Car Nut’s Bio

I have been a “Car Nut” for as long as I can remember.  Some of us are old enough to remember when new car introductions were a big deal.  The dealers covered their showroom windows on the day prior to introduction day, the new cars were carefully hidden from view, and everyone knew that the big day was approaching.  In the fifties when I was still in grade school, I never missed new car introduction day.  One reason was I was curious about the latest and greatest.  Also, the car dealers gave away promotional models of the new cars but you had to be there early on to get one. 

With six kids in our family and not a lot of income, getting my own car was not in the picture as I approached driving age.  When I was around 14, my dad was looking for a used car.  I knew that whatever car he purchased would likely be the car I would be driving in a couple years.  To my dismay, he bought a 1956 Buick Special four door!!!!  I was not a happy camper.  By the time I was learning to drive, he had bought a second car, a 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air with the six cylinder and three speed on the column.  While this was far from my dream car, it sure beat the Buick. 

Another memory from that time concerns the daughter of the local Chevrolet dealer who lived up the street from us.  I spotted a new 1963 Corvette split window coupe coming up the street.  As it approached me, I could see that the daughter was driving it.  The injustice was nearly unbearable.  No “girl” should be driving such a car!  I should be driving that Corvette.

I enlisted in the Army the summer after I graduated in 1964.  My advanced schooling was at Ft. Gordon, GA.  While there, in the spring of 1965, chances were being sold on a raffle of a new Mustang fastback.  After buying a ticket, I could only imagine actually driving that car after I won it.  Which, of course, never happened.  I still remember the color, dark blue with a blue interior. 

Upon completing my training, orders sent me to Germany for twenty-six months.  The day I received my Army driver’s license, my seargent and I had to drive to another base about fifty miles away.  As we approached Frankfurt in our Army green Econoline van, the traffic became heavier.  Directly in front of me was a then all new Porsche 911 with a 2nd gen Corvette ahead of him.  The 911 driver was juking left and right trying to pass the Corvette.  Finally, as the Corvette had moved to the left side of his lane and the guy in the right lane was to the right of his lane, the 911 driver made his move….by driving between the two cars and completing the pass!!  That was my introduction to German driving.

At one point, I was assigned my own jeep.  It ran pretty well.  The speedometer displayed zero mph at nine o’clock with 60mph at three o’clock.  At full speed, my jeep’s needle would be wrap all the way around back to zero!!   All of the experienced soldiers  (25 years old to my 19) told me that the jeeps were really dangerous to drive as they would easily turn over.  Initally, I was very cautious, but experimenting soon showed me that all you had to do was be hard on the gas through the corners to plant the trailing arm rear suspension.  Lifting was not an option, which came in handier later in my life with various 911’s.

Now all I needed was someone to race!  VW bugs were fair game for the jeep.  As part of my duties, I often had to drive as far as 100 miles to service army equipment.  German drivers, as a rule, like to play and I usually had a dice with someone during my trips.  One encounter was with a Mercedes driver who I chased for about twenty miles on twisty two lane roads.  As he entered the Autobahn (and knew the contest was over), he gave me a wave to imply it had been fun.   If I was having trouble finding a playmate, passing a car on the inside in the middle of a corner would usually result in some competition.  Remember, I was young and dumb!

While in Germany, I bought my first car.  It was a 1956 VW bug.   What liberation it was to have my very own car, especially in Germany.  It ran great and was the beginning of my lifelong love of German cars. 

During that last year in Germany, I and a couple of fellow GI’s decided to go to the Nurburgring to see the 1000km race.  We camped out in my buddie’s Opel.  This was the year that the Chapparal was on the pole followed by a bunch of Porsches.  At the time, I really didn’t know much about the various cars, but all us GI’s needed to know was that the Chapparal was American and the others weren’t.  To our dismay, the Lemans start was not good for the Chapparal and he was passed by many cars before he got the car going.  In spite of this, he was in sixth place at the end of the first lap, and in the lead by the end of the sixth lap.  All the GI’s and other Americans in attendance let out a huge cheer as he crossed the starting line in first place.  We were so excited!!   And then it was over as some small part in the transmission failed.  Utter disappointment.  We watched the race for awhile longer but the enthusiasm was gone.  We were not knowledgeable fans and, to us, once the Chapparal was out, it was time to go.

