Tell Me About the Car That Hooked You on Cars

Posted February 18, 2019

By Dean Larson

Ask any automotive enthusiast about the car that hooked them on cars, and I’m willing to bet they’ll have a story to tell. Maybe it was a 1964 1/2 Mustang in 1970 with a 289 and a four-barrel, or a secondhand ’85 BMW with an M30 I6, or even a 1988 F-150 with a “300-six.” Whether seen in passing, or well established over years of enjoyment, one car has the ability to set you on a life-long course of habitual Craigslisting and generally reckless financial decision-making. But for us enthusiasts, cars are more than just an assembly of nuts, bolts and stamped parts. They’re living things with character, temper and often an appetite for parts store receipts, but their effect on us somehow makes it all worthwhile.

I want to hear about the cars that hooked you on cars and the experiences you had with that singular transcendental vehicle. And as such, I’m sure I should tell you about mine. It’s a vehicle I never owned, drove, or even sat in (further than a cardboard box on the bare floorboard), but it plunged me into the automotive hobby headfirst, and likely lead to you reading these words today.

It was a sunny fall day in 2006, and I was 13 years old. I’d always been interested in cars, but it was at a distance and I wouldn’t call it an obsession — until this very day. I was walking across town with somewhere to be when I saw it, a car I would soon find to be a 1968 Dodge Charger. Or what was left of one, I should say, as the car was about 65-percent disassembled with no front clip, and a collection of parts piled on the trunk lid. With the thick, telltale profile of the doors, I knew it was a Charger, and I came back several times to poke around and snap a few photos. The car had clearly been stored in a warehouse for many years, before being piled up and pushed out the door where I found it.

Years later, I would find out that this was no ordinary car. Built on the Lynch Road Assembly plant in Detroit, this Charger was the top-of-the-line R/T package equipped with a 375 hp 440 four-barrel, 727 automatic and an 8-3/4-inch rear end. Finished in code QQ1 Bright Blue Metallic with a black vinyl top and R/T stripe, the Charger was red-hot, and was delivered to its first owner in California. From there, she spent several years as a street/strip machine, and was fitted with an aluminum fan, traction bars, an H-pipe exhaust, an Isky camshaft and an electric fuel pump hidden under the deck lid. The inside of the trunk lid and rear glass was adorned with speed stickers, tattoos that pointed its past, including Ansen Wheels, Justice Bros., Cyclone Headers and various dyno shops.

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I went home that day and did what any 13-year old would do, I begged my dad to stop there and find out what he could about the car. Much to my chagrin, my dad told me several days later that the car was sold, end of story. I watched the car for several months, until after the first snow of the year, when a couple men came and loaded in onto a trailer.

It was about eight years later when first saw the car again. It had been snatched up by a Mopar collector for a couple thousand bucks, and stashed away. Somewhat reassembled and hastily sprayed with brown primer, I almost didn’t recognize it. Knowing he had something special, the current owner refuses to sell me the car, but we’ve become friends and I stop in every so often to see it. The massive, pronounced rear fenders still grip me like they did when I first saw it, and the car brings me back to that day every time I see it. It’s unchanged to this day, except for the occasional wheel swap, and I keep faith that one day, it’ll be mine. Until that day, I have only a B-body pistol-grip shifter and a few dozen photos of local rust-buckets that I’ve scouted over the years. I still have a Mopar habit to this day that occasionally comes through in my writing, much to the displeasure of my boss.

So there you have it, the car that hooked me on cars. While mine is more a story of “the one that got away,” I’d be lying if I said that it was any other vehicle deserved the title. But now I want to hear some of your stories about the cars that hooked you on cars — hopefully, the ones that didn't get away. Jot down you stories in the comments below or send me an email (dean.larson@colepublishing.com) with photos, and I’ll put together a list of the best to share.

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