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OC HIGH / STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : 'My First Car' : It's not the make or model that matters. Mobility is memorable because it's the key to freedom.

July 29, 1994|JOSLIN GEMSCH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES: Joslin Gemsch will be a senior this fall at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo

The first car is a rite of passage to young adulthood. Forget being chauffeured by your parents--a first automobile is the symbol of freedom. These teen-age tickets to independence can be anything from the fixed-up junker or shared family car to a sparkling new convertible. No matter what form, the first car is an experience not to be forgotten.

Bug-eyed

Nancy Troia's search for a car began on a San Juan Capistrano street. Parked along the curb was a faded, evergreen-colored 1964 Volkswagen Bug.

"To me it was beautiful. It's a classic. To the average eye it looked like it belonged on the side of the street with cobwebs on it," said the 17-year-old senior at Capistrano Valley High School.

Nancy and her older brother, who has his own car, purchased the Bug for $700. "The car had potential," Nancy said. "It needed to be on steroids."

The brother-and-sister team began a restoration process that lasted more than a year. The two sometimes worked eight hours a day, fixing the classic car inside and out. The electrical system was converted from six-volt to 12; body holes were filled with fiberglass; windows were replaced and tinted; new carpet and a racing shifter were installed.

But what Nancy is most proud of is the paint job. "We redid the entire body. We filled the dents and put primer over that. Then we block-sanded it and applied wax and grease remover," she said. Then brother and sister applied five coats of polyurethane paint that transformed the evergreen Volkswagen to a mirror-finished raspberry pink.

"I'll keep this experience for a lifetime. It gives me a real sense of accomplishment to know that I created something out of nothing by age 16," Nancy said.

Nancy said she likes the fact that people identify her with her car. "People always say, 'Oh, you're the girl with the pink Bug!' "

Nancy developed a personal bond with her car during the restoration. "I think my car is a 'he,' " she said. "I can burn-out in it, and I can four-wheel and it will still start up the next morning. It's a trooper. We call it Little Champ."

First Again

Chris Grisanti's 1968 red Chevy Camaro is an operating piece of history. Not only is his car a reminder of the older models of this classic automobile, it is a family heirloom. The Camaro was also his mother's first car.

"I didn't think I was going to get the Camaro. I just came home one day, and my parents said 'You can have it,' " recalls the 17-year-old senior at Capistrano Valley High School.

Chris doesn't plan to pass the Camaro on to his children, though. "I don't think my mom would ever let the car out of her sight," he explained.

In the meantime, Chris uses a strategy to keep the vehicle as true to its original condition as possible. "I try to keep the car away from falling objects; you know--boulders," he joked. He cleans and waxes the car regularly and never allows other people to drive it. "Everyone can get a new car, but it takes effort and patience to maintain a vintage car," he said.

Chris' maintenance has paid off. People have pulled up next to his car to admire it and ask him questions.

Despite his protective measures, Chris still succumbs to the urge to flaunt the Camaro's powerful engine. When asked what is the fastest he has ever driven, he responded: "The needle stops at 120."

Twin Trucks

Identical twins are mirror images of each other. And Matt and Trent Aronson don't seem to mind carrying their similarities beyond their looks.

They are twins with trucks. Matt drives a brown 1991 Ford; Trent navigates a black 1992 Ford F150.

"We both wanted trucks," Matt said about the coincidence. "It just turned out that way," Trent added.

The twins' father bought the trucks for his sons, and, although they don't own the vehicles, Matt and Trent have access to the trucks most of the time.

Although the 16-year-olds are juniors at Capistrano Valley High School, they each needed a vehicle. Trent's football and volleyball schedules conflict with Matt's cross-country and volleyball practices.

"We are both doing opposite things at opposite times, all the time," Trent said.

While Matt's favorite thing about his truck is its appearance, Trent enjoys his roomy, full-sized cab.

Who's truck is better? "I think mine is," Matt immediately responded. "It is bigger, and it has a better engine, and I think it looks better."

"I like mine better," Trent countered. "My truck is a stick (shift), and his is an automatic. I like to feel the power."

Borrowed Time

You don't catch Robin Benway begging to take her mother's 1990, ocean-blue Ford Aerostar minivan out for a spin on Saturday night, but rest of the week it gets her where she wants to go.

The 17-year-old senior at Laguna Hills High School runs family errands and shuttle service in exchange for having access to the minivan most of the time.

Robin wouldn't mind having a car of her own. "I would be thrilled, ecstatic and emotionally exalted by the happiness in my heart and soul," she said.

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