When his friends started getting married and having kids, Chris Niederkrom noticed that they also started selling off their car and motorcycle projects. “Well, that must just be how responsibility and adulthood work,” Chris thought to himself. And so, when Chris and his wife learned that their first child was on the way, Chris went to his friend Mark and announced his resignation from all future automotive fun.

“My wife’s pregnant,” Chris told his buddy. “I guess that means it’s time to sell off these cars.”

Mark was nonplussed.

“That’s not how you do it,” Mark said. “Now is the time to buy more cars, and to involve the kids in everything.”

1933 Ford Coupe father son driving portrait
Aaron McKenzie

Flash forward to the present day and this conversation echoes in Chris’s screams as he tries to have a conversation with his 15-year-old son, Dean, while they tear along River Road alongside the Guadalupe River, just outside of San Antonio, Texas. They’re riding in their 1933 Ford Coupe, which they built together. The two can barely hear each other over the roar of the car’s exhaust, but they carry on, discussing plans for future car builds, new adventures, and the general minutiae of each other’s weeks.

“This is probably the least convenient place to ever have a conversation,” Chris says, “but that’s where all of our wonderful conversations happen.”

“We do occasionally have really good conversations, but that’s probably when [the exhaust] has the baffles in it,” Dean says, laughing.

1933 Ford Coupe side profile action
Aaron McKenzie

Dean, his dad says, might be the only person he’s ever met who loves cars more than Chris does. The kid is simply a walking encyclopedia when it comes to these period hot rods. He can cite the facts of who built which cars and raced them at which dry lake beds back in the early days of hot-rodding. He loves the myths and legends that so often crowd in on those facts. And, most importantly, he is obsessed by the potential for new possibilities that remain inherent in these rudimentary, 90-year-old machines.

Dean, like his father, also knows that some folks will look askance at their decision to install a small-block Chevrolet motor in this Ford-bodied car, but it’s their car and they have their reasons.

“A lot of people would say that motor doesn’t belong in that car,” Dean says, “but they’re really reliable and you can drive it anywhere, and that’s what we built the car for.”

“I definitely didn’t do it just to annoy people,” Chris adds.

In true hot-rodder fashion, the Niederkroms are more interested in power and reliability than they are in adhering to a loyalty oath that they never swore. Still, tradition matters to the father and son. Chris knows, however, that traditions are not passed along to future generations in the form of physical objects or family heirlooms. Traditions endure through the passing of skills, knowledge, and values. For his part, Dean takes seriously his responsibility to preserve both his family’s legacy and the hot-rodder tradition more generally. Dean’s grandfather built a Ford Model A; Chris has taught Dean the fundamentals of car-building; and now Dean is building (with his own funds and vision) a hot-rodded 1929 Ford Model A roadster pickup of his own.

1933 Ford Coupe shop father son engine work
Aaron McKenzie

What guides Dean’s decision-making as he moves through this build of his own car?

“When I’m making decisions about how to build my car, I don’t try to copy what I know someone did back in 1946,” he says. “I just try to think, ‘Would a kid have possibly done something like this back in 1946?’”

The skills, knowledge, and traditions that keep a hobby—in this case, hot-rodding—alive do not endure of their own accord. Each generation must take the initiative to pass them to the next generation of enthusiasts … father to son, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend. When Chris opted to keep his cars and involve his children, he did his own small part to guarantee that the hot-rodding tradition would survive for at least one more generation.

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When Kate Cook was 15 years old and beginning to search for her first car, her father, Eric, imposed only one requirement: Whatever Kate chose, it had to be four-wheel drive.

At the time, Kate’s family lived near Lake Arrowhead, a resort town tucked into the San Bernardino Mountains high above the surrounding deserts of Southern California. Known since its earliest days as a popular summer getaway for well-to-do Hollywood and Los Angeles business types, Lake Arrowhead and its surrounding hamlets—at least, once away from the immediate lake shore—have long offered an affordable change of pace for those seeking to escape the frenetic pace of city life. And unlike L.A., Lake Arrowhead experiences winter, complete with snow and ice. Eric was determined that whatever car his daughter chose, it had better get her home safely after she navigated those twisty mountain roads.

Even before her dad set his conditions, Kate had her heart set on a Jeepster Commando. She had seen them around the mountain and loved their shape. But how to find one that had not been completely disfigured? Aftermarket modifications tend to find their way to old Jeeps. After much searching, Kate and Eric located a 1966 Jeepster in the nearby desert town of Barstow, California, Upon bringing it home and digging into it more deeply, however, they discovered that they were the proud new owners of a rolling time bomb. Thus did Kate’s education in auto mechanics (and in some respects, adult life) begin.

