|That's my Dad on the right. This picture with his '38 Ford was taken sometime in the late 1940's.|
My Dad was always good at saving a buck, so he had a car when his buddies didn't.
A lot of car guys were lucky to have a Dad that inspired their love of cars.
A Father / Son bond.
|Not the actual car but a dead ringer.|
The first car that I recall clearly was a brand new '59 Chevy Impala two door hardtop. Black with a red interior. Powerglide with a 283 V8. The side emblem fascinated my young mind. Crossed flags with leaping Impala, was this a racing car? No, but I remember my Dad thinking of racing a train to the crossing, but my Mom put a kibosh on that idea.
My Dad never liked the low seats or the way that back window fried the rear seat upholstery. The Impala was traded in on the '64 Pontiac wagon.
|The quality of the detailing was quite impressive.|
My Dad didn't grow up in a car owning family. He didn't have any experience fiddling with cars during his youth. He only learned about repairing them due to necessity. My parents had been married a few years and had to take a long trip in their used, early 1950's Ford. At some point the red warning light came on. It could have been for low oil pressure or overheating. He wasn't sure what he should do. Instead of stopping and checking the oil level or allowing the motor to cool off, he pressed on instead. Having an infant with them in the car, probably led to this decision also.
When they finally limped into a gas station the engine was ruined. A used engine was sourced from a local wrecking yard and installed. This resulted in a delay of several days and several hundred dollars. My Dad decided that he would never be at the mercy of his ignorance again. He followed the process that he would do for the rest of his life. He got some books and studied the theory of automotive mechanics and repair. Then he acquired some tools and dove in.
My Father was not really a car guy. When younger, he did enjoy his early new car purchases, but his interest was in providing for his family, and cars just became something to be used as transportation. Buying used cars was a way to save money, buying a new car was a needless expense and a luxury that he didn't need. He was a pretty fair mechanic and he kept his older used cars on the road, like he said, he kept a couple around as spares.
Some of these spares were cars that he must have found interesting. A 1955 Chevy Bel Air sedan. A 1959 El Camino, With the sweetest sounding set of dual pipes ever. A 1960 Dodge Seneca coupe? Equipped with a slant six and a three on the tree, it's grunting exhaust note led me to label it "The Pig." And lots of station wagons.
First he tried his luck with a Corvair Greenbrier Van. The memories of thrown fan belts and a family trip to Mexico are burned into my memory.
The first wagon he bought brand new, was a 1964 Pontiac Tempest. It was white with a bright red vinyl interior. With a 326 V8 and auto it seemed a pretty sporty family hauler.
He went used with a 1960 Chevy two door Suburban, the "hillbilly wagon!" This truck was turquoise and white, quite attractive on the outside but surprisingly Spartan within.
The '64 Pontiac stayed around alongside the Suburban but was later replaced by a '67 Chevy Bel Air wagon. Big and cheap! This was followed by a used '68 Le Mans wagon.
In between these wagons he decided to try a fancy car, probably with my encouragement. He looked at a couple of early 60's Cadillacs but decided to get the light blue '63 Lincoln Continental sedan.
|Ignore the guy with the bad hair cut. The Lincoln is behind him.|
Then he finally bought a truck. His last brand new vehicle was a '75 Chevy Stepside pick up, black with a red interior. These trucks were the hot set up at the time.
|Not a bad looking little rig.|
When my Dad passed away there were two '78 Chevy Malibu Classic wagons in his driveway keeping the Stepside company.
It would make a nice story if I had kept the truck and restored it as a tribute to my Father. It could have become a treasured family heirloom. But I didn't. I never really liked that truck, it was just too uncomfortable to drive, and the bed was too small to be useful as an actual hauler. I didn't want it, my brother didn't want it, so he gave it to a mechanic that he knew.
At least it did better than the two wagons, which ended up at Pick and Pull!
