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We all remember our first car, and most of us might not have gotten our ideal vehicle the first time around. Most people get their license in their late teens, and with teenagers generally limited to part-time and low-wage jobs, their car choice tends to be limited too. Add increased insurance costs, and the options dwindle further. Although there are exceptions, the majority of first-time drivers are left with something small and cheap, or an older vehicle they can grab for a discount rate.
While you might think of celebrities as the sort of people who are rich enough to just buy anything they want, that’s not always the case. Many of today’s biggest stars bought their first car long before they “made it” and were restricted to the same pool of B-grade vehicles regular people are. As always, there are exceptions — some celebs made it big in their teenage years or had affluent parents who allowed them to splash out on a luxury vehicle from the off. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting first cars of the rich and famous.
Jay Leno had to put some work in
Jay Leno has one of the world’s most impressive car collections and regularly showcases the most interesting vehicles in his fleet, along with several interesting guest automobiles, on his YouTube channel “Jay Leno’s Garage.” Given the former talk show host’s love of vintage motors, it isn’t surprising that his first ride would be considered a classic these days. It was a 1934 Ford Pickup truck, and it wasn’t in the best condition when the comedian bought it for $350. Leno and his dad spotted the crumbling vehicle in front of a garage in Reading, Massachusetts and at the time, the then 14-year-old thought it would take around two years to fix.
His prediction proved to be accurate, and Leno eventually got the old banger back on the road. It was the first of many cars he owned and his first restoration job, but there would be many more to come. Despite all of the hard work he put into it, Leno eventually traded his classic pickup for a sportier Datsun 1600. He does claim to miss it, though, and thinks it may still exist somewhere in New England. The popular entertainer also says he’d love to have it back, so if you spot a 1934 Ford Pickup in a Massachusetts barn, you might want to get in touch.
Tom Cruise’s first car made him what he is
Most people’s first cars provide a great sense of freedom. Getting behind the wheel of your own vehicle may make you believe you can go anywhere you want to go, and do anything you want to do. Those may have been the feelings rushing through the brain of an 18-year-old Tom Cruise when he hopped behind the wheel of his second-hand Dodge Colt and set off for New York to chase his dreams.
The gamble paid off for the budding actor, and he is now one of the most recognizable celebrities on earth after appearing in the likes of “Top Gun, Days of Thunder,” and the “Mission Impossible” franchise. While he now has an estimated net worth of around $600 million, things haven’t always been going that well for Tom Cruise. He hails from a pretty humble background, and his first car was quite humble too.
While his film roles have seen him hop behind the wheel of Porsches, BMWs, and classic muscle cars, the “Jack Reacher” star’s first ride was pretty average. To start with, it wasn’t a brand new Dodge when he purchased it, and you might not consider it a proper Dodge, either. It was essentially a rebadged Mitsubishi Gallant, which isn’t exactly the kind of car Dodge is famous for.
The Gallant didn’t have the looks of a muscle car, nor did it have the power. In terms of engine size, there was the choice of a 1.3-liter or 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It did have somewhat of a rally pedigree though, winning the 16L-GS class in the 7th Southern Rally in 1972. And you could argue it’s also responsible for Cruise’s entire career.
Princess Kate had a common car
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Some people have humble beginnings, and others get a bit of a head start in life. While the media made a bit of a fuss about Prince William marrying a “commoner” back in 2011 (via Vogue), his lowborn wife didn’t exactly spend her early years shoveling manure and living in a hovel. The British class system isn’t particularly mobile, and anyone whose parents aren’t a member of the nobility (barons, counts, dukes, and kings) are considered “common” no matter what their financial status is. The Princess of Wales’s parents are actually two of the U.K.’s most successful business people and have a combined net worth of over $67 million (Via Town and Country). So in theory, pre-princess Catherine could pick any set of wheels she wanted once she passed her test.
In reality, the famous commoner went for an incredibly common first car. It was a 1.4 liter, blue, Volkswagen Golf. Middleton bought the car soon after meeting the current heir to the throne in 2001 and kept hold of it for six years — putting around 60,000 miles on the clock (Via The Express). The Volkswagen Golf is one of the most popular hatchbacks in the U.K. and a favorite of many young drivers (via Yahoo).
Elon Musk didn’t go electric
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Elon Musk is currently the world’s richest man and is famous in part because of his large stake in electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla. Tesla produces some of the most advanced electric cars on the market, and unsurprisingly Musk has frequently lauded the benefits of battery-powered vehicles while criticizing rival configurations like hybrids and the internal combustion engine. Unlike many other celebrities, Musk was born to a well-off, owing largely to his father owning an emerald mine in South Africa (via Inside Hook).
While his parents being loaded and his billions hinging on the success of a range of zero-emissions vehicles may make you think Musk’s first car was an ultra-expensive, cutting-edge eco-wagon — the billionaire’s actual first vehicle was sort of the opposite. It was a battered old BMW 3 series. In 1994 Musk bought a 1978 BMW 320i for $1,400 with the intention of doing it up a bit. Upgrades Musk made to the vehicle included the addition of an independent suspension setup and modifications which gave the vehicle an additional 27 horsepower along with a new top speed of 112 miles per hour.
