the car or not. Consequently I would have two answers. The very first person to use a foreign car as a daily driver was me. A 1972 Audi Fox but it was a company car given to me to use for 12 months. OTOH my father chose, as his company car, a 1973 Porsche 911E Targa to use for two years before turning it in for a new Mercedes 450SL as a company car. The first family owned foreign car was my mother’s 1976 Audi 100LS. Not the most auspicious beginning you could say.
My father supposedly owned a Triumph sports car sometime in the early 80’s, but that was before my time. The first import that I saw in the family was a mid 80’s Toyota Tercel 4×4 wagon that my dad picked out around 1995-96. It was his daily driver for a couple of years before being replaced with a ’90 Escort GT. That was the last import any of the members of my immediate family has owned apart from myself. I picked up a ’92 Saab 900 in 2009. I’ve owned 16 other cars since then, half of which were from foreign brands.
I may owe my existence to my mom’s purchase of her first imported car. In the early 1960s, before I was born, my mom traded her Chevrolet for a Triumph TR3. She lived in the same apartment complex as my dad, and my (future) dad had noticed his fascinating neighbor and her sports car. They were both invited to a Christmas party by a neighbor in the apartment complex, and my dad started a conversation with my mom by asking her about her Triumph. The two of them hit it off, they began dating, and eventually married.
That would be me. 1974 Capri V6 four-speed. Was 14 years before my Mom went import, with an ‘88 Honda Accord LX sedan.
I was first in 1969 with a ’67 VW Beetle. Dad would have preferred a Corvair because he was a GM guy at the time, but in the end was ok with it.
My dad bought a Renault Dauphine in 1958, Followed by an Opel Rekord two years later. My dad lied strange cars, I recall a Henry J in the early fifties and also a bathtub Nash during the same time frame. Personally, the first car I owned was a Borgward Isabella sedan. I followed that with a Mini two years later, then various European cars for many years. Morris Minor, another Mini, Anglia with the reverse slant rear window, a number of Austins, Fiats, Cortina, Mazda station wagon,Since then all Hondas or Acuras, except now I have what is my last car a Ford Escape, 18 years old but holding up well and will never wear out as I drive less than 1000 miles a year. I live in a small town in the mountains of Mexico and mostly ride my motor scooter.
“Borgward” is an awesome answer!
My grandfather traded his finned 1961 Chrysler New Yorker for a new 1968 Mercedes-Benz 280SE, which surely must have made for a radical change when driving to the supermarket. We inherited the car from his estate about ten years later, but did not keep it for long, as it was by then rusty and maintenance costs were too high for my father to stomach.
For my parents, the first foreign car they actually bought was a new 1984 VW Rabbit diesel, which my father loved. After that, my parents never drove another domestic marque again, eventually settling into a long series of Toyota Camrys.
My first car was a 1984 Buick Regal, bought new. Since then, most of my cars have been German, Swedish or Japanese marques, but I have also owned three Fords.
My parents never had anything but GM cars after their first – a ’54 Ford. My father refused to even consider a Japanese car, as he’d fought in the Pacific in WWII; even after his GM x-car flipped ends on a rainy highway.
I bought my first foreign car in 1986 – a Honda Civic Si hatch. Still the best car I’ve ever owned. My father; classy guy that he was, never put me down for that purchase.
Plymouth Cricket (an automatic too), bought new by my dad for my mom. Probably around 1972/73. Replaced by a Honda Accord in 1976. The biggest memory of the Cricket was it’s inability to go up the driveway in D, had to use R. Am counting it as it was a captive import in Canada. The less said about it the better.