My Father was nothing if not consistent. If he wouldn't spend a lot of money on cars, he certainly wouldn't spend a lot of money on buying fancy tools. Looking in his tool box you wouldn't find any Proto or Mac brand tools in there. There were some Craftsman pieces, but most were auto parts store purchases and flea market finds. Actually many flea market finds.
Still, he was successful in his repair endeavors. I learned a lot by watching my Dad work on the fleet. It wasn't like there was any formalized plan of education. My Dad wasn't the kind of guy to force his kids to help him, he would never put himself in a position where he depended or needed his kid's assistance. A lesson that I took to heart. Sometimes I would just hand him tools until I got bored and wandered off. In the manner of most kids I didn't have that much interest in helping him with his problems.
When I got my own motorcycles and cars then I mostly just wanted to use his tools.
My Father was never a car enthusiast as such. But if I look behind the scenes of my automotive history he was always clearly there.
When I was in grammar school he would take my Brother and I to an empty parking lot and let us drive around it! Just like in that Alan Jackson song "Drive." When this song was released my Dad had been gone for several years but I went straight back to the memory of my Dad letting me drive the '64 Pontiac in the parking lot. This song always hit's me straight in the heart.
Video from YouTube. Drive, for Daddy Gene, Alan Jackson
My Dad was also responsible for me learning to ride my first motorcycle, a '65 Honda 50cc. scrambler. After I was busted by the cops driving around the neighborhood, it seemed like a better idea to find an off street site to practice. We would load the Honda in the back of the '68 Pontiac wagon and go to the parking lot next to the old Alameda drive in. He'd bring a book, usually about electronics repair, and sit in a shady spot, while my Brother and I would ride the bike around the lot. That went on for a couple of years.
He never bought me a car or motorcycle outright, but he did take me and my Brother out bike shopping, looking at bikes we found in the classified ads. He also lent me a buck or two when I needed to get something for my machines. I know that he enjoyed seeing the variety of cars and motorcycles that I brought home.
"I am older now, than my Father was, when he was my Dad." I read that somewhat confusing statement in some car mag, and it took me a while to mull it over, and see the realization that was achieved.
During the early parts of my childhood my Dad was only in his early thirties and forties. When I graduated from high school he was barely fifty years of age! We both started our families in our early thirties, at a slightly older age than many. I now realize that my father probably felt many of the same conflicts and burdens of responsibility; marriage, family and employment that I have experienced.
I'd always thought that he became a family man because he was trapped by the mores and expectations of a post war America. I was quite surprised when my Mom told me that he was actually very happy that he had three sons. I had never even considered that was possible.
But he wasn't one to complain or whine about things, or at least I never got the feeling that he had any issues with his life. He was a man like Henry Ford. "Never complain, never explain." My Father was a great guy that taught me some important Life lessons, and set a great example.
We never played catch in the evening. Or went on fishing and camping trips. I never engaged in organized sports, with him cheering me on from the sidelines. I was happy to tag along poking around used car lots, with an occasional trip to the wrecking yard or auto parts store. I did learn to fix things though. Cars and motorcycles. Home repairs, plumbing and electrical work. Building fences and other projects from wood. I have become a fix it man.
My Mother died five years before my Dad. It was during this time that I really got to know him and we got as close as we were going to get. We would talk for hours and hours about a surprisingly wide range of subjects.
My Dad always maintained a certain reserve between us. He was my Father, not my friend. He knew that the strength of our relationship lay in the Father /Son dynamic. I never considered or wanted to see him as an equal, though he recognized that I was an independent adult.
Raising my own family I tried to be the kind of man that he had been. My children will pass their own judgments on my efforts. I hope that they will be able to cut me a little slack on my deficiencies when they make their assessments.
|I've tried to pass on what I could.|
I know that I've had some success passing on the car guy gene. My oldest Daughter still likes driving a manual transmission. My Son rides a motorcycle and drives a Porsche Boxster. My youngest daughter seems to like her Mustang. Further generations will complete their own story.