Aaron McKenzie

Eric, who spent his career as a mechanic in the Air Force, taught Kate how to sift through every inch of the Jeepster as they diagnosed and remedied its many maladies. At the time they started to rebuild the engine, however, Kate did not even know how to change a tire or check the oil. She’d have to learn.

In the midst of this process, Eric and Kate’s mom, Cynthia, both fell ill with serious and debilitating health problems. Now unable to physically work on the Jeepster himself, Eric nevertheless came out to the garage with Kate everyday and, through his words, talked her through the process of reviving the 4×4. Both Kate and Eric are inveterate to-do list makers, which Kate—only half-jokingly—suggests is their way of trying to impose order on a chaotic world. Whatever its psychological roots, the systematic approach is certainly a habit which helped keep her focused and clear-headed through her parents’ illnesses.

“There was no timeframe for when my parents would get to be feeling better, or even if they ever would,” says Kate. “But with auto mechanics, there are steps and then you’re done, so with those lists I could check things off and that gave me a sense of stability.”

With the Jeepster on the road and her parents’ health improving, Kate eventually found her way to art school in Texas, where the vehicle once again shaped the course of her life.

Aaron McKenzie

“Around town I kept seeing this old-school Jeep, and then one day I saw this blond girl driving it,” says Kate’s husband, Morgan. “I thought, ‘Wow, I need to meet her!’”

Now in their fourth year of marriage, Kate’s and Morgan’s life together now frequently revolves around adventures in their Jeepster. Most of the time, owing to the old rig’s quirks, those adventures do not go as planned. That’s perfectly fine with Morgan and Kate.

“Most of the time we try to get to certain destinations but if we don’t, that’s okay,” says Morgan. “The trip is the trip, not the destination.”

Aaron McKenzie

Not surprisingly, this Jeepster is more than just four tires and a pile of metal for Kate, who now makes her living as an automotive artist and pinstriper. The Jeepster and the structure it brought it to her life taught her perseverance, helped get her through her parents’ illnesses, and ultimately led her to her husband. Little wonder, then, that Kate has no intentions of parting with this Jeep.

“I would never sell this Jeep,” says Kate. “If I ever couldn’t drive it, I would just park it out front and plant flowers in it. It’s just a time capsule for me and for my own family. It’s so sentimental to me.”

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If you’re ever invited to Tyson Hugie’s home in Phoenix, be sure to bring along your tape measure. If you do, you’ll find that Hugie’s priorities—at least insofar as carfolk are concerned—are all in the right place.

“There’s actually more space here for cars than for people,” Hugie says.

His ranch home is modest, but Hugie’s garage nevertheless boasts enough room to house his six Acuras, packed nose-to-tail in perfect formation. To call this space a “garage,” however, is to understate Hugie’s automotive passion. This room is part museum, part shrine, all of it devoted to celebrating Honda’s luxury brand and Hugie’s lifelong devotion to it.

Tyson Hugie’s 1992 Acura NSX
Aaron McKenzie

“My friends and family agree that I have an obsession here,” Hugie says with a smile, “and I guess I don’t doubt that. I never set out to be a collector; it just started with one car and progressed from there.”

The car world is famously filled with brand loyalists: Mopar guys, Porsche guys, families who only buy Fords or who trade up to the newest Chevrolet model every couple years. Some of these devotees even go so far as to put bumper stickers or mud flaps on their vehicles that feature Calvin (of “Calvin and Hobbes”) doing obscene things to rival brands’ logos.

And then there’s Tyson Hugie. He’s an Acura man who has taken brand loyalty to a whole new level—and you won’t need Calvin’s help to understand his allegiances. Over the past quarter century, Hugie has owned some 22 Acuras, including those six which still reside in his garage today. The garage walls that surround these cars are lined with everything from racks of dealer brochures, signage, and even a TV that loops vintage Acura television commercials from years gone by. Step inside a nearby anteroom and you’ll find display cases filled with more Acura memorabilia: diecast cars, promotional Acura-branded wrist watches, a Motor Trend “Car of the Year” trophy, and binders upon binders filled with service records for Hugie’s cars.

“If it has the Acura brand on it, I’m probably interested in having it for my collection,” Hugie says.

Tyson Hugie’s 1992 Acura NSX
Aaron McKenzie

So complete is Hugie’s collection, in fact, that employees at Acura headquarters in California occasionally ring him up to ask if he can dig into his archives and help them verify the specs on, say, a 2003 Acura TL.

