Jan - Feb 2013 News

automobiles have always fascinated me. At seven or eight I used to scour magazines for automobile ads of new cars. I could identify every make and model of every car produced in the US. Oldsmobile was my favorite brand and nothing was as cool as the Rocket 88 To my young mind, it appeared that a lot of the other makes were imitating the Olds design.

My dad used the GI bill money after WWII to receive mechanical training from Ford Motor Company. He became a mechanic at the local dealership and later became a body man for the Chevy dealer in our hometown. Dad was always working on some type of auto at our home in his small garage. I watched him work and he let me “help” by bringing him wrenches, parts and being a second pair of eyes.

After I got my driver’s license I wanted a car. I had saved a few bucks by working at the IGA store in our town after school and on Saturdays. There was a ‘39 Buick Coupe that caught my eye at Dubbie Odle’s junkyard. It didn’t have an engine, but the transmission and front motor mount were lying inside behind the front seat. Dubbie told me that I could have the Buick for $40. When I asked about an engine, he motioned to a pile motors on the ground and said pick one. I chose a ‘52 Super Straight Eight which had a piston frozen and the cylinder full of water – my Dad and I discovered at home once we removed the head. The piston was finally freed with large amounts of WD-40, time and some precision taps with a block of wood and a hammer. Using my meager funds, I ordered bearings and rings from Sears and my Dad and I proceeded to overhaul the beast. At another junkyard I found an intake/exhaust manifold from a ‘42 Buick convertible that was made for two, two barrel – three bolt carburetors. The exhaust manifold was split 4 and 4 – the manifold came from the factory in that configuration. I was tickled to death – now I could also be a hot rodder. Dubbie Odle’s yielded two Holly94s and a Bendix electric fuel pump. After several misadventures, Dad and I got the Buick running and the old car would fly. I could easily break the rear wheels loose from a standing start. Don’t ask me how I know, but it would do over 115 mph on the top end. Well a friend had a ‘52 Olds Rocket 88, fi re engine red, customized, top chopped, shaved and lowered. He wanted to swap the Olds even for my Buick. Oldsmobile my dream car – I just couldn’t say no. That trade was one of the biggest mistakes of my life.The Olds was a dream, but not the kind of a dream you want to have. The Oldsmobile was finally a gift to my Father and he swapped it for a truck. I still bemoan trading away the Buick to this day, which was made worse when my friend flipped the Buick and cut the crumpled top off with cutting torch. Even after this experience I was still hooked on working on cars and excited by each car that I have owned.

My feeling for Oldsmobile has taken a small turn in direction. For several years, I have been enamored by the Olds Toronado, specifically the ‘68 Toronado. I know it’s heavy, it’s large, it’s a land yacht, but those are some of the things I like about it. The styling just speaks to me in a very personal way. Engineering wise it was ahead of it’s time and it has a big engine (I’m still a hot rodder at heart). The difference now is the front wheels spin instead of the rear ones. I have also acquired a yearning for kit cars – something automotive that I can build. Two models in particular have caught my fancy; the Kelmark GT (a Ferrari Dino 246 look-a-like) and the Fiber Fab Avenger 12GT (roughly styled after a Ford GT 40). I am building the V-8 mid-engined versions of both, not the anemic VW powered rear engine models. These projects in themselves could be the subjects of book length ramblings.

Well now to the point at hand, being an expert at being new. I present all my comments from the viewpoint of being a new member in an AACA chapter. Each of us all our lives have dealt with personal interactions. Each  of us has experienced some degree of success and/or failure in relating to fellow human beings. The degree to which you succeed in this endeavor is related to how much you can understand the thoughts, feelings, moods and many other factors that make up the people you interact with. I believe the longer you live the more atune to the feelings of others you become. Yes, I know there are many notable exceptions to this statement. Let me rephrase myself; you tend to become more atune to other individuals personalities the longer you are around the general population. How does this apply to being a new member in an AACA chapter? The conduct you exhibit in everyday relations with other folks should be no different than with your fellow club members. Club members are no different in behavior from the general public. They will react exactly to your behavior as would any other person – except maybe your family members, but that’s way beyond the scope of my knowledge. The bottom line is you should let your life experiences be your guide in how to interact with other club members. If you have had success in the past with personal interactions – you will have success in club member interactions. However, if in the past you have had trouble getting along with folks; you might want to take a hard look at your behavior patterns with the goal being to improve your interpersonal skills.

Probably the most important interpersonal skill in your quest to become a new AACA is being able to listen. Not just listening, but really hearing what the other person is saying. In my six decades and eight summers on this earth this is probably my weakest interpersonal skill. I tend to anticipate what the other person is going to say. I really watch not to do this when I’m talking to a person outside my home. However at home, my wife really gets aggravated with me because I do it to her a lot of times because I feel I know her very well. I have to work on this fault all the time. The real payoff is if you really listen, you will be surprised what you can learn.

To get the most out of your membership you must participate in club activities. Club meetings can sometimes be a little dry, but that’s part of the whole package. The club that ignores it’s business will have problems. Planning for shows, cruise in’s and many other activities must be performed in an orderly manner and thought out completely. Financial matters are very important to the clubs operation, not only dues, but club sponsors are vital to many of the club’s charitable activities. Car shows and cruise in’s are the icing on the cake where new members can see lots different show cars and display any cars that they might have. New members must ask if they can help in any of these activities. Performing even the most menial tasks will help the club in achieving it’s goals. Sometimes older members might be a little slow to ask the new members to perform tasks. Use common sense about asking to help, but don’t lag behind when tasks need to be performed. The old saying, you get out what you put in is very true when it comes to your car club membership.

When you first join the car club you probably won’t know most of the club members very well. You don’t know what kind of cars they have and the level of their skills at auto restoration. It is only natural to be proud of your own car or cars, but be careful in bragging about your projects. You can embarrass yourself by touting your cars condition to members whose restoration skills eclipse your achievements by far and can make you look foolish. Members will tend to shy away from a person who constantly talks only about his own cars. I really like my automotive projects so I really have to watch not to talk about them too much.

The new member can embarrass himself by making offhand remarks at car shows. These remarks not only reflect on the new member, but more importantly, reflect on the club as a whole and can do damage to the club’s reputation. New members should never state opinions about the quality or condition of an auto. Never utter negative remarks like, “That thing looks tacky”, about any car on display. Someone is bound to hear these remarks made in bad taste.

There is one facet of club membership that I do not have any experience with. The skills and qualifications of judging automobiles at a car show. The new member need not acquire these skills immediately. It is more important to be soundly based in the operation and activities of your club.

However, learning judging skills and AACA judging rules can be added to the new members repertoire at a later time.

I’m sure there are other topics that I should have covered, but were missed. These were just a few that popped into my head. There are almost an unlimited number subjects that could be discussed about car club membership or any other group membership for that matter. I’m sure I am really pushing the limit of describing a new member as an expert on anything. I have worked on cars my entire adult, but I have never performed a frame off restoration so I’m not an expert at that, nor have I painted an entire auto. I’ve never rebuilt an automatic transmission or replaced rusted out floor pan. So maybe the only thing I do have any expertise in is being a new AACA member. Someday I hope I can report to you that I am an expert in some of the afore mentioned activities. Given some time and the ‘68 Toronado I may just accomplish some tasks well enough to be called an expert at them. You see I am also a dreamer.