Our family business was an auto storage and shipping business. We also ran a neighborhood auto repair shop. That part of the business I still run today.
During the 1950's and 1960's we had thousands of cars go through our garage in San Francisco. You name it, we stored it. From Bugatti's to V8 powered Maserati's, from Model T's to Z28s, we had them here. My father and my older brother were really into fast cars and they enjoyed driving them, often as part of preparing a car for customer pick up. After all, these cars had been left sitting around during the storage and shipping process, so it was part of our service to take them out for a quick road test. And my dad and my brother never passed up the opportunity to stomp on a gas pedal!
I, on the other hand, was much more into soccer, bicycle riding, camping and fishing. For me, having a fast car would have been a waste of time and money. And my father knew this.
At eighteen years old, in 1973, the time had come for me to get my first car. I thought I had a number of cars to chose from. During those years, often times cars were abandoned at the garage, or my father bought them for almost nothing when the storage and repair bills got too high.
So there I was, in our garage building, checking out a shiny, red, 1966 Pontiac GTO; 389, 4 BBL, 4 speed, rally wheels, low mileage. And, next to it, was a pretty, green 1968 Mercury Cougar; V8, 4 BBL, headers, low miles, super clean interior. Behind that was a red 1965 Dodge Dart convertible; V8, 4 speed, mag wheels. And next to that was a 1968 Lotus Europa, British Racing Green, 4 cylinder Renault engine, 4 speed trans and clean as a whistle. All these cars were available.
Over in the corner was a homely 1966 Chevelle Malibu; 283, 2 BBL, Powerglide trans. Some of the paint was missing. The seats were torn, the radio did not work, the battery was no good, the tires bald, the suspension was sagging, the brakes were shot and the transmission was blown up. And to top it off, the hood and cowl area were covered with 3 inches of decomposing leaves and dirt.
The only good thing about the Chevelle was that the owner only wanted $50.00 for it.
My father did know cars and he did know people. So he announced, as only he could, that the Chevelle was the car for me. I weakly protested. How could he possibly expect me to drive this sad, abused little Chevelle. Again, every other car was cleaner, faster and ready to go. On top of that, every other car would greatly impress my car crazy friends.
So I paid $50.00 for the car and bought $450.00 worth of parts. Two weeks later The Chevelle had 4 new tires, a rebuilt transmission, a new interior, a radio that worked, a new battery, new brakes, and new shocks, springs and anti-sway bars. With a tune up and an oil change, the Chevelle was ready to go.
I still clearly remember the first time I drove it home. We lived 25 miles form our shop and I felt like I owned the world during every inch of those first 25 miles. I was now free to explore the world. I drove the Chevelle all over California, and in 1974 when I met a young lady who lived on the east coast, I drove the Chevelle cross-country to get her, and bring her back to California for good.
I still have the Chevelle and right now I am restoring it with our son.
My father passed away in 2007. When I look at the car I often think back to his plain, common sense wisdom. He knew I would have wrecked any one of the other cars that were here that day, probably killing myself doing it. And he knew the Chevelle was the car for me!
Happy Father's Day to all the dads that know their sons better than their sons know themselves.