The Truth About Cars » Fathers’ Day http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 14 Sep 2014 15:36:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Fathers’ Day http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Of Miatas And Men: A Father’s Day Story http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/of-miatas-and-men-a-fathers-day-story/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/of-miatas-and-men-a-fathers-day-story/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490366 For the past 16 years, we’ve done the same routine with varying frequency; it started when I was 2 or 3 years old, at my insistence. Go for a swim at the YMCA, then lunch at McDonalds (always a Filet-O-Fish, since nothing else was kosher. I didn’t know what a Big Mac was until Junior […]

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derekprelude

For the past 16 years, we’ve done the same routine with varying frequency; it started when I was 2 or 3 years old, at my insistence. Go for a swim at the YMCA, then lunch at McDonalds (always a Filet-O-Fish, since nothing else was kosher. I didn’t know what a Big Mac was until Junior High) and finally, we would arrive at Mecca, 715 Milner Avenue, the site of Honda Canada’s head office.

I still don’t know what compelled me to make my Dad come out to his office every single weekend. I know that as a child, I had was obsessed with collecting car brochures. I had to get a new one each week, and Honda had a big rack of brochures in the lobby, where visitors waited. What better place to get my fix. Like a real junkie, the initial rush had to be fed perpetually, and soon the brochures from the rack weren’t enough.

Behind the copier was the real good stuff; brochures from Japan that seemed to kick around for no reason. The cars were the same as what you could buy here, but they all had funny names and the ad copy was entirely nonsensical English phrases. Other times there were Japanese car magazines with titles like “Motor Fan” and “Car Graphic”, thick as phone books with hundreds of glossy pages and beautiful photography. They made an issue of Evo look like a worn-out hymnal.

I didn’t cry when my grandparents passed away, but I remember bawling hysterically when my Dad told me he was leaving Honda. Life without The Big H was unimaginable – even my favorite Teddy Bear was a promotional item given to Acura dealers that my Dad managed to sneak away somehow (I still have it, along with all the brochures and Honda memorabilia). The YMCA membership swims ended, but Saturdays still revolved around cars.

At age 15, I wasn’t eligible for my learner’s permit and was still too young to spend my Saturdays sleeping off a hangover. The ritual had now evolved into dragging my Dad along to a dealer so that he could test drive cars that I liked, on the off chance that he might buy it and I’d be able to drive them when I was 16. We ended up at a Mazda dealer in the north end of the city that looked like nothing more than a glass-paneled double-wide trailer. If it weren’t for the Velocity Red Mazdaspeed MX-5 in the showroom, we wouldn’t have stepped foot in the joint.

We got within three meters of the MX-5 before we were intercepted by a salesman who wasted little time launching into his spiel. “I see you have a 5-Series,” he said. “This car is as fast as a Z4 but costs half the price.”

For reasons I’ve never been able to figure out, my father’s body language remains consistent whether he’s charming a restaurant hostess so we don’t have to wait or a table or trying to disarm an overeager car salesman. An earnest, confident smile washes over his face, a hand comes to rest on the other person’s forearm, as he repeats a precisely honed script, refined over years being in this exact scenario; trying to cut to the chase so the two of us can go out in a test drive.

“I work in the car business. I know all about [insert two or three features]. I’ve driven [insert key competitor here] and wasn’t impressed. I found the seats really uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t buy [competitive car] on that basis alone. I’d like to take this out for a drive with my son here. I’m happy to leave you the keys to my car as well. We’ll only be gone for 10 or 15 minutes.”

“I’m sorry sir, I can’t let you do that. This is a turbocharged vehicle and we aren’t allowed to offer test drives.” The salesman looks genuinely apologetic. “I can offer you a test drive of a standard Miata. We have a silver demo available.”

My father agrees, but seems a bit dejected. “What a bunch of bullshit. They just don’t want to keep one in inventory to use as a demo.” The silver car doesn’t look nearly as cool as the Mazdaspeed. No Racing Hart wheels. No front-mounted intercooler. No red paint. No turbo. This one is the same silver that seems to be on every third car. My Dad is busying himself with his pre-test drive ritual; adjusting the mirrors, fiddling with the seat, making sure the radio is turned all the way down. We creep out of the parking lot using way too many revs, since he doesn’t drive stick anymore.

