Last Updated: February 1, 2019
Hi, I'm Darryl Deppe - Cars are in my DNA: A funny thing happens as you start closing in on 60 years old, you start looking back on your life and how you spent it and the probable trajectories of the time that's left. I find myself knowing in the back of my mind that if I'm lucky, in a mere 20 to 25 years or so I'll probably be in a senior living facility, playing with my diecast model cars and reading my old project blogs of the cars and possessions I've parted with. If I'm not lucky, my kids will be holding one hell of an estate sale with a barn full of "ran when parked" relics, assuming gasoline is still even available when they get around to dealing with it! Hey, wait a second, maybe I have that backwards? Right now at this "apex" point in my life, I'm a car restoration geek with my dream car collection in my dream showroom and projects underway in my dream shop with the loving support of my dream wife and pinching myself. This all started initially out of financial necessity then recreationally and it seems I always have been and always will be seduced by beautiful cars, especially the ones I bring back from the dead. Welcome to my life-long hobby; buying, wrenching on, pounding on, fabricating, welding, sanding, painting, sewing, scrounging parts for online, at swap meets and in junkyards, joy-riding for the sheer pleasure of it, showing and sometimes even selling old cars.
I’m a retired software engineer, not a professional mechanic or bodyman, but my father, Donald Deppe was and this is the world I grew up in, surrounded by tools. From boyhood growing up in Northern Colorado, I had access to the correct tools and guidance from a professional. I saw firsthand how things that looked FUBAR are actually quite fixable, it just took the right tools, practice, knowledge and the will to do it right. I spent many Saturdays of my youth helping my Dad work on his cars and later my cars at the service department of Markley Motors in Fort Collins. While Learning the correct names and usage of tools as his "gofer" I watched my Dad in action, not only competently fixing and fabricating things, but doing it fast and right the first time. Watching a man who worked as a "flat rate" line mechanic to provide for his family instilled a work ethic in me that I owe all my success in my professional and personal life to. My "wonder years" coincided with the "golden age of muscle cars" and Markley Motors was a Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth dealership so I used to "play" in new Challengers, Barracudas, Chargers, Road Runners, Super Bees, Dusters, Demons and others at the dealership and at a young age knew a 440 was better than a 383 which was better than a 318 and the 426 "Hemi" was something very special. Riding in a car going over 100 MPH between our family home in Loveland and the shop to "test for vibrations" was commonplace. Markley's serviced the Plymouth Fury fleet for the Colorado State Patrol and I think Dad knew who was "on duty" when he pulled these stunts! My Dad retired from Markley Motors at 63 years old wearing a "Mr. Goodwrench" uniform thanks to the near collapse of Chrysler in the late 70s and the Markley family's decision to switch to GM and Honda to save their business and my Dad's retirement plan. Dad did not care for GM products but totally fell in love with Honda automobiles, and given his service in the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps in the Pacific in WWII, it was quite a change in his opinion of things Japanese when he bought a '77 CVCC Civic for himself in the early '80s.
1965 Honda Trail 90 - My first motorcycle. When I became a teenager in 7th grade, Dad thought it was time for me to be exposed to internal combustion powered transportation with a "real" trail bike. Mine was a basket case 1965 Honda Trail 90 that Dad traded a guy a brake job for and it arrived literally in a bushel basket disassembled with many gears missing teeth and a broken main shaft. There is something about little dusty boxes with the red wing Honda logo that Dad brought home containing brand new versions of the exact parts that were broken that was extremely exciting and watching a genius who could put that whole puzzle together without even using a repair manual in our basement workshop left me in awe. Before long our previously boring car camping trips turned into trail biking adventures with the other kids in my parents circle of friends and I must of put a thousand miles on that little yellow Honda over the course of each summer. I learned a lot about keeping the motorcycle running and before long we were discussing driving and what kind of car I would be interested in and of course as a kid I'm thinking a WWII Willys jeep like my neighbor's big brother has or a cool British MG GT sportscar like my other neighbor has or a cool Porsche 914 like our next door neighbor's brother parks there occasionally. I'm sure my Dad had to bite his tongue in an effort to not dampen my enthusiam with the economic realities of being a teenager because the deal was I had to pay for whatever I got and my parents would pay my car insurance until I got a ticket. Several cars that came into Markley's were mentioned over the dinner table and dismissed until Dad announced a VW Bug had come in as a trade-in and would I be interested. Well back in those days, there was a company called J.C. Whitney that published a catalog packed with cool VW Bug parts that I had browsed a time or two and I was immediately excited about the prospect of a restoration project and gave him the "go" to bring it home.
