When a boomer’s dad bought a new used car

Baby boomers are the first generation for which a family car was a given. For most of us anyway. And as Lucy Iscaro of White Plains, New York, explains, getting one used to be a pretty big occasion.

I bought a new car this week.

Go ahead and yawn. I know it’s no big deal. But that’s exactly my point: I bought the 2017 model, which looks almost identical to the 2016 model, which was a clone of the 2015 model.

Lucy Iscaro with her new vehicle.

Lucy Iscaro with her new vehicle.

It was very different in my childhood. My parents never bought a new car right off the assembly line. Each car they got was used; the term “pre-owned” hadn’t been coined yet. Dad said he wanted the car to be broken in, as if it were a tight leather shoe or a spirited horse.

He’d only buy a newer used model, always an Oldsmobile, when the older used car needed extensive repairs. If a great trade-in opportunity was coming in, Murray the used car salesman would alert Dad. I remember being with my parents once when they went to look at one of Murray’s picks. He was like a marriage broker making chrome and steel love matches.

Lucy's dad with his Olds.

Lucy’s dad with his treasured Olds.

“I know the lady who drove it. Her husband is a big shot. He buys her a new car every three years.” His whisper was conspiratorial.

Nudging my father closer, his voice became deeper. He spoke slowly, enunciating each syllable as he assured us, “It’s a cream-puff!”

not-your-fathers-oldsmobile-702x1024I was an adult before I learned that a cream puff was also a pastry and not only a gently used car.

The vehicle shone in the sun. It was only three years old, much newer than our standard family transportation. And, it was two-toned! I thought it was beautiful. The roof and hood were gleaming white and the trunk and rear were summer sky blue. The two colors were gracefully bordered by a deep Vee of chrome.

The adults went off to talk about financing and I wandered into the new car showroom. This was where I knew the rich people went to buy the vehicles they parked in their built-in garages and landscaped driveways.

I daydreamed as I touched the cold metal of the unattainable. Especially the white convertible that was showcased in the center of the showroom. It boasted the luxurious features of leather seats, automatic windows, and air-conditioning. When my father found me gazing at this wonder he said something like, ”Marry a millionaire.”

The day Dad drove his new used car, the cream puff, into our narrow driveway, he tooted the horn for us to come out and take our first ride. Our neighbors called out to us as we rode by. “Wow. Hoo-hah! Nice. It’s a beauty. Drive in good health.”

It wasn’t every day that someone on our block got a new car. Even a new used one. It was an occasion.

I know that when I cruise up my own landscaped driveway and park in my own built-in garage, my neighbors won’t even notice, let alone mark the occasion.

But I will. It’s not every day I buy a new car.


  1. That was a great event in my life too! (love the new smell)
    And, after the shiny-new wore off.. it was my job to wash the car!
    But the biggest day of my life to this day..was when we got a color tv. Wowsa!! (wedding day second)

    1. Hi Bob. You’re giving me an idea for another piece! Thanks for the feedback and taking the time to leave a comment.

  2. Lucy you have reminded me of when my mom and dad showed up in families new blue and white 1956 Chevy station wagon. Now you have me singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet” Thanks for sharing, made my day!

  3. Thank you for the sweet article. I remember when my Dad got his first “brand new” car in the early 70’s. It was a bright red Ford Fairlane and he was over the Moon about having his first new car. He couldn’t wait to take me for a drive. It’s one of my favorite memories.

  4. Being a year or two over the Boomer age limit must explain why we never consider buying a brand new car. We always buy new second hand!

  5. That was a great article. I remember when my mom got her first car (all by herself!) while my dad was traveling. It was a Ford Fairlane, maroon color, forget the year but it was brand new. She was going to drive it to the insurance company to get it insured but the wise salesman insisted he make a call and get it insured before she even took it off the lot. He told Mom one customer wrecked their car as soon as they drove it away, uninsured. Those were the days. My mom praised the salesman to us kids as she drove away in her new car. . .

  6. Such a fun walk down memory lane ! My uncle, whom I adored, bought a new Pontiac convertible every three years. Such beautiful cars. Cars were such an integral part of identity then. I don’t know if that is so now.

  7. Hi Lucy
    Thanks for the memory! My dad was a mechanic and owned his own gas station (Mobil with the flying red horse). When a customer of his had a used Buick (he loved Buicks) cream puff for sale, he would trade his older cream puff (always with his own mechanic’s waranty) for a newer one. The first ride in the back seat of the “new” car was always exciting for my sister and me.

  8. Lucy, loved this piece. Cars are losing their “thing” today. There are so many other boy toys today, though I shouldn’t be sexist about this, my daughter-in-law learned everything about cars from her car-rebuilding dad and just adores them. But it won’t last another generation.

    1. Hi Marlena
      We take our cars for granted. They are just like all our everyday conveniences that were once thought to be luxuries in the past. My grandchildren wren’t wowed by giant refrigerators and ice makers because they didn’t grow up in a house with a tiny ice box. They all have computers and smart phones and don’t even know what the term “dial” means.

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