In honor of my dad for Father's Day, I wanted to write about something that means a lot to him. I'm a few days off-schedule, but hey. Better late than never. If you don’t recall me mentioning this in the past, my dad is awesome. Crazy smart, outlandishly talented, and friendlier than anyone else I know.
And he makes things. Lots of things. I get that honestly.
One of the things he is absolutely passionate about making is classic cars. Specifically hot rods. So I took some time recently to chat with him about why he chooses to restore hot rods and here’s what I learned.
My dad is 62 years young, but ever since he was a kid, he’s wanted to build a hot rod. A Ford Model A. I asked him why and this is what he said:
“I’ve always been a hot rodder at heart. It’s in my blood. I don’t know how to explain it — you gotta be a gearhead, I guess. You know, some people wouldn’t know a hot rod if they tripped over it. Those are the kind of guys that go through life with a minivan or the Hyundais*. Ya know what I mean? Yeah. I got a hot rod heart, a performance soul. I like to giddy-up and go.”
Okay, first of all, that wasn’t a solid statement. Every time he said a sentence, I’d follow with “what does that mean?” And second of all, um…
So even though his first choice was a Model A, his actual first restored car was a 57 Corvette, which he worked on when I was just a tiny baby.
I asked him about it.
Me: Did you build it from scratch?
Dad: No, it was a restoration.
Me: When was that?
Dad: Oh, maybe when you were about 2 or 3. No, wait, you were a baby then, a very little baby. You loved that car and were really mad when I sold it.
Me: Is that the one you used to make me stop sucking my thumb?
Dad: (laughs) Yeah. We told you if you didn’t stop sucking your thumb, it was going to get really big and you’d have to drag it outside of the car.
Me: How did I react to that?
Dad: You cried, but you never sucked your thumb again. We thought we did great mental harm to ya.
So I guess I really loved this car. Most likely I loved it because my dad loved it, and I was most definitely a daddy’s girl, through and through.
In fact, as an aside, my dad had so instilled his love of cars in me that I had a poster of a Verona Roadster on my wall as a teenager and we used to talk all the time about how we were going to build it together. Maybe we still will.
So he sells the car, his beloved Corvette, and I ask him what happened next.
“Well buddy, then we went through 30 years of 'life happens'. You grew up, graduated from college, we paid off college and then decided to build the car I really wanted.”
Me: What do you mean by “life happens?”
And here’s where things start to get deep, and I start having a more meaningful conversation with my dad than I’ve had in a very long time.
You know, family. The responsibilities of parenthood. Nothing bad, just the responsibilities of parenthood. Every parent goes through that, you’ll go through that. Nothing wrong with it, that’s what it’s all about.
And you know, I get it now. It suddenly occurred to me that he was just like Sean and I are now. He was as smitten with me as Sean is with the munchkin. My dad is…well…a Dad. Capital D Dad. And he made a lot of sacrifices and never complained once. He just did what he needed to do and then waited to be able to do his own thing.
And when that time came, he knew exactly where to start. After all, I’m pretty sure he’d been planning this for, oh, probably 50 or more years.
So he searched for the frame, drove some engine parts in from Kansas so he could rebuild a good motor, and started to fabricate a bunch of parts. He likes to say there are lots of parts made from something called “unobtainium”. Sound familiar? He’s been working on this car now for a few years and it’s almost finished. Today, it sits in a local hot rod fabrication shop, getting the finishing touches on the interior, and most likely also the paint job.
My dad’s 1929 Model A Roadster Pick-em-up.
I’ve driven it. Right through a crop irrigation system (did you notice it’s an open cab? We were soaking wet. The windshield wipers are manual. Ha!).
Sean’s driven it. Almost crashed it into a ditch. And swore he’d never drive it again. In his defense, that car is really not made for a person of his height.
And my dad drives it absolutely everywhere. It’s a well-known fixture around town and as he says, “there’s something kinda neat about driving around something with no hood and no fenders.”
Personally, I think he enjoys the young ladies at the Dunkin’ Donuts who want to go check it out, and the old farts drinking coffee, looking over with envy. Just sayin’.
When I asked my dad about the cost of the car, he was quick to mention that he doesn’t think about that much because it takes the fun right out of it. Yeah, he gave me specifics, but I wouldn’t want to take the fun out of it for you either.
imanimama’s daddy’s VERDICT: Make or Buy? If you have a high degree of mechanical skill, welding and fabrication skill, electrical, plumbing, hydraulics, all the things necessary to build a car, obviously you’d want to make it yourself because of the degree of satisfaction you’d get from that accomplishment. In fact, when I ask my dad what the most gratifying part has been with his Model A, it’s that he built the entire thing himself, in his shop (except the upholstery and paint), every nut, bolt and washer. And he enjoyed the entire process, every step of the way.
I knew that would be his answer.
In fact, he’s already working on another car — a 1936 Ford 5-Window Coupe. Here’s what it looks like now:
This time around, he’s building the engine and the hot rod fabrication shop is helping him build the rest because of his health.
See my dad can’t do the things he used to be able to do. Oh he’s ABLE, but it wouldn’t be advisable. He has pretty bad COPD and emphysema, and even had a very real lung cancer scare earlier this year. He decided while he was in the hospital that if his biopsy showed no cancer, he was going to do one more car.
So this coupe is his celebration of God’s faithfulness to him. And it’s going to be super tricked out like any other luxury car on the market today. He says like a Cadillac Coupe de Ville with an old Ford body (and a rumble seat). iBaby will probably take that car to her prom, with her Pop-Pop and Daddy chaperoning chauffering.
I used to think my dad was crazy to have such an expensive hobby, but after really taking the time to talk with him about it, I realized it a really good thing for him.
As we were wrapping up our call, the munchkin started to cry and I had to hang up. But before I did, Dad left me with a couple parting words:
One: I build cars because my motto is, as long as my mind is busy and my hands are busy and my heart is happy, I’ll live for ever. That’s why I build cars.
Two: What can I say, buddy? Pardon my French, but it’s just a #!@&-load of fun.
So are you, Daddy. So are you.