All of this started back in the mid-1990s when Hugie, then in high school, bought himself a 1989 Honda Prelude Si. Short of an Acura NSX, this was about as much performance as one could get out of the Honda-Acura world at the time—and Hugie was in no position to afford an NSX. This, however, is where long-term goals come into play: Hugie vowed that he would buy an NSX by the time he turned 30, and he set up a dedicated savings account to start chipping away at that goal.

In the meantime, Hugie kept busy by racking up the miles on other Acuras. While in college, he bought a 1994 Acura Legend coupe with a six-speed manual transmission and 95,000 miles on the odometer. This Legend, which still resides in Hugie’s garage today, now boasts 577,000 miles, which Hugie accumulated through the usual daily driving routine as well as through road trips to 37 states, including Alaska. Owing to Hugie’s exacting standards of upkeep (recall those binders full of service records), the Legend still looks immaculate and its engine has never been opened.

“I’d still get in that car and drive it anywhere today,” Hugie says.

Even as he was piling up the miles, Hugie continued to stock away funds in his NSX savings account. Finally, a few weeks shy of his 30th birthday and fresh out of graduate school, he made his dream come true when he bought a red 1992 Acura NSX. The car has been everything he hoped it would be.

Tyson Hugie’s 1992 Acura NSX
Aaron McKenzie

“Acura’s original tagline was ‘Precision Crafted Performance,’” Hugie says, “and it really shows in these first-gen NSXs. This car is 30 years old, but it doesn’t have creaks or rattles. Everything is tight, even at 117,000 miles.”

Even more importantly, the NSX begs to do exactly what Hugie loves to do: drive.

“This car is reliable enough to be a daily driver, but it really only comes alive beyond 5000 rpm,” Hugie says, noting that while the 3.0-liter V-6 only produces 270 horsepower (less than some 2021 Toyota Camrys), the balanced chassis and the manner in which the engine delivers the power continues to make the early NSX a true driver’s car.

Like many other car enthusiasts who came of age in the 1990s, Hugie sees that decade as an automotive sweet spot. Automakers had finally managed to work with emissions regulations and were creating reliable, powerful engines paired with fun, nimble chassis. Without the added crumple zones and airbags that have become standard in today’s cars, vehicles in the 1990s sported lower profiles, thinner pillars, and less weight. They also lacked most of the driver’s aids—backup cameras, traction control, and adaptive cruise control, to name a few—that take control away from the driver. Still, certain creature comforts like air conditioning worked reliably. Aside from a lousy stereo system, Hugie’s NSX embodies this era.

Tyson Hugie’s 1992 Acura NSX
Aaron McKenzie

“There’s a lot to be said for the technology advances since my NSX was made,” Hugie says, “but driving for me is a form of anti-anxiety medication and I don’t necessarily want all that technology to interfere with my experience in the car.

“Sometimes you just want to walk away from all the computers, put your iPhone on the desk, get in the car, and forget about the modern world. The NSX allows me to do just that.”

Welcome to Tyson Hugie’s world, one of precision crafted priorities.

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As a young boy growing up just east of Los Angeles, Greg Monise did not appreciate just how important his grandfather, Frank Monise Sr., was to the automotive world—in particular, to the world of racing. The only thing Greg knew or cared about at the time was that his grandfather was a kindly, single-minded presence whose entire ethos boiled down to a bumper sticker: “Fix Cars. Go Racing.”

It was only years later, during a commemorative event at the legendary Riverside International Raceway, that Greg, as a young adult, came to appreciate the impact that Frank Sr. had had on the car world. Sure, Greg had seen the old, tattered albums full of photos of Porsches and Lotuses, Corvettes and Mercedes. He’d heard the tales of hard-fought battles at places like Torrey Pines, Del Mar, Santa Barbara, and Daytona, against men with names like Miles, Reventlow, McAfee, and Clark. He’d heard mention of a national championship with Peter Brock and the BRE Datsun team. Until that day at Riverside, however, when Greg finally saw his grandfather’s trophies assembled in one place and heard the stories of his grandfather’s exploits, Frank Sr. was merely “Grandpa” to Greg. How was he to reconcile this kindly old man with the tales of competitiveness he was hearing about?

As chronicled previously on Hagerty, the racing tradition runs deep here at Frank Monise Motors, which now resides in Rancho Cucamonga, California,  some 40 miles east of Los Angeles at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. Greg and his father, Frank Monise Jr., spend their days here restoring small displacement British sports cars such as MGBs, Triumphs, and Austin-Healeys, but their true passion for racing is never far away, as evidenced by the assembly of open-wheel Formula Ford race cars tucked throughout the shop. Come the weekend, odds are the Monise men will be out at Willow Springs International Raceway (“The Fastest Road in the West”), taking laps on the same track that nearly killed Frank Sr. back in the 1950s.

