Gary Lambert Memorial  4       10/14/06

Coming home from the races

When you’re at some kind of racing event, it usually lasts a long time and sometimes we would stay there past midnight watching who won that night. When it was time to make the trip back home, we were both tired. After loading up the car, tools, extra transmission, along with all the extra stuff, we'd hit the freeway and we were in for the long ride home. OCIR was about 75 miles from our town so it would be an hour and a half trip on the road.

As most of you know, when you're cruising back home at night, and if your not driving, you have a tendency to close your eyes while the sound of “road-noise” puts you to sleep. If Gary ever saw you doing this, he would bring you back to reality. What he would do is wait till just the right moment (like when your head was like a “bobble head doll”) and then he would gently real you back in. The way he did this was by first checking his mirrors (safety first you know), then look over at you one more time and then slam on the brakes and scream as LOUD as he could. A rude awakening would be an understatement when this happened to you as you have just been slammed into the all steel dash of his 1962 Chevy pickup wondering what just happened. Now I say, “slammed into the dash” because back then, there wasn’t a seatbelt law so we didn’t wear them, which only meant one thing, you slid off the seat and into that nice soft piece of steel. 



I only fell for this once or twice in my whole life because this would keep you awake for the entire ride back home... and then some. The only thing I remember right after Gary’s wakeup call was him laughing his ass off at me for several minutes. I have to say though; this was just another thing I learned from him because I was able to pass this along to some of my friends and to my kids a few years later.


Working on Gary’s 55 Chevy

In early 1974, Gary bought a 1955 Chevy (two door post), which he found behind a house right down the street from me. I remember helping him push it on his trailer along with a few friends because it didn’t run. The car had been sitting in this guy’s field for many years and as Gary would drive by, he would see it. He finally stopped and asked if it was for sale to which the guy agreed. This car would be the foundation for me learning to work on cars because I was at his house almost everyday helping him with it. I had worked on a few other small jobs at his house but this one was from start to finish.

As the months went by, I was becoming more knowledgeable about how cars worked because Gary had a very good way of teaching you about things. What I mean is, he would show you what the part was, how it worked and how it worked with the other parts. I ended up learning so much over the build of this car, that I was able to have the confidence to build one myself later in years (which I’ll get into later). Some people don’t like to share too much of what they know but not Gary, he would be willing to teach you, as long as you paid attention.



Gary did all of his own work except for upholstery as he let someone else do that part. But he did do his own bodywork and paint among all of his other talents. He learned about auto body and paint in a nearby Collage and once he got the hang of that, he never looked back. This was just another thing that he was so good at and he taught me this as well. I ended up doing a lot of sanding, priming, block sanding, guide coating, and even more sanding once the paint was sprayed.

When Gary painted, he used acrylic lacquer, which was a lot of work. He knew how to spray enamel but when you’re painting in your backyard, you really need a spray booth to do enamel right. When you spray lacquer, you can get away with a little dirt in the air or a run in the paint, because you can sand most of that out.

Seven or eight months later, the car was on the road and it looked great. It had a LT1 350 in it with a four-speed transmission and it ran so good. We cruised town all the time and I couldn’t wait to own a car of my own someday. He let me drive it a few times and I was getting much better at driving a stick (because I couldn’t get much worse).



Buying parts 

Hot rods were now a big part of my life, and it was also engraved deep into my soul. The year was 1975 and I had been working full time for about a year now. I had also saved a little money along the way, which was another thing Gary had taught me to do. I didn’t have a car yet but I knew what engine that I wanted, and that was an LT1 like in Gary’s 55 Chevy. I couldn’t think of a better engine to have back then so my sights were set on buying one of these

Over the next few months, Gary and I would take trips into the city and he’d help me buy parts at a discount. What I would do was call in sick to work once a month or so and we’d go and buy stuff. I remember all this like it was yesterday, loading up my brand new 350 into his Green 62 Chevy pickup. I couldn’t wait to hear that engine run, but I didn’t even own a car….yet! Buying a car would be next because I had most of the engine parts and to keep all those parts safe, I kept them in my bedroom (no kidding). Keeping them in the house was no big deal because I lived alone. But when someone would come over, they wondered what all those boxes were full of, and they were stacked all over the place. Typical gear-head!!.


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