There are people who influence your life and ultimately help make you the person you are—and in some cases, even the person you will be. For me, one of those people was and continues to be a guy we’ll just call “T.” T was my neighbor when I was a kid growing up in the 60’s and 70’s and he lived next door with his mother, a proper Southern woman, his dog Satan and a core inventory of vehicles that always included a ’66 Triumph Bonneville, a ’65 Ducati, a ’48 Buick and a Jaguar that seemed to rotate into and out of the starting lineup. There were other notable vehicles du jour, including a hearse and a mid-60’s ’Vette. This is the kind of lineup that garnered a kid’s attention in the 60’s, and aside from his mother’s pristine rose garden getting in the way of my baseballs on a daily basis, living next door to T was pretty cool.
An old-time railroader, T worked—and didn’t work—odd hours, sometimes for weeks on end. When most people his age were behaving predictably, the only certainty with T was that you could never be sure what he would do next. One time when I was 12 or 13, I helped him move. I’m not really sure why he moved and it wasn’t very far away, but he needed help and I was able. This netted me the first bike I could say I worked for—an old Honda twin that didn’t run. I’d like to say I got it running on my own, but I didn’t. Although, it may have helped set the stage for later, more successful projects.
I grew up and moved away from the old neighborhood, T’s house burned down and Mom and Dad eventually sold our house next door, but somehow, we always stayed loosely in touch with T. For some reason, he decided to sell off the Ducati in an auction of some of his belongings and he called me to let me know. Just in case I wanted it. I did and I got it for a reasonable price at the auction. That was before American Pickers, Pawn Stars and Gas Monkey made everyone see dollar signs every time something 20 years old came up for sale. The Duc sat for several years before I restored it. I don’t ride it much, but enjoy showing it from time to time.
A decade or two later, I got another call from T and he told me he was ready to quit riding the Triumph. Was I still interested in it? Hell yeah I was interested in it, and for a price much less than the going rate I rode that 14″ z-barred, chrome cable-wrapped English twin home. Still have it too, and I view it and the Duc as a matched set.
So, it’s safe to say that aside from my father who influenced me by owning every size motorcycle known to man and often selecting a size just right for my age, T has maintained an influence on my happy motoring lifestyle.
Some time had passed since the Triumph transaction, and for a variety of reasons I didn’t see T as often as I used to. Then, one day, there was a knock at the door. It was T and he was in search of some mechanical advice about a particular Jaguar he had. Seems the door handles were prone to failure and he was searching for some parts to fix them along with researching a potential head gasket issue. I invited him in and we surfed around the Web a while, printed out a few pages and then adjourned to the kitchen where I gave him the first beer he’d had in 13 years. We talked about some old times (no offense, Mr. Simon) and eventually he was on his way, leaving me nostalgic and wondering just how this chapter would end. I’ve never really known T’s age. “Cool” makes a guy like that timeless, but it was easy to see the years were gaining on him. He no longer looked “full-sized” the way grownups look to you when you’re a kid. I remembered and I wondered…
A few weeks later at the end of a Sunday afternoon, the phone rang. It was T and he was about to continue shaping my future. “EJ,” he said (that’s what he calls me),”Come on out here; I want to give you that Jag.” Now, aside from a fully-engulfed house fire, the absolute last thing I needed at that time was a project Jaguar of advancing years, but like a moth to a flame I went. It took a little time to figure out where to put it, as cars take up a lot more room than bikes—but I begged and borrowed a empty bay in a garage and called AAA to bring it home and the rest remains unwritten. But she’s mine! Just like the bikes that preceded it, the car is much more than a collection of parts. It represents the good, the bad and the ugly of days gone by and youth that may not have been misspent, but went for a hell of lot less than it should have. The Jag probably won’t become a museum piece like its siblings have, but it’ll keep me off the streets in more ways than one.