Why I Drive MGB
Aaron McKenzie

With this lineage comes a sense of responsibility, which neither Frank Jr. nor Greg takes lightly. “Our name means something. It’s meant something since the 1950s,” Frank Jr. says. “The Monise name is super important to me and I certainly don’t want it to become somebody’s sideshow joke.”

As this father and son know, however, reputation is built not by momentary glory on the race track, but rather by waking up every day and putting in the long hours of tedious work.

“I feel very responsible to carry on, to make this prosper as my dad has done for 50 years and as my grandfather did for years before that, “ Greg says. “ I mean, I can’t let it cease to be because of me, because of my effort or lack of ability.”

It was this same attitude—that dogged attention to detail and insistence on excellence—that made Frank Monise Sr. a “giant killer,” as Greg puts it, a man who seldom failed to take the least amount of race car and beat drivers in bigger, faster cars. That Frank Sr. was never intimidated by anyone didn’t hurt either. Nobody, and nobody’s car, scared him.

Why I Drive MGB
Aaron McKenzie

“He just showed up to the track and beat cars he had no business beating,”  Greg says.

Racing glory, however, only does so much to help a family business stay afloat, which is why Greg and Frank Jr. both arrive early to their shop each day and dig into the minutiae of these vintage British cars. These men have a special place in their heart for the MGBs.

“My affinity with the MGB especially, started when I was pretty young.” Greg says. “My uncle raced an MGB, and that was the car I fell in love with, which led to me racing an MGB for seven years.”

Of course, this affection is not unalloyed. Both Greg and Frank Jr. will freely admit that, while the reputation among British cars for quirkiness is exaggerated, these MGBs certainly have their idiosyncrasies.

Why I Drive MGB
Aaron McKenzie

“They have the worst weather equipment,” Greg says with a laugh. “It’s unbelievable for an island country that’s cold and wet: all the weather gets into the car. Every one of them have terrible heaters, terrible wipers and they all leak water, all the soft tops and curtains and things, none of them seal very well. It’s amazing.”

It is precisely these challenges, these quirks, that still keep Greg and Frank Jr. engaged and fascinated after all these years—and which will likely keep this family tradition alive into future generations.

“I have four grandchildren, and it really looks like they’re all going to be into cars and motorsports one way or another,” Frank Jr. says. “They’re absolutely rabid about it. It’s fantastic that there’s another generation that’s going to be doing just as much as we did.”

This Monise tradition—“Fix Cars. Go Racing”—will endure, one child at a time.

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When Johnnie Yellock stepped off the airplane in Nashville, he wasn’t even sure he would be able to drive the car he had come here to buy. So unsure was Yellock that his legs and ankles would answer his call, in fact, that he had brought a friend along to help him drive. You know, just in case.

Only a few years earlier, Yellock had had to install hand controls on his car in order to drive himself to work, on errands, and to the seemingly endless string of doctor and physical therapy appointments that constantly awaited him across Texas. And yet, here he was, on his way to buy his dream car, a 1984 Porsche 911 Targa that would require him to use all four of his limbs if he was to drive it back home to Dallas.

Johnnie Yellock's 1984 Porsche 911
Aaron McKenzie

That Yellock even has all four of those limbs is a testament to the wonders of modern medical science. That he can use them to operate a manual transmission is nothing short of miraculous. Fresh out of college and inspired by both his parents’ military careers, Yellock joined the Air Force. His goal: to become a Combat Controller, a special operations soldier whose duty is to embed with special forces teams from across the U.S. military—Green Berets, Delta Force, Navy SEALS—and control air-to-ground combat operations. Suffice it to say, this is no paper-pushing desk job.

In 2011, while on his second deployment in Afghanistan, Yellock’s convoy hit an improvised explosive device in Paktika Province. The explosion ripped through the MRAP (mine resistant military vehicle) in which Yellock was riding. When Yellock regained consciousness and looked down, he could see the soles of his feet staring back at him. After applying tourniquets to himself to staunch the bleeding, and then supervising a helicopter MEDEVAC landing for himself and his interpreter, Yellock was rushed to a military hospital and eventually evacuated back to the United States. For his actions on that day, Yellock received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Combat Action Medal.

Yellock also received words from his doctors that he would, in all likelihood, be a double, below-the-knee amputee. Even if they saved his legs, the doctors said, he might never run again, much less drive a manual transmission.

Johnnie Yellock's 1984 Porsche 911
Aaron McKenzie

“I felt at that point that I’d run enough,” Yellock says. “I think we’ve all run enough, but at only 24 years old, it was a difficult prognosis to know that I might never be able to use my feet again [to drive a stick shift].”

