I learned about how mechanical things work early in life. I was always taking my bicycle apart to figure out how it worked. When my brothers and I got a go kart, I took that apart many times to learn how that worked. Same with lawnmowers and chainsaws. I took everything apart that I could think of to learn how they worked. It came naturally to me how I understood how mechanical things worked. Most things I re-assembled the way they were supposed to be, but not always. I had one stingray bike that had an internal hub gears that would shift when you pushed back on the pedals. I never did get that to work again after taking it apart.

At 15 years old, I bought my first car, a ’65 VW Bug that I took apart to build a dune-buggy with the help of my brothers and Dad. I bought a ’66 Chevelle SS the next year, which was a really run-down car, so I learned a lot about how cars worked by keeping it running. When I was 17, I bought my ’68 Camaro that I experimented with. I built and rebuilt several different engines for that car.

One time, a friend asked me to go with him to a Used Car Lot to look over a car he was interested in. I was amazed at how the salesman would say things that were not true, but instead of correcting him, I stayed quiet to see what all he would tell us. I advised my friend to not buy the car he was interested in.

That time at the dealer started something that I would later enjoy; going to used car lots to see what all they would tell me that was not true. I would play along with them trying to get them to exaggerate more. In GM cars the automatic transmission was TH350 or TH400. The TH stood for Turbo Hydramantic. The word turbo is not the same as the turbochargers, or ‘turbo’ that is used to gain more horsepower in engines but was a type of transmission hydraulic system. The most common lie these salesmen would tell is that the transmission were turbos and therefore was high performance. There were times that I would take the car for a test drive with the salesman and they would continue the sale while I drove. One time I took a ’69 Camaro for a drive and as we got on the road, I could clearly hear the transmission had a bad oil pump, there was a loud whine that changed pitch with each gear change. I asked the salesman what that noise was even though I already knew. He said, “That is the turbo whine! This is a high-performance car so the transmission sounds like that. Nothing to worry about.” When we got back to the lot we talked more about the Camaro, even though I had no interest in buying, I was just stringing him along. I left saying that I will think about it.

Right after high school, I went to a local community college in Texas City, about a 10-minute drive from where I lived. One day, I had to catch a ride with a friend who had a class that started at the same time mine did, but I also had a later class, so I had to find another ride back home. The engine was out of my Camaro that day for a modification I was working on. I would have the Camaro running for the following day. After my class, I asked around if anyone was going to Dickinson where I lived. I could not find anyone. One guy said he was going into Texas City and I could catch a ride with him. At first, I declined, but then I got an idea. I asked him if he could drop me off at the Sonic which is a drive through fast food place. I knew of a Used Car lot that was next to the Sonic. He dropped me off and I walked over to the car lot. I saw a ’71 Camaro so I went over to it to look it over. Like clockwork, the salesman walked over and wanted to know if I had any questions. I asked him the usual question about the Camaro and he finally offered, “Do you want to take it for a drive?” I said sure as I tried to continue to show interest in the car. He got the keys, and we were on our way. I drove straight to my house while asking question about the car. The Camaro had been run hard so there was a lot of issue that I could feel and hear. I pulled up into our driveway, got out and the salesman had this look of wondering why I was getting out. I said that I am not interested but thanks for the ride as I turned to walk into our house. I am not sure if that guy got mad or not, but I would bet that was a first for him, someone taking a car for a test drive just to get somewhere.

I have not gone to a used car lot in a long time just to see what they say or even for another free ride home. Maybe it is time for an adventure like that.