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Intermediate Driver

The Summer I fell in Love

1969. The Summer of Love. My sentient being odometer just clicked over to teenager. Too young to participate in love, sex, and rock 'n roll. But cars were entering into my stream of consciousness, right behind girls.

I came into my love of cars honestly. My dad had a successful auto parts retail/wholesale business for forty-five years. While working for him, I saw everything, almost. Dad was a Cadillac man, of which I had no interest. But he would bring home some cool cars, and buy mom a few I wish I had now, like her 1970 Monte Carlo 350 4bb.

But it all came into focus for me that summer of '69. Dad loaded us all into mom's station wagon (remember those?), one Sunday for a day at the beach. Park the car, walk through the parking lot, and OMG there it was. The car that cemented my love for sports cars to this day: a Jaguar E-Series convertible! In British Racing Green no less! My love for two seat roadsters soared. Dad talked to the owner and swung me a stint in the drivers seat. Wow!

I never did get my hands on one, or even really tried. British car unreliability and all that, you know. Oddly enough, my first proper "sports car" was a Triumph Spitfire. Never had an issue with it in four years of ownership, believe it or not.

But to this day, I occasionally think of that Jaguar in that beach front parking lot and smile as I reminisce how I fell in love with sports cars in the Summer of '69.


Some similarities in your first love affair, and mine. For one, we’re about the same age...I might have a year or two on you but we’re both boomers. For two, my dad was also in an automotive business...a collision shop and parts store. 
I had a subscription to Hot Rod magazine at 13, and had been assembling AMX plastic replicas for a number of years.
But for me the real passion happened at 15. In the summer of 1970 an airman from an AF base in our town brought in a brand new yellow Datsun 240z to the shop. Fresh from the dealer lot, it still had the In-Transit stickers on the window. All he wanted was the hood painted a flat-black. For the two or three days the car was there (painting a flat color with the materials and equipment of those days wasn’t a easy feat) it didn’t move without me knowing it. I had to wash it when finished if for no other reason than to remove drool marks. Black interior, the leather boot around the shifter with a wooden handle...even the diamond tuck touch in the rear hatch. To me it was impossible to envision anything cooler than that car. And it was something that I could realistically aspire to own. 


My love affair with cars started with the car I first remember Dad taking me to get ice cream in, a '68 Cougar. He had other cars that I also loved ('57 Chevy Belair, '69 Super Bee), but that car always stuck in my mind. Fast forward over 40 yrs., and I own a '68 Cougar (again thanks to my Dad). As far the the Jaguar goes, my Grandma always wanted a '63 XKE. I think that kindled my Uncle Dave's fascination with true sports cars as he bought a 1978 Datsun 280z when he graduated M.I.T and got hired with Dupont. He did the Jay Leno thing and drove it to death, restored it, rinse lather repeat. He owned that car for 30 yrs. before he finally sold it. I remember riding in it when he would come home to visit. Truly a great car in its own right. 


Unfortunately, Grandma never did get to see the dream of owning that Jag become a reality. She died young. She kept a picture of that car on her dresser mirror.