Fourteen years at SCM has taken me to some interesting places. I’ve been to Monterey, Scottsdale and Amelia countless times. I’ve run down the PCH in brand-new BMWs, studied Alfas under the glass ceiling of the Grand Palais in Paris, and buzzed a cornfield full of Corvettes in Illinois while leaning out of a doorless, rickety, trailer-towed helicopter and holding an SCM camera. I’ve driven everything from new Gallardos to Keith’s dead Volvo du jour and have written about them all — even when the latter tended to leave me stranded on the side of the road with evil regularity. “Fainting-goat syndrome,” as Paul Duchene used to put it.
In the midst of all that — or in some cases because of it — I’m still an American-car guy with one foot squarely in the garage.
It’s tough seeing nearly every summer car event throw in the towel for 2020. It’s a blow to lose some of the key events we all look forward to every year, but in terms of an end-user enthusiast, I don’t see it as a total loss. It’s an opportunity.
Go home again
Looking back at all those high points of the past 14 years with SCM — and over 50 issues of ACC — brought back a lot of special memories. But there’s one stuck in my brain that goes back further and rivals all the higher-profile others.
It’s vivid. I remember standing in front of a church, watching the road and waiting. I was about 4 years old, and the event must have been Sunday school. Maybe it was social anxiety — or too many doughnuts, I don’t know — but I didn’t feel well, so my father was on his way to retrieve me and save the day. Soon enough, he rounded the corner. I remember gleaming white wheels with polished stainless hubcaps and a freshly painted cab. He was in his project 1975 Chevrolet truck that had up until that time not driven anywhere.
Well, he was in half of it. The bed was missing.
Dad is a muscle-car and hot-rod guy turned family man, so when the need arose for a pickup, he found what was left of an older Chevy, chopped back the blackberry bushes that had tried to claim it, and then brought it home to restore in his spare time. Why wouldn’t you?
I felt better as soon as I slid onto the warm blue vinyl seat. I remember going straight to the Pay ’n Pak hardware store — “you’re fine, we have work to do” — and sourcing a paper bag full of bolts he was using for whatever was going on under the bed.
The rest of that day flew by in what seemed like moments. I was helping out with a project for the first time — one of many more to come across years of summers — limited only by my fear of the hissing Emglo air compressor in the corner of the garage.
Why are you a car person?
As I mentioned, I’m an American-car guy, and that truck is to blame. It’s where everything started for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about it over the past few weeks while at home with my two young daughters, especially when people start talking on social media about Monterey and how sad they are over this year’s events all closing down. The social side of the car world is on hold. What are they going to do now?
The answer, at least to me, is clear. The social aspect of old cars is only part of what makes them so great. The other part? One-on-one time.
For me, a garage has always been an escape. Out there, day still turns to night in the turn of a wrench. Time vaporizes in a hazy swirl of polish or the fuelly smell of a Quadrajet in pieces on a sun-warmed workbench. There, the monsters of the world don’t shake my focus. I’m fine. We have work to do.
Getting lost in your own old car can remind yourself why you’re really here. What is it about this car that’s so special to you? How can you make it better? Now’s the time to figure that out, from detailing to upgrades or even light resto work.
You probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I have a ’79 C10 sitting out in my shop right now, or that I’ve been doing a bunch of work on it. My girls have been helping me, too — at least when my IR compressor isn’t cycling.
Celebrations of a passion are vital, but it’s easy to forget that they’re a reflection of the passion that’s much deeper-seated. If there’s any silver lining here to the mass close-down of July and August car events and what might seem like a resulting endless summer, it’s that we all get a reset that will make us appreciate this hobby even more than before.
I’ve been to Monterey before, and I expect Monterey 2021 will be the best one yet. ♦