My dad grew up loving and working on American cars in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.
He has always had a special radar for spotting classic cars on the street and quickly shouting out the year, make and model of each car. My brother, sister and I always heard the shout outs as they were part of our upbringing. “55 Ford” he would shout as we passed the beauty in awe. To this day it still amazes me that he can just look at a car for a split second and know the year, make and model and he is never ever wrong.
He showed us kids old black and white photographs of each car or truck he owned and told us the many stories about the vehicles he fixed up and sold. And at the end of each story, he would always say “I wish I kept that one.” Mom would just shake her head and snicker as he snuck another rusty junk box into our driveway for restoration. She knew that each vehicle would eventually end up living in the one and only garage they owned, and she sometimes dreaded it. She wished, at some point, that she would obtain the garage for her own car. Maybe once, she would not have to scrape ice and snow off of her windshield and enter a cold vehicle during the bitter New England mornings we experienced every winter.
The amazing thing about my father is that when something (and I mean anything) needed repair, whether it be a car, electronic device or boiler, he could fix it with ease. He never read a manual or book as repairing, restoring and building things always came naturally to him. To me, he was like Superman and fortunately I inherited his traits. I idolized him and at a young age, I wanted to learn about fixing cars and restoring old things. Dad still owns 2 old Fords from the 30's which he bought back in the 80's when I bought my Triumph. It's hard to explain, but the 2 Ford's are like my Triumphs 2 older brothers. I love when I visit my parents and our 3 antique cars share the driveway. The cars are family and it will be hard if we ever have to part ways.
As the middle female in a family of 3 kids, I had a special interest in cars and anything antique, just like my father. My brother played every sport on the planet with no interest in cars or fixing anything himself. My older sister worked on a 1970 Ford Mustang with dad, but crashed it a month later and lost interest. I was always in the garage taking mental notes. As a child, I watched dad restore a few different Fords (which he still owns today) and attended many car shows with him in both Connecticut and New York. I was a straight “A” student, not into boys, partying or girly trips to the mall. At the car shows, I favored the smaller foreign sports cars versus the huge American boats my dad took a liking to. I remember seeing a bright yellow Triumph TR6 and I said, “that’s the car I want to own someday.” I loved the chunky tires, big rubber bumpers, the wooden dash and the bright smile it seemed to have on its face.
In the 1980’s I was nearing age 16, and would be ready to drive soon. I said to myself, “I have money saved from working, why can’t I buy a car and restore it too?” So on the week ends dad and I read the Bargain News which was a small classified newspaper for selling and buying items. We also browsed the classified section of our local newspaper looking for the perfect little car in need of some loving hands. I had a special interest in rolling up my sleeves, getting dirty and bringing a rusty heap of metal back to life, just like my dad.
There was no internet back then so we would call the seller, go look at the car, and for the most part leave discouraged by the large amount of rust and poor condition each car was in.
One day we read an ad in the local newspaper and went to look at a 1974 1/2 Triumph TR6 about 15 minutes away in the next town. The car had a few dents and was a bit rusty. The businessman who drove the car every day to work was being transferred to Texas and was asking $2,500 for the car. We declined and I went home slightly disappointed. I did not think the car was worth that much money in the condition it was in, but I did fall in love with it.
So we continued our search and 2 weeks later got a call back from the same businessman saying that he had to leave town quickly and was desperate to sell the car. He asked me what I would pay for it and I came back with the sum of $1,000. The gentleman counter offered and I paid $1,500 for the Triumph. The deal was done and at that moment I was a happy teenager, eager to start the restoration. Now the work and fun would begin.
As dad was finishing the restoration of his 1937 Ford from the bottom up, I waited patiently to begin the transformation of my Triumph. I dreamed in Porsche Red and that would end up being its final color. I continued with my High School studies, got into college, and spent summer vacations at home working on my bundle of rusted joy .There were no spring breaks to Cancun with the girls or summers abroad. I spent my summers with various tools, paint remover, an electric sander and Rustoleum. But the best part of those summers was spending time with my father and learning a unique craft. I spent 2 meticulous hours just taping the trim around the front windshield before we spray painted the car Porsche (Guards) red. Such a bright and sunny color in contrast to the dismal brown color that the factory used.
Unfortunately, sometimes our car restoration weekends were interrupted by the nasty old man who lived next door. He complained constantly about the noise of running electric machinery. But that didn’t stop us. One time poor dad was confronted by the crabby man on the property line. With a set of screwdrivers in hand (which he was using at the time) the 2 exchanged somewhat cruel words. This scared me as I heard the angry words fly across the yard. Luckily no homicides occurred and we continued to work every weekend, with or without his complaints or useless phone calls to the local police department on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
It took 4 summers for me to finally finish the restoration of my 1974 ½ TR6 with my father. I was so proud to present my Triumph to the world and to cherish the memories of spending quality time with my dad.
I am now 40 something and I still own and drive my Triumph. I absolutely adore the car as it is part of our family and I plan to keep it forever. Only a car lover could understand this somewhat bizarre connection to a 2 ton hunk of metal.
After 30 plus years owning the prized vehicle, my dad still fix helps fix it when something breaks and needs repair. He is always there for me and my car and that is why I love him so much.
There is nothing like cruising the streets on a warm summer day with the top down and hearing the sound of the dual exhaust pipes as you shift gears.