Harry Styles splashed the cash
While some ultra-successful celebrities had fairly modest first cars, others have definitely gone all out after making it big around the time they got their driver’s licenses. You can begin learning to drive at the age of 17 in Britain, and One Direction’s Harry Styles didn’t take long before splashing out on his first whip. While cautious folks may suggest opting for something small and safe while getting used to the roads, Harry decided to go in the Wrong Direction. He bought himself a Range Rover Sport, which is quite large, very expensive, and incredibly powerful (via CarThrottle).
When you’ve just passed your test, insurance can be a bit pricey. According to The Daily Mail, the Range Rover cost him £15,000 (around $24,000 in 2011 money) to insure. That’s around a quarter of the vehicle’s price, as a 2011 edition of the Range Rover Sport started at just under $60,000. The SUV also had four-wheel drive, a 5-liter V8 engine, and, depending on the exact model, up to 510 horsepower. Styles went on to build a fairly impressive vehicle collection, adding an Audi R8 in 2012 and building from there.
Miley Cyrus got an early gift
While many people on this list got their first car around the time they started legally driving, Miley Cyrus got hers a while before she was legally allowed behind the wheel. According to GQ, the singer was in possession of a Smart FourTwo Convertible at the age of 15 — and she didn’t even pay for it. She was given the car, complete with “Miley Girls Night Out” decals, for marketing purposes.
As far as the car itself goes, there’s an argument Miley could have gotten away with taking it on the road. It’s roughly the size of the average rollerskate and only marginally less powerful. Despite the constant abuse it receives, the ultra-compact does actually have a purpose. Before electric cars became mainstream, tiny engines and light overall weight made smart cars some of the most economical vehicles available.
They were also pretty useful in cities where narrow streets, heavy traffic, and tight parking spots, make regular vehicles a bit impractical (via HowStuffWorks). While Miley eventually passed her test, the Smart FourTwo is not the “first” vehicle people tend to associate with her. Her mother gave her a Porsche Cayenne for her 16th birthday, giving her a much more iconic ride in which to roll.
Ed Sheeran made some odd choices
Ed Sheeran also bought his first car before he could legally drive it — but it wasn’t age holding the “Shape of You” singer back. The ginger crooner didn’t pass his driving test until the age of 24 (via NME). Not having a license didn’t stop the musician from dropping absurd amounts of cash on vehicles, though the cars he purchased tended to be gifts for people close to him.
According to The Sun, he bought his manager a Range Rover, and his sound man a Porsche — so you would expect him to splash out on his own personal set of wheels, right? Wrong. He bought himself a Mini Cooper — a British classic, but still not particularly exciting. As for why he didn’t go for something like the Aston Martin DB9 he ended up buying later, Sheeran said: “Sports cars scare the s*** out of me because they go so fast.”
The lack of a license didn’t stop Sheeran from buying a car, and it didn’t keep him off the racetrack either. Before he bought the Mini, Sheeran appeared on Top Gear’s Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment and performed exactly how you’d expect someone who couldn’t actually drive to perform — only just beating fellow non-driver Jack Whitehall.
Taylor Swift’s first car was what you may expect
Taylor Swift spent a good chunk of her formative years in Tennessee and broke through on a Nashville label. Her first car was an 18th birthday present from the president of that label, and if you’re a fan of stereotypes you’ll have no trouble guessing what it was. The Bad Blood singer received a “bubblegum pink” Chevrolet pickup truck, which she claimed to be thrilled with. Swift was also dressed in pink for the occasion, telling People magazine “I knew all my friends would be in black, so I went with the pink. I love pink!”
— Taylor Swift (@TSwiftLA) June 5, 2014
Despite being pleased with her gift, Swift is no longer in possession of the Chevy truck. Though she did give it away for a good reason. Just a month after she received it, Swift gifted the truck to the Victory Junction Project, a charity that assists people with terminal illnesses. While she loved the truck, the singer was also quoted saying she loves the Victory Junction Project’s cause (via World History Project).
Vin Diesel took a gamble
Vin Diesel’s acting career has arguably centered on a series of films so intertwined with fast, powerful cars that the word “fast” makes up 20% of its name. “The Fast and the Furious” star’s first car came from an auction held in New York City and cost just $175. It wasn’t a sad little economy number either; Diesel actually got a bargain.
When the bidding ended, he was the proud owner of a 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, a classic muscle car anyone would be proud to have on their driveway (via Dahl Chevrolet Buick DMC). Unfortunately, there was a small catch. Diesel wasn’t allowed to inspect the engine or test drive the Monte Carlo before he purchased it, and problems soon developed. The car began to smoke as he was driving it home and broke down on him within a week.
However, rather than scrap his new muscle car, Diesel paid to get it repaired. The experience didn’t put the actor off classic muscle cars either. He soon added a 1967 Pontiac convertible to his collection and has publicly professed his love for another Chevy muscle car, the 1970 Chevelle. He even confessed to “stealing” a Chevelle from the “Fast and Furious” set, writing it off as one of his “perks.”
