Leading up to this Father’s Day in our miniseries “Car memories with dad,” we share stories and interviews that explore how those who helped through our first repairs, gave advice while car buying, or just wanted an excuse to spend time with us in the garage have impacted our relationship with cars.
I vaguely remember shyly checking out and sitting in my dad’s friend’s Corvettes as a little girl with my sisters. I’m sure I thought they were cool or fun, but undoubtedly didn’t understand or appreciate all of the work and passion that went into those cars behind the scenes.
Fast forward to the first truly sunny day in what feels like months about a month ago in Sterling, MA., when Bob Garofoli and I are pouring over family photos he pulled out to share. The pictures feature many smiling faces — young and old — and cars.
The cars are more than just cars, of course. Not simply because many are Corvettes, but because they mark memories throughout Bob’s life.
Like father, like son
Bob is a carpenter by day who “[loves] going down to the garage” at night. Bob’s father was also a carpenter who spent his nights in a garage, repairing lawnmowers with an engine mechanic. It was in that garage where Bob watched the two men work that he built his first car.
“They let me build a go-kart with extra parts kickin’ around. I had the first motorized go-kart on my street when I was a kid,” he said.
Although the neighborhood dads weren’t thrilled about it, “my father seemed to be pretty proud of me going up and down the street.”
Bob’s father, a “mostly Chevy guy,” was supportive of his son’s car-related endeavors, including Bob’s purchase of a 1967 Caprice Classic when he was in the Navy. Bob asked his father if he would co-sign a loan so that he could buy the car, but his father said that wouldn’t be necessary.
For “all the times I worked for him in high school … he set aside money — put it in the bank and opened up an account. He gave it to me so I could actually pay in cash for the car,” he said.
When Bob started restoring Corvettes, he remembered what his dad taught him growing up: Buy the best parts and tools the first time around. The end result would be better and “you wouldn’t have any regrets.”
“He taught me the value of a dollar, and how to work for it and get the things I wanted by working to get them,” Bob said.
For the kids
Although Bob used to be more of a purist when it came to restoring Corvettes, he says it’s now no longer about the cars being perfect. He’d rather enjoy them.
One of his favorite cars to work on was a 1963 split-window customized drag. It definitely wasn’t a perfect Corvette when he bought it, but it was special, partly because it was the last car he bought that his father got to see.
It’s clear, that as he did with his father, Bob enjoys sharing his love of cars with his family.
A lot of the photos we looked at were of Bob’s daughter, Nicole, as a little girl, either sitting in or posing with the Corvettes her dad was working on at the time.
His daughter is now married and has children of her own, with whom Bob is thrilled to share his interest in cars.
There are photos of Bob’s 3-year-old grandson, Braydon, that resemble photos of Bob around that age, sitting in and wrenching on kid-size cars.
Bob smiles as he recalls the last three Father’s Days spent with Braydon and his son-in-law, Ryan, going to car shows and visiting the Lars Anderson and Collings Foundation museums.
Ryan, who Bob said is a great dad and an avid sports fan, has become more interested in cars because of Bob.
“I think knowing that I’m a car guy, he’s done research into cars so we can have a conversation about them,” Bob said.
“I’ve been doing the same thing with sports, but I think he’s doing a much better job than I am,” he said, laughing.
Bob said he has great memories of his family and their family cars.
Now, he says, “I want to make some memories with my grandchildren, and daughter and son-in-law.”