About Darryl’s Garage
Hi, I'm Darryl Deppe - Cars are in my DNA: I'm a car restoration geek and collector, initially out of financial necessity then recreationally and it seems I always have been and always will be. Welcome to my life-long hobby; lusting after, buying, restoring, collecting, maintaining, driving, researching, writing and dreaming about 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. 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 beyond repair 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, Colorado, learning the correct names and usage of tools as his "gofer" and saw 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 years 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 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, Colorado 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 62 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, quite a change in his opinion of things Japanese when he bought a CVCC Civic for himself.
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 for it (and 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 work on it.
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 a mere 35 spectacular twisting, winding miles from our home.
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, Colorado. Dad and I spent many hours together hunting down a new 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 Nebraska prior to an antique car museum on Lookout Mountain in Colorado (Check out this 1975 article from the local Loveland newspaper about his 1926 Rolls Royce). I didn't realize at the time how much of an impact being around Mr. Cheek, who I learned played football at the University of Nebraska back in the days before helmets, had on me at that impressionable period in my life. 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.
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 an 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's barnyard junkyard, I thought it was the coolest car on the planet. 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 drag-racing another Bug!
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 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 full time mechanic worked there during the week named Jerry Kruger who was extremely patient and taught me how to change water pumps and alternaters 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 hook-up and $1 per mile or $22 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. 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! 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 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 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. 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. Total my Challenger? Never! A $375 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 - Car hoarding uh, I mean "collecting" begins: I moved to Greeley, Colorado, 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, Colorado then transferring to Colorado State University. 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 have a couple cars at once, hence the start of my "car hoarding" tendency. While my Challenger was "laid up" after the wreck, I purchased rusty old 1966 Ford Ranchero with a 289 and a 4-speed on the floor my housemate and I painted "racing" green using a can of hardware store Rustoleum and brushes, funny, no photos of that eyesore! I also bought 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. Living in Colorado with a Jeep was fantastic, however when I nearly rolled it (and almost killing myself and girlfriend Anne, my 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 parts so I sold it once I got my '70 Challenger back on the road.
My Love Affair with Hondas - 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 so I talked him into helping me buy a totalled '76 one at the Denver insurance auctions for $900. My Civic had been rolled over in snow at low speed so the roof was caved 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 1966 Ranchero though, it was great for moving 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 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!) 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, Colorado. 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. This 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 opportunities the mainframe 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 for refinery and chemical plant process monitoring systems for a giant global corporation called Shell Oil Company and then in 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. I wanted to get out of Houston so bad that I took 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 growth I was about to be engulfed in. These were the early days of e-mail outside the academic arena, I found myself responsible for automating the duct tape and bailing wire internally-developed corporate e-mail system based on a version of UNIX called XENIX running on Intel 386 processor based servers networked worldwide and becoming Bill Gates' 24/7 x 365 on-call beeper-wearing bitch! 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 the new Hondas, I had water-cooled Volkswagens, Ford trucks and even a Dodge minivan, but my new "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 was 30 and 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! 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.
32 Years Old & 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 in the 11th hour, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma presented itself and thankfully living within 30 minutes of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 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 a nearby hospital so those medical professionals were her colleagues and she knew exactly what her chances were given her diagnosis. From that point on, I stayed close to home and that's when car restoration became my escape and my shop my sanctuary. We prayed that her cancer was cured, but it was not to be, 5 years later it returned with a vengence and a bone marrow transplant was the only hope. I faced a choice of continuing my career with Microsoft that would involve a lot of travel or give my 100% to getting my family through an upcoming bone marrow transplant. Microsoft stock's exponential growth over the 9 years I worked for them and the discipline to live on Anne's and my combined salaries and not touch the stock options had paid off well so I was financially able to retire at 37 years old and dedicate my life to Anne and Audrey. Upon my exit from Microsoft, I sold my '82 Porsche 911 SC Targa that I had purchased at Park Place in Bellevue 3 years before and it served as my "daily driver" to be replaced by a brand new 1997 Eurovan Camper. We did some trips in the Eurovan and spent as much time together as a family as Anne's illness would allow, which wasn't much and I sold it 2 years later rather than let it sit idle. About this time we "bloomed where we were planted" and bought the house across the cul-de-sac "dubbed: "the barn disquised as a house" because it had no garage. I added a 6 car one to it for storage of my growing car collection and began the restoration of the WWII jeep with my Dad over the internet right after the 9/11 terrorist attack. Daily e-mail progress reports to Dad and with the advent of digital cameras, this is when my day-by-day project blogging began. Anne's cancer remission only lasted 5 years and again returned in 2003 and we returned to "The Hutch" for a second bone marrow transplant 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. This is the period when got back into Porsches much deeper than my previous two, bought the '74 911 and then the '66 912 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 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: That 10 years went by much too fast and I found myself alone, a widower at age 47, spring of Audrey's freshman year at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington 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, buying my own '64 356 C and '56 oval window VW Beetle, getting hands-on training from Jack and getting my parts and machine shop work at the shop price was awesome too. I also worked with 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 '66 912 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.
Turning 50 - Time to make my dreams a reality: After about two years working for Jack, I decided that I needed to make some major changes to my life, so I sold "the Compound" (my first house and the second house across the cul-de-sac a.k.a. "the barn disquised as a house") and made my dream; buying a big a piece of land out in the country, building a huge unattached pole barn safe to weld in and a small one story "cottage" to grow old in, all close to the roads I love to drive in the foothills of the Cascades, a reality now dubbed "the Ranch". So I bought a third house on an acreage, 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. I needed the new shop building in order to have a place to move the contents of my two houses into! Country life suited me very well and after 9 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 girlfriends" that ended in breakups that had me considering just getting another dog for companionship. Then in 2014 I finally met Thu, the woman of my dreams. In 2016 I married into Thu's big family I always wanted to be a part of, 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 is a successful hair salon owner so she has her "baby" the salon and I have my "baby" the shop and the time to indulge my hobby. It's a match made in heaven, we go to sleep with a kiss, wake up with a smile and love our daily lives, spoiling our 5 grandchildren, gardening and world travel that always makes a quick stop in Saigon to see my mother-in-law (I've been there 4 times). Thu's favorite car is the 1964 Porsche 356C since they're the same age!
60 Years Old in 2019 - Time to savor the fruits of my labor: So now I'm quickly approaching 60 years old, 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, '89 Porsche Carrera Cabriolet and '94 Honda del Sol. I'm proud of my car collection because it reflects some of my best work, but that pales to my pride in my daughter 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