What Was Your Driver’s Ed Car?

Ah driver’s education. That first taste of the open road for so many American teens. A microcosm of poor teaching, hard braking, tense moments and shitty cars.

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I want to know, do you remember your driver’s ed car? Did anything comical happen during your classes? I’m pretty sure this topic is ripe with comedic gold!

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Me? Oh yeah I member. It was a 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier. Added bonus: it was the sedan version. In my humble opinion Chevrolet never produced a good looking four door version of the Cavalier over its surprisingly long 34 year life span. The 1995+ model was the epitome of horrible design execution in the 90’s and we all had to suffer by looking at it.

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Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t have a fondness for the Cavalier. On the contrary I owned a 2002 Z24, the last of the Z24’s to be exact, with a 2.4 liter DOHC engine mated to a wonderful F23 Getrag 5-speed manual. That was the last year for the 2.4 which was a revamped version of the of GM’s troubled Quad-4 engine that kicked out a then respectable 150 hp.

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But this driver’s ed car was no Z24 and my teacher certainly was not the pinnacle of education excellence. It was a 4-speed automatic linked to the anemic 2.2L and the teacher was known as “David the Gnome” due to his, well, gnome-ish features. Key perks of wisdom spouted by the grand wizard of high school automotive enlightenment:

  • Accelerate as quickly as possible to the posted speed limit
  • Hug the center line of the road
  • Stop at yellow lights
  • My house is the longest in the county

You read that last one right. Three double-wides attached to one another length ways. While I agree with the first point for the sake of fun, the rest are pure conjecture. The second putting you in prime position to strike any oncoming driver playing snake on their Nokia brick phone (yes it was that point in time). Any on-road portion of education with the David typically involved running to his home, getting something he forgot that morning or other various errands.

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From what I recall I only had two, possibly three, truly comical moments with the David. Our school was the better of the three in our area but still didn’t have the money to obtain a double steering wheel driver’s ed machine. Instead the passenger seat had an extra set of pedals. Once I tried to make a light that had switched from green to yellow as the car crossed the stop line. The Gnome immediately jammed on the brakes, locking up the wheels (yes kids before ABS) and skidding to a stop in the middle of an industrial intersection. He then proceeded to lecture me on trying to make a yellow while trucks were attempting to turn. I pressed the gas in an effort to remove the shitbox from the precarious placement from harm’s way… he just on the brake. A real winner he was.

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That was nothing. One day whilst on a back country road… which are most of the roads where I grew up in PA, he reached over and jerked the steering wheel throwing the vehicle onto the unpaved and barely existent shoulder. Now I’m not sure what the law is where you are from but in PA you can be driving and just take driver’s ed to get a reduction on your insurance, meaning it is not a pre-requisite to get your license. At this point I’d been driving for a few months and like any teenage boy screwed around with my car quite a bit. I was no stranger to unpaved shoulders flanked by a steep grassy hill and I had the wheel.

He quickly answered my question, “What the fuck!?” with a trite, “you have to be able to handle the shoulder.” True.

Was this my car? Was this Gnome my friend? No.

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I drove the vehicle on the unpaved, crumbling shoulder for a good mile, all the while he screamed, “Get back on the road, get back on the road!” I glanced over, smiling, and asked if he planned on touching MY WHEEL. He got the idea pretty fast and I eased the Cavalier back onto the pavement. That was the last time he took control of the car. Not even when I drove on the wrong side of the road and he asked what I was doing, to which I replied “Being British,” did he dare touch the wheel or brakes.

Was I an asshat? Sure. Did he have to “retire” after telling the story of two horses fucking during one of his driving lessons with a female student… at a school assembly… with the girl standing next to him… in front of everyone? You bet your ass he did.

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That being said. I want to know! What was your school’s drivers ed car? Any funny stories? All of this, all of it, came to mind when I saw this vehicle. I had a Cavalier. This is a BMW in British clothing. Oh the trouble I would’ve gotten into with this Countryman.

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