Brenda & I
Like Cars

We own six. Brenda has one and a half. I have four and a half. Not all qualify for AACA status, but each one is special to us.

Brenda’s car: 2004 Mercedes 320 CLK convertible.

She fits this car so well that we think that it was originally built just for her. This car is lovingly maintained in showroom condition. In all our 44 years of married life this is the first car that she has had that she will back out in the driveway and wash on a regular basis!

Our shared “Car”: 2004 Yukon Denali.

A beast of a machine with a big 400 hp Vortech V8 and all-wheel drive. We bought it used several years ago and spared no expense bringing it back to “as new” mechanical condition. A fresh coat of GM Tuxedo Black paint, and new LED lights all around freshen the looks a lot. Brenda enjoys driving it almost as much as her Mercedes.

My Four Cars: 1995 Corvette LT1 Coupe:

My first “toy” car. I found this candy apple red beauty in the local want ads 12 years ago and it was love at first sight. I had dreamed of owning a ‘Vette since I was a kid, but family and two careers somehow always got in the way of fulfilling this dream. This one had been a daily driver when I bought it, but that didn’t last for long. Ram air, low restriction catalytic converters, a custom three-inch stainless steel dual exhaust system, custom wheels and tires, a smoked plexiglass roof, custom leather interior and plenty of chrome under the hood somehow found their way into the car over the ten years following purchase. The cumulative impact was a car with much improved performance and real eye-catching curb appeal. These ‘95s aren’t real collector ‘Vettes, but mine always does well at the local car shows. A sweet ride with LOTS of performance.

1928 Model “A” Ford Standard Roadster:

In 2004 I was at a meeting with Jim Henderson, and I casually mentioned that I was looking for a reasonably affordable classic car. He got this funny look on his face, and after the meeting he loaded me into his Excursion and drove me over to the Paquett’s house, where Buddy introduced me to this car which had been sitting in his garage for quite some time. He said that he had purchased it from another club member whose health had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer enjoy the car. Buddy had purchased it to keep the car in the DSR club. A short while later it was mine. A week or so later Brenda dropped me off at the Paquet’s home for me to pick up the car and drive it home – a trip that I will NEVER forget! I knew nothing about Model “A” s beyond Buddy’s instructions on how to start it. All those years of sitting in garages had taken their toll on the car’s mechanical condition. The drive from Theodore to my home was an absolute nightmare. The car was all over the road, and I could not drive it above 20 mph, which really made me unpopular with the rest of the traffic that morning. Finally, it died and would not restart – right in the middle of the intersection of Airport Blvd and McGregor Avenue! I ended up PUSHING the car the final mile to our home, ending a remarkable day.

In the ensuing ten or so years, thanks mostly to my car show buddy and master mechanic Bob Gechigian (Gulf Coast Corvettes) the car has been almost completely mechanically rebuilt and will now reliably get me to and from local car shows. The car is always a crowd pleaser, and the collection of 1920’s “stuff” that I surround it with at shows always draws a crowd. I am pleased to say that “Gertrude” always wins something at the local shows and has earned “Best of Show” at a few them. I have been very careful in preserving the authenticity of this piece of history.

2004 H2 Hummer

Hummers – you either love them or you hate them. I happen to love them. My fascination with them goes back over 15 years. In the late 90’s for years I went to an annual law enforcement conference sponsored by the FBI’s National Executive Institute Alumni Association (Members are graduates of the FBI Academy’s National Executive Institute – an invitation-only program that I graduated from in 1995). This conference was held at the Sun Valley Lodge in Sun Valley, Idaho. At the time Arnold Schwarzenegger owned a $25 Million mansion in Sun Valley, and he and his then-wife Maria were regular visitors at the Sun Valley Lodge. You could always tell when they were visiting either the Lodge restaurant or attending the ice show because Arnold’s white H1 Hummer would be parked out front. He had the very first civilian Hummer, and I lusted after one to add to my small collection. I found mine in 2006, a 2004 lightly used Luxury Edition featuring a leather interior and high-end Bose stereo system. A beast with a nearly $100K sticker price. I bought mine while it was still under factory warranty for $35K and thought it was a real bargain. A 400 HP all wheel drive brute that I have mildly customized with a cold air intake system, performance throttle body, and a custom dual exhaust system. Other “go-fast” stuff, some custom interior wood trim, and custom wheels and big tires round out the look. It’s a real hoot to drive!