Brad Pitt may not be a car person
Brad Pitt is one of Hollywood’s most recognizable leading men. His trophy cabinet consists of two Oscars, two Golden Globes, and a BAFTA; while his notable roles include starring alongside Morgan Freeman in “Se7en,” taking on the role of Edward Norton’s melting brain in “Fight Club,” and even cropping up in a few Tarantino films. But things weren’t always so easy for the actor, he spent his early adulthood doing odd jobs for a living in a car that wasn’t even really his.
Before he made it big, Pitt’s parents handed him their 1973 Buick Centurion 455 (via Cheatsheet). The 455 referred to the number of cubic inches in the big block V8 engine that powered the car. According to Driving Line, the engine itself was popular and appeared in many classic cars around that time. You could describe Pitt’s first car as uninspiring, and it’s a trend he’s continued throughout his car-buying life despite his career successes. He buys nice cars, like Jeep Cherokees and Audi Q7s, just not the sort of high-end hypercars people in similar positions tend to rip around in. However, the “Inglorious Basterds” star did really splurge when it came to buying a motorhome.
Jon Hamm lost it in Los Angeles
John Hamm shot to fame playing cynical advertising executive Don Draper in the hit show “Mad Men.” He’s now one of the most recognizable actors in the world, appearing in hits like “Black Mirror,” “Good Omens,” and the Hollywood blockbuster “Top Gun: Maverick.” But things weren’t always going this well for the actor; back before he decided to roll the dice on an acting career, Hamm was a teacher. It’s a profession that Hamm still has a lot of respect for, but not one that is likely to put you in the top 1% of earners (via Insider).
When Hamm first moved to LA to pursue his acting dreams, he arrived in a battered 1985 Toyota Corolla. The Corolla has been an incredibly popular car for decades, offering both reliability and outstanding fuel economy. However, it’s not something you picture when you think of Hollywood’s elite, and paints a pretty accurate picture of Hamm’s humble beginnings.
As you may expect, he no longer has the Corolla. The “Mad Men” star racked up a reasonable amount of parking tickets, and the city eventually took his car away. He was unable to pay the fines and get it back, so he had to come up with a unique way of getting to auditions– as he explained to Conan O’Brien: “I don’t know if you know this, but the City of Los Angeles has a wonderful public transportation system. I rode the bus, and then when I would get near to where I needed to go, I would rollerblade.”
Johnny Depp’s first car was also his apartment
Johnny Depp’s on-screen success has only been overshadowed by his off-screen controversies. The actor, who first gained widespread attention as a teenager when horror icon Freddy Kreuger turned him into a smudge, lives the life of a rockstar. He’s spent a ridiculous amount of money on wine, talked about drug containers in court, and modeled his most successful onscreen persona on another hedonistic rock icon — Keith Richards. Another standout part of Depp’s lifestyle is his car collection, which contains a Rolls Royce, Porsche 911, and a very special classic Chevy.
While you could consider a 1969 Chevy Nova a classic muscle car, it wasn’t always seen as such. There’s a fine line between a collectible “classic” and a rusty, 20-year-old junk heap someone is keeping alive because they’re a bit strapped for cash. The Nova that Depp was driving around in his early days reportedly fell into the latter category.
While the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star is more likely to be seen stepping out of a Range Rover these days, there’s a good chance he still has a huge soft spot for the set of wheels in which he established his career. There are no reports of Depp selling the Chevy Nova, but there were reports of it doubling as his abode back when times were really hard for the actor. So there’s every chance he just has his old Chevy in a garage somewhere, lovingly restored and enjoying its retirement.
Paul Walker’s first vehicle wasn’t that sporty
“Fast and the Furious” star Paul Walker was known for a love of fast, powerful cars. But the vehicle he was driving in his high school days was far more practical than a mid-engine supercar. Walker’s first set of wheels was a 1986 Ford Ranger pickup truck.
While the Ranger doesn’t get as much attention as its bigger brother, the F-150, it’s still a versatile and reliable working vehicle, and it certainly worked for Walker. In an interview filmed before his death, Paul Walker seemed fond of his first vehicle. “The Fast and the Furious” star said his particular Ranger had “a shell on the back and a carpet kit” before stating that “It was good in high school. I made out with a lot of girls in that truck.
Walker’s car collection would eventually extend far beyond the humble pickup. Although some actors’ motoring enthusiasm is limited to what you see on screen, Walker was a true petrolhead, and his love of fine vehicles was a core aspect of his personal life.
At the time of his death, the actor had what was arguably one of the most extensive and well-curated car collections in Hollywood. While it did contain a few Fords, notably a Mustang and a classic Ford GT, the star’s collection contained more than just American staples. Walker had a passion for European sports cars, and his garage was packed with several Porsches and Ferraris. The actor tragically met his end in the passenger seat of a Porsche Carrera GT in 2013.
Original posted at www.slashgear.com