Memorial Day was a few weeks after that race and I was off duty.  Since it was not a German holiday, all the German businesses were open as usual.  I gravitated to the local sports car dealer to see what was new.  Lotus and Alfa were the brands he represented.  The owner was trying his best to get me to buy a new Alfa GTA coupe.  He spoke excellent English and, during the course of his presenting the car, I discovered he had driven a Lotus Elan in the 1000k race I had attended.  His was one of the cars that, at the start, managed to leave ahead of the Chapparal.  On one of the long straights, he saw this big white thing approaching fast in his mirrors.  He pulled over and the Chapparal passed at extremely high speed.   The overtaking speed difference was so great that, after the pass, he said his legs were shaking!!

The Army experience is finally over and on to college in the fall of 1967.  Since I was the first in the family to attend college, my dad bought me a 1958 Ford Fairlane two door.  Turquoise and white, cloth interior, dog dish hubcaps, 352 with automatic on column.  And I couldn’t have been happier.  Based on past experience, I was afraid I would end up with the dreaded “four door” car.  Courted my wife in that car which was to be my last Ford until 2009.   The Ford did not last long after we were married as it did not have power steering and my new wife nearly sideswiped a sherriff’s car when she could not turn the wheel fast enough when turning onto a street.  Traded it on a 1964 Buick Skylark with power steering. 

A year later, my neighbor and I were at the Chevy dealer looking at cars and the Skylark was traded for a new 1969 Chevy Nova SS, 350/300 horse, four speed!  Now we’re talking!!  And a trend was begun.  Cars did not stay long in my ownership for the rest of my life.The Nova became a 70 1/2 Camaro with AC, a Vega was added as a second car, the troublesome Vega became a ’73 Monte Carlo and the Chevy dealer was very happy with me.  During this time, I had completed my studies, my wife had two children and got her degree.  Now it was time to leave Ball State University and join the real world.

I had been working a full time job during my college years with the last job being as the sales manager of a mobile home dealer, where I routinely put in 60-70 hours per week.   My wife got a teaching job and I went to work for a mobile home manufacturer as a factory sales rep.  Suddenly, I was only working 40 hours a week and did not know what to do with the free time.  With two kids, a new job, and the meager teaching salary that my wife was making, more money would be useful.  To that end, I approached the local small town Chevy dealer about part-time sales work.  He hired me and soon I was selling a number of cars. 

By this time, I really wanted a Corvette in the worst way.  My wife and I reached an agreement.  If I could convince the dealer to give me a demonstrator, meaning we could sell one of our cars, I could get a Corvette.  It took me a year to convince the sales manager that I deserved a demonstrator.  As luck would have it, the son of the dealer had a ’67 Marlboro Maroon/Black Vette convertible with a 427/390hp with sidepipes.  And he wanted to sell it.  By now it is 1974 and we have had our first oil shortages.  Big block cars were hard to get rid of as gas had spiked all the way to 50 cents per gallon!   With some creative financing, the Vette was soon mine. 

Heaven, I am in Heaven!!  The car was in great shape and soon I am discovering what big block horsepower is all about.  The reality was that I didn’t have the experience to handle such a car, but I soon learned.  My barber had a ’67 coupe and told me that the Corvette club was holding an autocross at an oval track and would I like to bring my car?  Packed up the wife and kids (we didn’t worry about such niceties as seat belts then-the daughter sat on my wife’s lap and the son holed up in the cubbyhole behind the seats!!) and away we went to our first autocross.  As spectators only was the initial plan.  However, after watching the other drivers have so much fun, talking to them, being encouraged by them to give it a try, I soon made an excuse to take everyone to get something to eat.  At a gas station.  With an air pump.  Pumped up the tires, took off the hubcaps back to the track we went.  I manged to beat my barber, but he may have been the only one I beat.  What a day!!

Sold that Vette, got a ’75 with AC and PS and changed jobs.  Vette went away in the transition.  By this time my wife had a ’76 Camaro which I promptly sold to one of my accounts one day.  Upset wife as she had loved that car.  Told her I would get her a nice car, but it had to be a proper sports car.  No more kids on laps as they were growing so it also had to have a back seat.  The Porsche 924 was all new at the time and it had a back seat.  Suddenly, we were Por-sha owners.  Which directly led to the best car years of my life.