Thanks to modern limb-salvage techniques—and 32 surgeries—Yellock not only has both of his legs but now uses them to do everything from play golf to, yes, drive his classic Porsche. Sure, he will have to wear adaptive braces on his legs for the rest of his life but this, for Yellock, is a price worth paying if it gives back to him these simple pleasures he once came so close to losing.

Driving a manual transmission is no longer something Yellock takes for granted. It is not an afterthought, or an experience to which he feels entitled. Every time Yellock slides into the driver’s seat of this 911, it is a reminder of his perseverance, his good fortune, and his unbreakable optimism that keeps him moving forward into the future.

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As a child, Leslie Sisco was not aware that her family’s car ranks among the most beautiful American automotive designs ever executed. Nor would she have been interested that the car took its initial inspiration from an Alfa Romeo known as the Disco Volante. Leslie didn’t know, much less care, that the 19 year-old who penned the original sketch of the car would one day go on to win racing championships with the BRE Datsun team.

Young Sisco was more concerned with watching the world flicker past as she and her sister, on family road trips across the Deep South, laid under the greenhouse in the back of their dad’s 1966 Corvette Stingray.

Eventually, Leslie would also be very interested to learn that, because of this very Corvette, she had come close to never being born. Back in 1968, her father was a medical student who longed to own a Corvette. With a frugal wife in pharmacy school, however, this dream remained a luxury just out of reach—until, that is, Mr. Sisco’s wife left town for the weekend. In her absence, Mr. Sisco convinced his mother to co-sign on a loan that brought him a lightly-used, Ermine White 1966 Corvette.

Leslie Sisco's 1966 Chevrolet Corvette
Aaron McKenzie

When Mrs. Sisco returned from her weekend away, she was surprised. Not pleasantly so, either.

“When Mom came home, she found herself the new owner of a Corvette,” says Leslie with a smile, “and Dad nearly found himself divorced.”

Peace eventually returned to the Sisco household. The Corvette stayed, serving as the family car and Mr. Sisco’s daily driver until well into the 1980s (at which point he replaced it with a DeLorean).

Leslie’s childhood memories are inextricably linked with this Corvette. These memories do not, however, involve seat belts or air conditioning. Like most parents in the 1970s, Leslie’s parents had something of a casual attitude toward safety when it came to stuffing their daughters into the back of the Corvette and setting out from Memphis to visit family elsewhere in Tennessee.

Standards of comfort were also different in the early 1970s. So long as the car was in motion, the airflow from the open windows kept the family in good spirits. At stoplights, however, the Corvette quickly turned into a sweltering hothouse in the Deep South summer.

Now, as she flips through old family photos, Leslie frequently sees the Corvette in the background. The white sports car was unmistakable at family picnics, at the golf course, and at her very own wedding. For nearly five decades, the Vette has simply been there, always present.

Leslie Sisco's 1966 Chevrolet Corvette
Aaron McKenzie

When Leslie’s father passed away in 2016, she took ownership of the car with every intention of honoring her father’s wishes to restore it. As time passed, however, she found herself reluctant to erase the car’s history. All those imperfections, all those marks of age and experience, are a record of her childhood and a connection to her father. To smooth out those creases would be to erase them. Leslie can point to spots on the car where her father used a little touch-up paint in an effort to spruce it over the years. She half-cringes when discussing the fiberglass that cracked when, upon returning with her dad from one of her first drives in the car, she accidentally left it in neutral and caused the car to roll backward into a wall.

And then there’s the smell.

“I probably like the smell the most,” says Leslie. “It’s a mixture between gas and vinyl and what I can only describe as the years of grass my dad tracked in there from the golf course. It’s just one more connection to him.”

Leslie Sisco's 1966 Chevrolet Corvette
Aaron McKenzie

The imperfections are also a form of permission to drive the car, to enjoy it. Keep it alive. These days the Corvette lives in New Orleans, where it helps Leslie forge new bonds with the local car community. It can regularly be spotted on Sunday morning drives out to Fort Pike or through the Big Branch Marsh. During these drives, Leslie feels her father’s presence most closely.

“My dad would be proud that I take it out and enjoy it because he definitely enjoyed it,” she says. “If I just kept it in a garage, that would be disappointing for him.”

For all she’s done to honor and respect the family Corvette, Leslie’s father would have every reason to be proud.

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When John Barrett was growing up in the 1970s, LaPlace, Louisiana, was home to the LaPlace Dragway. The mere presence of this track—located on Highway 61 between New Orleans and Baton Rouge—made LaPlace a “car town,” drawing together the car community from all over South Louisiana, who came to LaPlace for its racing spectacles.

