Car. How do you define it?
For many, it is simply a mode of transportation – a tool for daily commute to and from work, the ability to take children from home to school and back again, and the convenience of going to the supermarket to purchase weekly groceries.
You get the idea.
For some, though, it is more than that – it is freedom, independence, and the thought of being able to just jump in, turn the key and go…wherever. For the select few, cars have been the backbone of our lives. It has shaped the people we have become.
One word fits this perfectly. Enthusiast.
Our passion for what makes a car work, how it drives, and the pleasure we get from that driving takes us to a level of being that most people cannot, or will not, understand. It makes people outside our “clique” look at us and think we are strange or weird. But to those on the inside, it makes us…us.
While my first car was neither what I really wanted nor the performance machine that many young boys my age would have dreamed of owning, it was still a form of independence that I was given at the ripe age of sixteen. Getting my license just days before my parents went out of town on vacation is something I will not soon forget. The fact that I was allowed to stay home while they traveled, my brother in tow, was an empowering feeling. I still remember my first night cruising!
So, how about the older generation? The guys and gals that grew up during a time when the American culture was deep into muscle cars. Names like the Camaro, Mustang, Baracuda, Corvette and Road Runner. Ahh…how I would love to have been alive during that period.
Well, as it so happens, a certain member of NICOclub was around in those days! He also happens to have had quite a few nice little “hot rods”, if you will. These days, though, he has something a bit different. You see, while NICOclub is Nissan Infiniti Car Owners Club…it is not an exclusive club and all enthusiasts are welcome. So, while his car may not be a Nissan or Infiniti, it is definately a car with quite a bit of “cool factor”.
Mark Hartman, known as the G.O.B. on the boards, is in the process of restoring, or, as he likes to call it, “Resto-Modding”, a 1963 Chevrolet Impala station wagon. However, it is not your typical Impala wagon. It has been through a heart transplant, had a Ford 9″ rear end, disk brake conversion and a few other little neat bits ‘n pieces added to it, as well. Throw in the fact that the man doing the majority of the grunt work restoring this car is a friend from Mark’s past and an owner of the same Corvette for more than 30 years. And trust me when I say this – the guy has skill.
Anyway, enough introduction already. Let’s meet Mark and his wagon:
So, tell us – how have you been recently?
Mark: To tell the truth, I suffer from migraines and lately they have been kicking my butt. But life goes on and we all have problems, most worst than mine, so if my eyes open its time for another day on God’s green earth.
Let me ask, how did you find out about NICO?
Have you owned any Nissan or Infiniti vehicles in the past?
Mark: My son Neal (Gold Digger on the forums) had told me about it, and we thought that maybe some of the fans might enjoy the G.O.B. flap his gums about stuff. And yes at one point I did own a 1990 SE-V6 King Cab 4×4 5 speed Hard Body in Cherry Red Pearl, and IT DID off-road at my best friend’s farm when I was not out of town working. (He passed away Feb 29, 2004) His handle back in the day was Gold Digger. And at some point I would like to own a Titan King Cab 4×4.
*Author’s note: I use the handle Gold Digger as a tribute to that friend. He was very instrumental in my passion for cars, along with my father.
Any particular time frame for the Titan King Cab acquisition?
Mark: More than likely not in my life time.
Well, ya never know about that.
When did your love affair of cars begin?
Mark: I would like to say Feb 20, 1956 at birth, but as far as I remember it was when my father went hunting with his friend Al had recently bought a brand new 1962 red and white Corvette…and that is what they took rabbit hunting. From then on I loved cars and some trucks. The 1963 Corvette split window and the 1963 Jaguar XKE, both coupes I think were the best at the time.
Are there any specific people in your life, living or not that influenced you on your love of cars?
Mark: My dad of course, and the friend Al mentioned earlier. Rick of course and a friend of his by the name of Bob that had a Super Bee with of all things a 426 HEMI. And boy, when you are 17 years old and Rick and Bob will talk to you…let alone let you hang out with them…it’s a treat.
Also one other person I must mention is “Duck.” He had a bada** 1967 Mercury Cougar (he now owns a BADA** 1968 Camaro Z/28). And all this while I am still in high school. Not to forget people like Chip Foose, Boyd Coddindton plus many more.
And I do not want to forget Mike West (my best friend and the original Gold Digger) and my sons Neal and Stephen who have helped keep me going on, even with the headaches.
