Hooniverse Asks: What is the First Thing You Remember Ever Driving?

kid bird
My earliest memory is of Christmas after I had just turned four. I recall my mom and dad tucking me into bed and telling me to go to sleep so Santa would come, but I don’t remember what the jolly fat man (my dad) brought me that year. I do remember that just a few short years later was when I got my first “vehicle” as a Christmas present. It was a Big Wheel and I remember feeling so big when I eventually lifted the backrest out of the first slots on the seat and slid them into the next ones back.
That was the first vehicle I ever controlled by myself. We didn’t have those indoor baby romper devices that make pre-walkers a terror around hard-floored surfaces so I had to take my first rolls out on the driveway and down the sidewalk. I don’t think anybody even gave me any directions on how to use it – how to stop when a car was backing our of a driveway ahead, or how to turn it without dumping myself out on the concrete. They just let me figure that out on my own.
Our first vehicles are memorable as they represent one step to freedom and independence. And, seeing as how we are celebrating our Independence Day here in the U.S. on Monday I thought it might be nice for us all to share what was the first time that we felt that liberty. What is the first thing that you remember ever riding or driving when you were a kid?
Image: Jalopy Journal

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  1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    I had a Big Wheel, as well. It was an oddly creepy Big Wheel, looking back on it.
    I also have memories of “driving” one of these.

    1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
      Wayne Moyer

      I was going to post the same thing. Mine wasn’t a Muppet Show one though. I wore the rear wheels off of it.

      1. NapoleonSolo Avatar

        We didn’t have big plastic toys when I was that age…
        The telephones were made out of bakelite (also known as polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride).
        Any color you wanted, as long as it was black.

  2. GTXcellent Avatar

    I can remember riding trikes, and bikes, but that’s riding, not driving.
    The first vehicle I ever drove, was my dad’s 1972 Polaris Charger 295. Free-air, twin cylinder. I wasn’t allowed to leave the yard, and I wasn’t allowed to drive fast, so I just putted slowly around and around in a circle, but it was still driving. and I was FREE!

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      The only other vehicle influenced by the frontal styling of the US market Citroen SM?

  3. Kiefmo Avatar

    I only vaguely remember it being mine before handing it down to my brother in favor of a two-wheeler with training wheels, but my parents have photographic proof that I did get around on a Radio Flyer trike for a while, at least.
    Motorized, it was one of these. I’m pretty sure the battery charge lasted about 3 minutes. By contrast, I feel like the little electric buggy my kids have these days will go for a solid half hour of nonstop use.
    Under the power of gasoline, my first drive was my neighbor’s four-wheeler, an ancient LT125, very similar to this, except with racks front and rear, and a gun rack across the handlebars. Pretty sure her dad used it for hunting before handing it down. He had a Honda Fourtrax 300 that seemed like a beast by comparison.
    When I was twelve, I got behind the wheel of a real vehicle for the first time. My dad and I were getting the family boat out of the water, and the ramp was crowded. He wanted to keep packing up the various loose items on the boat, and decided that I could handle driving the truck and trailer up into a parking spot while he did so. It was a 1989 K5 Blazer Silverado, practically identical to this one in color, wheels, and the lack of sliders on the rear side windows. The 350 tugged the Bayliner Capri 1950 out of the water barely above idle, and I managed to move the whole deal into a parking space without hitting anything. I think my heart rate must have been over 200bpm with the adrenaline.

    1. Van_Sarockin Avatar

      Same for me with the trike.

  4. 0A5599 Avatar

    First “vehicle” was a metal firetruck, which my parents got used when it was probably already nearing antique status. I remember the pedals went back and forth instead of around in circles, and it confused me that sometimes pushing the left pedal first would result in forward motion and other times reverse motion.
    When we were maybe six years old, my dad would let us steer the car from his lap when we were on road trips and away from traffic. He drove an enormous Fleetwood Cadillac then.

  5. onrails Avatar

    One Memorial Day after watching the Indy 500 on a tiny little black and white TV I took the sides off of our wagon and conned my little sister into being the ‘engine’ and we did laps around the driveway for what I think was a fairly long time. Pit stops were handled by skidding to a stop in front of the porch and using a pitcher and a funnel to fill me up with water. Jeans and dad’s motorcycle helmet were added after a couple of rollovers. Guessing by the picture and the gullibility of my sister, I was around 7 or 8 years old.

