As I pull into the driveway of long-time friend and brother-in-law Lynn Wilson, I am faced with the free-standing, three-bay garage where he spent a lot of his time. Unfortunately, this time something was different. The lights were off and the doors were closed. Even though I knew there were multiple project cars and a myriad of car parts behind each door, nonetheless, the garage already seemed empty.
I had made an untold number of visits to the garage throughout the years, and this was the first time I had done it since Lynn had passed on April, 26. Years ago, I had promised Lynn I would help his wife Pat, take care of a few things if the situation ever warranted it, and unfortunately, that time had arrived. As I opened the center-bay door, I couldn’t help but realize I had never done that before – it was always open and Lynn was always inside working on something when I got there. But this time, this garage full of “stuff” seemed empty.
I turned on the lights and took a moment to simply look around at the multiple years’ worth of acquired cars and parts. To the left of me was a ’68 GTX project that had not been started yet. In front of me, Lynn’s dream car — ’70 Hemi Roadrunner project that he was just underway. To the right, was a project that was nearing completion.
The project to the right – a small-block-powered Challenger — was a friend’s car. Lynn was always willing to help almost anyone with his or her car, and I guess that’s why the other two cars in the garage were not finished. Again, as I look around at the cars and all this car stuff that was stacked on shelves and in the rafters, the garage still seemed empty.
This trip to Lynn’s garage was to help the friend gather up his Challenger parts and get the car ready to leave. The two of us rifled through the various storage areas in the garage, looking for Challenger parts. I couldn’t help but think Lynn would soon walk in and ask, “What are looking for?” It felt strange working in the garage without him being there. I might not have known exactly where the parts were that I was trying to find, but I knew Lynn would have. So, as I helped gather the Challenger parts from the garage, I still couldn’t shake the feeling of how empty this filled-to-capacity garage actually seemed.
As the hunt for Challenger parts came to a conclusion, I couldn’t help but stop and take another lap around garage. This time, just to let the memories that filled this three-bay facility where restorations akin to artwork were created, wash over me. As I stood in the bay where the Challenger was parked, I couldn’t help but remember this was the bay where Lynn and I thrashed almost non-stop for five days. We were putting my wife Paula’s Dart back together after he restored the body. That week, we started work each day as the sun came up and left the garage when it was dark. We nearly killed ourselves for those five days, just so we could get the car ready for the Chrysler’s at Carlisle event that year.
As I stood in the garage looking outside, I remembered the time Lynn and I spent an entire Saturday in the driveway, stripping a Satellite part’s car of its useful parts and then cutting the worthless remains into small enough pieces to be hauled away for scrap. The plasma cutter and “sawzall” got a workout that day.
The last few months leading up to the reason the garage now seems empty, Lynn and I had several phone conversations. I can still recall one particular phone call in which he talked about the rebuilt 426 Hemi engine he had just purchased for the Hemi Roadrunner project. Like many Mopar enthusiasts, Lynn always wanted to own a Hemi car, and I could hear how excited he was to finally have a legendary Hemi in his garage.
As I was leaving this seemingly empty garage that was full of stuff, it was with an uneasy feeling that I made sure the lights were off and the doors were all locked. I couldn’t shake the feeling Lynn would be coming out from the house later in the day. Unfortunately, that would not be the case. Never before had I been in such a place that was so full of stuff, yet, felt so empty. So long old friend.