1980 Corvette Coupe

My other AACA-eligible car. Several years ago, I took my 95 ‘Vette over to “Dr. Bob’s” Gulf Coast Corvettes Shop for some work. Sitting in his shop was this 1980 Coupe. It was a rolling wreck, but it had some promise and it was for sale. Soon it was mine, and an exhaustive (and expensive) 2-year restoration project commenced. At the end Bob produced a real masterpiece. When built the car had a 190 horsepower L48 small block engine. It now sports a GM ZZ4 crate engine with dual Edelbrock 4-barrel carbs sitting on a high-performance intake manifold. Hedman headers feeding into a throaty new custom exhaust system featuring Flowmaster mufflers rounds out a 400 hp plus drive train. All this performance is topped off with enough under – hood chrome to require sunglasses. The interior is all new, featuring custom Al Knoch leather seats, custom steering wheel, and rebuilt gauges with a new 160 mph speedometer which replaces the original 80 mph one – which I broke twice!
That’s it…..I’m out of space. I have 5 cars in my 4-car garage and one sitting in the driveway. Looks like I must stop collecting, much to the relief of my long-suffering wife!

My Garage

You can’t house great cars in a plain garage! Mine has been filled up with car goodies and car show awards to the point where I’m out of room for more.

Three generations that have loved their cars.

We all have them – at least the lucky ones of us do. They are generally found in the bottom of old cardboard boxes stored in attics or storage units. We’ve inherited them from loved ones. We have decided that they are too valuable to throw away, but too irrelevant to our daily lives for a more prominent storage place. They contain hundreds of blurry old black and white photos, carefully pasted to dark pages of crumbling paper. Most have slightly illegible hand-written explanatory notes about who is featured in the photo – but few contain dates. Its as if the author never even considered that those who viewed them in later life would have any difficulty in identifying when the pictures were taken.

Of course, I’m talking about the now-almost-forgotten practice of building scrap books of photos and other memorabilia that chronicle lives mostly completed. In our days of digital imagery and videos – who in this generation is building these time capsules for the future?

I’m as guilty as others. I’ve had these family heirlooms for years – a gift from my mother, who became the unofficial family historian after the deaths of my father and my grandparents. One of the benefits of my recent retirement (and of my advancing age) is that I now have the time to review these records of my past – and the wisdom to now appreciate them.

The ones in our family go back five generations on my dad’s side of the family – a family of Scott-Irish immigrants who settled in Butler County (Pennsylvania – not Alabama) in the early 1800’s and raised large families of farmers and merchants. Some went off to fight in the Union Army – Company D of the One Hundred and Thirty-Seventh Regiment – and thankfully all came home from that awful war.

Mom’s side of the family has shorter American roots – second generation German immigrants. Granddad was born on the boat enroute the United States, so held dual American/German citizenship. Both sides of the family eventually ended up in small steel and mining towns in western Pennsylvania in the early 1900’s. That’s where the photo albums start.

The albums give a stark look at life in America 100 years ago, when compared to the comforts and material wealth we enjoy in this wonderful country today. Pictures show large families of working children – many who did not survive past their 10th birthday. They show families that would be considered poor – at best – in modern terms, but worked hard, and hoped that future generations would prosper. Few had more than grade school educations until my parents’ generation (both had master’s degrees, and both spent productive careers as educators). Mom’s dad spent his life in a steel mill. Dad’s father spent his career
as a bookkeeper for a large company – when all company records were kept by hand.

But despite living lives that would be considered lacking in today’s standards – the old photos showed families that loved each other, were close, and who enjoyed simple pleasures and each other’s company. Many folks today could benefit from lessons they could teach.

One fun aspect of looking back into these lives is looking at the times when cars first became part of family life – and gave the gift of mobility and summer vacations unknown before they appeared. The “first cars” in our family appeared as well-used ones in the early ‘30’s. Mom’s folks bought a 1923 Buick, and Dad’s folks a 1923 Dodge. Photos of both are attached, and they reflect the intense pride of ownership of something entirely new (yes – the two small children in the photos are my parents).

My Grandfather Cashdollar and my Dad circa 1930 – and their first car, a used 1923 Dodge.
My grandparents Wagner – and my Mom – circa 1930, and their first car, a used 1923 Buick.
My Dad’s first car was also a well-used old “clunker” – a late ‘30’s Plymouth that he bought to commute to college in before World War II changed his priorities. My first car is also represented in the attached picture – a 1966 Plymouth Barracuda. This wonderful car was a graduation gift from my parents (I graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1968, and my folks were so grateful that I had paid for my own education that I got a car as a reward!)
Going through these old photos has been great fun, and a valuable lesson in where my family came from. I heartily recommend that others look in the bottoms of those old storage boxes as well – the lucky ones will be able to take similar journeys into their past. Dick