As long as I can remember, I was always around cars. My dad worked in a popular body shop in our small town of Rising Sun, Maryland, and he also drove the school bus part-time, so I often rode with him and spent a couple of hours at the shop till he went home. I got an up-close view of what it took to repair damaged cars and how the painting process worked.
Dad started doing side work for customers at our house, so I started working with him in our garage at home when I was 12 years old. We would work outside in the summer on cars that needed various body repairs, from spot painting to complete "all-overs".
Later, Dad started his own business and opened a shop. He was busy right away, and my two brothers and I sanded, taped, and did whatever car repair-related jobs Dad needed us to do. So we certainly spent a lot of time around cars.
My brothers and I got a lot of practice driving cars around the shop and learning to park them inside the building. We got so busy that we had to pack the cars in tightly, so that was a great learning experience. We also did a lot of "practicing" on the rural road we lived on. Dad was a great driving teacher, making sure we always "centered the car between the lines".
As I approached (legal) driving age, I started looking around for a cool first car. We did a lot of work for a Ford dealership in Bel Air, Maryland, and one day while we were picking up a car to work on, I spied a 1966 Buick Skylark sitting in the back row of the used car lot. Dad and I took it for a spin, and I fell in love with it right away. The one below doesn't show the white interior like mine had, and mine was also a hard top with a black vinyl roof, not a convertible. But the maroon color below was exactly like mine. I turned 16 on August 30th, and I was in Chesapeake City, Maryland, the same day to get my driver's license!
Working in a body shop and being around cars made it easy for me to change cars as often as the fancy struck me. And it struck me often. I rarely kept a car for more than a few months before I'd move on to something else. I usually made a profit from each one I had, so I'd invest that in the next car and get it just the way I wanted it. I spent a lot of money on tires, Cragars, exhaust, stereos, air shocks, and more. But I never had a car payment on any of the cars that I owned for a number of years.
It's an understatement to say that these cars are all now worth a fortune. For instance, my '69 Camaro RS convertible below sold for around $2,900 brand new in 1969. I sold it for $2,600 in 1979. Its average value now is about $50,000, with some as high as $80,000!
From ages 16 to 22, I owned 19 cars. That was just the ones I plated and drove! I bought and sold a few others along the way. My favorite of all time was the 1969 Camaro RS Convertible. Not only was it a beautiful car, but there are many wonderful memories associated with it during the 18 months of dating Sonya. My cousin Em spent a lot of time in the Camaro as well, on our way to various activities of our youth.
Sadly, I don't have original photos of every car I owned. I have a few, but they are somewhere in boxes and pretty faded. So I looked online for close approximations of each car I had. I have never been able to find the color combination of the Buick Skylark: maroon, white interior, and black vinyl top. That car, if it's still around somewhere, is probably worth a fortune.
I was fortunate to experience the thrill of so many classic cars in such a short time. With 4 Mustangs, 2 Cougar XR7s, 2 Camaros, and just about 1 of every major car brand, the 1970s were filled with great car memories for me.
Click on one of the photos below to begin the slide show. Each photo has a caption/more info underneath it. Use the left and right arrows in the photo area to navigate between photos.