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Mon, June 24

Column: Ode to the 'car guys' out there

Last weekend, it was Chopperland around here; motorcycles as far as the eye could see. This weekend, the hogs are gone, replaced by brilliant moving capsules of time, classic rods with monster engines housed in shiny packages.

I've never been a "car guy." I appreciate the beauty of classic rides, the raw power of muscle machines, the quickness of sleek sports cars. But that's about as far as it goes for me and my love affair with the horseless carriage.

My older brother is the quincential car guy. He can talk for hours with other car guys using words and terms incomprehendible to the average "not a car guy." Car guys talk a different language, ones with numbers thrown in next to masculine-sounding words.

"You got a 450 hemi with a 8-cylinder carb and a 460 manifold in there, Tom?"

"Naa. It's a 327 ultra sidewinder with a 623-cubic blah blah 490X blah blah with a 16-inch blah blah."


I loved watching my brother and his friends "fix" their cars when they were in high school. No matter the friends, or what they were "fixing," each session pretty much went the same way.

"I can't loosen this (car part). Give me that (car tool) and I'll try that."

"Oh (bad word), I (broke, stripped or cracked) that (bad word) (car part). Hand me that beer." (Yes, they could drink "3.2 crap" at 18 back then, though I remember them being only 16 or 17 at the time, hmm.)

My brother's favorite color was gray. I know this because he painted all his cars that flat hue. Come to think of it, he had two trucks that he also painted gray. I knew as soon as my brother pulled up in a "new" vehicle that it would be gray in less than a week, after it was properly "primed."

My brother always intended to paint his vehicles "candy-apple red with sparkles," he just never got around to it. He would buff out dents, plug holes in the body, then primer the car using dozens of spray cans that I would shake up for him because I liked the sensation of the ball in the can mixing up the paint.

He and his car buddies would spend hours fixing up their machines, and those vehicles all left the garage the same way. Gray. Months later, still gray. Always gray.

I suggested one time to my brother to use black instead when we were at a store and they had run out of gray. He just stared at me. We went to six stores that day until we found his gray.

My brother and his friends could talk engines like nobody's business. They always did this while standing over the vehicle with the hood up. They would stare at the engine for hours, trading stories about big engines and fast engines and what they could put on that there engine, and what Carlos' brother put on his engine, and how that one time they pulled that engine ...

Car guys were good to have around, and I had a couple of friends I paid more attention to when my car wasn't running. I found that I had picked up enough from watching my brother to at least sound interested as my car guys talked car talk while working on my car.

"I think I might do that" I would say after they told me to put something on my car. "Which brand would you suggest?"

As they rattled off names and numbers, I would concentrate on all the things I was going to do after they fixed my ride. I still use this acquired skill when talking to mechanics.

"So, you're saying I should put oil in there?"

"Are you kidding?"

I poke fun at the car guys because I'm jealous of their innate abilities. A part of me wishes that when someone says, "Hey, check that out" and points to a car, I wouldn't automatically look at the driver instead of at the car.

"Yea, she's hot, isn't she?"

"Yes she is. You think she's packing a hemi?"

"No. She doesn't look pregnant."

So, today, I salute the car guy (and car girl) as the Fun Runners depart our fair city to continue their journey west. I still think a good car guy could fix just about anything, even our dismal economy. And instead of a trillion-dollar price tag, it would only cost us a few beers.


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