My Dad got me started in the old-car hobby about a thousand years ago and I guess he and I were pretty close for most of our lives. _I like to tell stories about him and my Mom and I hope you guys won't mind if I share a few with you. _I'll start with this one:
It was Dad's annual habit to celebrate the coming of every spring season by packing the family into the car and taking a Sunday drive out to the Long Island Automotive Museum. _Oh, I remember so clearly, seeing for the first time, Henry Austin Clark's incredible collection of horseless carriages and how enormous some of those old brass dinosaurs looked. _I was only a schoolboy in second grade and at that time, the whole world was a wondrous smorgasbord of discovery, so it was very unusual for any single experience to stand out. _But the towering brass automobiles, with their hip-high running-boards, hula-hoop-tall wagon wheels, bucket-sized gas headlamps and diamond-tufted seats were ever so much larger than life. _And holy cow!—It must have taken a giant every bit as strong as Daddy to start those locomotive engines with just a hand-crank!
And so, at the tender age of maybe six, I got bit and shook hard by the Brass Car Bug.
As we left the museum, Dad told me, "Yeah, well, maybe when you're older and you have your driver's license, you can buy yourself one of these antique cars—but, you know; first you'll have to learn to drive a standard-shift" (In Dad's parlance, "standard-shift" meant anything that was not an entirely automatic transmission equipped with what my mother would soon come to refer to as a "pernderlo").
That phrase, 'standard-shift,' always made Mom shudder. _At the time, Dad was teaching her to drive our old '51 Mercury, but she just wasn't catching on to how to handle 'three-on-a-tree.' The result of that was my folks trading in the Merc for a '55 Pontiac with an automatic.
_With this in mind, I presumed that once I'd grown to the point of seeing over the steering wheel instead of through it, and achieved the state-mandated age of accountability (and theoretical maturity), learning to shift gears manually was going to be a challenge of Odyssean magnitude. _I had no idea that in about ten years, the abrupt, pubescent addition of copious quantities of testosterone to an already-existing XY-chromosomal makeup would cause me to awaken one day with a fully-developed knowledge of handling a manual transmission. _Never having done it before, muscle-memory experience, which I presumed must have suddenly dropped into my being from a previous life, was simply there. You don't teach a game fish to swim, a junkyard dog to bark, or a plump pigeon to poop on your windshield, because those abilities are woven deeply into the fabric of what the animal happens to be, and so it was with the red Marvel Mystery Oil now coursing through my veins.
Well, a lot of years went by. _Alan Shepard rode a rocket into outer space and John Glenn went into orbit. _There were miniskirts and Beatle-boots and the music that went along with those things, and then there were mood-rings and pet rocks and that absolutely ridiculous musical aberration known as Disco—which crossed all cultural lines and for an all too brief half-decade, seemed to eradicate racial tensions as everyone from every background was dancing together to the same stupid, disco-duck music while wearing the same, equally stupid polyester leisure-suits. _A mixed blessing if ever there was one.
But I digress (always wanted to say that).
Then I got married, bought a house and raised a daughter. _After paying off the resulting credit-card debt, I found myself past the age of combing my hair over and indulging in the traditional, incongruous, old-bald-guy-in-a-new-top-down-Corvette, mid-life crisis. _Fortunately, there was this antique car hobby, populated by utterly wonderful old-fashioned guys and gals who still pledged allegiance to the flag at club meetings, wore their baseball hats the right way and knew the Beatles were nowhere near as good as Elvis.
Dad was well into his eighties when I surreptitiously acquired a 1915 Model T Ford like the one he and Uncle Lou bought together just before WWII, and boy-oh-boy, was he ever surprised! _He walked around the car and noted the "NON-SKID" tire treads that he had once pointed out to me back at the museum a thousand years ago. _He reminded me to tuck my thumb while cranking. _The engine caught and went, "kisskisskisskisskisskiss," and we climbed aboard.
And then, without breaking his straight-ahead gaze through the windshield, he commented, "So. You learned how to work a standard-shift."
Bob, Great story.
Can you still fit into your lime green polyester suit ?
Great story Bob.
Wonderful story. Keep 'em coming. Did you build the grasshopper robot?
I was raised around antique cars. At the tender age of 10 my father acquired a 1923 model t touring. He and my brother "restored" the t and we never took a drive in it. He promptly sold it and acquired a "brass 1914 t. Many others followed. My 1st ride in a model t or should I say on a t was a freshly restored 1913 touring. We put miles on the car sitting on the gas tank and driving as the body was not finished yet.
Other restorations followed, both my brother and I learned "how to" do the many things required to work on a car. We had hands on experience, grinding valves pouring babbit bearings, sanding priming and painting, polishing brass, fitting fenders, knowledge I still use to this very day.
My father was a self taught machinist, electrical wizard, I never knew him to be stumped by any mechanical issue. He of course grew up during the depression and you fixed anything that failed or broke, there was no money to buy a new one.
