I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that the love and fascination for the automobile started with my dad. Well, not my dad, but a father figure of your own. My dad has been a GM mechanic for almost the past 30 years, and it'd be near impossible to avoid feeling some sort of way about cars when it's been a part of my entire life. Spending time with him in the shop is like a normal occurrence, just like if you'd go out and get lunch with a friend.
Having a mechanic that you know and trust is one of those people in your life that you should just have in your phone book. Right up there with a good doctor, lawyer, and a handyman of some kind. Needless to say, I have been very fortunate that my dad has filled that role for me. From helping me find my first car, to doing maintenance and some modifications, and even helping me again when it came time to selling them, dad has always been there helping guide the way. The older I get, the more I look back and realize how much he has done for me too, and it's something that I don't take for granted, nor can I thank him enough for.
That being said, I think my dad enjoys all of it. Not just because I'm his son and there's kind of this moral obligation to love me and make sure that I turn out OK, but because working on his own car (or one of the other family cars) allows him to "loosen up". What I mean by that is instead of following endless amounts of procedures and legwork that GM mandates to diagnose and fix a car, all options to fix something are usually on the table when he knows belongs to me . We don't have to worry about warranty work, making sure it's perfect for the customer, or using brand new parts every time. It just needs to be functional, and much like myself (and my hero Clark Griswold), my dad hates spending money on something that he doesn't have to, so he sure as hell isn't going to let my own car nickel and dime me either. With his vast knowledge of practically every GM vehicle made in the last 40+ years, it's a way for him to get creative and break away from the book time for a little bit too.
A great example of this is my 2004 Chevrolet Impala. Before it was my car, it was a customer's car that my dad knew the owner of and worked on whenever it came into the shop. When the owner of the car traded it in, my dad was certain to take it off his hands and my brother bought it. It was a good running car for him, and my brother sold it to me two years ago after he moved into the city and no longer needed it. Once I bought it, the usual used car maintenance items started. New tires all around were put on (for a nice discount too thanks to my dad), new brakes were fitted, and fluids were changed. The car was 10 years old, but it had less than 100k miles, and I had every intention of driving this Impala until the car get totaled some day.
Except, that actually happened.
Last year I was rear ended so hard that the frame was bent from the impact. The Impala was written off by my insurance, but there was so much life still left in it that my dad couldn't see it go to a junkyard, and neither could I. It took some convincing on his part, but I bought the car back for less than $200 and repair work started. After-hours in his shop became a game of "how cheaply can we fix this?". From taking a sawzall to cut up the rear bumper so that it wouldn't rub up against the rear tires, to using a jack and a hoist together to try and bend the frame back into position, we did what we could to get the car road worthy again, regardless of how bad it looked. Kicking the fenders back out from the trunk to hide some of the ugliness, gluing the gas filler neck in place, and torching and bending the exhaust to make it sit right was just part of a usual Tuesday fix. We'd laugh at our craftsmanship not because it was ugly (we knew it was), but because it worked, and most of the time it was a free fix! Working in the industry for so long, my dad has also accumulated a large collection (actually an entire toolbox full) of used, but still good parts. We make fun of my dad's used parts emporium, but we've raided this parts bin on multiple occasions - spare horns, switches, and even wheel bearings. His toolbox of parts is so well known that even some of the other mechanics in the shop ask him for some spare parts for their own personal cars when they need something.
I still own the Impala, and now the car runs and drives perfectly. I wouldn't hesitate to drive it across the country today if you asked me to. When it comes to stuff like this, my dad enjoys spending the time doing things himself. Sure, spending 10 hours on a car that is essentially worth $200 might not make financial sense, but for him it makes him happy, and what else would he spend his time doing? Sitting at home watching TV? He'd rather mend something, have a sense of personal accomplishment, and spend some time with his son and shoot the breeze. I can't say that I'd do it any differently.
When I bought my Subaru, he was upset because for the first time, there was a car in his driveway that he didn't know how to fix, and in some way, I think it marked the start of my independence too. I chose my WRX because GM didn't offer anything comparable, and for me, it was one of those cars that I just had to have. I don't regret my decision, and over my time, I think my dad has warmed up a little bit to the idea of me owning it too. A man who would rather have a big block under the hood instead of a turbocharged two liter, he's loaned me a hand when I asked him for it, even if it looks like he's doing long division in his head anytime he looks at how my car is laid out and put together. In the end, cars are still all nuts and bolts regardless of who makes it, and I know my dad's love for me and the automobile transcends make and model too. I've been incredibly fortunate to have my old man show me the ropes when it comes to cars, and without him, I probably wouldn't be the person that I am today.