It’s wonderful to meet new people who share our interest in cars, but most of the time we run into them in predictable environments like a car show, a race, or in the comments section of your favorite blog. I have found the best encounters are when you meet a gearhead totally unexpectedly.
I’m lucky enough to have two random gearhead encounters recently. The first was when my wife’s wheelchair-converted van needed some electrical work. Vinny, the head technician at the conversion shop, left to go out on his own, and he was really the only person I trusted to fix this thing right; he was formerly a field engineer for Braun conversions when my 2008 Toyota Sienna was first produced. Needless to say, he is one of the few people that literally knew our van inside and out.
So when the fusebox had to be rewired he invited me to his house and told me he would fix it in the driveway. I got there on a brutally cold winter morning and he popped open his garage. Inside I saw the body of a 1968 Pontiac GTO in on the other side of the bay.
“Oh I just picked that up,” he said. “The motor still has a little work to be done but it runs.” He fired it up and the old V8 came to life. Vinny, it turns out, was not just a wheelchair van mechanic, but has been working on and tuning up muscle cars for a long time. He even did some competitive motocross and shifter-kart racing.
We spent the better part of the day in the freezing cold going wire-by-wire on the van to fix the fault, but we chatted about cars and the time flew by.
And this week my wife and I met with a guy who will be installing the fireplaces for our new house. He saw my GT40 Blipshift shirt and was like, “Oh, GT40, nice,” we start talking about the Simeone Museum in Philly. Before he got into fireplaces, the dude used to be an Alfa Romeo master mechanic in the ‘70s and ‘80s—so you know he’s seen some shit—for some famous shop in NJ who would fix and tune up cars and even sell some high-end racing motors to folks in Long Island.
We talked about classic Alfa GTAs and Spiders and even the new Giulia. I figured if this dude can rebuild the transmission on an old Alfa Romeo, installing the ductwork for our fireplaces would be cake.
Chance meetings like the ones above automatically make your day better. Tell us about your random encounter with a fellow car nut.