I've been a gearhead internal combustion fanatic since I was old enough to make "Brrrm Brrrrm" noises with my Matchbox cars. This is surprising as neither my father nor anyone else in my family shared my affliction...probably because we were too poor. At the ripe old age of 6 or 7, I was afforded a bit of freedom to explore my neighborhood with my friends on our bikes. It was the late 70's so nobody seemed to be worried about predators or pedophiles or gangs or drugs or much of anything...we just hit the streets when the sun came up and ran home when the street lights came on...good times to be sure. I cruised every inch of those neighborhood streets...taking in everything I could...investigating anything with a motor...a bright blue K5 blazer with big tires and a white top...an orange 1972 Corvette Stingray...a customized SWB van with shag carpeting and side pipes...an old CJ5 with a mountain goat tire cover...sparkly blue '69 Camaro...a GTO Judge...motorcycles of every size and shape...it was a new an exciting world and I was out to explore every garage, shed, and backyard. I stopped and talked to everybody...asking way too may questions...following them around their yards...looking under tarps...looking in sheds...probing into others' business in the way that only children can get away with. I was probably a huge pain in the a$$.
There was one house in the neighborhood that attracted me like a moth to a flame...a tidy little white bungalow with a detached 2 car garage and about 5 sheds scattered around the property...meticulously maintained and austere...with one incongruous exception. Atop all of the sheds were dozens of bird houses, weathervanes, miniature windmills, and intricate wind driven ornaments...hand formed copper cups spinning in mesmerizing patterns...little mechanical men cutting firewood or casting fishing rods...a bear pulling a salmon from a river...children pumping water...a sun dial.
The entire scene was mesmerizing to my 6 year old brain...I would ride back and forth in front of the house all day long...craning my neck and standing on the pedals...hopeful to uncover some new discovery from my limited access. From my perspective, this place was Oz...and I was outside the city walls. It was a full time preoccupation. So many mechanical things to behold...kinetic sculptures with a Norman Rockwell sensibility...Americana born of the Industrial Revolution. More important than the wind-a-ma-jigs, were the motors we'd hear roar to life at different times of the day...often from within the darkened interior of the garage or one of the outbuildings. Big singles...2 strokes...multis...Hit-and-miss...steam...not that I recognized any of these in such an early stage of my motorized maturation. I just knew that I loved the sounds, the smells, and the excitement.
I would see an old man working in the yard...coming and going out of the garage...carrying tools...tending to the property. I'd ride past and try to look as conspicuous as possible...attempting to engage the man in some way. He was indifferent to my presence...never smiling...never saying anything remotely inviting...carrying on about his business...always wearing the same style green work pants and shirt...like a millwright from a 1950s factory (which is what he was). I can still remember the day that I finally mustered the courage...leaving my bike by the curb and cautiously walking up the driveway to investigate an open garage. There was an engine running inside...billowing smoke out of the open doors...revving...sputtering...revving again. I just had to see it...consequences be damned. I walked up the hill toward the gaping yaw of the unknown...my tiny mind incapable of processing all of the possible consequences...I don't even think I had any idea what "trespassing" even meant.
I approached the open overhead door and peered inside...and what I saw within that garage during that first peak would frame my ideal of the perfect garage for decades to follow. It was roughly 20x20...dark, but cozy...work benches lining the rear and right walls...a coal stove on the left wall...a stairway to an attic...multi-pane windows on every wall; hazy with dust and smoke...there were tools hanging above the benches...drawers of tools below...shelves of parts and paint cans...old Army pictures...more weathervanes...vices...works in progress...a leather sand bag...wood carvings...patina galore...a place for everything and everything in its place. There were small engines and garden tractors everywhere...including the one that was roaring away on a stand in the middle of the room with 2 men standing over it...one watching while the other, a cigarette hanging from the edge of his lip, was tweaking the carburetor.
In the far left rear corner of the garage, sat a turquoise colored machine that immediately caught my eye...a substantial nose and bug-eyed headlights staring back at the tiny child in the doorway. The 2 men also took notice of the boy...and then continued to go about their business.
More to follow...