No, this isn’t a self-aggrandizing post celebrating my own birthday, but a tribute to the man who started it all for me (literally, and with respect to cars); my father.
As much as my grandmother loves to tell everyone “Derek’s liked cars for as long as I can remember”, it is true, and it wouldn’t be that way without my Dad. As I wrote in September, 2011
“My father worked for Honda for most of my childhood, and the Kreindler household was graced with two NSX’s. One of my earliest memories is of my mother leading me across the lawn on a sunny evening. There was a lineup of people outside my house, and beyond them, a Formula Red NSX with my father in the driver’s seat. Nobody had ever seen anything like it, and certainly not in my driveway, which constantly had some kind of Accord Wagon for my father and a white Civic sedan for my mother. A year later, my “birthday present” was a Berlina Black NSX, a company car that my father managed to finagle from head office. In true Jerry Kreindler fashion, he took me for numerous blasts around Toronto, with his Arthea Franklin tapes on the stereo, something that today’s youth would not define as “swag”, but makes perfect sense if you’ve met the man.”
Life lessons are one of the things that fathers are expected to pass down to their sons as part of parenting; for the sake of relevancy, I won’t delve too deep into my upbringing, but I can tell you that being so young, I don’t always have the context and life experience I need when writing and researching stories; but my Dad is only a phone call away. Whether it’s living with crappy British cars while growing up in Barbados, defending an automaker from a frivolous lawsuit or terminating an under-performing dealer, my Dad is pretty much guaranteed to have an anecdote or nugget of advice related to the topic. Without this kind of background knowledge, the articles I write would be missing the key bits of analysis and insight that separate our content from everyone else.
None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for him taking so much time to not only indulge my passion for the automobile, but making everything a “teachable moment”. Car magazines and brochures were to be read, not just looked at for the nice pictures. Building model car kits gave me a greater understanding of the inner workings of cars. My dad’s job wasn’t just “working for a car company”, but a way to learn about how they operated, how the dealer franchise system worked, the differences in culture between North Americans, Koreans and the Japanese, and how one can learn from those whose ways seem utterly alien at first glance. For the hardened industry veterans reading this, it may seem elementary, but your careers have probably been around longer than I have. All this information impressed upon me from a young age left an indelible impression on my being.
The blind, euphoric enthusiasm for all cars of all shapes, sizes, colors and configurations has receded and given way to something a bit more grounded, but I still feel the innate connection in my soul, a little fragment of awe and wonderment that comes back every so often; touring the Ford plant in Dearborn, meeting with the people responsible for designing and engineering the cars I’m about to review, the sublime, private joy of a properly executed heel-toe downshift, it all makes me feel the same way I did when I was 6 years old and about to tour what my Dad had dubbed the “secret warehouse”, which was really just a Honda tech center with a few Japanese-market right-hand drive cars in it. Constant exposure to the thing you love the most has a way of diminishing its majesty, but the double-wishbone Integras, Prelude VTECs and other cars from the “Golden Era of Honda” remain pure in my mind, even if most of them have been stolen or rusted away.
Nearly two decades on, not much has changed. I’ve grown taller. My Dad’s waistband has gotten bigger. My youngest brother, who isn’t too interested in cars is bigger than both of us. This time last week, my Dad volunteered to make the nearly 3 hour drive to check out a new car. I sold the Volvo, eager to cut my losses and get something more fun to drive (more on that next week). Mechanical workings have never been my Dad’s forte, but he offered to tag along. “You better go and check this one out,” he told me after I picked him up from the train station the night before. “It’s probably a good one.”
We loaded up my Ford F-150 Ecoboost press car for the long, uneventful drive through Southern Ontario, doing our best to blend in. The topic of conversation was, of course, cars; Chrysler’s turnaround, how Japan’s poor demographics would impact the auto industry, his wretched memories of British cars. Before we knew it, we had arrived at our destination, and he was down on his hands and knees, checking the rocker panels and frame rails for rust, looking for sweats and leaks around the transmission and oil pan. A brief test drive led him to pronounce the car as a solid buy, and on his recommendation, the deal was done. Today, he asked me if I would let him drive it to work.
It was the least I could do. Well, that and a good bottle of rum. Happy Birthday, Dad.