Aside from the Dragway, however, there wasn’t much outside automotive culture in LaPlace. Indeed, LaPlace boasted but one dealership, which offered Fords.

“If you wanted something else, you had to go somewhere else,” says John Barrett, who grew up here and whose family, which always drove Fords, never went anywhere else.

Barrett’s garage at his childhood home remains, at least in part, a testament to his automotive upbringing in this small southern town. A Ford Ranchero gasser sits next to a pair of CobraJet 429 Torinos and a Mercury Comet GT. The majority of his garage space, however, is consumed by machines that, in this context and in this place, only beg questions.

1991 Honda Beat
Aaron McKenzie

What, for instance, is with all the Japanese motorcycles? Why is there a Nissan Pao parked over there next to that Honda S800? And is that a Honda Beat? Yes. Yes, it is.

Like many other young men growing up in the 1970s, Barrett was surrounded by the recent influx of Japanese motorcycles on American shores. Brands like Honda and Suzuki had not yet made their mark on the American car scene, but they had already earned a reputation for fun, quality, and value with their motorcycles. Unable to own a Honda motorcycle in his youth, Barrett was nevertheless fascinated by the bikes’ engineering, by how these Japanese brands were seemingly able to do so much more with fewer resources. Barrett, as his garage full of motorcycles indicates, is now making up for lost time.

At some point during that make-up time, Barrett happened to read about Japan’s class of “Kei” cars. Originally created as an automotive category by the Japanese government in 1949, the Kei car class generally refers to microcars with limited engine displacement, wheelbase, and power output. In a country as space-constrained as Japan, they are also much easier to park. Throughout most of the 1990s, engine displacement for this class was limited to 660cc—which, for someone like Barrett, who grew up fascinated by motorcycles—made these Kei cars (especially his 1991 Honda Beat) seem almost like a motorcycle in a car’s clothing.

“It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast,” Barrett says, “and there’s nothing more fun than trying to drive the Beat fast. It’s a 1600-pound car, with a three-cylinder engine that will rev to 9000 rpm while making 63 horsepower. So, even though it sounds like you’re going like crazy, you’re really not going that fast, but you’ve got a lot of smiles.”

1991 Honda Beat
Aaron McKenzie

South Louisiana is generally not known as an epicenter of the JDM import scene, so Barrett gets more than his share of curious inquiries about his little silver mid-engined car. And Kei cars, Barrett notes, are nothing if not approachable.

“No one ever catches their breath and goes, ‘Oh, maybe I shouldn’t …,’” Barrett says. “They just look at it, smile, and say, ‘Oh, I gotta know what this is.’”

For all the happiness he gets from driving these oddball machines, Barrett is quick to admit that the people he meets and the friends he’s made because of this shared automotive passion are his biggest joy in the car world.

“You really do meet the nicest people while driving a small, unusual, right-hand-drive Honda.”

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Across the United States are garages filled with the best of intentions gone awry. You know the story: Someone starts an automotive restoration only to end up stalled, owing to lack of funds, perhaps, or just as often to a lack of time, knowledge, or initiative. The disassembled car ends up spread across boxes full of jumbled parts. After a few years, the whole mess goes up for sale on Craigslist or Facebook.

Curtis Vicknair is the patron saint of these basket cases.

Even most competent mechanics, seeing these “For Sale” listings, will just keep scrolling. Who, after all, would want to add to the already complex task of restoring a car without knowing it’s all there and hoping that there’s some method to the scattered madness in those crates full of parts?

Curtis Vicknair, that’s who.

Curtis Vicknair's 1940 Chevrolet Pickup
Aaron McKenzie

Take, for instance, his 1940 Chevrolet pickup. While relaxing one evening at his home in Reserve, Louisiana, Vicknair was sniffing around on Facebook Marketplace when a photo of an iconic grill caught his eye. Before long, he had purchased the truck that went with that grill. Of course, when he took possession of it, it was less a vehicle than a grab bag of parts and bolts and metal.

Vicknair loves driving these olds cars but he loves this part of the process—the puzzle-solving, the building, the creative workarounds—even more.

“My motto,” Vicknair says, “is built, not bought.”

While Vicknair’s raw fascination with cars is innate, his skill in building them came to full flower as a young man when he began working on, and eventually driving, circle track dirt cars. For 20 years, Vicknair spent his free time sliding around dirt tracks across Louisiana, an experience that taught him how to build reliable, powerful American engines, especially Chevrolets.