So I reflect on my early years training by my father, he was tough and a stern task master. He favorite saying was "there's never time to do it right, but always time to do it over". When I'm trying to take a short cut, those words echo in my ear. I stop take a brief moment then find the right way to do it.
I have been around, owned ridden and driven antique cars for over 60 years. I've enjoyed a fabulous hobby, met incredible people, and looking back, it's been a wonderful time. Those of you I consider friends, I thank you for being along for the ride, you made it more fun, more exciting and added miles of pleasure to my life
Great story. And many of us older folks have some wonderful memories of our parents and old cars. And hopefully we and those with grandparents that had older cars will work at passing along the enjoyment of adjusting the carb, turning on the gas, etc. and going for a ride. Additionally I wonder what kids may walk through our Model T Museum or see some of our Ts on the road etc. and they may catch the bug?
I know for me initially I was more excited about the ice cream we had after the ride than the ride. But once my Dad let me drive .... it changed to I was more excited about going for a drive than I was for the ice cream. Although the ice cream was still really important.
Thank you again for sharing the memories.
Hap l9l5 cut off
A word master honing his craft. Great story !!
My dad was fresh back from Vietnam in 69 and all of his friends had muscle cars 67 vette, 69 March, 66 gto so I was around those cars and my whole life I have bought and restored ford muscle cars and drag raced. When I was 14 we had moved to Dalton Ga and a man dad worked with was in his late 60s and in poor health, he took me and my dad for a ride first in 25 T and then a beautiful 30 sedan. I was hooked the rest of my life but between racing, kids, divorce and restoring over priced muscle cars I never got to model A s or T s. 20 years ago I bought my first 30 coupe and now couldn't live without it or my 29 sedan or my T s. Most of my friends can't understand my decision to get so heavily involved in cars of that era but I love that period of time.. I have had nothing but satisfaction and enjoyment from both A s and T s. I think they are missing out!! Tim
"Dad got me started" got my attention! Just last weekend I took my Dad and his old 1916 T that he restored in 1970 to a 50th anniversary tour of an Antique car club he helped start. I was introduced to Model T's very young and have polished way to much brass.I have had so many wonderful times in Model T's with my Dad and are now enjoying great times with my son. Dad does not drive anymore or cannot work on the T but I take him out at every opportunity. I* hope my son will drive me when I can no longer drive.
Burger in Spokane,
That's not me in the photo; it's just something I found online. _However, I do have a velvet jacket into which I no longer fit.
Robert G. Hester Jr.
No, I didnT build the grasshopper robot. _I found it online and through the magic of Photoshop, added the brass radiator and headlamps.
My dad was a hotrodder and drag-racer in the 50's and I grew up in the pits at drag races. I shook Don Garlits hand when I was a little guy and Big Daddy toured with a mechanic and a ramp truck.
I've always been into old cars that are more stock and have always loved Model A's and T's.
My dad is in his 70's but I still have to keep an eye on him around my old cars because he'll modify them to go faster when I have my back turned.
My Dad was a gardener. He could make things grow like no other, flowers, fruit, bulbs, herbs. It didn't matter what it was, he could grow it and make some money for his efforts. Even in his 70's, he was propagating ferns from spores and supplying the local nursery. I have no idea where my T mechanics has come from, given this background.
However, my son Anthony has certainly has caught on. He has his own T, bought as an 8 year old, has rejuvenated an old 27 tourer buckboard out at the farm, and has driven my 20 roadster pickup all over the country.
Hope this qualifies me for something.
Allan from down under,
Bob is our best writer. His story about going to school with the nuns is a classic.
Bob, great writing. Growing up in the 60's/70's my Dad was busy working overtime at the steelmill to support my Mom, three Sisters and I. Always loved taking things apart to see how it worked. Lucky for me, had a neighbor that was a diesel mechanic that would loan me tools to work on mini-bikes, dirt bikes, and finally cars. The things learned have let me enjoy working on things to this day. I've tried to pass this on to kids in my neighborhood. Shame that many kids don't seem to enjoy working on mechanical things anymore.
Great story Bob living here in Southampton your story really brings back great memories. Our second grade class ,as was the case with all the second grade classes at that time,would take a field trip to the museum. Once there we all would have a guided tour by the man himself, and a ride on the 1912 American La France ladder truck through the dirt trails in back of the property. Bob my offer stands for you to come out east and take Austi Clarks 15 fire chiefs car for a spin. I will have it out next week at the Shelter Island Historical society car show.
Thanks, Craig. _You're very kind, indeed. _Having known "Emaline" since I was a little shaver and having been inspired by the nostalgia of seeing her again in 2009, I decided I could no longer go without a Model T in my garage and by the following year, was the proud owner of a '15 Model T of my very own! _You can imagine what being invited to drive the very first car of Mr. Clark's collection and the flagship of the Sandy Hollow Fire Department means to me. _Yes, thank you very much. I'll be in touch with you to schedule according to your convenience. _And again, I thank you.