The following spring of 1978,  we attended a car show in South Bend, In.   The local Porsche club had a booth and was trying to recruit members.  Since we were Porsche owners, we stopped by.  My first question was what does the club do?  We autocross and we drive at big time race tracks at driver’s education events, was the answer!!  Where do I sign up!!  Less than two months later, I am running an autocross and within a year, I have a track event under my belt.

For the next twenty years, my life revolved around the Porsche club and PCA.  I was president of our local club a couple times, VP, newsletter editor a couple times, rallied our car,  put on numerous autocrosses and, when a road course opened nearby, I was heavily involved in putting on track events.  Early on, we (my wife drove as well) autocrossed, but once we got heavily into track events, autocrossing failed to stimulate us as it once had.  You get so much more seat time at a track event.  That led to our having dedicated track cars with  one being a 1962 356 E-production race car, the most difficult of all the cars I have driven.  We both learned more from that car that any other car because we had to in order to make it around the track. 

The last track car was a 1982 narrow body 911 with a breathed on ’89 Turbo motor.  Fastest car I have owned and the most fun to drive on the track.  Speaking of tracks, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would have the opportunity to drive some of the greatest road courses in the US.  Road America, Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta, Sebring, Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca, and many more. 

And, as in the past, the cars came and went.  Over 100 cars at last count with 30 of those being Porsches and thirteen of those being 911’s.  I may not keep them long, but I thoroughly enjoy every car.  We have had some wonderful experiences with the cars and meeting the many car people. 

One of those experiences happened in a concentration camp.  My wife, our son and I were on vacation in Germany and were touring Dachau.  A very sobering place.  While walking the grounds, my ears detected a 911 running hard.  And then other cars also being run hard.  As we left Dachau, we drove towards the sound and discovered an autocross being held near the camp.  My wife commented that only I would be able to find an autocross while in a concentration camp!

Sports cars have been, by far, the majority of the interesting cars I have owned.  However, upon moving to the-Charlotte, NC area a couple years ago, I have been introduced to the many cruise-in’s happening in this area, including one in our little town every Thursday night at the local Sonic.  My neighbor has a ’38 Chevy street rod and soon I was looking for an appropriate car for cruise-in’s (the Boxster didn’t quite cut it).  Because of my sports car background, I soon decided that I wanted to do a pro-touring car.  Which lead me to the Camaro you see on this page.  And I have come full circle back to my beginnings….a Chevy.  Some things are meant to be.

9 Comments

  1. Jerry, I know you are a very nice guy and a wonderful friend for my husband, but now I truly know why David has always stayed in touch with you–You are more car nuts them him!!!
    Thank You for including David in this “bucket list ” trip. Have fun. Drive Safe!
    Bridget

  2. Just a short note to say thanks for the nice article about the Mocksville Cruise-In. I’m glad you enjoyed your time here and I hope you come see us again soon.

    • Thanks.

      How did you find the article? I wrote it yesterday evening.

      • While you are a “car-Nut”, I am a Mocksville nut… if it’s about Mocksville, I will find it (with Google’s help)!

        Your article showed up in my daily Google Alert about new stories mentioning Mocksville. By the way, there are pictures of the Mocksville Cruise-On on our Davie County Flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/daviecounty

  3. Jerry can you please contact me at ptayyan@edelbrock.com

    i would like to ask permission to use this image on a mobile landing page im building for edelbrock coil covers as well as a testimonial.

    jerryforthofer.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/6-8-11-edelbrock-coil-covers-2-sm1.jpg

  4. Hello, I chanced upon finding you by looking for my 1976 Camaro online! The picture you have of that blue and white camaro is the spitting image of the one I had……I know you sold it back in the day according to your comments…but I want to locate it if possible? Any thots? please contact me at jnjbruce@aol.com. Thanks Jon

  5. I really like the copper 67′ Nova, I’ve got my own that I’m getting ready to paint. I know it’s been a few years since that was posted, but I was wondering if you have any more info on that car? website? I’d like to see more pics of it so I may try to match the color. Although mine will likely be a two tone with black to tone it down a bit. Thanks for any info you have.

    • I don’t have any more information about that car. Sorry.


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