” …if you can get that old junker to run, it’s yours. You can do whatever you want with it. I’ll pay to get it licensed and I’ll even pay for the insurance, and then you’ll have a car to drive all winter.”


I do so love the memory of my Dad.

Looking back, it’s not hard to see the lesson he had in mind. Giving sixteen year old me that broken down old Chevy Malibu station wagon. He no doubt thought that I would learn a life lesson with which I would always be able to fix the cars I drove. He could see how much I loved to drive (and that I was a good driver) and since Dad was always looking for opportunities to teach, his lesson plan made perfect sense.

Dad was an educator by nature and I can’t thank him enough for passing that tendency on to me, his “good boy” son. But the educator in him would have to eventually accept the larger truth that any effective lesson plan must be flexible. An educator must always be prepared to alter even some of the original goals of a plan in order to truly serve the universal goal of all good educators.

To inspire students to learn on their own.

Oh and I was indeed learning. I just wasn’t learning to fix cars. As soon as I had the go ahead to do whatever I wanted with the Malibu, I had Keith over and we (he) got started getting that motor running.

Looking back, my adult self can see quite clearly how this was indeed a major life lesson for me. I was learning how to identify and nurture relationships in a manner that would lead to as much mutual benefit as possible. Of course, I wasn’t anywhere near self aware enough to realize what I was doing. I was just putting things together that made sense to me.

Keith had mechanical skills and a passionate interest in taking things apart and putting them back together to make them work. I simply put Keith in front of the Malibu and promised to pay for any parts he needed as I stood by feeding him sodas and snacks and handing him the tools he would ask for.

Keith worked on the Malibu’s motor in the same manner he would eventually do on my motorcycle a year later (but with different results). The difference being that the Malibu ran perfectly. We pulled the motor and took it completely apart. We had the cylinders bored out, cleaned it all up and put it together with new rings, seals and everything. It was a pretty complete rebuild and Keith was glad to do it.

It didn’t hurt that the engine Keith was working on was a classic Chevy 327 two barrel with a three speed manual drive. The body was crap. It was falling apart and once we got it going, it rattled and shook as it rolled down even on the smoothest road. But that motor and tranny were gold. They would one day pay for the whole car.

Once the body was dead.

After I killed it.

But that’s a story for when this all will have to be…

To be continued…