The War Pony: A Loyal First Car

1991 Ford Festiva

We called it the War Pony.

With a name like that, you might expect something like an old muscle car, but no, this was a 1987 Ford Festiva. A red one, just like every other older Festiva. This particular car was owned by my friend Wesley, who bought it as his first. Wesley is a Navajo native and, when I knew him, routinely drove his car from his job in Seattle to his home on the Navajo reservation.

Wesley worked as a Navajo language professor at the University of Washington and had over 250,000 miles on the old War Pony. Considering his commute, that was a source of worry for me. I routinely asked him if he’d ever get rid of it in favor of something newer since he was, after all, making a college salary. He refused, because the War Pony served him well, and he had no desire to get rid of it.

I lost touch with Wesley about 10 years ago. This weekend I heard from him out of the blue, and you can guess my first question:

“Are you still driving the War Pony?”

Sadly, the old War Pony had given up the ghost not long after we lost touch. But Wesley had held onto that car until the very end, which is something most of us can’t say about our first cars.

Mine was a 1984 Toyota Pickup, which I like to say I’d still have if it wasn’t stolen. The truth is, first cars usually exist as a gateway into car culture, and lead to bigger and more expensive car purchases that better fit the changing needs of life.

Our first cars are remembered, sometimes fondly, sometimes bitterly, but rarely kept. I salute Wesley for staying devoted to his for so many years.

What was your first car, and how long did you have it?


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1 Comment

  1. I bought a new 1990 Festiva, painted the darker of the two blues Ford offered that year. College buddies called it the Smurf Turd. Maybe, but after driving a series of German-built Fiestas that were rusted and expensive to fix, the $6,400 Smurf Turd was exactly what I needed. The monthly payment was less than what I had been spending in repairs to keep my 1979 Fiesta running. I drove the Smurf Turd all over the country, and put 120,000 miles on it before anything went wrong. Ditched it after moving to Arizona from Michigan (no AC) and got a ’94 Escort GT. I’d never want that old Festiva back, but it was exactly what I needed at that point in my car-owning career.

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