(Editor’s note: Today is Collector Car Appreciation Day.)
My story isn’t one of a specific car, but classics in general.
My parents grew up in the ’50s and always spoke fondly of the first cars they drove. I fell in love with ’50s music and culture as a little kid and even had a fund going for a ’57 Chevy. I think I made it to about 50 dollars. Ha.
Fast forwarding to my 20s. I had graduated college and had been in the National Guard for about 7 years. My unit was activated and deployed to Iraq in 2004. On patrol in Baghdad, a roadside bomb destroyed the vehicle in which I was riding. Two of my friends were killed and four of us were severely wounded. I spent the next year at Brooke Army Medical Center recovering. I’m disabled, but so fortunate to be doing as well as I am.
At the same time I was fighting overseas, my 4 year old daughter was back home fighting leukemia. Needless to say it was a tough time for my family. Survival is a word that describes my family perfectly.
One of the dreams that kept me going during the long days and nights in combat was owning a classic car. My dream of owning one has never faded, even though life has made it just a dream for now.
I would just daydream of driving around my hometown in a 1955 Chrysler (see photo), Buick, Olds 88, or Cadillac. For some reason 1955 is my favorite production year of big bodied sedans.
The biggest difference in my dream now from when I was a kid is that I want a daily driver to use in honor of my friends who didn’t come home from the war. Also, I want my daughter, who survived leukemia twice, to get to use my car for senior prom. (Thankfully she inherited my love for classic cars, too!). My 8 year old twins can’t wait for me to be able to take them to school in the coolest car of all the dads.
I’m working hard to make my dream a reality. I will turn 40 this October and have set a goal to own a 1955 during my 40th year.
The point of my story is to say that holding onto the dream of my future classic helped get me through the darkest days of my life. I still close my eyes and picture my kids and myself cruising around and making people smile. (We will have to have the AC on since we live in South Louisiana. Lol).
I can picture the look on my parents’ faces when they see a car from their youth pull up with their son driving. Please keep your fingers crossed that I can make those years of dreams into a reality.
Cruising in honor of the friends I lost might help bring a bit more closure to the horrors we experienced over there. Nothing can bring my brothers home, but I can live everyday to the fullest in their honor. Plus, I can keep a piece of history alive and pass that love down to my little ones.
I hope to be able to write a follow up to this story one day and include a picture of my very own beautiful classic with my family and military buddies gathered around smiling.
— James Johnson, Lake Charles LA
Do you have a classic car with a story to share? It’s easy. Just go to this link, fill in the information and submit your story.