I was eight years old when I first realized I had a passion for cars. My dad brought home a brand new 1962 Buick Electra 225 convertible. It was white with a rare, rose colored interior. He kept the car in immaculate condition. I started washing the car and helped keep it clean in order to respond quickly to the frequent request to use it in various parades.
In 1967, my dad traded this car for another Buick. It too was an Electra 225 in Bamboo Cream yellow with black interior. It was a looker and I remember it was also powerful. This was the same year I begin reading Motor Trend magazine (and I've been reading as a regular subscriber since).
By this time, I had a room full of model cars. I would mow grass and do about any other chore I could con people into paying me to do and would purchase a new model almost every other week. Only if I been smart enough to save them all (you guys who gave up your old baseball trading cards know what I mean).
In 1970, my older sister purchased her first car. It was a '69 Mercury Cougar; burgundy with a black vinyl top and burgundy interior. While a nice looking car, I thought it needed some "improvements". Without getting her permission, I blacked out some of the grille, painted the air cleaner housing silver, replaced the stock hubcaps with baby moons and painted the Cougar emblems on the rubber floor mats. She was pissed when she first saw what I did but she eventually got over it. This was also the first car that I (legally) drove on the open road. Thanks sis for teaching me how to drive.
My sister got married shortly thereafter and she and her new husband traded the Cougar for a new 1971 Mustang Mach 1. It was the grabber green with a 351 engine. They were pretty cool and in return for me keeping the car clean, they let me borrow it on the weekends.
In 1972, after riding a Suzuki 120cc motorcycle for almost two years, I was ready to buy my first car. Like other kids my age, I looked at the used VW Beetles, drove an old used car my uncle wanted to unload and visited various used car lots. But, I couldn't convince myself to buy someone else's used car.
Looking at long row of new Mustangs, I picked out a white on white coupe. It had a 302 V8 and automatic transmission. It also had drum brakes all around and no A/C. Sticker was $3003 and the dealer gave me a 10% discount. My mom (bless her soul) co-signed on a new car loan and I drove the car home.
After driving it through the first winter, I sprung for a set of BFG Radial T/A F70-14 tires mounted on Crager SS mags (NOTE: Learned that using standard rubber valve stems and driving for 16 hours straight from WV to Daytona Beach at 70-80 mph can melt the darn things. Right after I arrived at my destination, all four tires went flat). I also painted the bottom portion of the body panels black which gave the car a lowered look. Needing a radio upgrade, I installed a Panasonic 4 channel 8 track player with 4 coaxial speakers. It rocked!
Damn, I was proud of this car. I kept the car for almost ten years before I sold it to my brother-in-law. He had it repainted it and sold it shortly thereafter. Mechanically it was sound but like most Mustangs of that era, it was also becoming a rust bucket.
In 1975, I got married. I told my new bride that I wouldn't smoke, drink or cheat on her but, I would need to drive nice cars. Her father (Buster) was a car fanatic too.
Her car was a 1967 Mustang and guess what, it was white on white. However, it had already succumbed to the rust cancer. I tried my best to rescue the car but she was to far gone. We sold it and purchased a 1975 red Mustang II. We kept it for almost two years until I saw my next car in a spring 1976 edition of Motor Trend. It was only an artist's sketch but I liked the lines and I could envision me behind the wheel. My next new car was going to be a 1977 Ford Thunderbird.
We ordered the car just before it hit the show rooms. Bright blue glow metallic paint with white interior. It had the 351 engine and we ordered it with the sport instrument cluster and moon roof. Shortly after placing our order, Ford and the UAW decided that I needed to wait a while to get my car and a long strike settled in. Weeks then months passed and still no car. After the strike was settled, I was told that it could take 10-12 weeks for my new car to be made. Then while watching an episode of Charlie's Angels, Bosley was driving a brand new T-Bird which got shot full of holes. How could he get a new car and I couldn't? I wrote a letter to Ford Motor Company voicing my displeasure on how long it was taking me to get my new car while others were being shot up on TV.
Well, I must have reached the right person at Ford because within two weeks, I received a response that my car was in production and would be delivered shortly. To my amazement, within a week, I got a call from my dealer that my new car was in. What was more impressive, my car had made a special trip from the assembly line in Michigan to American Sunroof in Atlanta, GA and then to Hurricane, WV in a time frame of ten days. When I first saw it sitting in the dealer's lot, I thought it was the most beautiful thing on earth (next to my wife of course). This was our baby. We paid more for this car then we did our first home (12" x 65" mobile home). We were the envy of the trailer park. Our landlords across the street liked our car so much, they went right out and bought one of their own. As for mods, I installed a quadraphonic 8-track player with four speakers into the car. I also blacked out the argent color parts of the grille. That was it as I couldn't see messing with such a beautiful car.
We kept the 'Bird for thirteen years. We bought one set of tires, a new battery and a fuel pump over that time. It never saw the dealer's service bay during the whole time we owned it. I performed my own maintenance on the car. It had 75,000 miles on the odometer and the original spare tire when we gave the car to my father-in-law as payback on a loan.
By 1979, we had started our family. Our new baby girl become my pride and joy and my passion. In 1983, our second child came along. A boy, and we had no idea that he would inherit the car gene from both me and his grandfather until years later.
During the years from 1984 through 1996, my new cars consisted of a 1984 Chevy Cavalier station wagon, 1987 Ford Taurus station wagon, a 1990 Ford Taurus wagon (but with bucket seats and sport wheels), a 1990 Mazda 626 5 door hatchback (my attempt to introduce some fun back into the family wheels) and a 1996 Chrysler Town & Country mini-van.
In 1996, my daughter got her driver's license and she inherited the '90 Mazda. For me, I went in a different direction and got a 1/2 ton Dodge Ram. It was fun to drive and it came in handy when my son took up dirt bike racing. It was also when I discovered that by leasing my car, I could drive new every three years. But it was in 1998, when my son got his license and the creation of CustomAutos came about.
Brian purchased a 1998 Chevy S-10 and it became a labor of love for us and we both gained a wealth of experience in car customizing. I traded the Ram for a 1999 Acura CL. We tinted the windows, installed a custom subwoofer to the factory Bose system, clear front markers, fog lamps, fender side marker lights, Eibach lowering springs and Altstadt 18s wheels. Even my son's friends thought the car was cool. Weekends around the house were spent installing sound systems, suspension kits and doing other assorted car customizing for family, friends and neighbors.
The 1999 CL provided me three years of fun and driving pleasure. When the lease was up, I removed the subwoofer, replaced the Eibach springs with the factory original, re-installed the factory wheels and tires and gave the car back to Acura. Acura gladly leased me a new 2003 CL. Planning ahead, the Altstadt 18s with new Bridgestone Potenzas fit on the new CL perfectly.
In 2006, it became time to lease again. After three months of driving, reading, driving, reading and more driving, I set my sights on my current ride, a 2006 Infiniti G35 coupe. The best car I've ever driven and even though they're all over the road, my little red coupe gets a lot of attention. It even gets preferred parking in front of The Capital Grille in Atlanta among the more expensive Jags, Astons, BMWs and Mercedes. With only minor mods (tinted windows, clear front markers and painted brake calipers), it earned 1st Place in its class at the 2006 Nopi Nationals. That brings us up to today. I've got until December 2008 to think about my next car and as of today, my list of potential new rides is long.