'Dale Clay, 18, who had been "drinking all day" and did not have a licence, swerved off the road and hit the tree in Ashton Old Road, Openshaw, head on. He died at the scene.
Witnesses described a huge bang, then smoke and flames pouring from the Volvo s70.
A pensioner whose house backs onto the crash site said: "My husband helped pull two of the lads out.
"We'd just shut the back door and heard a bang and thought there was somone trying to get in. There was no one there and then my husband saw the car. It was smoking.
"By the time he had run round there were flames coming up. They didn't know there was another person in the car at first."
The crash happened close to the junction of Turton Street at 10.30pm on Friday.
The front seat passenger, also an 18-year-old man, was taken to Manchester Royal Infirmary with serious head and neck injuries. A 17-year-old boy in the back of the car was also taken to MRI with cuts and bruises.
Dale, a former pupil at Wright Robinson Sports College, had been in The Manchester Pub on Grey Mare Lane celebrating friend Frankie Atkinson's 18th birthday, according to his family.
They say they are mystified why Dale, of Silfield Close, Beswick, then decided to drive with two friends into Openshaw, or whose car he was driving when he died.
Mum Alison said: "He was my only son and I love him but he was a silly lad to do what he did. He couldn't drive, he didn't have a licence.
"It was probably a friend's car, could have been anyone's.
"He had been in prison for two years and got out five months ago. He had his electronic tag taken off on 8 August and went daft, trying to make up for the time he had lost in prison."
His girlfriend of four months, Lindsey Robinson, 20, said: "We saw each other every day and he was the best boyfriend ever. He had a big heart."
Daleâs grandmother Susan Scott, 60, said: "We are all shocked. We don't know what to say. He was 18 and has just had his life snuffed out."
The tree â which was partly uprooted by the impact â has since been chopped down and has now become a shrine.
Friends and family have left a mass of flowers and other tributes, including candles and empty drink bottles, at the scene.
Among them is one from his girlfriend Lindsey, accompanied by a teddy bear, addressed to "my amazing, beautiful boyfriend."
It read: "I love you more than anything and I can't believe you're gone. I'm gonna miss you so much, I don't know what I'm gonna do without you."
Another tribute said: "Last night a star stopped shining." '
hmm.... somehow I dont think we lost the cure for cancer here...
One can't help but feel sorry I think for the mother who seems to realise her son was a chopper of the highest order, and yet lacked the ability to do anything about it..but maybe that's me being too nice...
I've posted this before in the Chav shrine thread but always think it's good for a laugh, Neil/Niel was 5 times over the limit when he hit a wall, on the plus side took another local 'legend' with him: