The teenage boy stood in awe of the car before him. It wasn’t pretty, by any means. The paint was faded, the tires were flat, and the body was dented and rusted. The door squeaked as it opened. The floor had a hole in it. He put the key into the ignition and turned it. The motor coughed and sputtered before waking up and coming to life. It sounded painful.
He pulled the shifter into drive and put his foot on the gas pedal. The exhaust exhaled tiredly as the motor revved up and the old car gained some speed. The interior began to stink of fumes. The steering wheel had a sizeable deadzone, allowing it to drift back and forth while driving straight. The brakes screeched as he slowed down for a corner. They smelled foul. He sped up again. The motor had a rattle to it.
The teenage boy pulled it into the driveway. His dad was watching from the garage as he pulled up. He didn’t look impressed, but he looked determined. He smiled. The boy had always admired his dad at times like these. He never shied away from a challenge. He never even looked nervous. The boy pulled the car into the garage.
“First things first, let’s get some new tires put on there,” his dad said. “You aren’t going to get very far with those rotten things.”
With an impact wrench, he loosened the lug nuts and removed the car’s wheels. He used a machine in the corner of the garage to get the old tires off and put the new ones on.
“The tires are like the car’s foundation,” he said. “Even the nicest car in the world isn’t going to go anywhere with bad tires.”
As he walked back to the car, he looked at the brakes.
“We might as well take care of them too, while we have the wheels off.”
He pried and wrenched until he had the old caliper, pads, and disc off. He threw the whole contraption aside and grabbed some new parts. He bolted them back on and stepped back to admire his work.
“I can’t teach you when to stop, but I can make sure that when you need to stop, you will.”
He bolted the wheels, with new, inflated tires, back on the car.
“Now, the paint and body,” he said, lowering the car down from the jack.
He went around the car, popping the dents back out. Then he went around again, cutting all of the rust spots out and replacing them with new pieces. Next, he covered the entire car in a fresh coat of paint. It looked like an entirely new car. It looked beautiful. The boy stood and gawked at it.
“You can tell a lot about a car by its appearance,” his dad said. “First impressions are important.”
The boy listened with an inquisitive look on his face.
“First impressions aren’t everything, though. It’s what’s under the hood that keeps it going.”
The boy’s dad opened the hood and got to work. He started loosening bolts and taking things apart. The boy, wanting to help, started to work on the car’s engine as well. As he tried to pull a part away, though, his hand slipped and got stuck. It hurt. The boy tried to act tough and pull it loose, but it wasn’t budging. His dad noticed, and came to help. He unbolted the part, pulled it away, and freed the boy’s hand.
“All a part of the experience,” he said. “You’re learning and trying, and that’s what matters.”
He continued to work on the engine, taking parts away and putting new ones back in. He worked, seemingly tirelessly, for what felt like an eternity. Eventually, though, he looked up with a satisfied expression. He was done.
“Should run smoothly now,” he exclaimed proudly. “It’s got a lot of hard work ahead of it, you want the engine to be ready for it.”
Next, he looked at the door. He looked at it closely. He looked at the handle, the hinges, and the frame. He started to tighten some bolts.
“Doors will never open for you,” he mentioned, “but I can make opening them yourself a little easier.”
He walked around the car, stopping at the tailpipes in the back. He looked at them, intrigued, and then crawled down underneath the car. He gazed up at the maze of exhaust pipes.
“You need a new exhaust,” he said from beneath the car.
He took the maze of pipes apart, sliding parts out from under the car. The boy handed him the new ones, and he bolted them in.
“You need the car to work hard for you, but you also need to let it breath.”
He pulled himself out and stood back up, looking happy with himself. He walked around to the other door and got inside the car. He looked down at the hole in the floor, right in front of the seat. The teenage boy brought him his tools. He welded a new piece of metal over the hole, before grinding it down smooth and laying carpeting down over it.
“That should make your ride a bit more comfortable,” he remarked.
As he got out, he grabbed the steering wheel. He stopped, looking back at it. He turned it back and forth, with a puzzled look on his face. He loosened some bolts and took the steering wheel off. He looked down into the steering column, identified the problem, and reached down in to tighten some bolts. He replaced the steering wheel, tested it, smiled, and got out of the car.
“I can’t tell you which way to steer, but I can make sure that when you try to steer, you’ll go in the right direction.”
The teenage boy’s dad walked around the car once more, before taking a seat by the work bench. He looked tired but triumphant, like a warrior returning from battle. He opened a celebratory beer. The boy admired his dad’s work. He walked around the car, amazed with how it looked. It looked brand new. It looked exciting. It looked daunting. The boy excitedly opened the door. It slid open with ease. He sat down comfortably, resting his feet on the solid floor. He put the key in the ignition and turned it.
The motor rumbled up immediately. It idled with a smooth, low pur. The boy pressed down on the brake pedal. It felt firm. He pressed the gas pedal, revving the engine. It sounded aggressive but controlled. He turned the steering wheel back and forth. It was tight and responsive. He took a deep breath and looked at his dad through the windshield, hand on the shifter.
His dad smiled and gave him an accepting nod. The boy put the car in reverse and began to back out of the driveway. Just before he reached the street, he noticed his dad walking down towards him. He stopped. His dad walked up to the window.
“Just remember,” he began to say. “If you have any trouble with it, just give me a call. I can always give you a tow.”
The boy looked out through the windshield, knowing that he had a lifetime of driving ahead of him that couldn’t have been possible without his dad. He felt supported, empowered, and excited. No matter what car he would end up driving, he knew that he could always get a tow from his dad.
He put his foot down on the gas pedal and took his first car out for a spin.