1962 Volkswagen Beetle - My first car: Markley's had an annual "$1000 trade-in allowance even if you have to push it in" sale every year providing the opportunity to "own" my first car at age 15 in 1975, Dad drove home a wrecked '62 Beetle sedan trade-in from Markley's and I paid $100 (that's $480 in 2018 dollars*) for it (it burned a lot of oil, but it ran!). It had a nasty blue "Paint any Car for $99 Earl Schieb Special" paint job over a beautiful original turquoise, as shown by the spotless interior. I like to compare the 1200cc engine that came in my first Bug with the one I restored in the '63 Cabrio in my collection, pretty much exactly as I remember it and a time machine whenever I adjust the valves or change the oil on it because it got me hooked on German air-cooled cars for life!
Although my first Volkswagen purchase came at the point in my Dad's career when he was a professional Mopar mechanic, he had caught the VW "bug" years before when he built a "bush-buggy" from scratch out of fiberglass and chickenwire on a shortened VW Beetle floorpan in the family garage. Here's a picture of Dad's "bush-buggy" with me behind the wheel and my Grandpa Clark in the passenger seat, you can just make out the profile of the VW Beetle front quarterpanel, cowl and hood behind those '40 Ford headlights. While it was quite the contraption, it instilled a love for listening to the sound of a Volkswagen engine with the wind blowing through my hair! I'm sure Dad had visions of a cool dunebuggy on my Bug's floorpan but I talked him into helping me restore it to become something reliable that would get me to and from the skiing and backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, a mere 35 spectacular twisting, winding miles from our home in Loveland.
I spent the entire spring and summer of 1975 as an apprentice to my Dad, who prior to being a mechanic was a master autobody man who once had his own bodyshop and later ran the body shop at Art Riffel Dodge in Loveland. Dad and I spent many hours together hunting down a straight used hood and left front fender, pounding out dents, welding up cracks, sanding several coats of paint off it with a Black & Decker electric sander and discovering the wonder of "BONDO" (now a term of disgust). Dad and I painted it out on the driveway of Mr. Cheek, the elderly neighbor who just built a 4-car garage house across the street with a huge air compressor and who had once owned a Buick dealership in Iowa prior to an antique car museum on Lookout Mountain in Colorado Springs. Check out this 1975 article from the local Loveland newspaper about his 1926 Rolls Royce originally owned by Jack Dempsey, the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion from 1919 to 1926 that's sitting just inside that garage door where we're painting my Bug! In addition to that Rolls, Mr. Cheek had a 1913 Ford Model T sitting next to it in that garage that really had a nostalgic power over my Dad, it was clear he was as familiar with that car's operation and quirks as I am now with air-cooled Volkswagens.
I didn't realize at the time how much of an impact being around Mr. Cheek had on me at that impressionable period in my life but he was my go-to guy when I my Dad wasn't around and he taught me lots, always asking if I drank c-o-double-f-double-e (which sounds like some kind of exotic French wine but it's really just "coffee") and laughing at my antics. The Cheeks never had any kids so I think they "adopted" me as a grandson and gave me many gifts, most cherished is a man's big ruby ring I still have. I was in awe of their success and wealth, they were so "normal" yet refined and elegant in their manner of dress and lifestyle. Meanwhile, out on Mr. Cheek's driveway, the color we ended up painting the Bug was fire-engine red/black two-tone, my high school's colors, with some leftover (free) acrylic enamel which Dad brought home from Markley's bodyshop. The fact that dark clouds were appearing and a few sprinkles of rain required hunting for water drops on the fresh paint and "dobbing" them up with my Dad's handkerchief didn't dim our family enthusiam to get that Bug painted red. Gotta love my Mom's "big" 1975 hair and how skinny I was at 15 back when shorts were indeed short! I had my learner's permit at the time and remember learning to use the clutch and driving the car while it was in brown primer. It was a different world in 1975, President Nixon had imposed a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour because of the energy crisis so having a "slug bug" on the highway wasn't a huge disadvantage, it could do 65 on the flat with a slight tail wind!
