It’s a good feeling at any age if you’re a ‘car guy’

“Did I tell you the best part of watching your children grow up is seeing them learn how to improve on the advice you gave them.”

— Something someone told me years ago

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 “I would never want to be a mechanic,” Lee said after “hello.”

“Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving, Dad.”

“Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to you,” I responded. “So … you don’t want to be a mechanic?”

My son is 42 years old, and did I tell you he is very good at what he does? Obviously, he doesn’t turn wrenches to support his family. His skills are in computers; a profession foreshadowed around his first-grade year when he latched on to a cast aside Apple IIE, my first computer. It quit and I replaced it with one of the “new” first-generation Apple Macintosh models. “Can I have the old one,” he asked? “Sure,” I said, thinking it would wind up disassembled and tossed in his toy box.

To my surprise, he revived the defunct device and was playing games on it in no time.

Computers were still sci-fi when I was that age, but my leaning was already toward the very thing about which he was protesting loudly last week. Long before I earned a driver’s license at 14 and started drag racing the family car at Stracener’s Drag Strip in Bettie, Texas (unbeknownst to my father), I was overhauling carburetors, replacing clutches and transmissions, and learning how to make cars go faster.

Although family and kids had cut into the budget, when Lee came along, tinkering with cars and racing was still part of my lifestyle. And as would be the dream of most fathers, mine was that my son would acquire similar automotive interests. Turns out he was interested in cars all right, just not my style. He liked the “tuner cars” gaining popularity then: to me, wimpy imports with tiny motors that sounded like a swarm of angry bees with gastrointestinal problems.

My heart raced to the deafening sound of American-made, high-powered V-8 motors with aggressive camshafts burning high octane gas and rattling windows with deep-rumbling exhaust tones. Did I tell you it still does?

But hey, he was a car guy.

Continuing his saga of automotive anguish last week, Lee related how one of his children approached him last summer with, “The air conditioner in my car doesn’t work.” He said he responded, “You’re old enough to drive a car, you’re old enough to take care of one.”

Thinking I had heard those words once before, I remembered, “Oh yeah, that’s sorta like what I told him 25 years ago.” Yep, I gave Lee a ten-year-old Chevy pickup in lieu of the brand-new Nissan “ZX whatever” he requested, telling him to show me how he could take of a vehicle, and we would talk about something somewhere between the two. Did I tell you how that worked for either of us? Drop me a line; I’ll share that story.

“So, when she called a couple of weeks ago and said the car wouldn’t go,” Lee continued, “We took it to the local dealership. Their estimate to repair everything that didn’t work, plus some things that were still working … good enough, was $8,000. That’s for a used car that cost $5,600.”

Making a long and funny story short (did I tell you my son can be a comedian), he and his father-in-law replaced the air conditioner fan motor which required removing much of the car’s interior. Next, they removed the car’s transmission and part of the suspension to replace the clutch. All of this, accomplished solely with a YouTube video knowledge and some head scratching.

“We worked on it for a couple of weeks,” Lee reported. “The hardest part was getting the transmission back in. But, just this afternoon, we figured it out. It went back together, I started it and it works. I wanted to tell you, Dad,” Lee concluded his story. “Because I know you’re a car guy. I could tell my friends but some of them are not really car guys. They wouldn’t understand.”

And I did understand the pride and sense of accomplishment detected in his voice as I remembered the first time I pulled the transmission in my ’55 Chevy as a kid to replace the clutch and repair the transmission. Yep, it’s a good feeling at any age if you’re a “car guy.”

Oh, did I tell you that these days, Lee’s ride is the Dodge Challenger R/T above, with a high-powered motor and deep-rumbling exhaust tones?

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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