E3 Spark Plugs Recommends “My First Car??? – Classic Coming-of-Age Stories of Famous Drivers

Legendary automotive designer Dean Jeffries gets a little distracted while repainting his first car, a 1947 Mercury convertible. Photo from the Dean Jeffries Collection for Matt Stone's new book, "My First Car."

Everybody remembers their first. Their first car, that is. In fact, not much conjures up sweet nostalgia like retelling a story of the set of wheels that marked the beginning of freedom. That’s why we here at E3 Spark Plugs so enjoyed reading Matt Stone’s My First Car, a 224-page hardbound book packed with 124 photos and stories that’ll make you laugh, cry and reminisce.

There’s probably no other rite of passage that teenagers look forward to more than holding the keys to their first car. In My First Car, Stone retells the automotive initiations of some of the world’s most recognized names. Hollywood actors, automotive industry giants, racing greats and pro athletes share both poignant stories and early photographs of their first rides. Among them is iconic actor and auto collector Steve McQueen, the original King of Cool. McQueen’s first motorized thing he could call his own was an Indian motorcycled outfitted with a sidecar.  But what he coveted was an MT TC. During a Columbus, Ohio stop for his off-Broadway play Time Out for Ginger, McQueen spotted a 1948 MG with a $750 price tag. But this was long before McQueen hit fame, and he had all of $450 in pay and poker winnings with him.

“I put down $450 … and I told the owner I’d send more money from each overnight stop we made,” McQueen tells Stone. “It was finally delivered to me in Chicago. That’s when I asked for a raise and got booted out of the play. So, I jumped into my MG and drove it all the way to New York.”

The love story didn’t last long. McQueen sold his MG after three axles broke and the spokes kept shredding out of the wire wheels. He decided to stick with cycles for a while. Fate at play, perhaps? Otherwise, we might not have that infamous Triumph TR6 Trophy getaway scene from The Great Escape.

Other samplings from My First Car:

  • Hugh Hefner’s 1941 Chevy Coupe that “reminds [him] of the car Columbo used to drive” and that died in the middle of the road on the very day that Playboy first hit the stands.
  • Andy Warhol’s used Rolls-Royce, in which he collided with a taxi while learning to drive at 56 years old.
  • Mario Andretti’s 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop in bright red with a white top, which the family landed in part because a teenage Andretti convinced his father that the louder pipes helped save gas.
  • Sir Sterling Moss’ three-wheeled 1936 Morgan, which he initially drove illegally (just shy of his 16th birthday – the legal driving age in England at the time) and mounted a box on the back for his pet ferret.

Moss is quick to point out the top enduring benefit for a young man with a great ride.

“The great thing about having a car was that you could pick up the crumpet [girls] a lot easier than if you had a bicycle, of course,” he says, though he admits that his first ride was a bit rudimentary. “It was quite useful from that standpoint.”

In all, 67 famous drivers share their stories. No doubt, this book also has prompted many a conversation about readers’ first cars. What’s your first car story? E3 Spark Plugs, makers of the most energy efficient and eco-friendly car spark plugs on the market, want to hear it. Post your story and photo on our Facebook fan page.