The beautiful stock turquiose and gray interior was transformed to black through the use of seat covers, black vinyl dye, "simulated" vinyl top spray (for the faux-leather dash) and vinyl wood-grain plastic adhesive film left-over from our family station wagon's mishap from my older sister sideswiping a gas pump. Wooden dash knobs, an in-dash tachometer and Craig 8-track player under the dash finished out the custom touches. I even sewed a black perforated vinyl headliner for the roof. I was really proud of how my $100 investment turned out, now I'd kill for the original interior I completely destroyed! In the end, after a lot of hand-applied rubbing compound to remove the "orange peel" the red paint shined right up and with a pair of later model front and rear bumpers I scrounged from the local VW hippie named Peter's junkyard at the old yellow barn at "Cunningham Corner" on the intersection of Horsetooth and Shields in Fort Collins. I thought it was the coolest car on the planet and my ticket to exploring the mountains around home. Dad pretty-much walked me thru an entire engine rebuild and I still keep the workshop manual where he wrote down all the bearing sizes quoted to him by the machine shop guy. We also got an indoctrination using new exhaust valves in old valve guides as my newly rebuilt motor sucked one (#3 cylinder of course) when I was racing another Bug down Highway 287 coming home from Fort Collins coming home from the mountaineering store with a new set of Vasque hiking boots that cost as much as my VW!
Phillips 66 Gas Station Attendant - My first job: My passion for and knowledge of cars also grew exponentially during this period in my life because upon turning 16, I found a $2 per hour job (that would be $9 per hour in 2018 dollars*) as an "attendant" at the local Phillips 66 "service station" (note: not a "gas station"). A "service station" was like a modern "gas station" but instead of a "mini-mart" you would find two full service bays with hydraulic hoists that came out of the ground to lift the car 6' into the air! The job of an "attendant" was to not only pump your gas for you but also wash your windows, open the hood and check the oil, hoses, belts and even check your tire pressure if you wanted it done. A mechanic worked there during the week named Jerry Kruger who was extremely patient and taught me how to install and pack wheel bearings, change water pumps, alternaters and properly install fan belts but also how to do tune-ups using a timing light and dwell meter. Besides a full compliment of tools and service manuals, this service station also had a Coats 4040A tire machine, which I mastered and now have one of the same model of in my shop and do my own tire mounting and balancing! Best of all there was a mineral spirits fueled steam cleaner which allowed me to clean the underside of my VW to the point you could eat off it! As my skills progressed, I became the official after-hours AAA tow truck driver. WHO LETS THEIR 16-YEAR-OLD DRIVE A TOW TRUCK AT ALL HOURS OF THE NIGHT?!?! My parent's phone number was published in the AAA directory and they still got phone calls for tows at 3 AM well into the 1990s! My pay for after-hours tows was half of the bill, which at $12.50 ($56 in 2018 dollars*) hook-up and $1 ($4.50 in 2018 dollars*) per mile or $22 ($100 in 2018 dollars*) for a AAA call, motivated me to get my butt out of bed when the phone rang or schedule tows for after I closed the business. Scrubbing the service bays with mineral spirits and a broom, mopping the floors and cleaning the restrooms each night I worked was the only downside to the job but it made me appreciate a clean restroom to this day. Working at a place that fixed cars for profit was one of the most educational times in my life and at the expense of my high school GPA, I learned more about cars, business and life lessons such as getting along with and helping strangers in that two year period than I did in my classes and I felt bored in school and so much more mature than my peers. It must be noted that I had perfect attendance and never skipped school because my Dad would have killed me but my parents never looked at my report cards and I still took college prep classes like chemistry and creative writing although my guidance counselors pointed me towards becoming an electrician! Working at the Phillips 66 station was also the point in my life I was exposed to Porsches and that "hands-on" experience changed my life. Driving many different cars was one of the biggest joys to this job and I remember taking customers cars out for "test drives" (read: joy rides). I fondly remember at 17 years old, discovering how quickly a 1970 911's red-line is nearly 70 MPH in second gear! Porsches were so similar to Volkswagens, yet so much faster! I loved making money and spent it on the best gear for skiing, mountaineering and photography as these were my passions besides my VW which was also decked-out expensive things like Michelin ZX radials and reclining highback bucket seats out of a '68 Bug. In 2010 I was back home visiting my parents and we drove past the old "gas station" (it now has a "mini-mart") and saw the old GMC wrecker I drove was parked outside so I had to get my picture taken with it, looks like we've both aged about the same!
