Updated: Dec 27, 2019
A Lesson for the Next Generation (with FoMoCo parts!)
I count myself as one blessed man, and this post will take a break from the normal updates on the 1955 Ford Fairlane to relay a story that was a reminder to me and a valuable lesson to my son. I was born into a family of North Carolina share-cropping tobacco farmers, with my mother's side of the tree hailing from Virginia, keeping bees close to the NC/VA state line. Early on in my life I was taught the value of diligent work. I owe much of that to the man pictured below (seated with me and one of my brothers on a train ride at a local zoo).
As early as I can remember our dad (and our mom for that matter!) endeavored to instill in each one of us boys the value of a good day's work. Communities, Schools, Churches, Friends, and even Employment we began as teenagers were carefully chosen throughout our time at home. Work came before play. Integrity and diligence were requirements for each of the sons and we were rewarded for meeting expectations; chastised for not meeting the standards. I have much to be thankful for - even during our school years there was many a Saturday working around the house, the garden, the property, or volunteering at our church or school. Responsibility was a character trait that was demanded of every member of the family.
My first official place of employment was at a local Pep Boys Auto Parts in Woodbridge, Virginia, right on route 1. Of course, I enjoyed the 20% discount on parts because in the early days with the 55 Ford I learned much by tinkering here and there. Before too long however, the work at the parts department became mundane. While the job helped me finance my way through a freshman year at Northern Virginia Community College, I felt like the work behind the counter was not really providing much training in the way of automotive repair.
yep, that's me pictured above, about 65 pounds lighter!
Enter Brian Brenner, one of the owners of Brenner's Advanced Automotive. We met Brian through the classic car hobby - seems he owned a 1955 Ford Tudor Customline. (The pictures below were taken by me at the 1991 Crown Victoria Association car show week in Fredericksburg, Virginia.)
Like me in 2019, back then in the early 90's Brian had just finished restoring his car that he had driven when he was a teenager. My dad encouraged me to ask for a job with Brenner's. Brian and his two brothers, Kevin and Ed, were in need of a grease monkey to help them. So, I was hired to ferry parts, change oil, mount and balance tires, and learn the trade as much as I could. I ended up discovering that besides the three Brenner brothers who owned and worked the shop, I was the only other employee. I learned much - the guys were very patient and were gracious enough to take the time to explain things as they diagnosed and repaired various cars and trucks. Each one owned classic cars. Ed had an Alpine Tiger and a 1954 F100 (which my dad eventually purchased), Kevin owned an old Chevy II, a couple of Camaros, and then in addition to the 55 Customline, Brian also had a 1965 Falcon Convertible. I even recall taking a trip to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with them to scour the swap meet for various parts for our cars. These guys were the best and I was grateful to spend time with them. It is sad to see them leave the work life they once gave themselves to, for they were good at their craft. While there may be a change of ownership in the very near future, you can visit the website here: https://www.brennersadvancedautomotive.com/
Fast forward the clock 25 years and I receive an email from Brian. By searching the internet he discovered my church ministry e-mail address. It seems that he is getting ready to retire; sell the business; and since he recently sold his Customline he has a few parts left over. Knowing my travel schedule, I made plans to visit the shop in Manassas Park, Virginia, since I would be just an hour and a half away in early April. Unfortunately, Brian had to have surgery just a few days before my arrival. I told him that I would be fine if we waited to pick up the parts, but he insisted because we did not know when I would be back in town again nor when the business would change hands. I expected a "few" parts like he had told me.
Kevin was there to meet me at the door and he commented, "You should have brought a bigger truck!" and just chuckled. It was definitely more than I thought there would be. Brian had told me that he had some extra stuff lying around and just wanted to give it to me. When I went upstairs I found two good fenders, a really nice rear glass, remnants of an excellent grill core, and good stainless pieces.
I immediately went out and purchased some large totes to carry all of the parts back home. When I got back to the shop, Kevin was ready to help bring everything down. But then there were the boxes on the forklift. I snapped the following photo when I was halfway through placing all of the parts into the totes.
Let's zoom in on an interesting piece lying on the floor in that picture.
Although Brian was not there, I did ask him about this transmission adapter pictured above. We are not sure what transmission it would "adapt" to a Y block bell housing, but the four innermost bolt holes are definitely for a mid-50's Ford/Mercury transmission.
I took some more photos when I arrived back in Ohio...
I left Brian some cash. I just did not feel right receiving all of these parts - there were generator cores, a 4 barrel intake, Holley 4000 carburetor, air cleaners, and even some new stuff like blue dot tail light lens. It was all much more than I expected, and I was truly thankful. Brian and I discussed getting together in June, and hopefully that can take place. Dinner will be my treat for sure!
What does that have to do with a life lesson for the next generation? I have three children of my own, two daughters and one son. They all used to travel to car shows with me back in the day, and my son even went to Carlisle, Pennsylvania with me a few times.
But my wife and I will be empty-nesters before too long. My oldest daughter, Kayla, is just about to graduate from college in Florida and enter a master's degree program. She is graduating with no tuition debt! Our second daughter, Leah, will finish her freshman year of college out in California, and she too has worked diligently to pay for her school bill. During her senior year of high school she worked 25-30 hours a week, saving money any chance she got, all while receiving a solid 4.0. And now that leads me to my son, Ethan. He is 16. Hopefully with turn 3 we will discover those same principles of hard work that his parents have tried to pass down to him over the years. Each weekend he travels with us to load and unload our 16 foot box trailer of supplies for these children's events. Last summer he worked in the print shop at our church, helping to collate signatures from an industrial, four web, Heidelberg press. He did this last year and his boss has already requested for Ethan to come back this summer. Over the winter the boy took initiative and called up his friends after the first snow and told them to meet at our house to shovel driveways in the neighborhood. They made a little to put into the bank and received good reviews on their work.
I am a proud father of these three, and I hope they continue to learn the life lesson of a good work ethic. Some may call it "karma" but I believe it to be the biblical law of sowing and reaping. How we live today will come back to revisit us in the future. For me in this instance it was in the vein of a boatload of FoMoCo parts, but what a valuable lesson for the next generation to learn.
Hot Rod Reverend