It’s the first time I’ll hear the raspy snarl of the Mazda BP engine and watch the red needle sweep over the white-faced tach all the way up to the 7500-rpm redline. I’m enjoying the wind in my hair as my Dad rows through the gears, and I make a play for the radio. My Dad cuts me off before I can get to the volume knob.

“Hey! Don’t touch that! I want to hear the car.”

The joy on his face is palpable as he rows through the gears.  He giggles. “This is a great little car! Great gearshift. Honda could never build a gearbox like this. Great brakes too!” He stands on the brakes, bringing us to a halt from moderate speeds in what seems like no time at all. “Too much fun,” is his pronouncement.

We return the car sometime after our self-allotted time was up. I have a brochure in my hand and my hair is tousled. He knows exactly what I’m going to ask. “I wouldn’t ever buy a car like that. Too difficult for me to get in and out of. But boy, what a blast to drive.”

***

volvo

Eight years later on an especially humid Saturday morning, I’m only slightly hung over, but wide awake. My Dad’s been up since god knows when, fired up on caffeine and polemic op-eds. He’s emailed three of them to me and it’s not even 9 A.M. By now, I’ve already bought and sold my first Miata, a green 1997, and a Volvo wagon that counts as the worst auto-related decision of my life. After it suddenly died in the middle of a busy freeway a month earlier, I decided it had to go. The original plan was to pass it on to my brother, but I wasn’t going to give him an unsafe, unreliable car. My Dad wanted to know what I was going to replace it with.

“I think I’m going to get another Miata. They’re cheap to own. Reliable. And I miss driving them.”

I waited for the inevitable eye-roll or lecture about selling my first car only to go and buy the exact same one, or for wasting time and money on the Volvo.

None of those ever came. “I think that’s a good idea,” was his reply.

***

DadMiata

Early Saturday morning, we set out for a small town about 200 miles southwest of Toronto, behind the wheel of a Ford F-150 press car. Now that the press fleet was an option for me, it had been years since we went to a dealer to test drive anything. I’d let him take press cars out for a spin every now and then, but practical considerations had long overtaken driving thrills when it came time for him to buy a car. Judging by the number of time I’d see my Dad driving around town in my last Miata, I figured that it was a great way for him to enjoy a sports car without having to own one (like the time I caught him in the act, above).

Growing up in Barbados, the roads were chalk full of Little British Cars that never ran properly. Parts had to come from the UK by boat. “They were all shit,” was a constant refrain whenever the Miata versus Classic Car debate came up. “They never ran. What’s the point of a car if you can’t drive it? Mazda took that concept and engineered reliability into it.”

The seller turned out to be an older Scottish gentleman nearing 80, and he simply couldn’t drive the Miata any longer. Though he shared my father’s philosophy on British cars, getting in and out of his Miata every day proved to be too much of a hassle.  His car was a 2003 “Shinsen” model that he imported from Florida, with the mechanical LSD, a 5-speed gearbox and the biggest rotors Mazda could fit under the 16″ wheels. It had been garaged every winter after arriving in Canada and maintained meticulously, with just over 70,000 miles on the odometer.There was no trace of road salt or grime anywhere on the car – the engine bay was clean enough to perform open heart surgery in. The door jambs and underbody were similarly pristine. The only thing that made me a little apprehensive was the lack of ABS – I’d never driven a car without it.

Driving it was both unremarkable and mesmerizing – it felt just like the same car I’d sold a few months prior, but there were subtle differences; the chassis felt stiffer and more composed, the 1.8L was just a bit less lazy thanks to the addition of VVT, but all in all, everything was familiar. The same slightly coarse engine note, the precise feel of the shifter and best of all, the sensation of speed that makes 45 mph feel like 90. I wasn’t blown away by the dynamics like I was when I first drove my ’97, but it felt right.