1970 Dodge Challenger - My second & second + ½ car: After high school and with my Dad, being a Mopar man, my second car was a '70 Dodge Challenger. Working fulltime and going to college, I needed reliable, cheap transportation WITH A GOOD HEATER, so Dad brought home a slant-6 powered Challenger, once again a "$1000 trade-in" from Markley's annual sale that cost me $275 ($1,100 in 2018 dollars*). It needed a total makeover but after again doing all the paint prep myself on the front driveway, a coat of metallic blue Emron paint and all NOS trim items Dad got through his employee discount, I had a sweet looking ride I was very proud of. I had the seats reupholstered, a top-end job on the slant-6 and a set of Craiger mags. One bad day in January of '80, I was caught in a ground blizzard coming home from Denver and involved in a 50-car pile-up on I-25. Total my Challenger? Never! A $375 ($1,150 in 2018 dollars*) rear clip and a long weekend on the driveway of my parents house and it was saved for another go and getting me through college! With a Dad like mine, there was no problem sweat equity couldn't solve cheaply. I'm also amazed at what a skinny nature boy I was back in the day, I loved being out in the sun, now I look like an old leather handbag!
College Years - My third and fourth cars, let the hoarding uh, I mean "collecting" begin: I moved to Greeley, about 30 miles from Loveland, out on my own financially when was 18 because I worked fulltime while I paid my way through college, starting at Aims Community College in Greeley then transferring to Colorado State University in Fort Collins where I moved to next. This was possible because I got a job at Kodak's Colorado Division in Windsor, I worked the graveyard shift manufacturing the famous color print paper with the "Made by Kodak" printed across the back. Working in a big corporation exposed me to careers I had no idea about in my blue collar and small town academic childhood. I looked around me and saw "professionals" like accountants, systems analysts, project managers and engineers and thought, hell, if that idiot can do this, I sure as hell can! I started taking community college courses with Kodak reimbursing my tuition costs and unlike high school, I got straight A's. With shift differentials and lots of overtine, Kodak paid me enough money to make car payments and to have a couple cars at once, hence the start of my "car hoarding" tendency. While my Challenger was "laid up" after the wreck, I got my first car loan and purchased an amazing '71 Jeep CJ-5 with a 225 V-6 and hi-low overdrive unit on a 3 speed transmission plus a PTO winch from my parent's next door neighbors. Living in Colorado with a Jeep was fantastic, however when I nearly rolled it (and almost killing myself and a cutie named "Anne" who was my girlfriend and future wife) climbing the local Northern Colorado logging road playground called Storm Mountain coupled with breaking something expensive everytime I went off-roading, it became a question of affording tuition or Jeep payments and parts! Jeep poor, I sold it in September of 1980 and bought a rusty old 1966 Ford Ranchero from my Dad's carpool partner, also a mechanic, with a freshly rebuilt 289 V-8 and a 4-speed on the floor. My housemate and future Best Man named Curt Frank and I painted it "racing green" using a can of hardware store Rustoleum and brushes, funny, no photos of that eyesore but it was actually an awesome little truck!
My Love Affair with Hondas - My fifth and sixth cars, tall and small, opposites attract: My Challenger turned out so nice, I hated to park it in student parking on Colorado State University's campus so I drove the Ranchero, I also fell in love with my Dad's Honda CVCC Civic. I talked him into helping me buy a totalled orange '76 Civic CVCC at the Denver insurance auctions for $900 ($2,235 in 2018 dollars*). My Civic had been rolled over in snow at low speed so the roof was buckled in and the hood and windshield needed to be replaced but it was mechanically sound with low mileage and nothing a little sweat equity on the driveway couldn't pound out and BONDO back to "like it never happened" condition. A quick repaint in the original orange color and I was on the road and the Challenger sold for enough left over for a year's tuition and books. I kept the "beater" Ranchero though, it was great for hauling things and leaving at trailheads when I backpacked. This is the point in my life where I fell in love with Honda products and also married Anne, my college sweetheart who also owned a brand-new '81 Honda Civic and had a great job as a nurse. As I neared graduation, I sold the '66 Ranchero to a Mustang guy who just wanted it for the drivetrain and the '76 CVCC for 3 times what I paid for it and bought my first brand-new car, a 1985 Honda CRX from Markley's for invoice cost ($7200 then or $17,300 in 2018 dollars*) plus an air conditioner kit Dad installed after buying it at his cost. Getting serious about success in my new field, Computer Information Systems and getting invited to interviews with companies in Oregon and Texas by on-campus recruiters made me realize I was going to have to dedicate myself to work and my car had to be reliable for commuting in strange new big city far away from Fort Collins. During my senior year at Colorado State, I landed a paid internship (money and college credits!) at a small mom and pop software consulting company in my hometown of Loveland using the new IBM PC, thanks to a lead from my brother-in-law Jim Jackson who worked for the Better Business Bureau at the time. Being on the "bleeding edge" of the "PC revolution" would be one of the best breaks I could get because nobody knew anything about them in the corporate world and my headstart would lead to job opportunities the mainframe COBOL programming skills I learned in college couldn't touch.
