Car Memories with Dad: Saturdays Under the Hood

1976 car

Dads are often who we turn to for car help. Whether they helped you through your first repair, gave you advice while car shopping, or just wanted an excuse to spend time with you in the garage, we know fathers play a big role in the sentimentality of cars. Welcome to our miniseries “Car memories with dad,” in which we’ll share stories about and interviews with some car-loving dads leading up to Father’s Day.

I’m 47 and grew up in the ’70s and ’80s. Besides listening to REO Speedwagon, watching Saturday morning cartoons and playing outside until the streetlights came on, one of my fondest memories is of working under the hood with my dad.

My earliest memories of fixing or maintaining the family car with my dad include learning about the tools and handing him the right sized socket wrench or screwdriver. My first job as assistant mechanic seemed to be about moral support while dad busted his knuckles and swore up a storm. My father was an enthusiast of Cadillacs, or Caddies as he called them. I don’t recall him ever saying the word “Cadillac.” My dad never did own a new Cadillac off the showroom floor. He always bought used Caddies, as he had champagne taste and lived on a beer budget. It seemed that every Caddy he ever brought home leaked oil in the driveway and required constant maintenance.

The first Caddy I remember dad owning was a blue 1975 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. It was used, and I can only imagine dad’s heart pounding and eyes bulging when he drove by and saw it sitting at his favorite used car lot. I remember it parked in our driveway, with tools spread all over heck and dad’s head under the massive hood maintaining the immense V8 engine. Most American cars were built big in those days. It was manufactured before the oil embargo and gas shortages of the Carter administration. Like all Caddies, the Brougham had a huge chrome front bumper, a massive body and a turning radius like Noah’s Ark or the Queen Mary. The Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham was a virtual living room on wheels.  

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So, what ever happened to those Saturdays under the hood? I remember always seeing almost every driveway in the neighborhood with a car being worked on. It’s what we did. Kids with their dads or a group of dads working on each other’s cars was always standard operating procedure. It seems the tradition of kids learning from a parent about how to change a tire or their own oil isn’t as common these days, and we need to bring it back!

1A Auto do-it-yourselfers understand the value of saving money by doing their own car repairs. Although car maintenance is unavoidable, working on your car can also be fun. It’s a hobby to some, a sense of pride for others, but working under the hood with a parent, relative or friend can be a great learning experience, turned into fond memories as well.

I was actually able to find parts for that old 1975 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham on If it was still around, I could replace the ignition coils, brake light switches and much more. Dad would have been proud.

So, now on sunny Saturday mornings when I go for a walk or drive past someone working out in their driveway… it brings a smile to my face. A smile in knowing that perhaps memories are being made—a lifetime of memories created from under the hood.

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