Never owned a foreign branded car. owned or own 8 GM products, 6 Chrysler products and 2 Ford Products. Flirted with buying an 85 Honda Accord but bought a used Chrysler instead and kept the 79 Mercury Marquis I would have traded in for. My parents only had one, a 76 VW Rabbit which was one of worst cars Dad ever had along with a 80 Citation and an 86 Taurus. My brothers family bought a used Mazda Miata in 2017 along with a Nissan Rogue and a Murano. He also has a 2013 Ram and a 2019 Jeep in the family fleet. My sisters family went foreign in 2004 with a Toyota Sienna. Have bought 2 Honda’s since. My last car purchase was a slightly used Chrysler 300 last year which is based on a Mercedes platform, screwed together in Canada and manufactured by a company controlled by the Italians. Love the car even if it is a mulato.
My mom traded the ’62 Olds dynamic 88 with a leaky front transmission seal, squeaky front end bushings and an insane thirst for gas for a 1st generation Civic in 1973.
Honda dealer gave her 50 bucks trade on a $2500 car.
It served her very well, thanks in part to a couple of ex-dealer mechanics in North San Jose, the Nakatsu brothers.
Next was my brother who got a 1978 Toyota 3/4 ton long bed brand new. He still has it.
My parents bought my brother a new Fiat 850 Sport Coupe for his 21st birthday, apparently because they had had (and loved) a Fiat in England just after WW2.
It clearly wasn’t happy in Nova Scotia. I’m probably exaggerating in saying that it had to be put down after a year, but you get the general idea. Maybe it was ‘sent to a farm’. Or maybe a kindly stranger put in on a freighter one night, so it could go home to sunny Italy. I like to think so.
My Dad bought a ’57 Bug around ’60. That’s the oval rear window, 36HP one. Drove it for 5 or 6 years until he moved to England. When he finally moved back to the States for good I think he always drove domestic, GM or Ford. But his second wife usually drove imported, Renault 16, which they both loved, a pair of Mitsubishi Gallants and I’m not sure what else. He had an assortment over the years especially in England/Europe, liked a 280SE, not sure which chassis or year, and a Chevy Caprice he bought in the early 80s returning to the US. But he just wasn’t much of a car guy. Actually there were a few he actively disliked, but mostly they were just appliances to him, some good, some bad.
Mom on the other hand never had any sort of imported car, during or after her marriage to my Dad. But she just kind of ended up with stuff, and she really only cared if it started and stopped, anything past that didn’t much matter.
Then there’s me who has only very briefly had a couple of domestic cars in many years of driving now.
My Dad’s first foreign car was a ’59 Beetle, bought used in 1966, as his first “2nd” car. He’d driven them before that; he was in the Army in Germany in early 50’s and was assigned a Beetle as needed; (also drove REO truck). No one else in his family ever had anything other than a domestic car, but my Dad could beat his own path; the ’59 Beetle was totalled in ’68 and he replaced it with a new Renault R10.
He had a series of Japanese cars ending in 1980 when he replaced his ’76 Subaru DL with a new Dodge Omni, after that he never owned another foreign car, only a series of full sized domestic sedans ending with his 2006 Impala. The “2nd” car went from being a small commuter to a regular family car as he got older.
His Dad had a Ford (Fairlane) and a Chevy (Biscayne). Neither of my grandmothers ever learned to drive (never felt the need). My other Grandfather passed away more than 55 years ago, but his only car was a new ’51 Chrysler Windsor semi automatic.
I’ve only owned foreign cars, and more specifically VWs, have been driving only them for going on 41 years; though never owned anything aircooled. Had a Datsun for 4 years of undergraduate study to round out my 48 years of driving.
I’ve only owned 4 cars in that time, I tend to keep them awhile (current car is ’00 Golf). Guess my Dad’s import ownership had a big effect on me, plus I prefer smaller cars, which have tended to be better as imports.
My Mother seems to prefer domestics; she had an ’88 Tempo, and when it was time to replace it we suggested some foreign makes but she had a strong domestic preference replacing it with a 2009 Focus. She doesn’t seem to hold my import ownership against me….she just stopped driving last year so doesn’t own any car anymore (her car was given to my sister).