New Grad & Professional Years - New cars = boring cars: After 6 years, the last 2 as a fulltime student, I finally graduated from Colorado State University in December,1984, amazingly cum laude with a BS in Computer Information Systems / Business Administration. Immediately Anne and I moved far away from Colorado, first to Houston to write IBM PC based programs (in Microsoft C and IBM mainframe-based SQL) for refinery and chemical plant process monitoring systems for a giant global corporation called Shell Oil Company and then in December 1988 to Seattle to design and program the corporate e-mail account and telephony management systems for a little 2,400 employee company called Microsoft that had just gone public less than 2 years before. Anne and I were blessed with our only child Audrey in June of 1988 and I wanted to get out of Houston before we really put down roots so bad that I took about a 20% pay cut to start at Microsoft but I negotiated hard. They made up the difference in these mysterious things called "stock options" and who could have foreseen the exponential company growth I was about to be engulfed in. These were the early days of e-mail outside big mainframe corporations, I found myself responsible for designing and coding a system (in OS/2, Microsoft C and SQL Server) automating administration of the sprawling duct tape and bailing wire internally-developed corporate e-mail system based on a Microsoft version of UNIX called XENIX (sold to Santa Cruz Operation to become their UNIX) running on Intel 386 processor based servers networked worldwide. My system was named "AccMan" for ACCounts MANagement that tied together the HR "Registrar" employee personal information database to the email accounts, email group memberships and desktop telephones for employees worldwide. Microsoft ran "lean and mean" (understaffed) and "ate our own dogfood" (used our own newly released, bleeding-edge, unstable products to run our business) so lots of long hours and nights spent sleeping in my office enhancing system features and performing SQL DBA responsibilities (crash, recover, restore, repeat) duties on the AccMan system and I became Bill Gates' 24/7 x 365 on-call beeper-wearing "Mr. AccMan" (read: bitch). The AccMan assignment lasted about 3 and a half years, until the corporate headcount reached 32,767 (geeks will understand this) employees and the system was replaced by a Microsoft-developed product called Exchange (and I pity the IT group that had to make that turd viable). A family health crisis I'll go into detail on later caused a career change, I got promoted to manage an IT systems development group and a "corner office" so success at my demanding job meant I could buy just about any new family car that tickled my fancy. The way I was raised, I would never consider voiding the warranty on a new car to make it how I wanted. After purchasing new water-cooled Volkswagens and a Ford truck, these "store bought" cars left me left me feeling bored. I found myself missing the old days and rebuilding junks back into something I loved, that is until I bought my first house with a 2-car garage and finding a '63 VW Beetle convertible! I even painted it myself in that garage using the Dupont Centari two-stage acrylic enamel paint system after extinguishing the pilot light in my gas hot water heater so I wouldn't blow my house up! This is the point in my life when I met Jack Morris by answering a want ad in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to buy a '64 VW Beetle sedan "parts car" that I picked up from the small garage at the house Jack lived at in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle. I would cross tracks again with Jack at Wolfsburg Warehouse, a business in Seattle owned by Bill Dierickx, a big name in office equipment who turned to traveling the world buying the inventories of obsolete parts from VW dealerships as his "retirement" job and Jack worked for him prior to buying the business from him in later years. My professional life was spent in front of a computer as a software engineer, creating the abstract and untouchable as a systems programmer. Time spent in my garage working on my Bug during my off-work hours was how I unwound from job stress and found working with my hands therapeutic and soon the '74 Porsche 914 rust bucket resurrection project followed, the software I crafted is long since obsolete and probably deleted but the cars I restored are still here. Look at my Dad with my 914 in 1993, wearing his Colorado State cap during a ride up Stevens Pass stopping at Skykomish, I took him over 100 MPH that time (downhill of course) and there were no vibrations observed!