  6. P161911 Avatar

    Before driving my grandpa’s Toyota truck, before the Masey Ferguson tractor, before driving the boat, before the Huffy Bandit bike, before the Big Wheel, there was this little guy. https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRC2EaThjGCaeWlvW-sHslUjJ_BW37WCN-mK3lzk09oqj9qQ1oj
    My earliest memory of my own wheels.

  7. Mister Sterling Avatar
    Mister Sterling

    My student driver car in June 1990 was a 1990 Chevy Cavalier Z24. Teal outside and all gray inside. It even had a speakerphone so my instructor could keep in touch with her husband. This was Brockton / Stoughton / Easton / Whitman Massachusetts. My dad’s car was a 1984 E80 Toyota Corolla sedan, and by August 1990 he was OK with me driving it. I miss it now, but it was pretty poor handler.

  8. Wayne Moyer Avatar
    Wayne Moyer

    Seven replies and not a single “The first thing I remember driving was Your Mom” in here? I’m disappointed guys.

    1. onrails Avatar

      GTXcellent got us all confused with word usage on the riding vs. driving comment above. Otherwise, we’d have been all over it. Next time…

  9. irishzombieman Avatar

    Honda 50 mini bike. Dear Lord, what a time we had on that thing. Some farmer friends got one for Christmas when I was maybe 9 years old and had an 80-acre alfalfa field–plowed for the winter–for a back yard. We froze our butts off but I betcha we put 200 hours on that bike over Christmas break.

    View post on imgur.com

  10. Sjalabais Avatar

    This was my life’s pride until I tried to help my mom put it away by riding it down the basement stairs. Oddly, I can’t remember to get harmed at all, but the pedal car was bent into oblivion (ground zero for my fondness for Volvos?).
    Actual driving: The driving school’s Passat. The fate of the law abiding parents’ kid.

    1. GTXcellent Avatar

      You were a stair victim too? I was too young to remember this happening, but apparently I thought it was a swell idea to ride my tricycle down the stairs. Probably broke my collarbone, but my folks decided I wasn’t hurt bad enough to warrant medical attention (I can still feel a largish lump on my right clavicle – thanks Dad)

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Ouch. I’m not surprised that this isn’t an isolated case – today, these vehicles might be delivered with a “don’t ride down stairs”-sticker.
        The unachievable dream every one of us kids had was a GAZ or Moskovich pedal car. Never saw one as a kid:

  11. Professor Lavahot Avatar
    Professor Lavahot

    The “Chaparral Cars” at Six Flags Over Texas and/or Astroworld:
    You’re not really driving, the cars will idle themselves through the course unassisted, steering via the track in the road, but as a kid it was a divine experience.
    As an adult, I can’t believe my parents were willing to (A) go to Astroworld in a Houston summer, and (B) then take me on the ride with the heaviest exhaust fumes.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      Yes, those! At Six Flags over Texas, they also had sports cars, on a second track. The last time I was there (a couple of years ago), the Chaparral cars were using Honda vee-twin garden tractor engines, and burning propane for fuel. The exhaust isn’t nearly as bad as they were when running on gasoline.

      1. Professor Lavahot Avatar
        Professor Lavahot

        A lot of people don’t know this, but for a brief period in the early 19th century, Texas was governed by Batman.

    2. 0A5599 Avatar

      They didn’t need steering, but did need someone to step on the accelerator to make them move. They stayed at idle during loading and unloading.

    3. Rudy™ Avatar

      Cedar Point still has this sort of ride today: https://www.cedarpoint.com/rides/Family-Rides/Antique-Cars I have a picture of me “driving” one of those cars, decades ago when I was a mere kidlet of a person.

  12. Ross Ballot Avatar
    Ross Ballot

    The first “car” I drove alone was a bright yellow Power Wheels Jeep. My dad made me a rock pile in the backyard, and I would drive that thing until the battery died every single day until I outgrew it. Absolutely an influence on my life-long automotive enthusiasm, and something I’ll unquestionably have my kid(s) driving around someday.
    Some years later the first actual car I drove was my dad’s 1989 Jeep YJ. Of course I was still way underage, so I sat on my dad’s lap and steered while he did the gas/brake/clutch. That beat-to-hell Wrangler still holds a place in my heart, and I credit it and the Power Wheels to much of why I’m such a Jeep fan today.

