I read a story written by a guy who talked about a one-that-got-away scenario from his teenage years.
He and his buddy wanted a worn-out Road Runner they had seen many times in their neighborhood over the years.
His buddy had done some work for the owner and found out he was a motivated seller.
They decided to invest a little time and even less money to see whether they could get the car fired up before they purchased the Runner.
They bought a rebuilt alternator, spark plugs, starting fluid and the family lawnmower gas to get the car to run for them. It fired up and finally hit a rough idle with a cloud of black smoke pouring out the exhaust but it ran, the most important part of the equation for most car guys.
The owner hit them with a 1000-dollar price tag for his newly-running car that needed a ton of work and they left to assemble a game plan to buy the car. He sold the car a week after they got it started and they never got an opportunity to buy the car.
Most of us have an early phase in our car guy lives when anything seemed possible when it comes to old car dreams. We looked at cars that didn’t run and truly believed we were just the guys to make them run, despite our modest experience actually wrenching on cars.
We learned the basic reason for a low purchase price on a non-running car was the enormous price tag to actually make it run again.
We learned an engine was only one part of the equation when the gloves came off on a full-blown mechanical wreck with brake, steering, electrical and transmission problems.
We attacked each problem with the confidence of kids who had yet to digest the enormity of the task ahead of us.
We knew nothing about brake systems or dead shorts and we would find ourselves in the middle of a harsh, steep learning curve to fix these problems.Most of us learned the hard way about the perils and pitfalls of wrenching without a clue.
If there was an easy way to do things, we never found it and if there was a blunder to be made, we committed it. That was the harsh world of breathing life into cars and trucks that had become an inert rusted mass of metal on somebody’s driveway or in the back 40.
The failures along the way helped shape our urgent need to be less reckless with our steadfast belief we could breathe life back into any old vehicle, while the successes helped us learn how to win a few of these mechanical battles.
The yin and yang of our early years under the hood of a car separated us into a car guy tier system as we got older and presumably wiser.
Some of us bought heavily into the “A man’s gotta know his limitations” Eastwood philosophy when it came to wrenching, while others soared with the eagles when it came to wrenching on cars.
All of the above was learned in the heady days of our youth when anything seemed possible with old cars.