Anne's Cancer Changes Everything - My shop became my sanctuary: I often wonder if I would have put so much effort into car restoration had Anne not been stricken with cancer when we were both just 32 years old. Before the cancer we were a happy family of explorers, we spent our "mad money" on a new Ford truck and camper that gave us the freedom to explore the Pacific Northwest with our 3-year-old daughter Audrey and we had plans for more children. Then in May of 1991, Anne got mysteriously sick to the point of nearly dying. Miraculously, by late August, in the 11th hour, stage 4 non-Hodgkins Lymphoma presented itself in a tumor biopsy and thankfully living within 30 minutes of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (a.k.a. "The Hutch"), her life was saved by chemotherapy administered by the many skilled doctors there. Ironically Anne was an RN with her BSN from the University of Colorado and a chemotherapy infusion nurse at nearby Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, so those medical professionals were her colleagues and she knew exactly what her chances were given her diagnosis. My career changed directions too, after the first "bout" it became clear that being an individual contributor software engineer at Microsoft wasn't a good way to live with deadline pressures and the weight of keeping mission critical systems running so I took a "promotion" to manage a 15 person IT development group, or as Dilbert puts it, "Made a deal with the Prince of Insufficient Light" and went into management. From that point on, I stayed close to home and took care of my "girls" and that's when car restoration became my escape and my shop my sanctuary, craving solitude, away from "people problems" to think about solutions to "logical problems" as I realize now that loving solitude is what made me such a good software engineer! I did a second two-car garage home addition project to double my garage space and enjoyed getting deeper into my car projects and flipping cars that I used as my daily drivers, bought cheap, fixed, drove and sold. An '80 VW Rabbit sedan, '64 VW Beetle sedan, '73 Karmann Ghia coupe, '85 VW Jetta sedan, '81 Fiat Spider convertible and a '69 VW Beetle sedan passed through my hands during this time and each was a learning opportunity, passed on to friends and co-workers who appreciated buying cars that were all sorted-out and dependable and I enjoyed having an excuse to go to junkyards and learning about their idiosyncrasies while I rose through the ranks and managed larger and more problematic IT development groups engulfed in the exponential growth of the Microsoft Corporation.
Goodbye Corporate World - We bloomed where we were planted: Unfortunately a long career at Microsoft wasn't in the cards as Anne's cancer returned and any job commitments requiring travel would have been impossible without abandoning my family so I cashed-in my stock options and "retired" from corporate life. My exit from Microsoft brought a change of lifestyle and image, I sold my "daily driver" '82 Porsche 911 SC Targa that I had purchased at Park Place in Bellevue 3 years before and replaced it with a brand new 1997 Eurovan Camper. Treatment for Anne's cancer required getting a bone marrow transplant so once again we turned to "the Hutch" and after failing to find a match within her family found an anonymous donor and proceeded.
We made some epic road trips in the Eurovan and spent as much time together as a family as Anne's illness would allow, but it started gathering dust so I sold it 2 years later rather than let it sit idle, unlike a pickup truck camper, I could still use the pickup to haul stuff without the camper. About this time we "bloomed where we were planted" postponing my dream to move out into the country and instead bought the 3 bedroom house across the cul-de-sac dubbed: "the barn disquised as a house" because it had no garage. I added a garage deep enough to hold 5 cars to it for storage of my growing car collection with bedrooms serving as warehouse space for my car parts! I also began the restoration of the WWII '45 Ford GPW jeep with my Dad over the internet right after the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001. Writing daily e-mail progress reports to Dad and with the advent of digital cameras is when my day-by-day project blogging habit began. Anne's cancer remission again lasted less than 5 years, returning in early 2003, so back to "The Hutch" for a second bone marrow transplant. The experimental procedure was called a "mini transplant" specifically intended to create a condition called "graft vs. host disease" as the slower of two terminal illnesses as there was no real cure. We hunkered-down as a family in "immunocompromised mode" with no international travel and as little exposure to the general public as we could to protect Anne from getting sick. Let me just say that I'm amazed when I look back at all the life-and-death drama and stress we went through as a family and we would have never survivied had it not been for our family which included the addition of a dog, a miniature Schnauzer named "Mookie" who appears quite frequently in the restoration journal photos.
This is the period when got back into Porsches much deeper than my previous two, bought the '74 Porsche 911 and then the '66 Porsche 912 that was an extremely ambitious rust repair project and the most detailed and extensive project blog in my journals because I was home all the time. I had been having back problems due to a bulging disc pressing against my sciatic nerve so I invested in a 4-post lift to make access to the bottom side of the cars easier as well as providing a rigid "frame bench" for bracing while replacing the rocker panels on my 912 project. I also got more deeply involved with Jack Morris and Wolfsburg Motorwerks by building them a website and occasionally doing odd jobs on weekends like organizing his parts storeroom.
