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I am a car guy…..or am I?

We all have moments in our lives that mark a turning point or a new beginning.  Sometimes these moments have an immediate impact while others symbolize the start of a slow change.  For me it was a spring day in 1987 that had both an immediate impact on my life and formally started me down the winding path of a life-long car passion.  I was 15 years old when my father and I knocked on the door of Clifford and Ida Watkins to take a look at a car they were thinking about selling.  Their car had been a well-kept secret in Topeka, Kansas and only those with inside knowledge knew of it and knew the Watkins’ were thinking of selling it.  As for me, I was friends with two of their grand-children.  The car was a 1969 two door Cutlass Supreme with 34,000 miles on the clock which Cliff and Ida had bought brand new.  It was all original, hub caps, bias ply tires and a vinyl top.  Mr. Watkins, reasoning that the A/C didn’t work, said he would take $1,800 for the car.  No negotiations were necessary, my first car was bought and the official beginning of my journey into cardom started on that day.  A set of wheels, minor interior work and the faded top and paint replaced with a fresh spray of gold, and I soon had one of the nicest rides in town. I am one of the lucky ones that very car sits in my garage.  This being said, the Cutlass is in more than a few pieces as I undertake the labor of love to mold her into both the car of my youth and the car I desire today.  So I am a car guy…..or am I?  How is it I come to question my dedication to the car hobby when I have owned the same car for 28 years?  The answer lies in the question, 28 years, why has it taken so long?  The Cutlass is part love of my life, part albatross.  Sort of like my first high school girlfriend. image4 image3 image2 How has so much time passed with so little progress?  The explanation is simple and complex at the same time, life happened.  Nine years after I bought the Cutlass I married the finest woman in the world.  When you get married and start a family some unavoidable truths set in.  First, you are about to vacuum more than you think is necessary and second, your bed will have way more pillows than are required, or even possible, for a person to sleep with.  The ultimate truth takes the form of priorities.  In the beginning we had nothing and it was pretty simple, priorities were food and a roof over our heads.  We started our family 14 years ago with the birth of daughter number 1 of 2.  Priorities quickly became everything to do with raising kids.  While money to restore the Cutlass was spent on other things, time became the rarest and most precious commodity to come by.  Let me be perfectly clear I would not trade my family for anything in the world, not even a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta.  Although there have been times a 1980 Yugo Zastava 850 might have been considered a good trade for one or both of my kids.  Although I tried to run them side-by-side I learned long ago that cars and family obligations have a tendency to clash. Although the Cutlass has endured long stretches of sitting idle my passion for cars has never ceased.  Velocity channel, local car shows and magazines are the source of my car guy salvation and inspiration.  These inspiring television shows and magazines can also distort the reality and expectations of a restoration.  Watching Chip Foose and the “A team” dismantle and fully rebuild a car into a rolling piece of art in a 1 hour episode belies the truth of the monumental task.  I have fallen victim to this as the plans and dreams for the Cutlass have only gotten bigger while she patiently waited.  Now fully engaged in the process reality checks are more and more common.  The LS7 and six speed manual, probably not going to happen. I agree this may sound like a guy making excuses as to why the journey is taking so long.  But I believe there are many of “us” out there.  Our long dormant projects sit idle while other priorities bubble to the top.  Still we have the passion, the fire.  It’s the reason our heads snap around to watch a passing classic car, naming the make and model for whoever is listening.  It’s why we pay to get into a car auction when we have absolutely no intention of buying anything but an overpriced beer.  It’s why we see if our wife’s minivan can perform a decent burnout. For me in the end I know I will finish.  I can’t say when, but progress is being made.  So look for me on a bright Kansas City summer day pulling up at the car show, not in a minivan, but in the car that started it all, my 1969 Cutlass.

Written by Wade Willard

Wade is a passionate "car guy" and writer. He spends most of his days in the fuzzy grey zone that is the law.

Role: Writer / Legal

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  1. Wade; I like your article and the car . I believe you have the same disease that I have. I think the latin term is ( operarius antiquus vehiculi ). I am in the advanced stage’s.. It only gets worse with age… Jim Willard

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