My first car was an Austin a30 2door it had mechanical brakes to the rear wheels only and the wooden floor was missing on the passenger front.My next car was an NSU prinz 30 which had the 2cyld sport engine good for 80 mph extremely fast and reliable , my next car was an NSU Prinz 4 again very reliable but not as fast as the previous prinz, several NSU cars later I purchased a new NSU 110 it was a very fast 4cyld air cooled 1098cc engine again extremely reliable, 2 NSU TT cars later I purchased an NSU RO80 imported from Australia with camel skin leather but its rotary engine had been replaced with a heavy V4 Ford Zephyr engine which I replaced with a lighter German Ford Tanus engine.
My next car was a New Mazda 626 diesel very sluggish which i sold after one year and bought a one year old BMW 525i which was a beautiful car to drive , I traded it in after 6months and got 2 new Toyota Corolla 1.8 diesels in exchange which were extremely reliable and fast.
My next car was a 6month old Mercedes 300d which i purchased with internal fire damage from a smouldering cigarette in the ash tray, I purchased 11 thousand Pounds worth of parts and repaired it before selling it and emigrating To Western Australia in 1990 with my wife and 7 children.
I purchased a 2yr old Mercedes 230 in AUS it was way underpowered and was written off 2yrs later when it was rear impacted,
I replaced it with a 2yr old Mercedes 260 e which was a big improvement for a few years before i sold it a bought a new KIA Sorento 3.5 liter v6 4×4 wagon which was very reliable until I traded it in for a new KIA Stinger GT V6 3.3 Twin Turbo which i am presently driving at my ripe old age of 75.
I still have a 1967 NSU 1200 TT which I drive occasionally a 92 ford Fairlane 5.7 v8 and a 1990 Toyota 3.0 Cressida which i also drive occasionally.
As you can see i am addicted to cars , I hope I have not been too boring.
Boring? Not at all. Actually none of these responses have been boring but yours is particularly interesting, anyone who moves their entire (large) family halfway around the world in their 40’s or later is interesting, and the cars just add to it. There can’t be many people with both an NSU and a Cressida. Thanks!
First was a 1982 VW Scirocco. Kind of like a Honda Accord coupe of the day but nowhere near the reliability. I always thought it was a nice looking update to the original, but ohhh the troubles…. electrical gremlins / frequently blown fuses, a dashboard plastic split, and generally poor interior climate control. And then there was that single windshield wiper with the odd clearance pattern. Despite its flaws, it remained fun to drive and sold quickly 5 years after my purchase, probably for the same seductive reasons it appealed to me in the first place.
My paternal Grandfather purchased a new 1956 VW Beetle in a very appropriate salmon pink color. He was a fairly accomplished Civil Engineer who worked on some large (and small) dams in the northwestern US, as well as an aluminum reduction plant. He certainly could have afforded at least an Olds or a Buick, but was quite fond of the little German car’s engineering and economy of operation. I understand that the family embarked on a vacation from Montana to Disneyland in the car, and made it there and back unscathed… that was two adults and three children. He later had a 1966 Beetle, while Grandma got the luxury of a 1964 Falcon with a 170 and a 3 speed.
QoY really, sorry for the delay.
Short answer: a bathtub!
In 1961 my father bought his 3rd car.
The first 2 had been under-powered, overheating, rear-engined, slightly capricious cars made by the RNUR (Regie Nationale des Usines Renault): a 1957 (or 1956?) Renault 4cv, replaced in 1958 by a Renault Dauphine.
But the time was ripe.
In 1961, we, in France, were in a long economic expansion started in the late 40s (thanks again Marshall Plan!), and the Common Market (sans UK at that time) was now bringing its fruits.
So we did not get the typical French middle-class car: the Peugeot 404, we got a Ford Taunus ‘Badewanne’ P3 instead.
A base model, base engine, no extras: a no nothing model in gray.
My mother immediately nicknamed it ‘Moby Dick’, not sure my father ever got the whole meaning.
