We Lost A Great Car Guy
On 12/2/22, we lost a great car guy. Most of you did not know him. He wasn’t known for chasing classic cars, his restoration work or for his impressive collection. His daily driver varied from a 1969 Mustang Mach 1 to a Ford Econoline van to an Acura RDX. He encouraged my love of cars, taught me how to drive stick and he was always up for a drive. He was my mentor, my role model and my best friend. He was my Dad.
My Dad was going through some health issues but losing him was unexpected for all of us. I was fortunate to spend time with him the night before he passed and even brought him a week’s worth of groceries.
We loved picking on each other, and endearing insults flew often. Like when my Dad told me that when he passed, he wanted me to have his wedding ring. I told him that I was going to have it melted down and made into a gold tooth so every time I smiled, folks would remember him.
I Don’t Blame My Older Sister
My Dad was kind-of-a-car-guy. His first new carwas a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1. The picture on the left was taken the day they bought it and if you look closely, you can see the paper dealer tag in the back window. It came equipped with a 351 CI V8 and an automatic transmission with red interior. I wish I knew where it was today. My Mom and Dad sold it when my older sister was born. I am not bitter.
The Mach 1 became the Volvo for three reasons: my older sister, my twin sister and yours truly. Even at a young age, I knew how to rock a bowl cut.
My Dad was a very smart man. A lifelong educator, he received FIVE college degrees and even went back to school in retirement to become a registered nurse. Dad drove a Triumph TR6 back and forth from Jacksonville to Tallahassee while he was getting his doctoral degree circa 1979. I remember him squeezing my sisters and I onto the “rear seat” to take for a spin around the block. Colors are important and this one was brown/brown.
As we went through his house after he passed,we found his doctoral thesis and I had to read it…well, some of it. The title was, “An Evaluation of the Staff and Program Development Office at the Florida Junior College at Jacksonville as Perceived by Certificated Personnel”. You probably understand why I did not finish it:)
How did my Mom reward him for gettinghis doctoral degree? By buying a $1,000 VCR! In 1981, these were the newest tech and everyone had to have one. Dad often mentioned later how he could not believe she spend that kind of money. If you are of a certain age, you’ll recall having to use two fingers to press down the “PLAY” and “RECORD” buttons at exactly the right time. This model took some effort to do so.
As I grew into my teen years, I began to have more appreciation for the cars that rotated in and out on our driveway. The 1976 Ford Eco-line van was the keeper for camping and the other car spot rotated out often as a car salesman side-hustle.
A Rotation of Questionable Cars
Dad’s tastes in cars this point in time was for whatever would make a little money. A few Chevy Citations with bad CV joints, a Chevette whose driver’s door never shut completely, an Audi station wagon, a Chrysler Laser Turbo, two Geo Metros, a few Mercedes foor-doors…the variety was there but they stayed practical with three kids running around. In 1988 it actually snowed a quarter inch in Jacksonville, FL. My Dad had the BRILLIANT idea to pull us behind the Laser on our knee-boards through the neighborhood.
The Indestructible Isuzu I-Mark
One of the most memorable cars of this era was his 1983 Isuzu I-Mark LS. It’s the car Dad taught me how to drive stick with, how to change the oil and I thought it was pretty good looking. Being a diesel, you could get rid of a tailgater by revving the engine and dumping the clutch which released a huge black plume behind the car. It was glorious. What’s it worth today? Probably $500. I would love to have one but they all rusted away in 1989
Recently, I learned that these were based on the horrible Chevrolet Chevette…shocking!
One of my favorite memories is when we drove it from Jacksonville, Florida to Maine while pulling, what looking back appears to be, a homemade trailer. Yes, you read that right. This car was not meant for hauling anything. It was so slow that we would pass cars while going downhill only to have them pass us while going up the next hill.
While I was driving in New England on said trip, one of the rusty springs on the trailerbroke in half causing the car to lose control at 65 mph. My Dale Jr. like reflexes saved the car. We had to ditch it but luckily, my dad put a car topper in the trailer. We strapped the topper on top of the mighty Isuzu and just kept on going.
Another memory is when the oil plug was not put back on properly and all of the oil streamed out of the engine. I was 16 and on my way home from work when the engine froze up. My Dad drove up, put in more oil and the indestructible Isuzu just kept on going for a few more years.
My moment of automotive clarity came when my Dad’s friend visited with a 1966 Mustang convertible. This was the car that ignited my love of all things automotive. I fell in love with it immediately and I offered to wash it just so I could touch it. I’m not sure what happened but it was suddenly gone. I never washed it, sat in it or anything. Classic cars became a forbidden fruit and I just HAD to have one. This led to me eventually buying my first car which was a 1968 Mustang coupe and it cost $1,000 but it had no engine…that’s a story for another time.
After my Dad moved up to Ohio, my wife and I made it a point to include him in as much of our activities as we could. When I would start a sentence with, “I have a trip this week and I was wondering…”, he would immediately blurt out “I’m in!” without me even finishing. It didn’t matter where we were going, when or what we were doing, where we were staying…he was 100% onboard and ready to go.
These trips often involved going to different automotive events and private collections. One of these visits involved a warehouse full of incredible cars that were parked very close together. As I gingerly navigated my way to the back of the warehouse, I asked my dad to stay up front as his agility has declined over the years.
Imagine my shock when I look back and dad is clambering over a few classics while leaning on an aluminum bodied Davis! Noooooooo! Thankfully, the Davis dent did NOT happen. The owner was incredibly gracious
One of Dad’s favorite hobbies was going to dealerships and looking at the newest Cadillacs SUVs and Ford vans. He never could get over the fact that the Caddy’s engines were made in Mexico. If he were to get his first Caddy, he wanted it to be 100% American made…yet his last car he drove was an Acura RDX. Which he bought because it was made in America. As his snarky son, I would challenge him often by asking him if he would rather have the profits in the US or the jobs in the US. Ideally, we would have both, but he was not going to buy a Tesla.
I enjoyed these visits, but I felt bad for the sale rep. I knew my Dad wasn’t serious about buying a new car but he wanted to engage the rep as if he was. If I could, I would give the rep a heads up. Worse case, it was great training for the salesperson. I figure that the ratio of dealership visits to an actual purchase was somewhere around 32.4 to 1
The Ultimate Parking Machine…the Z3
Dad enjoyed cars through me and he eventually wanted something fun to drive. I tried to discourage this as he only had a one car garage and I could foresee the issues. Nonetheless, on one of these road trips he spied a 2000 BMW Z3 he could not live without. I did not want to tell him he shouldn’t have it so instead, I took him to lunch and asked all of the obvious questions in an attempt to dissuade him. It did not work and the Z3 found a new home. Over the next two years, he drove it about 25 miles and I drove it over 400 with him in the passenger seat. He complained about it here and there but overall, he was glad he bought it. So was I.
Originally, we were not going to spend time with dad for Thanksgiving as he was visiting one of my sisters. Because of different reasons, both of us had to cancel our trips and my wife and I found ourselves enjoying a last minute Bob Evan’s Thanksgiving dinner together on the couch with Dad. It was a wonderful blessing from above to spend his last holiday together.
Like I said, his passing was unexpected but at the same time it was not as he was 84 years old. All of us are sad and mourning his loss but also thankful for having in our lives for such a long time. Be sure to hug your folks the next time you see them!