My granddad´s family was in the horse and carriage business, but my grandfather Antonio soon saw the advantages of the new automobiles. So he sold his shares in the family business back to his siblings and went into the car business, moving to Barcelona and buying and selling cars, driving, whatever he could do to live his passion.
He eventually moved to Madrid where he became a driver for the US ambassador, driving US Generals and dignitaries to see the Civil War front. After that he became the driver for the British ambassador – he always claimed they had better cars. There he transported allied pilots and crews rescued by the Resistance from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar in neutral, but really Axis friendly, Franco ruled Spain.Changing cars in different locations and sometimes carrying my father and uncle Antonio as decoys. For that job he got a medal from the Queen of England which he bequeathed to me. Although most importantly, with infinite patience, he taught me to drive.
So my dad and my uncle grew up in embassy garages, driving around, tinkering with, and washing, lots of washing, cars. They both grew to embrace motoring both of the four wheel and two wheel variety, and both passed that passion on to me, which I have continued to cultivate. This makes me a certified petrol head. When the Newburyport High School where Tracy taught needed a van driver, I was in. When a friend wanted me to drive their car from New York city to Boston, I jumped. When a friend in Boston needed to pick up some luggage she had left in New York city we drove down, picked them up, had lunch and drove back. I jump at the opportunity to give anyone a ride. I love driving.
I learned to drive – as did most of my friends in an old Citröen 2CV “La Petra” in the countryside outside of Madrid where there was lots of driving around, tinkering with, and washing, lots of washing, cars. That simple two cylinder, air cooled, beautiful car is still in our country house waiting for some tender loving care to get her back in running order.
My uncle used to work for Exxon in Spain so he had a fleet of Land Rovers at his disposal. When some of these where decommissioned and auctioned off, he got one for me when I was 18 or 19. It was a topless short wheelbase V6 and it was a blast. That started an ongoing love affair with Land Rovers which progressed to a Defender 90 in 1992 and to a Discovery in 1998.
When I moved to the US in 2005 we got a Toyota Highlander, I didn’t like it so much, so when I hit an ice patch and crashed we found a great deal in an Audi A4 to replace it. I loved that A4 so much that when the financing deal expired I traded it in for the same model – only station wagon. That is Helmut, still with me seven years later!
In between there have been Renaults, Seats, Fords, VWs, etc.
When my dear friend Alfonso got involved in car racing – he even raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was great fun to follow him around to his races around Spain. Eventually he would start his own racing team and is now a successful competitor in GP2, the class right under Formula 1.
At UNC I was in the founding group of the UNC Gearheads Club. It is now floundering a bit, but in its heyday we had great fun going to car gatherings and to a great Porsche exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Fine Art!
My dad’s old V8 Mercedes is still sitting in the garage, waiting, like “Petra”, for some tender loving care. But the days of blasting down the autobahn at 200 km/h listening to jazz are not going to come back, so who knows what will happen to the old Bismarck.