Many of my readers know me personally and know about the recent dramatic changes in my life. For those readers I have not yet met, let me fill you in. On March 8, my 92-year-old wife of 59 years succumbed to insurmountable medical problems. One hundred days before my wife’s passing, my son died of insurmountable genetic problems. Now at age 87, I am left with a decision of what to do with the remaining years of my life. Is it my fate to dwell on losses and surrender to the grief of the situation, or should I engage myself in productive new pursuits? The triggers for grief certainly exist, and it would be easy to surrender to them. On the other hand, I now have a new freedom to pursue some new activities that years as a caregiver denied me. I also have my intellect intact and have some disposable income. I have made the decision that as long as my health and resources hold out, I will seek a new path forward. There will be remembrances and times of reflection, but I feel new challenges will keep these emotional times in perspective and not cripple my ability to appreciate life and move forward.
With the fantastic support of my daughter Vicky, the home has been reorganized to better suit my life as a single person. A new office and compassionate disposal of my wife’s possessions have created a home environment that frees up my mind to contemplate new projects. So what are these new projects that will add purpose to my life? I have two that I intend to pursue.
THE PONCHO RESTOMOD
I sold my two restored 1955 Chrysler C300s and the 1940 Lincoln Continental. That has given me some cash to do another car project. When you work on car restoration and modifications, your mind gets very focused on the demands that go with those tasks. You have to design and plan, research and order parts, seek out mechanical help and keep pushing for progress. With an air wrench snarling in your hands and a hot torch burning, you have to concentrate on the tasks at hand. You naturally communicate with others, and you get tired. In short – you stay active and engaged. For me that is important, especially now.
My first thought was to build an early Ford flathead car but use a modern Coyote engine and drive train. I looked at a 1950 Ford convertible, but I decided it was the wrong car for such an extensive remake. It would be doable, but it would take too much time and is way too involved and costly for my consideration. This led me to look at a 1962 Pontiac Catalina (“Poncho” as it is often called) that Jerry Price and his son Dustin have for sale. It has minimal corrosion problems and presents a nice platform for a “restomod” project. A restomod is a car where you keep the body for its style, but you basically replace the rest of the mechanical systems, including the drive train with modern assemblies. What makes this attractive is that Chevrolet now markets a product line directly aimed at this customer. I can buy a brand new factory LS3 430hp engine, plus a six speed automatic transmission, in addition to all the necessary support electronics as new factory assembled parts with a factory warranty. I like to think of this as “plug and play.”
Another important factor is the availability of reproduction parts for this particular model. When I restored the Lincoln, it was incumbent that I stick to originality, closed my eyes, and opened my wallet to get the rare correct original parts: $500 for an air cleaner, $300 for a taillight lens, etc. No such restriction exists for this new project. I will use what looks good and adapt parts when needed. The object is to have a safe, reliable, good-looking high performance car that suits my taste. Dustin and Jerry will be called upon to keep me moving in the right direction towards a rapid completion date. At my age, long term planning is not advisable. “Do it now” will be the mantra.
THE GUN RUNNER
A second project will be the continued pursuit of my new novel, which I call The Gun Runner. I have pecked away at this fiction novel for some time, but I have not really gotten serious about writing it. With encouragement and coaching from Mara Purl, I will actively set about writing this novel. My first book, The Bootlegger ’40 Ford, is actually a collection of short stories where continuity is provided by the car rather than the plot. This new novel will present new challenges in design and in style for me. I will hack out the rough drafts, and I am counting on Mara to smooth them out and guide me to a professional product.
This type of professional help is a great privilege for me, and I intend to take advantage of it. The development of a writing style is as much a challenge as the design talent needed to create a physical product as I used to do in my past engineering career. The mantra may well become: “erase and rewrite.” You have to spend hundreds of hours for a show car paint job by removing all imperfections. I will use similar attention to detail to get a professional result for my novel. Amateur results are not an option.
So there you have the vision for my path forward. I invite you to join me on this journey as I will use my blog and newsletter to keep you apprised of progress.
What is your path forward? Don’t let current adversity stop you from dreaming and planning. We only have one life to live – let’s keep it productive.