I pulled over at a roadside gas station and swapped seats with my dad. He wanted to know what I thought of the car.

“Drive it and tell me what you think,” he said. I knew I could count on him for a sober second opinion. This was the first Miata I had looked at, and I always kept in mind his number one maxim that easily defused any desire to buy something on impulse “There will always be something else.”

It only took a 500 yard trip down the road before he turned to me and said “I think you should make an offer”.

“Really?”

“You probably won’t find one in better condition. It’s never seen winter. And the price is fair.”

“How do you know? I guess you’re an expert in Miata pricing now, huh?” I knew he was right. The seller was asking only $1000 more than my ’97 for a car with half the miles and zero winters, but I couldn’t believe that my model of fiscal restraint and temperance was encouraging me to buy the first Miata we’d looked at.

“Just give him $100 as a deposit and tell him you’ll come pick the car up on Monday.”

***

ontrack

Selling my original Miata was probably the greatest mistake of my life so far. My rational side feared that it would need a fair amount of maintenance soon, and that the constant need to fix winter rust would be a silly drain on my bank account. I also got tired of doing the hour-long drive to my then girlfriend’s house in a cramped car that got cold in the winter, having my organs pummeled as the full racing coilovers bounded over the potholes and frost heaves while the race pads squeaked like tortured mice. I thought the Volvo would be a nice, comfortable car to drive back and forth while leaving me with a nice bit of money in my savings account – used car prices were still high and someone made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I will always remember the day I delivered it to the new owner; going to get a smog check done so that the ownership could be transferred, getting the hardtop out of the storage locker and putting it on the car with my brother. He asked me to pose for pictures with my car one last time and I did. I’ve never really been able to look at them, and every time I see a British Racing Green NA Miata, I feel an acute pang of sorrow.

As it turned out, the Volvo was more hassle than I was prepared for, and my girlfriend and I broke up the day before I sold the Volvo. The very last fight we had ended with me asking a friend if I could borrow his Miata for a drive. We were in California and I needed to blow off some steam. He gave me the keys to his white 2000 Miata, and as I wound it out along the PCH near La Jolla, I had a moment of clarity; I needed another Miata.  It was that moment that led me to start looking for another one, to take the drive with my father and come home with the car you see below.

newmiata2

A few months later, I saw my ex again and we went for a drive in my new Miata. A lot of my friends were upset when I sold my ’97 – I was one of the first to have my own car, and the novelty of going for a drive in a convertible was something they still treasure to this day. I made the right decision financially, but I still regret letting go of my four-wheeled time capsule. My ex-girlfriend was the only one who liked the new Titanium Gray color, who didn’t ask what happened to the pop-up headlights or the headrest speakers. After that drive, I never saw her again. Sometimes, I’ll walk by somebody wearing her perfume and I’ll get hit with a twinge of nostalgia and forget about all of the parts of the relationship that made me want to end it.

miatasnow

My Miata had its own perfume too, a mix of old hairspray, cracked leather and Ultra 94. I’ve never encountered that scent again, but every time I wind out the lazy 1.8L BP motor in my Miata, I am taken back to 19 years of age, when I had no concept of money, no idea how I’d pay for my next tank of gas while working in a stock room, hanging the tail out around corners because I still had my snow tires on in the middle of July. Now, I have a real job, and I can afford proper tires, rent, credit card bills and all the expenses that come with being an adult. If not for my Dad instilling a sense of duty, responsibility and self-reliance in me, I might be stuck in my parents basement, unproductive and unmotivated like so many people I know.

But it was him who also introduced me to the world of sports cars and to the car that’s brought me so much joy and been the catalyst for endless good memories. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You can drive my car anytime. Don’t bother buying one for yourself.

dadmumderek

 

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In Celebration of Fathers: Cars in the Blood http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/in-celebration-of-fathers-cars-in-the-blood/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/in-celebration-of-fathers-cars-in-the-blood/#comments Thu, 13 Jun 2013 13:12:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477398 As I paused in the driveway and waited for the garage door to open, I felt an unexpected presence by my side. Unbeknownst to me, my six year old son had slipped the confines of his booster seat in the rearmost row and made his way forward past his sisters with surprising stealth. Now he […]

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My son Harley, raised with a love for everything on wheels.

