Thanks for the trip down memory lane with readers sharing of their experiences with the Plymouth Troubleshooting Contest in the Sept/Oct issue. It brought me back and inspired me to share the following.
When I was young I heard mumblings that my father had participated in some sort of automotive related contest well before I was born. As I grew up, and went to high school, you can imagine the pride I felt coming upon a massive trophy in a case at my high school that had my father’s name on it. On reading the trophy inscription it read “1966 Plymouth Troubleshooting Contest” along with his and his partner’s names. Being well into gearhead status by then I had to learn more.
It was June 1966 and my father was a senior in high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. For the past few months he had participated in the regional, then state, competitions for the Plymouth Troubleshooting Contest. I can only imagine how thrilled he (and my grandparents) were to find he was now on his way to the national competition held in Detroit, MI.
After what I believe was his first ride on an airplane, he and my grandparents spent three days in and around town taking in sites, and as the story goes, even a meet and greet with Richard Petty. While the competition was fierce, including competitors coming from college levels, my father and his partner took a very respectful second place at the event.
As I learned more and more about the event…I was hooked. Knowing his success in the competition, I constantly barraged him with questions. How does an automatic transmission work? What’s the difference between camber and caster? Why don’t cars without a posi-traction differential just drive in circle? And much, much more.
He humored me for hours on end and while I learned a great deal, more than anything we connected. We had found that common interest in all things mechanical. We worked on many things together. He helped me rebuild my first Chevy small block, taught me how to repair brakes, and even helped me to restore an old BMW motorcycle (which I still ride to this day).
As time went on I was fortunate enough that the event (although much smaller than in the past) was still taking place and I found myself competing as well. As a senior in high school I participated in the Northern California regional events. While I didn’t make it nearly as far as he, I’ll never forget how I felt having him attend the event… even recognizing and reconnecting with some of the longer standing judges from the program. He was as proud of me that day as I was of him that first time I laid eyes on that massive trophy. And it meant the world.
Fast forward a number of years, and having since lost my father to a long hidden battle with depression (guys…and girls… pick up the phone and call someone…anyone!), I now have three boys of my own and I too am building that same bond.
While they may not ever compete in such an event, together we’ve built, rebuilt, broken and fixed our share of things that I only know the joy of due in large part to the Plymouth Trouble Shooting contest. It was a common thread with my father that I relish to this day.
Thank you Dad and thank you Plymouth!
And thank YOU for sharing your family's story of the Plymouth Troubleshooting Contest! It's great to hear how this event positively shaped your family's love with the automotive hobby! Thank you again for sharing!