How long was your longest relationship? No, this isn’t an online dating questionnaire or an afternoon life affirming TV talk show. I am talking about something infinitely more important than that. I am referring to your obsession with your car.
In the literary world the word that comes to mind is “personification” or in simpler terms, attaching human traits to inanimate objects. We can relate with our attachments to our kids, families, friends and loved ones, but we rarely recognize the special place our cars have in the mix. Many times your car takes a back seat to more pressing issues, and no matter your intentions, becomes neglected. Luckily, your car doesn’t judge. This can’t be said for the others biding for your time and admiration.
As an old car enthusiast, the test of time only ripens your desire and love of your ol’ beater. I can attest to this phenomenon on a personal level. My relationship is with a ’69 Camaro that in a former life lived as a drag car. It has put more miles on a trailer than on the road with me behind the wheel. No, I am not speaking of a show car either. I have moved it to four houses, 1 barn (three times), and I have built three garages to work on it. If nothing else, this car has strengthened my carpentry skills.
I bought it back in 2000 at a time when I knew little about what to look for in an old muscle car. If I could go back in time I probably would have walked away from this one. It had everything cool about the ’69 Camaro, the RS lights, the rake of a drag car complete with two sets of slicks, a SBC with a 3500 stalled TH400, a B&M ratchet shifter, and the non-roadworthy 4.56 gears out back. It was love at first site! What also came with it was about 10 gallons of Bondo, a copious amount of brazing on the rear quarters, Swiss cheese floors, rotten trunk, rusted out firewall cowl, and enough “Kittie Hair” to knit a sweater with. Not to mention the less-than-ideal road manners brought to me courtesy of a two sizes too large, Holly double pumper with a shaved off choke tower sitting atop a high-rise single plane intake. To heighten the experience, the Camaro had stellar manual drum brakes on all four corners. Saying this was a rough ride is an understatement; if the rattling of your fillings didn’t get you, the rotted out body mounts would. The ability to turn the wheels one-way while simultaneously having the front of the car pointing the other way was always an adventure. I am sure many of you can relate to the feeling. As in life, you learn to take the good with the bad. Like I said, back then I had more impulse than brains.
Even though my Camaro was rough, it was mine. I knew it needed a lot of work if it was to live on. One weekend, I had the grand idea of completely disassembling the entire car. Armed with Ziploc bags, a Sharpie, a reciprocating saw, wrenches and an assortment of persuasion hammers, I started my long spiral into car-crazed insanity. Before I knew it I needed a rotisserie. This was an excuse to buy a welder and learn to weld. After I built the rotisserie and started at excising the car of its Midwest cancer, I realized that the project would not be a numbers matching restoration but a fun driver. It is amazing how one thing leads to another and I was on a decades long journey.
Throughout the years kids came, people moved on, circumstances changed, and I did what I could, when I could, to hopefully get my Camaro back on the road someday. During that time it I have learned so many valuable skills working on my mess, from welding to engine rebuilding and everything in between. Even though the Camaro was not always priority one, it was always there for me.
Fast-forward 15 years and my kids are a little older, and I started a new job at Old Cars Weekly. My Camaro sits in yet another new garage. My eyes are now inundated with awe-inspiring cars everyday. The automotive itch had returned and now it is time to start scratching. I realized that I had a perfect opportunity to share my journey with all of you kindred souls out there.
I have not always done things correctly, and I do not fancy myself as an expert by any means. I am like any other busted knuckled, car crazy mechanic out there, with more dreams and ideas than money and sense. I love the challenges and the learning opportunities. I will attempt to tackle anything car related if I can find or fabricate the tools. The biggest hurdle is getting over the fear of failure. After you conquer that, you will be amazed how much you can accomplish yourself. So far, I have had many failures and some successes, but in the end I have learned valuable skills and had a blast along the way.
I invite you to come along for the ride, and hopefully my old friend will once again rise back to life stronger than ever. My car will probably never win any “best of show” awards but the satisfaction of the craft and the feel of the open road will make it all worthwhile. Buckle up for this might get bumpy.