Curtis Vicknair's 1940 Chevrolet Pickup
Aaron McKenzie

Vicknair has mellowed with age and his racing days are now a thing of the past (well, mostly), but he still spends his evenings and weekends out in his shop. In addition to this 1940 Chevrolet pickup—with the tidy small-block Chevy motor that he built for it—Vicknair is also hard at work on an 800-horsepower drag car that he cobbled together from pieces of a 1934 Chevrolet and a 1959 Dodge Coronet. It’s all held together by a homebuilt frame and powered by a turbocharged LS engine, which shoots flames and terrifies onlookers whenever Vicknair fires it up, something he is always happy to do.

As much as he loves building these old cars, however, Vicknair takes an ambivalent attitude towards painting them. In fact, he outright refuses to paint his pickup.

“The way I look at it,” he says, “it took 80 years to get it looking like this. Why would I ruin it by putting a different color of paint on it?”

That question—Why?—is one that comes up a lot during any visit to Vicknair’s shop. Why take on the headaches? Why this lifelong compulsion to build cars? Why build a 800-horsepower drag racer? Just … why?

Curtis Vicknair's 1940 Chevrolet Pickup
Aaron McKenzie

“Building something yourself, there’s a lot of pride in it,” Vicknair says. “It’s just that pride that you built something, and now you’re driving it down the road. You can’t go buy a new car and have that feeling.”

So if you ever happen to wander up to Vicknair’s house and spy a dozen boxes of parts scattered around the shop, just know that that’s his next creation. Come back in a few weeks and he’ll give you a ride.

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Sam Prokop makes sure to get out and drive early. In the summer, the New Orleans heat and humidity reach tropical intensity by mid-morning. Once the tourists sleep off their hangovers the streets around the Garden District and the French Quarter will be swarming with throngs of people. Besides, Roscoe—Prokop’s beagle-labrador mix—is always up early and ready for a ride.

And so, Sam and Roscoe pile into Prokop’s 1961 Citroën 2CV and make their way through the quiet streets in search of whatever the day has to offer. Motoring through the French Quarter, Prokop maneuvers around the delivery trucks that stock the local restaurants. He waves at pedestrians who, equally charmed by the little French car and the dog that rides in it, shout out compliments and scramble for their phones in hopes of snapping a photo. Very seldom does Prokop have a destination in mind; simply moving forward through the morning streets is reward enough for waking up early.

Sam Prokop's 1961 Citroën 2CV
Aaron McKenzie

“You have the windows open, you have top rolled back and you sort of don’t care if it goes fast or not,” says Prokop, “Because at the end of the day, it’s moving forward. That’s what matters.”

In 2021, few people own a Citroën 2CV for mere transportation. With their lawn chair interior, leather straps in lieu of a gas gauge, and 23-horsepower, air-cooled, two-cylinder engines, these 1100-pound French cars are a relic of a simpler time. They are also, for Prokop, a connection to his homeland.

Prokop was born and raised in France, where the 2CV was as important as the Volkswagen Beetle in Germany or the Ford Model T in the United States. Like those cars, the 2CV was designed to be cheap to build, cheap to operate, and rugged enough to bounce across pockmarked roads or farm fields without breaking a basket of eggs in the back seat. That Citroën achieved these aims in the 2CV—and that the company produced them beginning in 1948 all the way to 1990—is remarkable from a design and manufacturing perspective, but it’s hardly the sort of thing that have inspired a young Sam Prokop to desire to own one as a young man growing up in France.

After moving to the United States with his American wife, however, Prokop found himself wishing for an automotive connection to his homeland. His mind quickly returned to the cars that most stood out in his memories, and his search ended when he stumbled across this 1961 model in a barn in rural France, where it had been tucked away by its original owner 26 years earlier. With the help of some new spark plugs, a new dynamo, and some fresh gas, the 2CV cranked right over as if it had been parked the day before.

“It continues to be the most reliable car I’ve ever owned,” says Prokop. “I would take this car cross-country tomorrow in the state she’s in and she’d be fine.”

Prokop, Roscoe, and the 2CV have become a regular feature on New Orleans streets. Occasionally they’ll set out in search of Petite Rouge, a local coffee truck (or, more accurately, a coffee truck housed in a 1970 Citroën H-Van) that sets up shop around New Orleans, and then head for the sprawling lawns of New Orleans City Park, where Prokop lets Roscoe out to stretch his legs and play fetch outside the New Orleans Museum of Art. After a drive along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, Prokop and Roscoe will head home.

Sam Prokop's 1961 Citroën 2CV
Aaron McKenzie

The route may change from day to day, but one constant is the attention this 2CV receives from onlookers. Wherever he goes, Prokop knows that other drivers will shift into reverse and roll down their windows just so they can ask him about the car. While most of the curious onlookers are unable to identify the Citroën, they all have a smile on their face when they see it.

