Memory Lane 1        5/08/06

I'd like to share a little story about a time in my life when I really didn't have any direction. The time was 1972 and I'm a sophomore in High School which is when I first met Gary at his place while riding my dirt bike with another friend of mine. Gary told me that it would be alright if I came back to visit, so I did just that.

When I first started hanging around Gary's place back then, the one thing that was so cool to me was the fact that he really knew a bunch about cars, and he was in a car club along with all these other guys that worked on the clubs 55 Chevy drag car. These guys would also get together and have a club meeting once a month but the best thing about all this to me was seeing all those hot rods sitting out front of his place or at someone else's house when they all got together. Right then it hit me, someday, when I had a car of my own, I wanted to be a part of their club. 

The car club was called "The Shifters" which was in our little town of Banning, Ca. and was started way back in the late 60's. Gary was the president back then and as far as I know, he's always been. 

While I was out and about walking around town back then (I didn't have a car all through High School), I would see these guys cruising around town. They all had nice cars and they all had plaques in the back of the car's rear window that represented the "Shifters" car club. The plaques were made out of cast aluminum and had the word Shifters next to an old Willis car that had the front end in the air and a gearshift sticking through the roof. 

To be in the club, you had to be voted in by the rest of the guys and have a nice car. Now it didn't matter if it was a Chevy, Ford or a Chrysler, the main thing was the car was taken care of and not a piece of junk. Back then a 4 speed was the norm and if you had an automatic transmission in your ride, that was fine but the deal was, if you ain't bang'n gears, it just wasn't as cool....or as fun!!

The car club was going strong through the early 70's and I was learning more about cars everyday by hanging around Gary's place. I found myself going over to his house a couple of times a week after school just to hang out. While I was there, I would watch and learn as Gary and his friends would work on there cars. 

My first job after I was out of High School was working as a machine operator at the Deutsch Co. which was a large business right in town. One reason that I had gotten a job there was because of my background in the machine shop. The background came from High School through there vocational shop class's they offered back then, but are not offered today. I took metal shop 1 while in my freshmen year and then it was auto shop 1 the year after that. I also took wood shop but metal shop seemed to be calling my name so I signed up for metals 2. Metal shop 2 was two hours of shop class which I took for the next three years.

About a year or so went by while working at Deutsch Co. and I had saved enough money to buy my first car. And after learning about Chevy engines from Gary over the years, I had no desire to own anything else but a Bowtie power plant. 

Now most guys would go right out and start looking in the newspaper or by word of mouth for a car to buy but not me, I had other plans. I was ready to spend my money on something but it wasn't a car.....yet. I bought a engine first and it was a brand new LT1 350 small block Chevy along with some new angle plug heads. I had bought many boxes of parts that day and I kept them all in my bedroom because I felt that would be safer than in my garage. After depleting my saving account, it was time to start saving again and the next time any cash was spent, it would be on a car.

The year was 1976 and I finally bought my first car which was a 1971 Camaro to put my new engine into. The car didn't have a straight panel on it and after about a year later with Gary's help along the way, I rolled out a nice metallic blue car that I had worked on night and day and for many hours. I learned a bunch while building that car and was ready to be a part of a unique club called the Shifters. 

But there was one problem now. As time went on, people went in different directions and the car club was gone. I had missed the opportunity to be a part of the car clubs heyday and I was crushed. 

I drove my Camaro everyday for many years and was very proud of what of it and myself for finishing it but I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that I still wasn't in a car club. Over the years I had put it behind me and moved on.

Fast forward to 1999. I finally sold my first car and it was to my good friend Gary. I figured that if anyone would take care of it, Gary, would be the one. I did have a hard time watching my old car going down the road after that but I also new that it was in good hands.

A few short years later, I found out that the Shifters car club had started back up again. There were some new faces in the club mixed in with a handful of old ones as well. That was the good news but the bad news was, I didn't have a car anymore. 

I watched as these guys would go to car shows together and hang out with one another, and again, me without a car. I had missed out again. All I could do was shake my head and wish I had a car so I could join them. 

A couple more years went by, the kids were out of the house and I got the bug again, the bug to build another car. I told myself that I wanted to build a street rod this time in place of a muscle car like I had before. I guess after seeing how cool a street rod could be, I just had to have one. 

It was February, 2003 when I took that trip to the bank for a loan so I could build another car. On my way back from the bank, I stopped in at a local car show that happened to be going on where Gary, and the rest of the car club were at. I talked to a few guys while I was there and after looking and seeing all the cool cars that day, I was more excited about being in the car club more than ever. 

I went to a couple of Shifters car club meetings while I was building my car which gave me an idea of what to expect once I had my car done. I attended the meetings as a guest and was not officially a member at that time but I was hopeful they would vote me in. 

As most of you know, my 33 Ford took me 2 3/4 years to build and I was now ready to enjoy the car, attend various car shows and be a part of the Shifters car club. More good news and bad news here. The good news is my car is ready to drive, the bad news is, the car club dried up again. I missed being in the club by a few months. I don't have any words to describe how that felt once I saw the club slowly drift off into the sunset. It was like I lost something very dear to me.

A couple of months ago, I entered my 33 in a car show for the very first time. Once the lawn chairs were out and Gary and Debbie, Larry, Terri and I were all taking in the show, Larry got up and went into the trunk of his car. He then walked over and gave me something that Gary and Larry must have had planned for awhile. They gave me a Shifters car club plaque which was to go inside my car. I could hardly believe my eyes because that was the last thing I ever expected to have happen that day. At that moment, I was the big winner at the car show because of that piece of cast aluminum that was handed to me. My wife thought I'd lost my mind because I showed her the plaque a few times and she said "'s nice" but she had no idea what it really meant to me.

To make a long story longer, I've been taking in "that whole moment" for a couple of months and now it's time to mount that plaque in the rear window of my car. If only Gary and Larry knew what it meant to me when I held that rectangular piece of aluminum, I might have had to wipe my eyes but being the macho kinda guy I am (yeah right), I never let anybody else know exactly how I felt. Thank you sooo much guys for giving me the opportunity to be a part of "The Shifters Car Club". Even though the club isn't officially going anymore, I'll wear it proudly as if it were.

Let's take a look at what it looks like now and how it looks in the car.

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