From Father to Son

Every car guy has a story about how they got hooked on old vehicles. Most of those stories involve a guy called Dad. Since June 17th is Father’s Day, we here at the Historic Vehicle Association thought it might be fun to ask a few sons just how their fathers got them hooked on old cars. Check out what they said and then take a moment to share your favorite Father’s Day memory.

The Hands-Off Approach

Bentley Zionsville, formerly known as Albers Rolls-Royce, was founded in Indiana in 1963 by Hermann Albers. When Albers passed away in October 2002, his sons Mark and Greg took over the business and now direct every aspect of sales, management, and service for what has become one of the Midwest’s premier Bentley dealerships.

Not surprising, says Greg Albers, cars were a central theme growing up:

For as long as I can remember, my father lived and breathed automobiles. He made his living in the automobile business. Cars were his hobby, and most of our family trips were centered on some type of car event. Dad had his favorite brands, but what he enjoyed the most were original cars of all types. He taught me early on how to walk through a show field and spot the original cars that had not been redone. 

‘It’s only original once,’ he would say and then proceed to show me the things that made the car original.

Bitten with the car bug early, I bought my first before I had a license and Dad helped me prepare it for car shows. It was a 1958 Mercury Monterey, purchased from the original owner (and, yes, it was an original car). The time working on that car together really created a bond with my father and left me with a lot of great memories.

If I had not been born with the ‘car gene,’ I would have still had a great respect for automobiles due to my dad’s influence. In fact, when we were young and visitors would be over at the house, Dad would have us come in and meet the people and then he would ask us, ‘What have I always told you about cars?’

We would then recite to them [the rules]: 1) Don’t get in them; 2) Don’t get on them; 3) Don’t touch them.

This continued until we were old enough to help care for the family cars by washing and waxing them. People are shocked to hear that my brother, Mark, and I never really touched cars until we were old enough to appreciate them.

Teach a Boy to Drive

When most kids were just learning to ride a bike, Bruce Woodson’s father was teaching him how to drive. The co-owner of Mercer & Woodson Automotive and Chairman of the North American MGA Register, Woodson’s love of cars starts with a memory of sitting in the driver’s seat beside his dad, Bruce Sr.

My father is now 93, and his passion for cars goes back to when he was growing up in the 1930s. That was when American classic automobiles became popular. He was attracted to the quality of automobiles and pretty much anything mechanical. In 1937, he acquired a Cord Supercharged Convertible that he still owns today.         

He was a charter member of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club and helped form the Richmond Region Antique Automobile Club of America in 1952. Interestingly, when helping form the Richmond Region AAC, he was informed that the Cord—only 15 years old at a time—was not yet an antique, so he went out and bought a 1922 Model T Roadster. 

That’s the first car I ever remember being attracted to, and I was in 1st grade when he taught me to drive it. Later, my dad and several other club members got together and rented a building on our local fairgrounds. Dad would go there on Saturdays and work on cars, and there on the fairgrounds I’d drive that Model T. It was like my own private playground, and I used to drive that car all day long until it ran out of gas. It was fun.   

There were also the regular trips my father and I made to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Festival in Indiana. It’s a 650-mile drive from our home in Richmond, Virginia. For my dad and me, cars were a great way to bring us together. It gave us a common thread to talk about and enjoy. Even when I was at that age when most other adolescents rebelled against being with their parents, I really enjoyed the time I spent with my dad. Some of my favorite car memories are of us driving that Auburn Speedster through the Allegheny Mountains headed out to the festival. I remember gazing up at the stars and wondering what the future might hold for us. After it’s all said and done, it was the start of a lifetime of great memories with my best friend—my dad.             

A Family Affair

Event and collector consultant, appraiser, and owner of Auto Motives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Jed Rapoport attended his first car show—The Elegance at Hershey—when he was three weeks old. Now 47, Rapoport says he’s been to Hershey at least 40 times and can never remember a moment when cars weren’t a part of life in the Rapoport home.

My father, now 81, used to be a golfer. But when I was little, he made a conscious decision to give up golf because it was too time consuming and it didn’t involve the whole family. Dad and I loved to go fishing, and he really got involved in cars. Some of my earliest memories are of reading picture books he used to give me about cars. I used to love to sit and read his books on the history of automobiles. And when I was in high school I can’t remember a weekend going by that we weren’t jumping in the car as a family and heading to a car show.    

Dad was into flathead Cadillacs and Jaguars. He was pushing Jaguar types as collectible back in the 70s when nobody wanted them. He had some unusual cars, too, like a 1968 Renault R8 Gordini. But when I was a kid, there were two Cadillac products that the family sort of revolved around. One was a 1937 Cadillac convertible sedan; there’s a picture of my mother holding me or my sister as a three-week-old baby in front of that car. Dad sold the car when I was six and my mom says that I didn’t talk to him for a week. 

He made up for it years later when he bought a 1937 LaSalle convertible coupe. He bought that car in 1978 and—working as a family—we finished the restoration on it in 1980. Every weekend I remember us working on that car. It was the first time we ever restored a vehicle. Later, we campaigned that car on the show circuit until we won every award you could win with it.   

I’m not a mechanic, but I’m very mechanical. As a child, my first real recollection of my dad and I working on a car together was when he taught me to change the spark plugs on his Renault. I had to be seven or eight years old. 

But, ironically, most of our time spent working on cars really had very little to do with fixing our own cars so much as hunting parts so that other people could fix them. Every weekend we were at a junkyard chasing down parts and components. Looking back on it now, I guess there wasn’t any one thing that turned me onto cars. It was just something that—as a family—was always a big part of what we did together. 

What was the one thing that got you hooked on the hobby? Do you have a Father’s Day memory you’d like to share? To share your story and see what other members are saying, please comment below or head over to the HVA’s Facebook page.