“Every time I pass in front of somebody—kids, adults, sixty-year-olds, ten-year-olds, it doesn’t matter—they all smile,” says Prokop. “I love that about this car. You might say it’s what drives me to drive.”
These 2CVs may not be terribly comfortable. They are not always easy to drive, and they are certainly not going to deliver a driver to a destination with any sense of urgency. What these simple little French cars do promise, however, is that every drive will be an adventure, and for Sam Prokop this is all that matters.

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Cars, much like nature, abhor a vacuum. Word of an empty garage bay at someone’s house has a way of spreading through a local car community. Before long, that small patch of real estate soon houses someone’s project. Someone’s heirloom. Or maybe someone’s secret, hidden from an unsympathetic spouse.

Eric Oberlander experienced this axiom play out in real life, shortly after moving to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2008. Word somehow leaked out into his neighborhood that Oberlander had some garage space that he wasn’t using and, before long, a young neighbor came knocking at his door.

“Any chance I could store my old Bronco project in your garage?” he asked Oberlander.

Eric Oberlander's 1971 Ford Bronco
Aaron McKenzie

At the time, Oberlander knew next to nothing about early Ford Broncos. Growing up in the Washington, D.C., area with a stepfather who was into air-cooled Volkswagens, Oberlander had spent most of his youth bouncing around in the family’s Thing and scavenging local wrecking yards for old Porsche and VW parts, or even full cars—this being a time when old Porsches were just old cars and not collectible titans. (By the time he went off to college, Oberlander was able to sell the 1971 Porsche 911 T he had cobbled together to help pay for his tuition.)

Amid none of these automotive adventures, however, did Oberlander encounter any first-generation Ford Broncos, so when his neighbor started restoring that old SUV in Oberlander’s garage, he was fascinated. New automotive exploration, right before his eyes.

It was, says Oberlander, the beginning of a “passion, an obsession, and a problem” that has started him down a path to his own collection of twenty early Broncos—many of them among the rarest in existence.

Eric Oberlander's 1971 Ford Bronco
Aaron McKenzie

There is, for instance, serial #005, one of the very first 1966 model-year Bronco off the Ford assembly line in August, 1965. Oberlander also owns a U.S. military Bronco that immediately prompts one to ask, “Wait, didn’t the military use Jeeps back in the 1960s?” Well, yes, but for a brief moment, the military’s procurement machine felt that Kaiser Jeep would be more inclined to give the U.S. government a better price on Jeeps if it had to face a little competition. Thus were, at most, 120 military Broncos delivered to Uncle Sam. Jeep ultimately retained their place as the military’s vehicle of choice and these Broncos—which found their way into service around the world, from Panama to Vietnam—lived hard lives that by no means ensured survival.

The crown jewel of Oberlander’s stable is his 1971 s, also known as the “Baja Bronco.” Known for its distinctive orange, blue, and white paint scheme, the Stroppe Broncos were the creation of Bill Stroppe, a California-based off-road racer who made his name at races like the Baja 1000 and who partnered with Ford to build a hot-rodded Bronco, much like Carroll Shelby juiced up Mustangs for the Blue Oval. An estimated 400 Stroppe Broncos were ultimately produced and, short of owning Parnelli Jones’s “Big Oly” Bronco (which recently fetched $1.87 million at a Mecum auction), a Stroppe Bronco is, for many, the pinnacle of Bronco ownership.

Oberlander says his Stroppe Bronco is entirely original, from paint to fender to engine. He bought the truck from the original owner in Boise, Idaho, a man who kept every scrap of paper related to the Bronco and who maintained it with a kind of religious devotion. The result is a survivor that, when he hits the dirt for a day of hunting and fishing with his two young sons, immediately takes Oberlander back to the 1970s.

“I probably baby it a little more than I do my other cars, because it’s so collectible.” says Oberlander, “I’m not going to put it in harm’s way, but I’m definitely not afraid to flog it around and get it covered with mud.”

Oberlander now maintains a side hustle building and restoring old Broncos. Even that, however, doesn’t entirely satisfy his passion for these utilitarian rigs. Eventually, says Oberlander, he’d like to open a Bronco museum to share his passion with others—and to make them aware that these rare models exist.

Some of these Broncos are so rare that no one has ever even heard of them,” says Oberlander. “And for there to be interest in something, people have to be aware that it exists.” Oberlander’s goal: to help people know that these classics exist.

In the meantime, however, Oberlander is content to pile into his Bronco with his sons on a Saturday morning and light out into the Louisiana woods in search of new adventures.

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