Roger & Me

The Man Behind The Curtain

You wouldn’t believe how many people walk up to me and start a conversation by asking, “Is Roger here?” It sure keeps me humble that the first thing on a person’s mind isn’t how I am, how I got started or which car I'm after. No, what they want to know is whether they will get a chance to meet Roger Barr, the crotchety old master mechanic whom I’ve known most of my life.

I first met Roger when I was about 10 years old. We lived in Glastonbury, Connecticut, where my father ran a body shop and Roger ran the local foreign car repair shop. If Dad was fixing an imported car that needed mechanical work he’d take it to Roger, and if a car at Roger’s shop needed body repairs, it would always end up at Dad’s. Dad would take me along on the weekends, and I loved going to Roger’s shop because of the great cars he always had there. Inside, I’d see his race cars, which he’d let me sit in, while customer cars often included Maseratis, Ferraris and Alfa Romeos, along with more common marques like Saab, Volvo and MG. He also had a sign hung in front that read, “No French cars allowed.”

Roger and Dad were never really close friends, but they had great respect for each other as colleagues — they shared projects and clients for years. Roger did owe my father something of a debt, though; Dad once sent him a customer who worked out so well that Roger married her!

A lot of Roger’s skill was learned as a mechanic in the Air Force while stationed in Germany, where he also had the chance to drive for the Porsche factory sports car team in a backup capacity. When he returned to the United States, Roger opened his own shop and raced — very successfully — on weekends, eventually winning Formula Vee and Formula B national championships.

That shop of Roger’s was in the center of town, not far from the high school. Sometimes I’d even swing by there to look at the cars before school. Early one morning — it must have been around 6 a.m. — I was looking at the great cars in the parking lot and I noticed that all the lights in the shop were on. The door was unlocked, so I went looking for Roger. Eventually I saw his legs on a creeper, sticking out from under a car. He’d been working late and he’d fallen asleep beneath it!

He’s worked for me for about 15 years now, and he started when most men retire. He just turned 80, and he’s crankier than ever. But Roger can still solve any mechanical problem that comes through my shop.