Bachelor Again at 47 Years Old - Air-cooled VWs & Porsches become my life: Anne passed away April 23, 2007, that 10 years since leaving Microsoft went by much too fast and I found myself alone "in the bottom of a crater" at age 47. We had been "empty nesters" since it was Audrey's freshman year at Western Washington University in Bellingham and I found the isolation at my home shop unbearable. That's when my best friend Jack Morris invited me to come work for him a couple days a week as an "apprentice" at Wolfsburg Motorwerks close to downtown Seattle in the Ballard neighborhood. I absolutely loved working for Jack and being part of his "crew" of skilled "wrenches" while I got through the darkest, most difficult stages of grief, single parenthood and dating again. I bought a Hazet Assistant rolling toolbox, packed up my tools and took my skillset to a new level, getting into 356 Porsches. I purchased my own '64 Porsche 356 C and '56 oval window VW Beetle at that time, tore down dozens of engines to perform "autopsies" to learn why they failed and got hands-on engine building training from Jack as I built my own engines. My favorite task was taking "long block" engines Jack built and being responsible for the completion of the reassembly and installation in the car to make it running and drivable again, many for the first time in decades. Getting my parts, powder coating and machine shop work at the shop's wholesale price was awesome too so I stockpiled all the parts I would be needing for years to come. I had the opportunity to work for Steve Shepp, the master trimmer whose upholstery shop, "Classic Interior Restorations" that shared the back side of Wolfsburg Motorwerks building where my '63 VW Beetle convertible I painted myself in my garage was finally getting that top installed and my '66 Porsche 912 getting a complete interior. Jack and Steve were like a brother and a dad, these guys became my family and appear frequently in my project journals. In a way I regressed back to my youth, wearing a uniform with my name on the pocket, it was like working at the Phillips 66 service station again. I loved playing the role of my anonymous alter ego, "D-Dog" the old guy puttering quietly in the corner, eagerly waiting to get my hands on the rare vintage Porsches in the Seattle scene that came in and out of both shops to take notes, photos and sometimes drive, a mechanic's privilege that has made normal car shows eternally boring to me and I love looking back through all the digital photos I took. I can't tell you how much I respect anybody who does high end restorations professionally. People with deep pockets can be so difficult to please and I quite frankly have lost my patience dealing with "wannabe" car guys who "outsource their hobby" so they can be "involved" but have no idea how hard it is to fix rusted or worn out cars properly and bitch about the time or costs involved. For example a broken or rusted tight bolt in a tight place can turn a 1 hour job into a 1 day one so fixed bid quotes are impossible so I only "flip" cars now that I hold the title to. I also find the "stories" quite funny, I have tools that measure paint depth and BONDO thickness and know where the factory seams covered with lead are supposed to be and a fiberoptic scope that can look inside channels and cavities. When I hear a seller claiming his "all original" car has never been hit, I do a little non-invasive survey in the problematic areas, thanks to my Wolfsburg Motorwerks and Classic Interior Restorations experience I have developed some great prospecting skills that really help me when I choose cars I buy.
Turning 50 - Time to make my dreams a reality: After about two years working for Jack a big downturn in the economy slowed the stream of vintage Porsche restorations so I decided that I needed to make some major life changes if I wanted to be happy again and move on in life. My dream was to buy a nice piece of land out in the country with the mantra, "Half the house and three times the shop". I wanted to sell "the Compound" (my first house and the second house across the cul-de-sac a.k.a. "the barn disquised as a house") and all the memories that went with them in Kenmore. The housing prices plummeted and I found a 2 acre piece of land at a bargain price that was flat and had been cleared of trees inside Woodinville city limits. The land was perfect for building a huge unattached pole barn safe to weld in and already having a small, freshly remodeled one story "cottage" to grow old in, all close to the roads I love to drive in the foothills of the Cascades, now dubbed "the Ranch". So I put all the car projects on hold and I focused on building my big dream shop and remodeling my two old houses to prepare them for sale which took about 2 years of very hard labor. As the photo my Dad took below of the "showroom" in the "barn disguised as a house" shows, I needed the new shop building in order to have a place to move the contents of my two houses into!
