Long after he left, I was looking at an old car a customer asked me to restore, and since it reminded me of one of the cars my father drove when I was a boy, I began wondering where that car was now. It wasn’t long until I found myself overwhelmed and becoming emotionally flooded with a strong desire to know where that exact car ended up.
I can’t explain why, but I found myself with such a strong desire to sit in that car, which, in some way, would bring me close to dad again, but I was whisked away remembering that long drive to Yellowstone National Park with my father. I can remember exactly what the dash, the seats, the steering wheel looked like and I can even remember that really cool bright orange speedometer indicator that used liquid mercury instead of the typical needle.
I have known this same emotional bond with other cars, too. Not too many years ago, I got up in the middle of the night to go out into the garage to sit in my father’s 1928 Model A, hoping to feel some sort of a connection with dad and hoping that I might miraculously find something like a handwritten note with his writing on it — once again the strong desire to somehow relive cherished moments from the past.
The more I thought about these feelings, I began to ask myself about racecars I had owned or built, and with a heavy sigh, I wished they too were accessible to sit in one more time.
I recall cherished memories like the first time my father went for a ride with me, telling me how to align the hood ornament with the edge of the road to help me stay perfectly in the center of my lane. Funny isn’t it, now that cars no longer have hood ornaments, nor do racecars. Is that why young drivers today can’t keep a car in their own lane?
And then there was the day mom drove me to DMV and handed me the keys so I could take my driver’s test. She said, “Please bring it back in one piece,” as she whispered a hail Mary or two.
Yes, cars, especially racecars, create memories, most cherished, some not so memorable, but all of which make up the good, the bad and even the ugly. They make us laugh and cry, but for the most part they become part of our life, helping us to fulfill that need for speed and all the excitement as we build, race, and occasionally crash them.
Take it from me, there comes a day we all reflect on the cars we spent so many glorious moments in, wishing we could relive those moments again with those we loved and admired.
But better yet, spending time at a NASA event sharing these memories with friends helps bring them back to life one more time. Racing isn’t always about track time. Some of the best times you will ever spend at the racetrack will be those you spent sharing memories from days gone by with NASA family.