Father’s Day: Applying car teachings to real life

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My dad's teal Rabbit. | Rebecca Nguyen Photo

Editor’s note: As a way to celebrate Father’s Day, we will be posting every story we receive as part of our Collecting Cars, Collecting Memories contest. The winner will be announced in June. To learn more and submit your story about your dad and a classic car, click here.


By the age of 5, I knew how to change the oil on a 1983 Volkswagen with the most hideous teal interior. 

That was the type of father my dad decided to be. There was always a lesson to be learned and every opportunity was used, including teaching your daughter the importance of preventative maintenance on vehicles when picking her up from elementary school after she vomited and was sent home sick.

I can picture the scene in my head vividly: I was laying on the teal leather back seat of that Rabbit with a teal dash, teal roof liner and teal everything interior, with just the view of the back of his salt-and-pepper hair.

I can remember hearing him say, “If you had taken the proper care of your body when you felt the initial symptoms, you wouldn’t be feeling this badly right now. You’re just like a car, preventative maintenance will make the car last longer by keeping the internals healthy. Smaller problems can create bigger problems if left unchecked.” 

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Really, Dad? At the age of 5, of course getting sick meant the end of the world and that I was probably dying, and here he was lecturing me about maintaining a car. He then went on to compare an oil change to eating healthy and how the engine was like your heart that would fail if everything else didn’t function the way it should with the right supporting factors. 

Okay, Dad, I’m not made of metal and filled with engine oil. Five-year-old me couldn’t comprehend the significance of that concept to him personally, but life made it crystal clear when he had a stroke when I was only 16 that caused two artificial valves to fail on him.

I grew up with a father that had already endured two open heart surgeries and took six pills a day to maintain his health.

Did I know what that meant? Absolutely not. It was just part of the routine. 

“Hey dad, it’s six o’clock. Can I help you count out your ‘vitamins?’” He was born with a heart disease that wasn’t diagnosed until the damage was already done from several years of military training in Vietnam at the early age of 12.

He never had the opportunity to do his own preventative maintenance and he paid for it at an early age of 64.

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He had taught me a lesson that will never let me forget about that ugly teal Volkswagen interior.

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An experienced automotive motorsports photographer and enthusiast of all things with wheels, Rebecca Nguyen is the Marketing Manager of ClassicCars.com. Former Marketing and Project Coordinator for several aftermarket brands, Rebecca has a unique perspective developed from being on several different sides of the automotive world. From developing innovative automotive products to doing her own DIY modifications on her 2003 Subaru WRX and 2014 Ducati Monster, Rebecca’s passion for the hobby brings fresh ideas to The Journal. In addition, she has spent many years publishing event coverage for events like SEMA, Formula Drift, and Global RallyCross while coordinating the annual Future Collector Car Show in Scottsdale Arizona.

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