The story below was submitted as part of the Collecting Cars, Collecting Memories contest
Editor’s note: As a way to celebrate Father’s Day, we posted every story we received as part of our Collecting Cars, Collecting Memories contest. Thank you to all who submitted.
I have my pop to thank for my love of cars and it’s hard to find a photo of me growing up in the ’60s and ’70s where I’m not holding a car.
My dad had a ’56 Nomad that I would pretend to drive when in preschool with my little sister. In fact, we pulled the car out of gear and rolled it across the street where it hit a fire hydrant. Dad wasn’t happy but was glad we were safe and didn’t cause any damage to the car.
How can you hurt three tons of steel?
He then bought the poor man’s GTO — a 1968 Pontiac Tempest — which I loved (and still remember the license plate number). I was hoping that car would be mine but he sold it when I was 10.
My love for cars was deep from the very start. My dad didn’t want to send me to my room when I got in trouble when younger, I heard him tell my mom, “I don’t even want to send him in his room because he never wants to come out when his punishment is over. He will play for another two hours in that room with all his Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars and Tonka trucks” where I would in my make believe perfect car world.
If he really wanted to punish me, all he’d have to do is take my cars away, but I know he would never do that.
My father, like most, worked on his own cars and taught us how to do the same.
He purchased a 1955 Thunderbird in 1978 and owned it for 20 years. Oh, the memories we had cruising it in parades, going to prom and the beach in it, and taking joyrides — with and without dad.
My dad sold me my first car — a 1976 Datsun 620 long-bed pickup. It was his beater of a work truck. I really didn’t want it but had no choice after he caught me hauling 17 kids home from school in our Suburban. He didn’t appreciate the fact that I was charging them for rides to cover gas.
Of course, with the help of good friends and fellow cruisers, the Datsun became a lowered work of art. He was so proud of the truck that he had pictures on his desk. The guys at his work were shocked that was his old truck.
I later bought a ’67 Dodge Coronet 440 for $500. When I brought it home, dad had to raise an eyebrow but never said anything because he knew what I was capable of doing with it.
But I found out how much he loved it. I caught him and my uncle pulling a tree stump out of our front yard with it. I woke one night to the sound of my 440 screaming like a dragster and tires burning rubber. I ran out, thinking somebody was stealing my car, only to find my dad and uncle hooting and hollering like two teenage boys. The stump came out.
I ended up trading that 440 for a Toyota Corolla because I needed a good gas mileage car. It was a mistake and my dad made sure I knew it.
I bought a ’67 Mustang in 2003 and rebuilt it from the ground up. I gave to my stepson for his 16th birthday which he liked but didn’t love. He ended up wanting and getting a 15-year-old Ford Ranger.
My dad sold the ’55 in the early 2000s to my dismay. He ended up buying a mint condition 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente. He said he wanted it because it was built the year I was born.
I later found a Revelle model of his Mercury and built it exactly like his, which he proudly displays in the window at car shows.
He also joined a car club. He and I would go to several car shows together a year. His club does a huge one every Memorial Day in Fallbrook, California.
I now own a 1969 Mustang Grande built up with all matching numbers and original paint and interior. Someday, I will go to the Fallbrook car show and sit it side by side with my father’s Mercury.
Two years ago for my birthday, my father found the owner’s manual for the 1976 Datsun that he sold me and framed it, along with pictures of the different stages of tricking out the truck. It proudly hangs in my office with all my other hot rod and car stuff.
I want to thank my father for giving me the love of cars and a hobby that lets us share that love, for not getting too mad at the 30 posters of cars and women I had hanging on the walls in my bedroom or the project cars I brought home, and getting me hooked on Hot Wheels as a kid. My collection now numbers about 1,500 — most of which was always scatted around my room.
-Curt Cusimano from Cypress, California