In Celebration of Fathers: Cars in the Blood

Thomas Kreutzer
by Thomas Kreutzer
in celebration of fathers cars in the blood

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.

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.

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.

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.

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 32 comments
  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Jun 14, 2013

    My dad didn't let me steer when I was little, but a family friend, who was a "fun" dad, did. He would take me, his 5 younger kids, and usually a neighbor kid or two, and put us into the Ford/Plymouth/Olds station wagon (They didn't last long, they got rusty quick and were driven 50K a year) and take us to the drive in for whatever kiddie movie was playing. On the way to and back, we would each get a chance to drive. The smallest ones got to steer, sort of, the older ones, got to do everything but brake. When we got tall enough to work the pedals 100% we got to do that too, on a straight road that was 6 lanes wide and over a mile long. Not much skill needed. My dad started letting me move cars around when I was about 11, pulling one of our three cars in and out of the garage when needed. I didn't abuse his trust me until I was 14, and we got a '69 Hurst Olds as a loaner, and I couldn't resist, I took it around the block, twice! The neighborhood was a big one, so each loop was about a mile. I've been a torque junkie ever since.

  • Lie2me Lie2me on Jun 14, 2013

    Thomas, the high number response articles are usually controversial or polarizing, the GM vs Ford kind of thing, but there is a huge human interest side of cars that you've captured beautifully. Few mechanical things in this world evoke the kind of passion that the automobile does and you helped us to understand a little bit better as to why. There aren't going to be a hundred comments when everyone likes and agrees with what you've said. I've read your article three times because I liked what you wrote and it makes me feel good to read it and that doesn't happen very often... So, stop counting and keep writing

  • Slyons My guess is they keep the 2.0 liter they have now with minor tweaks, and shoehorn in the 48V mild hybrid system that just debuted in the CX-90. Should allow for all the regular fun of wringing out the 4 cyl and bump the fuel mileage up at least a couple points. I don't think we'll see a major evolution of the drivetrain until the next next model (NF?).
  • 28-Cars-Later " as long as internal-combustion engines exist?"So... forever until society collapses, rebuilds, and then the Hunger Games begin?
  • Jeff S It would be a neat project but the 6k should include the parts car.
  • Kcflyer Why oh why does every manufacturer slop the roof so much on vehicles that are supposed to be utilitarian? Especially a three row people mover. Let the rear roof square off like an old volvo wagon for cripes sake! And get off my lawn. And don't give me the mpg noise. I'd happily give back a couple mpg for some utility in a "utility" vehicle.
  • Varezhka KISS, just like Miata always has. No exotic powertrain options, a simple 2L NA with MT with similar power output as Mazda3 and CX-30 would best match the car; as much as I have always dreamed of a rotary powered RX-5.That said, the Miata that I actually liked and driven the most was NC. It was just practical enough and comfortable enough over long distance that I can actually use it as my DD/road trip vehicle without losing the lightweight nimble feeling. ND as nice as it is lost some of that IMHO.The only other thing I'd like would be the new MazdaConnect which is so much nicer, and a less angry face.
Next