Anyone who has been following my blog over the past few years knows that I owe (and blame) my obsession with cars to my dad. He and his auto body repair shop have been subject of many different blog entries. His garage, known as ‘The Shop’, was only a few minutes away from our house, so from the time I could walk I was spending all my spare time there. I have many vivid memories of the different cars that came and went through there, especially the ones my dad worked on for himself, like a 1962 Ford Thunderbird, 1951 Mercury Meteor, and 1920's Dodge coupe project (unfortunately I don't have a picture of that one, but did find an equally impressive project car picture!).
After school I would often stop by and see what new cars had been dropped off for repairs. It always fascinated me to see a wrecked car when it arrived, and then watch as it returned to like-new condition. One of the most interesting jobs I recall was when a 1990’s Pontiac Bonneville came in after a roll-over. The roof was crushed, and my dad cut it off at the A, B, and C pillars and put on a whole new roof. He had to cut the roof pillars at just the right lengths and angles before welding the new one in place, ensuring that the doors and front and rear windshields fit perfectly. To me he was a surgeon, and that patient left fully recovered.
During my last visit home I had a great time looking at old family photos. I also stumbled across some old documents from The Shop, including several work estimates for various wrecked cars. I recognize most of the names of people from around town, and even remember a few of the vehicles. For example, I can picture the blue-purple 1995 Toyota Tacoma pickup that came in with the whole left side damaged. Most of the vehicles my dad worked on back then were late-model cars (I’m sure something like 50% were there after hitting a deer in and around our rural area), so it was surprising to see a fancy brand new truck in for work. This one was only 5 months old, and had just 8407 kilometers on the odometer! I believe the owner delivered newspapers, and had rolled his truck onto its side in a ditch. I figured the truck would be written off, but with some extensive cutting, replacing, and welding, not to mention lots of sanding and painting, he was able to get it back on the road. Years later I would still see this blue-purple Tacoma around town, and it always made me proud that it was my dad that had fixed it.
Another memory is of the white Chevrolet Cube van of Les Parker, a local businessman. I may not remember the exact van very well, but I was always happy to see it because he used it to deliver ‘Hamish and Enzo’ brand sandwiches to local stores and restaurants. Whenever he dropped by (which was often, as The Shop was the cultural center of the village!) there were always a few spare sandwiches to share. In hindsight I wonder if they weren’t the expired ones he couldn’t sell anymore, but when I was a kid and had been working hard sanding a fender or unbolting car parts, a free sandwich was always appreciated!
One other interesting estimate from an appraiser was for a 1988 Honda Civic owned by who would become my future cousin-in-law, Dan! I’m not sure what he hit (or what hit him), but the front left corner apparently needed a little attention. If you notice the date you’ll see that it was the day before the 14th of February, so maybe he was out buying Tracey her Valentine’s Day gift. Today they’re happily married and have two lovely daughters, so I’m going to guess he found another way to make it to her house the following day with chocolates and flowers!
There are other fun examples that really ring a bell, such as seeing the name of the town doctor, Dr. Pye, who actually delivered me when I was born! I’m sure he was the only Volvo driver in town, and my dad would have cursed trying to find replacement parts for a Swedish car in rural Ontario, Canada. And if you look at the date, it was September 11, 1995. Who would have guessed years later that that date would take on a very dark significance. I’m sure for my dad it was just another day, cars to inspect, estimates to write, parts to order, and body work to perform. One estimate (for a 1994 Chrysler Intrepid) made me recall a picture I had kept with me, and I was excited for a moment thinking I had an actual picture of one of the cars in the estimates. Turns out it was a different Chrysler Intrepid (maroon instead of blue), but it was still fun to see an example of the work he used to do.
I really enjoy seeing these documents that represent a snapshot of a given moment in time. It’s also great to see my dad’s handwriting. As I kid I thought it was messy, but as an adult I realise that I’m certainly no better at penmanship than my dad was! He never once used a computer for his business, so all I have to look at now are these old faded documents. A few even have coffee stains. And he even had signed his name on the back of one of the sheets, for apparently no reason. We all do it, perhaps absentmindedly while waiting on the phone, and I’m happy to have this memento. So while I think back fondly to my time spent at The Shop with my dad even without these reminders, it’s really great to have these papers in my hand today, reminding me why I’m so crazy for cars. And it also makes you appreciate how wide-open the future is. I’m pretty sure he never once thought that his son would one day be writing about his body repair estimates on a blog sitting halfway around the world in China…
Welcome! My name is Paul, and I am an old-fashioned, low-pressure, low-buck car fan with lots of automotive stories to tell!