But the NUMBER ONE person to thank is my wife, Sherri, because without her, no kids, no car, no home, no anything. And to think it all started on a first date…to a drag strip!
Thank You God!
How are you with doing things yourself?
Mark: Quite frankly…I SUCK!
Can you tell us specifically what cars you have owned and which ones stick out in your mind as being some of your favorites and why?
Mark: 1963 Chrysler Town and Country wagon, 1967 6 cylinder Camaro, 1968 Firebird convertible with a 1969 400 Ram-Air III with a 4 speed (just what a 17 year old needed), 1971 Slant 6 Duster. My 1974 Mercury Capri V6 was just plain fun to drive. A 1966 389 Pontiac Catalina wagon, 1977 Dodge 318 short bed Van, 1980 300ci Ford Bronco 4X4, 1983 V6 Bronco II 4×4, 1984 F150 4×4, 1988 F 250 4×4, 1982 Dodge W350 4×4 Sno-Commander, 1990 SE-V6 Hard Body 4×4, 1989 V6 S-10 Blazer 4×4, 1992 Jeep Cherokee 4×4, 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4×4, and of course, the S.S. Going Broke (1963 Chevy Impala Wagon) and not counting the cars my wife has had since being married.
That’s quite a list of cars. Are there any there you wish you hadn’t owned? Any “problem child” cars?
Mark: 1963 Chrysler Town & Country slant 6 wagon: heat riser problems and worn out shift linkage, bad wiring harness. 1980 Ford 300ci 4×4 Bronco: bad thrust washers in the front axle from the factory and bushing/bearing set in the transfer case going out in less than 3,000 miles. But, nah…I am glad in the long run that I’ve owned all the cars I did.
Do any other members of your family, immediate or extended, have the same passion for cars as you do?
Mark: Why yes they do, thanks for asking. My wife still enjoys a well running car and knows her way around a stick shift very well. She learned early on as the first cars I had were sticks. Both my sons enjoy a passion for a fine machine. And to be in tune with your ride no matter what it is, you must listen, feel, look and just be a part of it, to treat it as you would yourself. My sister has the same feelings for cars as I do and my brother Scott does more so, I think. He has a 1969 Camaro I have not seen but I think Neal may have. Before that he was working on a 1962 T-Bird. My other brother Eric loves dirt-biking with his family and boating sports of all kinds. So, yes…all of the family is in to fine machines of some kind.
Now, tell us a little bit about the car you are currently having restored and how it came to be in your hands.
Mark: It’s a 1963 Chevrolet Impala Station Wagon, but not your run of the mill 1963 wagon. Oh…and I am not restoring it. Rick Carpenter and his friends are doing the work. Click here to see all that is posted about the car.
As to how I got the car, I was looking online for a 1958 pick-up for a friend from church and just for the hell of it typed in 1963 impala wagon and started to look around. I found one the same color inside and out as my fathers 1963 wagon that he had when I was a kid and made some calls, then called my son. Turns out, he knew someone who lived in the area of the car. He asked said person if he would take a look at the car for him. He looked, called Neal back and said, “Pull the trigger on this one. It’s worth it.” The rest is a lot of MONEY under the bridge.
You mentioned your dad had a 1963 wagon the same interior and exterior color. So, why did you decide you wanted one for yourself?
Mark: It was the first car my dad let me drive (aged 7) and also as a tribute to him. Also it’s a car that can be hot rodded with full wheel tubs and NOT lose the back seat, so I can still take my grandkids for rides when they come to visit.
Plus you have to admit that to get beat by a old guy in a wagon kind of sucks.
If there were any cars from your past that you could have kept or repurchased, what would those have been?
Mark: My 1968 Firebird, the 1974 Capri, the 1990 Hard Body, and my wife’s 1967 Ford Mustang. It could just about get the front tires off the ground on a good take off with the N-50 rear tires. I know this as a fact because people had seen me do it. Then there was the one day all the playing around caught up to me. That one cost me some money.
Have you ever driven any cars owned by your friends or family that you thought were stand outs?
Mark: Well, your Skyline does stand out. Also my brother Scott’s 1966 Corvette, my friend Oakie’s 1968 Charger was pretty hard core and I know some others I’m forgetting…many of which were my friends from long ago who where more than kind to let me behind the wheel of their pride and joy, so please forgive me.
May God bless and keep you all in his grace. Until we meet again.
This article was written by Gold Digger, a moderator on NICOclub’s Forums.