With the advent of the assembly line, the Ford Model T and the Industrial Age, mass-produced lust was imminent. This new availability of cars and trucks coincides precisely with the first signs of the affliction. There are many names for this condition: car lust, truck dude, leadfoot, gearhead, car nut, wrench monkey, hot rodder, muscle guy, motorhead, grease monkey, car guy, speed freak, automotive enthusiast...to name but a few.
I admit, I've been called most of these monikers. What's more, I'm proud of it. For me, escaping the affliction was unavoidable. My grandpa worked for Tidewater-Associated Oil in Glendale, California, in the '30s, when the Flying A flew over the Indianapolis 500. Associated Oil sponsored the Indy 500 in the days of radio and front-engine, open-wheel roadsters.
In the '40s, California teen-agers could get a license at 15. My dad's first car was a '32 Ford three-window coupe with a '37 flattie speed shop-modified mill. Dad's big brother, my uncle Phil, had a jet-black, '36 Auburn Boattail Speedster that looked like it could go 300 mph standing still. Grandpa had passed on the car gene to two of his three sons.
Enter this generation of Smiths. As a baby, my first toys had four wheels shod with wide meats. Mom's daily driver was a '55 Chevy Bel Air convertible with a 265ci V-8 and Powerglide trans. Dad was stuck driving company cars, but they typically had the hottest factory engines the Big Three provided, be it Ford, GM, or Chrysler. I take that back; he lobbied his boss for the best engine the company he worked for would approve appropriate for a man in his position (The Man is omnipresent).
Dad and I started going to car shows when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. Several years later, when my 4-year-younger brother Kevin was born, The Smith Men came into existence.
For those unfamiliar with the term The Smith Men, it denotes a father and two sons who are gearheads in the extreme. I should know; I coined the definition. Like most of our readers, we've been part of the custom classic truck and car hobby since we were in grade school. If you don't believe me, consider our collective credentials. My first car was also a '55 Bel Air convertible with a 265-inch V-8, Powerglide trans, and power steering. Dad and I wrenched on the ragtop the summer after my senior year of high school. You can read all about it in sister publication Super Chevy (Feb. '03, "Star-Struck Bel Air").
Since he graduated from the University of California at Irvine, my brother has been employed in the automotive industry. He worked for SAAB Motor Cars for 18 years and is now the director of communications for Cadillac. He owns a '86 Ferrari 328GTSI, is restoring a Formula Barber SAAB to vintage race, and is one of the three Smith Men involved in restoring the '36 German Auto Union Wanderer W25K. The above photo shows my dad, brother, and our rare German sportscar.
I'd be remiss if I didn't say a few words about the guy who instilled the passion in us. He taught Kevin and me at a young age that the best part of the car/truck hobby is that it's a hobby shared among family and friends. Wait a minute; if you're a loyal CCT reader, you're already aware of that.
Until next time, keep dreamin' and workin' in your garage with your family and friends on your custom classic trucks and cars.