As kids, we were in 2 minds about it: yes, it brought us some bragging rights in the playground, but inside the car, it was a different story: It was a two-door model. “The car body is more rigid that way!”. Yeah, sure…
So we had to ask permission to board or leave ship.
And no windows to roll down, so in summer it was hard times at the back of the greenhouse.
On the picture, if it comes out right, if it comes out at all, my brother is reclining on it in the absence of the owner. We are on holidays, in France, 11 years later, in the middle of nowhere, exactly in the Aubrac, a beautiful place for trekking (and BTW, also the origin of the ‘aligot’, a delicious dish of potatoes and cheese, you have to try it if you have a chance).
The year after, I will get that car as a hand-me-down, but that’s COAL material, really.
My grandfather bought a Cadillac every three or fours years, like clockwork, from Casa de Cadillac in LA. In the late ’90s, he started to get disillusioned with the poor customer service. His last American car was a yellow ’96 or ’97 Eldorado. After that, he switched over to Lexus for the last decade of his life, and was much happier with their cars and service. When I turned 16, he proudly let me drive the family to lunch in his new ES-300.
Like many of the Greatest Generation, grandpa served faithfully in WWII and held no grudges against the Japanese. He was a very pragmatic man, and I think, like many who saw Cadillacs as a status symbol, realized that the tide had turned on the brand.
My Dad was driving Dodges/Chryslers/Plymouths primarily by the time I became of driving age (thus my nom de plume). He veered away for a while with a ’73 Corolla. A sister and a brother then had a succession of VW’s and Toyota’s, and a Honda. My sister’s early 90’s Accord coupe (which she finally sold a couple of years ago) so impressed Dad that he bought an ’89 SEi, and later, I got an ’89 LXi, my first purchase of car with mileage in excess of 100,000 miles! He went back to Chrysler, followed by a Mercedes-Benz, and his last car was a Chrysler 300. I own classic Mopars, a Chevrolet, and a Honda Fit. 🙂
My Dad, Uncles, and cousins all worked for the auto industry. My brother and I did also for 5-10 years. There were several auto assembly plants in the greater Bay Area. There was a Dodge plant in San Leandro, and GM had a plant there also, which later moved to Fremont. It became NUUMI, then finally Tesla. The Ford plant was in Milpitas and is now a shopping mall. My father’s side of the family was all UAW so they only bought American. My Mom’s youngest brother once bought a used Austin Healey back in the late 1960’s. It lost a knock off hub wheel one morning out by the Delta and my uncle’s enthusiasm for foreign makes disappeared. He later became a staunch Mopar fan. My Dad bought a couple of Corvairs, foreign enough for him. My Brother and I grew up riding Honda motorcycles, they seemed all American to us. My brother bought a new 1980 BMW 320I as a college graduation present for himself. I bought a used ’77 Coupe de Ville. Later, I bought a series of used Honda Civics and Datsun Z cars as second cars. I did buy a new ’90 Civic SI coupe, great car. One of the best I’ve ever owned. Lately I moved onto a series of used Jaguars, interesting and beautiful, but not nearly as reliable as my fleet of later model Fords.
A devotee of Detroit iron for years, I finally tired of the pitiful quality, reliability and propensity to disintegrate at 100,000 miles and bought a 2001 Acura TL. Haven’t considered an American vehicle since.
In my family that would be me. I bought a 1960 VW Beetle as my first car in 1966. My Dad deserves special mention. He was a Marine in the Pacific Front during WWII and at one point engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a Japanese soldier. My Dad was never a hater of any kind and he admired the Japanese for their bravery and technical skills. He was the first person at his plant to purchase a Japanese vehicle in 1974 – a new Datsun pickup – and received some criticism for it. The Datsun turned out to be a wise purchase as he got over 250K out of it and a co-worker bought the truck and got another 100K until the rust won out (though the motor and transmission were still fine). My Dad was still driving a Nissan product when he passed away in 2004 and I’m now on my fourth. He was a good and decent man who taught me so much and I still miss him.
