Gary B

Dad's Gift to our Family

My wife and I were having breakfast out early one Sunday morning, and in those pre-Craigslist days, were reading the newspaper classifieds for old cars. She read me an ad for a 62 Ferrari, and testing my knowledge, asked me what I thought the asking price would be. I threw out a number and she laughed and said it was a fraction of that. "Must be a kit car" I said.

The curiosity was too much, and on the way out of the restaurant, I called the number. It was about 6:00 a.m. The seller answered, said the car was real, but disassembled, and without it's original drive train. The next 30 minutes were spent making a bee-line to his warehouse. Ten minutes later, we owned the car.

That was 1999, and the car had been completely disassembled for a fresh coat of paint, by the Seller, who had owned the car for a short time, and had plans for conversion into an amateur race car. The complete wiring harness had been removed, and was lying in a pile on the floor of the car, covered with overspray. The owner prior to that, was a former editor of Hot Rod Magazine. Since it had been converted to Chevrolet V-8 power in the 70's (along with automatic transmission and Chrysler rear-end), his plan was to feature the car in a Hot Rod Magazine article about turning it into an American hot rod.

My plan was to store the car, until I could turn full attention to the project in retirement. In the meantime, my Dad became interested in the car during a visit in 2004.

He called me a couple of weeks later and asked if I'd be willing to take the car to him as he was interested in getting the project started. Mom was suffering from Alzheimers by that time, and they had relocated to a caregiver's home near their home in North Idaho, so Mom could get full-time care. Dad had time on his hands, and needed a diversion, so the stage was set.

I hauled it on a trailer, with a moving van full of parts and boxes of parts, and delivered it to the caregiver's rural home, which included an old shed next to the barn, that was put into service as a workshop. With outside winter temperatures below zero, a cold cement floor, and a wood stove, Dad, at age 80, with a grin like a new Father, started with an Italian/English dictionary. The original wiring harness was still laying on the floor of the bare body shell, and he cleaned every inch of it to perfection. When finished, he reported it to be pliable and serviceable. Despite the previous owner's promise and wink that "the car is 100% complete", it didn't take long, of course, to amass a sizeable list of missing parts.

Since the car had been so heavily modified, I never intended to restore it to original configuration. My intent was to simply finish it as a reliable daily driver and enjoy the car. Dad was an accomplished mechanic/machinist/fabricator in his own right, and spent literally hundreds of hours working on the car, much of it researching, designing, and fabricating missing parts that were simply unavailable. After two years of Dad's nearly full-time labor, and on Mom's birthday, the car was a running driving car for the first time in decades. Mom's condition had deteriorated to the point that she couldn't appreciate the significance of what Dad had accomplished. Mom passed away the following spring.

Since 2006, a new black interior has been completed, the transplanted 350 Chevy engine was stroked to 383c.i., Tremec 5-Speed added, and of course much time and money spent on various carburetor configurations, tuning, testing, cooling, etc. etc. Air conditioning and cruise control were added to facilitate extended trips.

After that additional work was done, we made the first long distance trip with the car, back to North Idaho to finally get Dad a ride in the mostly finished car. We took off through the back roads around Coeur d' Alene Lake and visited various friends he had made at auto parts stores, as he searched locally for the various Chevy and Chrysler bits needed to put the car back on the road. The grin on his face as the car roared to life under full power in a long straight stretch, will never be forgotten. Today the car is just what I had in mind-a fun and comfortable daily driver. Every time I turn the key and it rumbles to life, I get a mental picture of Mom's beautiful smile. My only regret is that she and Dad did not get the opportunity to take a drive together in the car.

Needless to say, Mom and Dad's DNA is present in every nook and cranny of the car. The car is a treasured family heirloom, and I hope it will remain with our family for generations to come.

Dad turned 90 earlier this year, and we talk on the phone frequently. He always enjoys the stories about all the attention the car gets every time we take it out.

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