Early Sunday morning in the oceanside community of Del Mar a freak fire claimed a few gorgeous pieces of automotive history, leaving them nothing but empty husks of misshapen metal. Luckily nobody was injured in the blaze, and the fire was contained to the garage.
Eric Charnholm began Saturday morning by driving his gorgeous freshly-restored Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 to Radwood. In less than 24 hours he’d lost not only GVR4 #1607, but also his family’s gorgeous Mercedes SL230, and a mid-engine 375-horsepower vintage Mini. A couple, more pedestrian, like the Honda Ridgeline, were lost in the garage fire as well.
We all saw Eric’s Galant at Radwood, and I am prepared to attest that this car was utterly beloved. Eric had purchased the car from BringATrailer last summer, and had spent nearly a year restoring the Galant to its former glory. Following a complete suspension and drivetrain rebuild, Eric had only driven the car 311 miles between getting it back on the road and when it burned this weekend.
While Eric didn’t provide much information on his Mini, their Mercedes Pagoda 230SL had been in the family for 50 years. Eric was brought home from the hospital as a newborn in the car, and he learned how to drive manual in it, too. His three children learned the same. The Merc was featured on Petrolicious earlier this year, and now it’s little more than a memory.
Eric’s father is in his nineties and has a live-in caretaker. According to this report from CBS 8 the two men were trapped on an upstairs balcony when firefighters arrived on scene. The fire did not transfer to the house, but the garage blaze kept the two from evacuating through the home’s entrance. Both were rescued with extension ladders, and the house should be cleared of smoke damage later this week.
For now, Eric says the only people he wants to talk to are “true, dyed in the wool car nuts, because they are the only people that could possibly understand what this might feel like.” Even though all of the people involved are okay, the cars are gone, and it’s an emotional time for him.
I enjoyed having Eric at Radwood, and everyone I’ve spoken to who met him says the same. His VR4 was as rare as it was gorgeous. It takes a special kind of person to commit to the restoration of a rare Mitsubishi that most have never even heard of. Eric is that special kind of person. New cars won’t heal the wounds of loss, but hopefully they’ll salve it some. Hopefully Eric rebuilds his enviable stable of awesome cars in short order.