Your dad sounds like he would have had a lot in common with my grandfather, whom I described a couple of entries up. A WWII vet, Grandpa was a progressive thinker and very intellectually curious, despite having never attended college. He was a self-made man who did well for himself and lived modestly, a new Caddy every few years being his only real status symbol. He was also a very stoic man, however, I never doubted his love and warmth for me and the rest of the family for a second.
THANK YOU for all the pictures ! .
The stories are great too, never ‘boring’ .
Pop’s went to Germany in 1954 and brought back a spanking new VW Kombi ~ this being the cheapest Passenger van VW made then .
At that time you had to pay over invoice and wait months to a year or go to Canada, his work took him overseas .
I remember riding above the engine . moms said it was a good reliable car that used an engine now and then (pops _loved_ lugging engines) , she said it was cheap and quick to have the dead engine replaced .
With six screaming brats in it I never thought it cold in New England .
Right about this time he also bought a 1937 Bentley St. James Coupe, another nice car I remember riding in, he scrapped it in the 1970’s when my idiot middle brother killed it .
Being on either coast in the 1960’s meant all manner of weird and (sometimes) wonderful imported vehicles, not only cars .
My Dad was a domestic car guy, so it was a bit of a surprise when we got a VW Beetle (don’t know the year, but likely from the 60s) in the late 1970s. I didn’t ask at the time, and my parents are gone now, so I’ll never know, but I think that Mom wanted it.
Though my siblings and I thought the car was cool looking, it was an impractical choice for us because our family had 4 kids. I don’t recall whether all 6 of us were ever in the car at once, but Mom and us kids (two of whom were teenagers at the time) made for tight fit, and adding a friend or two made it downright uncomfortable. We didn’t use seatbelts back then, so we just shoved everybody in somehow.
To add insults to injury, Mom smoked, and we lived in an area where the heater had trouble keeping up with winter. Spartan, crowded, cold, and stinky are my lasting impressions of that car.
Fortunately, yet sadly, it was gone before I got my license, so I never got to drive it. I remember it as being noisy and slow, perhaps because it was always overloaded with human cargo.
That was the only foreign (by the criteria laid out by the original poster) car to ever grace the driveway of my family of origin. My personal first was a 1990 VW Golf, purchased in 96, since succeeded by Subarus.
I’m in the US. I was the 1st in my family. I bought a new 1979 Fiat Strada (Ritmo). My 1st new car. Owned it for 11 years in Wisconsin and Michigan. It survived all the Winters I owned it although the last couple were getting sketchy.
The first imported vehicle in my family was a 1976 Chevy LUV my dad bought in about 1988 and later replaced with a Ford Courier. My wife and I have only owned GM or Ford US built vehicles in the 24 years we’ve been married. Currently a 2000 Chevy Tahoe, ’02 Pontiac Sunfire and ’79 GMC Sierra Grande
In 1973 I bought a new Datsun 1200 sedan exactly like the one shown, though this is not the actual car. To this day, I am the only one in my immediate family ever to have bought “furrin”.
My parents bought a used 1966 Mercedes 250S in 1969 as replacement for a Plymouth Valiant, their next US brand car was my mother’s 1994 Saturn SL2, and so far the last.
My first three cars were Volkswagens, then we bought a used Ford Ranger in 1992, a new Ranger in 93 and a used Ford Escort in 97 to replace my Jetta. This made us the only US car owners in the family for many years.
Our first foreign car was a 1951 Riley RM 2.5 liter sedan, bought used from, I think, Clarence Talley in Dallas. I suspect it was in my father’s mind as close to a ’34 Ford as he could hope to get. We were still a one-car family and the Riley and my mother were not really compatible so it didn’t stay around nearly long enough. Had the 1953 Plymouth station wagon bought not so long afterward been available things might have been different. I still have the owner’s manual and a screwdriver from the tool kit. The manual is interesting in that it clearly believed a Riley owner would want to take that hemi head off to lap the valves at the stated intervals.