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My First Car: Pinky the 1996 Toyota Corolla still perky despite sun-bleached paintwork

Ben Craske's first car, a once red 1996 Toyota Corolla, was called Pinky as it had faded in the fierce New Mexico sun. Picture: Ben Craske

Ben Craske's first car, a once red 1996 Toyota Corolla, was called Pinky as it had faded in the fierce New Mexico sun. Picture: Ben Craske

supplied by Ben Craske

Ben Craske’s first car, a sun-bleached 1996 Toyota Corolla, wasn’t a looker but it took him the equivalent of 2.5 times around the world, only letting him down once.

I had no need for my own set of wheels until I moved to a part of America where car ownership was essentially non-negotiable.

I began my history postgraduate studies in New Mexico in 2014 and I lived in Las Cruces. It was far removed from my roots in Norfolk but I embraced adapting to the climate, culture and community there.

Unfortunately, the city offered limited public transport options and it wasn’t cyclist friendly. After a few months depending on the generosity of friends and fellow students for trips to Walmart – I realised it was time to take the plunge and buy my first car.

My adviser, Dr Peter Kopp, happened to be selling his first car at the time – a 1996 Toyota Corolla. It had once been red. But years in the scorching sun of the high sierra desert had bleached the paintwork to a dusty pink, hence the car’s nickname – Pinky (imaginative, right?)

Dr Kopp kindly gave me a great price of $500. He knew I needed greater independence and he was very pleased for his beloved Pinky to remain useful to someone.

That car drove me the equivalent 2.5 times around the circumference of the globe in the three years I owned it, with only one repair the entire time.

It was a shame that the one time Pinky let me down, it was the power steering that went while I was crossing a busy intersection in downtown Albuquerque. I crawled across the junction accompanied by a symphony of angry beeping and pedestrian laughter. I’m pretty sure that the colour of my face matched the car’s paintwork beautifully that day.

My first car wasn’t a looker, and I wasn’t going to be winning drag races behind its wheel, but the air con blew cold and, after I replaced the stereo, I could at least listen to music or podcasts. Throw in low running costs and respectable MPG due to the manual gearbox, I was more than happy with Pinky as my first set of wheels.

Tell people about your first car – email your memories with a picture to

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