Get Good Grades and Dad Will Get You a Cobra Kit

John Horner
by John Horner
get good grades and dad will get you a cobra kit

The New York Times has a story on car nut Fred Heiler and his son Tim. It seems that Tim wasn't quite living up to his potential in middle school– thanks to girls and video games. But his progeny's Cobra love led to a parental epiphany: "'O.K., bud,' I said in a weak moment, 'if you get on the honor roll and stay on throughout high school, we'll buy you a Cobra kit when you graduate.'" The incentive worked: "Indeed, he began to apply himself in school, and in a couple of marking periods we got a congratulatory note and an honor roll sticker with his report card…. Good grades became the norm all through high school. Tim graduated with honors in 2006. True to his word, Fred bought a Cobra kit from E.R.A. in Connecticut. Father and son built the car together in the garage. "With Fleetwood Mac or Green Day blasting, we'd chatter about car stuff, school or music while we worked, but at other times we'd proceed without speaking, anticipating each other's moves and handing each other the right tools at the right time." The two shade tree mechanics plan to attend a safe driving school together this summer. Cobra? Driving school? Sounds like a plan.

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4 of 23 comments
  • John Horner John Horner on May 29, 2008

    "I’m so jealous I’m sick. All of it." Me too!

  • WildBill WildBill on May 29, 2008

    The point is the bonding experience. I still cherish the days I and my brothers work side by side with my father on our small part-time farm. Good for this father and son to have the experience.

  • Yankinwaoz Yankinwaoz on May 31, 2008

    My car bonding experiences with my dad were a bit different. We would be driving somewhere, the car would break down, and my dad would look at me to fix it to get it going again. So we would brainstorm together to figure out what component had failed, and how to bypass/fix/jury-rig it. Always lot of fun on the side of a freeway with cars whizzing by inches away at 70mph.

  • Fredheiler Fredheiler on May 18, 2009

    OK, I'm the father who agreed to buy the Cobra kit if my son got on the honor roll and stayed there for four years. I probably deserve some of the negative comments on this site, but here are a few points for anyone who's interested. Selfishly, I also wanted to build a Cobra replica for myself, so this turned out to be a great way to do it AND incentivize my kid at the same time. Yes, he should've gotten good grades on his own, but it wasn't happening, and this goal gave him real focus. I agree with those of you who don't believe in giving a kid a car when he graduates from high school. Throughout his first two years of college, Tim was on campus without wheels, and when he was home, he had access to my wife's or my daily driver only when we didn't need it. He's 21 now, has never had an accident (despite helping me put more than 5,000 miles on the Cobra last summer) and has only gotten two minor traffic tickets -- those in the very slow daily driver he got himself recently. He works hard in school (3.2 GPA), and I've told him I'll put the Cobra in his name when he graduates from college and can afford a place with at least a two-car garage. In the meantime, we both enjoy driving the Cobra, and we also have a blast working on other car projects together. He recently helped me convert my 1965 Porsche 356 to Bosch fuel injection (the original, numbers-matching engine, which we had rebuilt together several years ago, sits on my work bench). The car now starts, idles and runs stronger than it ever did with carbs, and Tim has learned yet another useful lesson about cars. Sincerely, Fred Heiler