Alton Brown's first car cover image

Alton Brown’s 1971 Ford Pinto

Host of hit Food Network television shows like “Iron Chef America,” “Good Eats,” and “Cutthroat Kitchen,” Alton Brown is an award-winning celebrity chef, best-selling cookbook author and musician (yes, he sings). See him live this month as he kicks off the next leg of the “Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science” tour, which blends science, music, comedy and food.

What was your first car? 

My first car was a red 1971 Ford Pinto.

How did you acquire it? 

My grandfather found it for me. He owned a service station that handled VWs and Audis, and he bought and sold used cars on the side. He wanted me to have something I could afford and that wasn’t fast enough to get me into any kind of trouble. I worked at McDonald’s to save up the $600 it cost me.

What is your favorite memory of the car? 

I actually bought the car when I was still 15 and driving under a learner’s permit. But I’d sometimes sneak out at night and drive it around. I lived out in the middle of nowhere, so I don’t think I was putting anyone in danger, but still, totally illegal. It was thrilling, though. I don’t remember driving ever being that much fun since.

What happened to it? 

Unfortunately, I totaled it. Badly. I got run off the road on a corner and didn’t have enough skill or experience to get it back on the road. I hit a utility pole. I walked away, but the two guys who were with me were in the hospital for a really long time. It changed my life for the better in the long run I suppose, but up to that point it was the most terrifying experience of my life. That Pinto taught me some powerful lessons.

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