Many will talk about our youth of today, and like in so many generations as they age, they worry about the youth as they are so different from the way we did things. I was a young man in the late 60’s, and of course the idea then was that none of the youth of the 60’s would amount to anything, and civilization as was known would crash. Somehow we muddled through, and many of those worried about the youth, were soon shown that the action or inaction of a few do not define them all. There are many such exceptional youths coming up today, and at some point will make the adjustments society needs.
One such youth is the 17 year old daughter of my good friends Thomas and Kathy Ray. One evening, I was visiting Thomas and happened to be driving my 1963 356B Porsche. When showing it to their daughter Chloe, I asked her if she wanted to drive it. Knowing that most of today’s kids only know automatic transmissions, I assumed she would decline. To my surprise, Chloe handled the old school 4 speed and clutch a bit clumsily at first, but then got into it. I know Chloe to be an involved person with a good heart and a hard worker.
First a little background; Chloe is an area senior with three brothers. She has interests in missions, art, photography, and investing her time with children. Chloe plans to serve in camp ministry here in North Carolina and orphan care ministry abroad in Uganda with Amazing Grace Adoptions and Orphan Care during a gap year before pursuing higher education. Chloe has a heart for others and loves to find ways to serve. She regularly provides child care for ministries in her church. She was a lot of things, but definitely not an auto mechanic; at least before this.
Since she showed me she could drive a standard transmission, and I knew what a senior in High School would want, I had a project for her. When we went back inside, because of her mastery of an old school vehicle, I offered her a car. Mind you this wasn’t just any car. It was a 1968 Classic VW Beetle. The terms of the offer was she would have to build it. I had all the parts scattered in my backyard. I had the place to build it and the tools; and agreed to show/tell her what to do, but she had to do the work. (The second part of the deal was that she would have to help me clean my garage. We haven’t quite got to that stage yet.)
We got started with the engine. With the engine on a stand, she adjusted the valves and cleaned and installed a couple of different carburetors before we got one to work. With a little guidance, she got the engine running on the stand. I did help her get the engine on the ground, but it was her under the car doing the install; and despite gas and the VW leakage from the underside of a car dropping in her face, she got it bolted in and connected.
With the engine in, it was time to work on the electrical. She had to savage a fuse box from a different old bug in the yard. It was close enough to the same year, but of course there needed to be some “adjustment”. Chloe learned to chase wires and how to use a simple meter. Here is an actual picture of the wiring under the hood when she started.
The next step involved getting intimate with a hammer, sandpaper, primer, and my personal favorite, Bondo. The old girl needed a face-lift before heading to the paint booth.
It then became time to put a paint gun in the hand of an eager 17 year old. She picked the color and it was time to paint. A makeshift outdoor paint booth, and it was off to the races.
Chloe came over whenever she could after school and on weekends. It took a few months, but she did it herself. After she got it registered and on the road, of course she was in need of some tunes. She got a radio and speakers for Christmas. She had to grind out the original hole a bit to fit the radio, then proceeded to mount the radio and speakers. She did the install, wiring and speakers herself. It looks and sounds great.
I asked her for her comments about the entire undertaking and the following are her words:
“Before I started on this adventure, I was kind of doubting it would actually happen. When I was in the midst of putting Brenda (the car) together and when she was experiencing a lot of issues, I wanted to give up. I was tired and starting to feel like I was working towards something futile, but Mr. Dave and my parents pushed me to finish what I had started. Now I’m here and I am so grateful for this opportunity and learning experience! I wouldn’t change any of it and I couldn’t have had a cooler, first car!! I was doubtful, then impatient and aggravated at times.. But I kept moving forward. Now I’m proud!”
While Chloe is a unique and gifted person, there are many among our youth that when properly challenged and encouraged, will rise to the occasion. Next time that you may be thinking negatively of our youth, stop to consider what you have done to help encourage or challenge even one youth to reach a goal that they may deem as unobtainable.
Not only did Chloe get a lesson in mechanics, but also one in life.