  13. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
    dead_elvis, inc.

    When I was 7 or 8, my grandfather thought I was big enough to move my gram’s ’72 Torino around in the driveway – get it out of his way when backing the boat trailer into the garage, etc. This was fun, and went without incident for most of that summer. That came to an end after he asked me to put the Torino in the garage, and I accidentally parked by Braille, running the entire right side of the car along the garage door opening.
    Wasn’t until I was 13 that he asked me to drive him around town in his Bronco II (presumably so he could concentrate on the large Scotch on the rocks he carried with him at all times upon retirement).

  14. longrooffan Avatar

    Although this olelongrooffan is sure there is a trike in there somewhere, the first vehicles I remember riding/driving were as follows:
    first motorbike
    first bike
    first four wheeled vehicle
    first tractor
    first four wheeled street legal vehicle
    all before the age of 12.

  15. theskitter Avatar

    I think the ERTL garbage truck came first. I say driving because I wasn’t sitting and pushing it back and forth. I was hands-on-cargo-box-stood-up-behind-RUNNING laps around the house and the porch. At daycare, I would thread it at high speed, disruptively but not destructively, through tea parties set up on the racing line. A LEGO truck followed soon after, with wheels that actually steered (!), requiring a lighter touch.

  16. dukeisduke Avatar

    For me, it was a steel Radio Flyer wagon, until I moved up to a bicycle at age eight. The first car I drove (or attempted to drive) was a ’71 Vega with a three-on-the-floor, when I was thirteen. This was with the owner in the passenger seat, at a house out in the country, not on a public road.

  17. Tiller188 Avatar

    Probably doesn’t quite count as driving, but it did for young me at the time:
    Additionally, that’s necessary background to explain why I find this so funny and yet endearing:

    View post on imgur.com

  18. Cool_Cadillac_Cat Avatar

    First motorized vehicle, a ’67 Doge A-108 Sportsman, so the window version. I was probably 8…I think. I know pushing down the clutch, and those were vertical pedals, was what I needed to overcome with my own mass.
    Damaged said truck on that drive, too…which I regretted, later, when I went to restore it.
    First motorized two-wheeler, a beat-to-absolute-shite Puch moped. Was soon replaced by a 1980 Honda C70, cost $0, that was an awesome machine. Still want a CT110, 1986, because nostalgia.

  19. Frank T. Cat Avatar
    Frank T. Cat

    My mom’s boyfriend’s brown 1986 Toyota 4×4 Pickup. I was sitting on his lap, and he let me use the steering wheel, very slowly, down a dirt back road. I think I was three at the time.

  20. Alff Avatar

    I don’t remember it, but Dad sold Chevrolets. I have photographic proof that my first ride was a Split-window Corvette pedal car, a promotional item sent to dealers and given to me when I was two. Wish I still had it.

  21. NapoleonSolo Avatar

    I’ll stick with my first car driving experience: 1961 Renault Dauphine. We did build “hot rods” out of wood and baby carriage wheels and careen down hills (which reminds me of my first snow sled still in my basement – REALLY old Flexible Flyer without even Fifties safety features).

  22. Rudy™ Avatar

    First “vehicle” for me had to be the trike, with the wagon a close second.
    As for actually driving something, I had a go-kart as a teen, something it took my dad years to put an engine on. And because he was too cheap to buy a centrifugal clutch, rigged up some nonsense with pulleys, v-belts and a shifter to engage it all, everything (including the engine) sourced from an old Diamond Rio riding lawn mower my grandfather had. It often worked, and it really flew when I’d put belt dressing on the belts. Got busted by the cops once (“next time we see you on it, we’ll impound it”), and I rolled it in the street once, since the engine was mounted off to one side and I made a sharp turn in the wrong direction. I luckily jumped off in time, but the kart was none the worse for wear aside from some oil loss.
    As for cars, my folks used to head out on Friday nights to play tennis, so when we were 14 or so, my buddy would come over and we’d sneak out the ’71 LeSabre for a ride around the block. Luckily nothing bad ever happened there…but we still worried about it, parking the car exactly in the same position we found it in.