Me in my Dad’s 1957 Oldsmobile 98 circa 1984.
My father’s influence is the reason I’m passionate about cars. He passed along his automotive passion to me from about the time I was 10 and that continues to this day. I’m now 45 and every conversation I have with my Dad, who turns 75 this month, involves cars in some way. He’ll call to invite my family for dinner and that will generally turn into a 20 minute update on the latest automotive news. In fact that’s exactly what happened not 30 minutes ago. I have friends who don’t have great relationships their fathers so I think I’m lucky that we’ve had this common interest that’s been such an important bond.
I started to get interested in cars back in 1981 when, seemingly out of the blue, my Father decided that buying a 1955 Packard Caribbean convertible would be a really great project. A most ambitious project considering he had few automotive repair skills and had become a father for the 4th time. And let’s not forget what wonderful shape the economy was in back in 1980. So suddenly an old, non-running car was taking up most of our 2-car garage in suburban Toronto. It was a complete car though with no major rust issues, despite residing in Canada all its life, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I didn’t even know what a Packard was at the time. I just knew that it was an awesome car and I couldn’t wait for the project to get started. In fact I was so eager that one day after school I grabbed a wrench and removed a few parts from the engine bay and set them aside. I don’t know what parts they were, only that they were rusty and therefore I should remove them. When my father got home from work and saw what I did, he sure was mad and I got chewed out. I don’t even know why he was mad, perhaps because he worried he didn’t know how those parts went back in the car. And he wasn’t even impressed that I was eager to get started working on this great project. That was the last time I ever worked on that car. And for the next 2 years, my father didn’t do a whole lot to the car, discovering that restoring a car from a defunct automaker meant parts were hard to find and expensive. Luckily he realized he’d bitten off more than he could chew before he got in too deep and puled the ripcord. And thus, the Packard was unceremoniously removed from our garage and onto a trailer on its way to a new owner.
My father clearly didn’t mind my sister working on the car
A great thing happened though during our ‘Packard Years’. My father was well and truly bitten by the classic car bug and started going to every classic car show in Southern Ontario he could find, and I always went with him. I have 3 younger sisters and they were all into horseback riding while my father and I are allergic to pretty much everything you’d find in a stable. hence why we spent our time at car shows while my Mom and sisters went to horse shows. And everyone was happy. Neither hobby is cheap and I think it created a sort of détente between my parents when it came to spending money on either hobby. I’m sad to report, however, that my family has owned more horses over the years than classic cars. A great injustice in my opinion.
So I spent a lot of time a local car shows with my Dad and that’s where my automotive education began. My father’s knowledge of cars from the ’20’s to the ’60s is encyclopedic and so I learned a lot from him. He’d take the time to explain different cars to me, what made them special or rare and the memories he had of them growing up. And I soon discovered that I absorbed this information like a sponge and committed it to memory instantly. Why the heck was I not able to do that in school??!! I loved going to those car shows so much and I have such clear memories of them and we’d soon be taking our own classic car to those car shows.
At some point in 1982 with the Packard sold, my Dad was again scanning the pages of Hemmings for his next classic car. This time, however, it would be a running example that needed work but was complete and drivable. After giving it much thought and a lot of searching, he had settled on buying an Oldsmobile. His father was a Buick man and my mother’s dad was an Oldsmobile man and my father set his sights on a 1956 Oldsmobile as my mother’s dad had a ’56 98 sedan when she was growing up. I think that was his way of enticing my Mother to go for the idea, not that it was a big deal to her. Her father had always got a new Oldsmobile as a company car every 2 years and she had no recollection him having a ’56. And in the long run it didn’t matter anyways as finding a ’56 Olds convertible in decent shape that fit my father’s budget proved impossible. And so he expanded his search and started searching for a ’55 or ’57. After corresponding with sellers via mail, a running, rust-free 98 convertible that needed cosmetic work was located in Dayton, Ohio and suddenly we were making a family trip to Dayton in March 1983. I loved the car as soon as I saw it and quickly calculated how long it was to my 16th birthday because I wanted to cruise around in it with the top down. The car was in pretty good shape, though a little rough-looking, and my father’s intention was to drive it all the back to Toronto. The car would certainly need some work in the coming years of course. The interior was complete but the front seats were badly cracked from sun exposure and the chrome bumpers and trim had definitely seen better days. but the car was well optioned with the J-3 triple 2-barrel carbs option, power seat, power antenna, Wonder Bar radio and power windows. And remarkably, it made the entire 8 hour journey back to Toronto under its own power, though it was seriously burning oil by the time we got there. But that was soon sorted out by rebuilding the engine and overhauling the mechanicals so that it was drivable and the cosmetic stuff got sorted out over the years that followed. From then on, it was the car we took to car shows in Ontario and the U.S. and we won a few trophies with it too boot.
I’m going to leave it off here for now. I have to save stuff for future posts you know. I’ll be back regularly with more ramblings about me and cars and I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far. Thanks for dropping by.