My son Harley, raised with a love for everything on wheels.

As I paused in the driveway and waited for the garage door to open, I felt an unexpected presence by my side. Unbeknownst to me, my six year old son had slipped the confines of his booster seat in the rearmost row and made his way forward past his sisters with surprising stealth. Now he stood between my wife and I as we prepared to travel the last few feet of our journey.

My first thought was annoyance. Little kids are supposed to remain in their seats with their hands and arms in the vehicle at all times. Yet for some reason here he was walking around inside our van in bold defiance of everything that he had been taught since we first strapped him into a car seat as a squalling, red faced infant. Didn’t he know most car accidents happen close to home?

Caught off guard I opened my mouth to say something harsh, but before I could an old memory clawed its way to the surface. Reaching around behind my son, I swept him onto my lap, “Take us in.” I told him. My wife gave me a surprised look but said nothing as my son gripped the wheel with eager anticipation. While I handled the pedal work and gave the wheel an occasional assisting nudge, my little guy brought us into the garage with amazing skill. He was absolutely delighted with himself, and in that moment my life came full circle.

The clan Kreutzer circa 1972.  I'm the youngest, my father, Harley, is on the right.

The clan Kreutzer circa 1972. I’m the youngest, my father, Harley, is on the right.

Almost 40 years earlier, at around the same age, I too had been between my mother and father in the front seat when I also tested the bounds of good sense in the last few feet of a family journey when I innocently asked if I could drive. My own father, not one to brook any back-talk from any of his 5 kids looked at me hard, but instead of a quick rebuke responded with the unexpected. Setting me in his lap, he let me guide the our car, an Oldsmobile Dynamic 88, into our garage.

It was a moment for the ages. I can still feel the Oldsmobile’s thin plastic wheel in my hands, the back side scalloped to fit my fingers and the vibration from the mighty V8 under the hood, as we slipped smoothly into the garage. The experience changed my life and from that day forward, no matter how far we traveled, those last few feet were always spent on my father’s lap the two of us bonding over the joy of driving.

As car enthusiasts, we’ve all heard talk about how the new generation of kids lack a real interest in our hobby. We’ve all read about hot the cell phone and social networks have usurped the role of the car in the transition to adulthood, too, but I see other reasons for this generation’s attitude towards cars. Belted in the back seat with a DVD player to occupy their time, most little kids view the car as a sort of mobile living room. Prohibited by law from the front seat until they become “tweens,” kids don’t get the opportunity to see what is happening up front and, as a result, they never fantasize about what it must be like to slide over one spot and actually sit behind the wheel. Without the fantasy, the seed doesn’t take root.

My daughter Maiko in the big seat.

My daughter Maiko in the big seat.

Not on my watch. I love everything about cars and, much to my wife’s dismay, I have been programming all three of my children to be motor heads from the day they were born. Due to my efforts, my son Harley wants to be a race car driver and my oldest daughter, Maiko, wants to be a doctor-princess.

I won’t give up on her though. I want all my kids to feel same the joy I get from driving and, as much as I hate little footprints all over my nice leather seats, I let my children play in my car whenever I am cleaning it. I let them crawl behind the wheel, roll down the windows, open the sunroof and crank up the tunes. I let them sit in the big chair with the wheel in their hands and the gearshift under their right hand and I let them imagine what it must be like to be in control. Then I tell them that it isn’t a fantasy, it’s a preview. It’s only a matter of time until the seed takes root.

The circle complete, my son Harley and I pose for a picture with the last Oldsmobile my father, also Harley, ever bought.  A 1984 Cutlass Supreme.

The circle complete, my son Harley and I pose for a picture with the last Oldsmobile my father, also Harley, ever bought. A 1984 Cutlass Supreme.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He writes for any car website that will have him and enjoys public speaking. According to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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