Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ice Cream Automobiles - Remembering "Pop"


This week we lost “Pop” but rather than be saddened I feel joy in remembering his life of almost 82 years and our "ice cream automobiles"!

My dad lost his rather short battle with a very aggressive brain tumor November 19th. While his passing happened in the most peaceful non-suffering way, which is a blessing, it stirred up a lot of memories as I looked for comfort in the last weeks and again as I reviewed his obituary. I’m inspired by my husband Guy, but my dad helped make the work I do with classic cars and muscle cars possible.

"Pop" as a boy next to the family car
I’m convinced that my memory of “how one chooses a great car” was quite different than that of most kids. For as long as I can remember, I recall my dad (referred to as “Pop” ever since my oldest daughter renamed him when she learned to talk) saying that the car had to: 1) know it’s way to the ice cream shop, 2) have head room, and 3) be big enough for all of us on the long car trips our family often took.

As a matter-of-fact, when I was a little girl, I actually believed that our car “knew the way to the Dairy Queen all by itself!” That’s what our dad said every time we were on our way to get a big cone, shake, or a hot fudge sundae. He would even raise his hands in the “look no hands” style, secretly steering with his knee, exclaiming, “Look, it’s taking us for ice cream!” much to the excitement of us all! Sometimes he’d pretend to “fight” with the car to try to keep it from taking us there, with us squealing and begging him to let it drive there. On long road trips, our cars all magically found old ice cream stands in the middle of nowhere so it was easy to believe that he was telling the truth!

Looking back over all the cars we had owned, they were always ranked as to how well they transported us to the local ice cream shop, Dairy Queen, or any (and all) ice cream stands along the road.  Top dog was “The Flying Rabbit”, a 1960's big white Olds 98 that was one of his two favorite cars. Second was “Molly”, the trusty and reliable white 1955 Chevy station wagon that transported all us kids throughout our early years. 

The car with the most notorious history (and almost equally adept at getting us to an ice cream store even though we were teenagers by then) was the green 1972 Lincoln Continental that was stolen and used in a Kenmore Square bank robbery in 1975! (Yeah, I know, not much of a collector car, but he did love the room in that one.) Never could get the red dye out of the rear seat so he reluctantly sold the car because you couldn’t drive in it without your eyes tearing, even after many attempts at professional cleaning. I don’t know what they used in the red dye in those days, but it was certainly potent!

My idea of an ideal car has always varied from my dads. He was one who loved the cars that I didn’t, but that didn’t stop us from talking about them and having fun debates. He was a fan of the Fords and the square-bodied cars of the early 1960’s – ones I enjoyed calling “ugly” just to get him riled up. Being 6’5” tall, he valued cars that had a bit of head room and a large roomy interior, so he was a happy camper during the 1950’s when headroom was never an issue, and through the 1960’s and 1970’s when big cars were easy to find and just kept getting bigger and bigger. 

I, however, had a taste for something quite different. Being 10-11 years old at the time, I remember being fascinated with the 1968 and 1969 cars. Didn’t really matter what they were – Mopar, Chevy, Pontiac and yeah, sometimes the Ford Mustang – there was just something about the sexy lines of the cars that made me love them. My favorites at the time were the Firebird and the Corvette Stingray. I couldn’t put one above the other though – I loved them both even though I was far too young for driving.

My dad, at the time, talked of putting together a Cobra kit car. He had bought every book and read every car magazine on the subject, and he felt it would be a fun thing to do because you were doing all the work yourself. There is truth in the saying that it’s one thing to drive it, another to drive something you’ve built yourself.

My dad was an inspiration to me. At times when I did not conform to the “girlie” things that most little girls did, he encouraged me and liked my enthusiasm. When I was about 4-5 years old I insisted that the only thing in the world I wanted for Christmas was a set of pearl handled guns (with holster of course) so I could be a cowboy, or the time when I was about 8 and wanted to build a go-cart, which he happily helped me plan out using old parts from all sorts of odds and ends I thought would do the job. These helped set the stage for feeling comfortable doing the unconventional. While I’ve always done the “girlie” things like being a part-time modeling instructor at just 16, I’ve always preferred simple, creative things that are much more satisfying - photography, horses, gardening...and now old cars.

Pop also opened my eyes to Guy, who was a friend I felt an unusual kinship to. We shared so many things in common and could have placed ourselves in each other’s home as a kid and thought we were still in our own. While I had always liked driving cars, Guy opened my eyes to the enjoyment of them. Working on them with him taught me how satisfying it was to “wrench”. Watching and feeling the passion he felt about the old cars was like flipping a light switch – I had a sudden understanding of what men see in their cars, (you know the things we women giggle or roll our eyes over) and I must admit, I’m hooked!

My ’73 Corvette Stingray is a testament to this, and to my constant love for my two favorite cars. I am finally knee deep in my own ambitious restoration that I am completing myself  - with guidance and welding from Guy when I need it, along with some enthusiastic help from our daughter who restored her own 1985 Jeep CJ7 - complete with it's bubble-gum pink engine!

Pop has supported our work with classic cars and muscle cars, and was always thoroughly impressed with Guy’s immense knowledge of them. Pop had a lot of knowledge he had obtained from reading just about everything, but not so much hands-on experience. His experience went about as far as planning the build that never materialized due to work, kids, bills, etc. – you know, the kind of things everyone who has ever owned a classic car or muscle car has had to deal with at some point!  Some decide to stick it out and stubbornly hold onto their dream, others let the dream slide by, and some get a start with something only to let it go at the wife’s urging or insistence (more on that in another article)! But Pop always loved hearing about the projects we had both in our shop and those of our own.

I’ll dearly miss our “Pop” – my dad – but he will continue to inspire us in the work we do at Motorheads Performance.