Second Marriage - Just when I was about to give up on love: Country life suited me very well and after 7 years of a second bachelorhood completely lacking any form of "adult supervision" spent doubling the number of cars in my collection and traveling the world with a few "wack" romantic interests that were too young, too old or had too many personalities to keep track of for me, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever meet a "normal" woman with a functional family that understood and appreciated me and my car thing. After a long, ugly breakup with my previous "nightmare" I reluctantly met Thu, the woman of my dreams, over coffee on April 29, 2014 thanks to the coaxing of a mutual friend who knew we would be perfect for each other, and as it turned out, she was right! Meanwhile, Jack shed himself of the Volkswagen millstone and shutdown Wolfsburg Motorwerks shortly after I met Thu, moving his family to Salt Lake City to start Morris Brothers Motorsports in a partnership with his brother Chad and specialize in Porsches. Thu and I got married on April 30, 2016, 2 years and one day since we met. To make that day even more special, Jack and his family came all the way from Salt Lake City for him to be my Best Man and share the joyful day with us. I also married into Thu's big family, the one I never had, she was also a widow, is Vietnamese and has 3 grown children with her youngest the same age as my daughter, ironically all born in Texas too! Thu has been a successful hair salon owner with 3 employees for over 20 years, so she has her "baby" the salon and I have my "baby" the shop and the time to indulge my hobby and help her with "our" salon. It's a match made in heaven, we go to sleep with a kiss, wake up with a smile and love our daily lives, running "our" business, spoiling "our" 5 grandchildren (3 of whom were born since I entered the picture), tending "our" garden and world travel that always makes a quick stop in Saigon to see my mother-in-law (I've been there 5 times). Thu's favorite car is the '64 Porsche 356 C since they're the same age and the '94 Honda del Sol I restored for her comes in a close second!
I'm Hitting 60 This Year - Time to savor the fruits of my labor: So now I'm quickly approaching 60 years old, both my parents have passed away so any responsibilities in Colorado have been handled and I'm no longer the "sandwich generation" taking care of both my parents and kid. Now there is no limit to the size or scope of the restoration projects I choose to take on and the time I have to network with my many friends who are professionals in the trade. It is their skills I wish to emulate and I value their patience with me and my endless questions in my quest to improve my skills. When you read the restoration journals on my car collection, understand my work restoring cars spans the majority of my life, over 40 years and that with each one I've tried to set the bar higher and challenged myself to go deeper and understand more. I’ve had many, many cars over the years, but the ones in my collection that are the “keepers” and the efforts made to restore them was and is with the desire that I would be driving them for years to come and preserving them to be treasured by their next owners after they have proven to be good investments and I'm ready to part with them. When I scrutinize the work I did over 30 years ago and find flaws, it serves to remind me how much I have learned and how I must strive to keep my quality standards high because for me, my mistakes in life have been where I have learned the most. You may also notice the size of my workspace and quality of my tools have improved over the years, an indication of how much joy the folly of turning junks into jewels has given me. I've also recently taken to buying low mileage "survivor" cars because my car tastes have evolved to appreciate the patina of originality and the wave of nostalgic emotion that comes with them, like a '67 VW Beetle, '85 Mazda RX-7 and '89 Porsche Carrera Cabriolet. I've also picked-up a car I've dreamed about having for decades, a replica (yes, a replica) '58 Porsche Speedster made by Intermeccanica and the first car Thu and I purchased together since getting married. I'm proud of my car collection because it reflects some of my best work, but that pales to my pride in my daughter Audrey, who is an RN with a BSN from the University of Washington, she currently works at the same hospital her mother died at and some of her colleagues knew her mother, proof of just how strange life can be and it truly is as Forrest Gump put it, "a box of chocolates" that you've got to be unafraid to bite into and to not forget to savor because it flies by.
My Disclaimer - Read at your own risk: These restoration journals tell a story of where I was at in life at the time and are as much for my enjoyment in re-reading in future decades as they are for sharing my passion for the hobby with you now. I selfishly put in every detail because I then know where to look to "remember" what exactly I did or exactly where I left off since my car projects often take long breaks as I jump between them to keep the passion fresh. These journals are definitely not a “how-to” guide as I readily share both my successes and mistakes so if you are looking for step-by-step instructions, sorry, you’re on your own. I admit, I’m guilty of sharing information, ideas and how I approach problems but don’t blame me if you end up frustrated, physically maimed or psychologically damaged, take them for what they’re worth, free "digital literature” on the Internet. Also, while I'll admit I don't suffer fools well, I do consider myself a friendly and helpful guy so don’t be afraid to contact me via e-mail at email@example.com or on Facebook. Thanks! Darryl
My 2014 Mercedes E-350 4MATIC - A proper 60-year-old gentleman's car!
1964 to 2014 - 50 years of German engineering in my favorite color combination, metallic silver over black interior.* 2018 dollar values were arrived at using the US Government's Bureau of Labor Statistics's CPI (Consumer Price Index) calculator