I learned to drive on an '84 Toyota Camry. It was a manual - my mother wouldn't have it any other way. Though it already had over 150,000 miles, it was a very forgiving car. In learning to drive, it never stalled, and it was not due to any skill on my part. This vehicle, though, was never "my" car. It was my mother's from when it was bought (when I was 1) until it gained leaks my mother didn't want to deal with and my dad didn't want to fix. It's now my dad's car.
The first car that was "mine" (owned by my father, but I was the primary driver) was an '84 Tempo, manual. This was in 1998. I have no idea how many miles it had on it, but it was "too many." It was a beast. IT was navy blue with no air conditioning, and I live in Central Texas. The car was heavy and underpowered. It couldn't go on the freeways, because it would shudder if it went over 50 miles an hour. If I turned the steering wheel all the way to the left, it would stall. But, hey, I was 16, it mostly ran. Good enough for me!
My dad performed maintenance on all my family's vehicles - what little maintenance they got, that is. When changing the oil in "my" Tempo, he overfilled the engine and didn't bother to deal with it properly. This busted the seals and I couldn't keep oil in the engine. When it threw a rod, that was the end of that car and I started driving an '87 Mercury Sable. This car was silver and... get this... Had working air conditioning! I never used it anyway. I like the breeze blowing through the car. ;) But "silver" instead of "navy blue" was a very welcome change.
This silver Sable was already on its second transmission (darn automatic) and had already had its first critical power steering fluid leak. The transmission flat out died while we were on a family vacation in it, and it was replaced (the AC died, too, and that wasn't). This was another car that was my father's, I just drove it.
I came into possession of a 1987 Camry (automatic) next (it was given to me by a caring friend as the Sable tried to die). This was the first car where maintenance was my responsibility. I happily and proudly took it to have its oil changed - I don't know much about the workings of cars and after listening to my father curse as he tried to change the oil, I decided it was better to just pay for it. I gave the car good maintenance because I drive hard and knew it would need it.
Time passed. I got a better job - one that payed a real salary - and started saving up. I was introduced to the Mazda Miata and decided the first car I purchase should be one. Finally, I had the money I wanted and I bought a '94 M Edition Miata (of course, manual). I decided about six months later that I wanted a supercharger for the car. After about a year and a half owning it, I had the money for that, including things like the built engine that I wanted for the car. It was pretty expensive, but it really increased the acceleration of the car, and it kept the beautifully flat torque curve that I loved so very much. I autocrossed the car, both pre- and post-supercharger, and I've never been a good enough driver for the car. I still loved driving it!
Last March, however, I made a grave mistake. The 2006 MX-5 had recently been released - the third generation Miata. I had tried to convince myself that this was a new generation, and thus bigger and heavier, and certainly couldn't be a better Miata than mine. But I decided to go test drive one, anyway, because I should at least judge the car based on what it can do, rather than my perception of what manufacturers tend to do to cars. So I took it down 2222, a local fun, curvy road. The car's handling impressed me so much, I decided it was worth losing the supercharger to get that handling. I wanted one. I figured out exactly which one I wanted - the specs, the color, everything. Then I looked at the cost. Eeep. That's gonna need a loan. So, yet again, I waited and saved so I could have a good down payment. I took care of a few other things, and by the time I was ready to buy, they stopped selling Nordic Green, the one color I wanted!
I mentioned this to John, the mechanic / owner of the shop I go to. He mentioned that he happened to have a Nordic Green MX-5 (manual), with exactly the options I wanted, plus a few upgrades, that he was considering selling. There was just one problem: Dan, his partner (of sorts), and also a friend of mine, had been racing the car, and was intending to continue racing it. John didn't want to live with the car payments, though, and Dan wasn't willing to buy it from him. They worked things out, though, and ended up agreeing to sell me the car.
So now, not only do I have a shiny new MX-5 in the color I want with all the options I want, it already has some of the modifications I was interested in doing. It has: JIC MAGIC FLT-A2s, Mazdaspeed swaybars, an ACT lightweight aluminum flywheel, AEM high flow intake, and a custom exhaust. The car's set up for CSP, autcrossing. I raced it in an autocross days after having bought it and came in second in the class. I was behind the leader by .075 seconds!
I sold the aftermarket bits from the '94 and got it back to stock. It's going to become my mother's car - a thank you for teaching me to love driving. I love this new car, and while I miss the added acceleration of the supercharged car occasionally, overall, I'm much happier in the '06 than I was in the '94.
And thus is the chain of cars in my life. The Sable taught me to distrust automatic transmissions and the Miata taught me the joys of driving a truly fun car.