Ride of the Week: What’s it like driving into the NEW YEAR?

We had a pretty eventful 2018, folks. 

There was a lot of change, disaster coping and shifts. But, in all this, Malibu prospers and it’s important to know why.

In the physical world, we are surrounded by beauty in many forms, from the ocean to the skies to the hills. But back in the ’50s, people didn’t want to be here. At least, most people. The drive into town was just too much. But those that were true Malibuites (like Bill Armstrong), knew that Malibu’s gift existed in the moment — the moment you let things go and became present.

Many of us hardcore Malibuites get it. We’ve been here a long time and don’t plan on going anywhere else. It’s central now to everything. Hollywood, the Val, car shows, 385 Starbucks. If you do it right, you can live and breathe the ’Bu. We do, and have since 1980. But going into 2019, it’s not enough to have resolutions. Resolutions are like diets. They work for a bit, but you really don’t want to be on one. So, over time, they disappear.

Malibuites embrace change. And change is what makes us strong. At least, it’s about how we perceive change. It’s not good or bad, but how we look at it moves it forward. So, if you’re a car guy or girl, change things up a bit. Hit some shows that you don’t normally hit, like the Petersen Museum, Grand National Roadster Show or Benedict Castle Car Show. Embrace change and it will reward you with new experiences. Use PCH north and south as a road to new adventures.

Ride of the Week is generally about someone with a cool car, but sometimes it’s about what you do with your cool car. Get out there. Hike. Meet people. Share your stories of success, passion, hope and excitement for 2019. In “Blade Runner,” 2019 was dismal, dark and dirty, but we managed to not become that. In fact, beauty is alive and well and you have to get that cool car out there and grab some of it.

I make my living doing automotive coloring books and our TV show. And I choose that because I’m living my passion. It’s my calling since I was a child. Have you found yours? Do you jump out of bed every morning excited for the day and what you’ll do with it? I do. If that’s not the case for you, then make 2019 the year when it happens. Find your calling. Don’t let another day go by living a life that is half full when you can embrace change and set a new life in motion.

This can happen in an instant. Get in and drive somewhere new. 

SoCal is filled with automotive gold. In every direction. It’s free. It costs nothing but your time. If you’re stressed or have doubts about something, let it go. Take a chance, get out there and then let me know what you did so I can make you an official 2019 Ride of the Week.

Life is a gift and every moment you spend wasting it will not come back. Want to take a trip? Go! Want to have a relationship? Go! Want to experience something new? Then go!

From Newport Beach to Solvang, there are hundreds of car shows and events to visit and experience. If you’re not sure where to go, visit my website (fireballtim.com) and I’ll help, but one thing is for sure: when you do the same things, you get the same thing. Do something different, and life begins.

Have a great 2019, my friends! And I hope to see you on PCH!

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

Ride of the Week: Daniel Dews’ Woodie Masterpiece

Ahhh, Christmastime is upon us — a time of cheer, goodwill and giving. 

So, with all of this going on, why are some people so blue? And what can we do here in the ’Bu to cheer them up? I have just the answer.

A woodie. Seriously. No one — and I mean no one — can look at a woodie and be sad. What people fail to realize is that within woodies are secret happy ingredients that penetrate all sadness like ammonia penetrates grease. Like water penetrates my roof. Like chocolate penetrates my desire to not have dessert. It’s foolproof.

So, it’s with sincere gratitude that I present to you a present in the form of Daniel Dews’ 1948 Chevy Fleetmaster woodie. 

There, don’t you already feel amazingly awesome? I can see the hairs standing up where you didn’t have hair before.

And this proves that woodies are magical beasts like unicorns. Only made of wood. And, a few other things, but without the horns. OK, where was I? 

Ah! Dews’ woodie — and why it’s awesome. As a 46-year varnishing vet, Dews spent decades restoring yachts in Marina Del Rey to the point where his finish became unlike anyone else’s.

And if you hit the Malibu Christmas Woodie Parade, you’d have noticed that Dews basically sold his soul to the varnishing devil, because his woodie is epic. 

And although it’s a ’48, it’s got a ’53 straight six motor. But, who cares, ’cause it’s all about the varnish, baby. I mean, you could eat Taquitos and guacamole off the wood, then see yourself smiling as you licked it clean. (Too visual?) Anyway, let’s hear from the master varnisher aka Captain SuperVarnish himself.

“I found this car in San Pedro 11 years ago,” Dews states. “And since the Beach Boys made the woodie famous in their surf music and I was in Hawthorne High School, which was home to the Beach Boys, I grabbed it. I love the beauty of these lovely vehicles. Lovely, lovely pieces of furniture.” 

Only a woodworker would say such a thing. Maybe he forgot to notice it was a car? Maybe he just wanted a driveable house? Maybe we should move on? 

“I enjoy going to car shows,” he continues. “But when I got the car, I went to work immediately on the wood finish. I stripped off the old varnish and sanded the wood down. Then [I] stained all of it by applying 40+ coats of marine varnish. I have close to 750 hours in this finish. Whew!”

I’m pretty sure I would have stopped around coat 12, but not Captain Varnish! 

But only part of the woodie culture is the build. The second half is the feeling behind driving a piece of art. And that, my friends, is what woodies are: art. In every way a car can be.

So, spending a bit of time with the woodie club allowed people to meander like it was an art exhibit in the Louvre. (Imagine, the Louvre having a woodie exhibit!)

Dews’ love for woodies obviously didn’t stop at the build, as he and the Santa Barbara Woodie Club now peruse the coast in search of beach breaks to display, hang and swap stories.

Much like it was back in the day during my time at C-Street in Ventura. Beach tunes, fire pits, nighttime football under headlights and the sound of the surf. Oh, and surfing of course.

Still with me? Still sad? I think not. And that, my friends, is the magic of the woodie and why these pieces of art not only still exist to bring joy, but to cruise PCH in search of present moments in time that harken back to joyous beach moments.

If you ever get down, just think of a woodie and wait for your smile to return. Then, be grateful that there are those out in the world like Captain SuperVarnish who take the time to make SoCal safe and enjoyable. 

Happy holidays, folks!

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

Ride of the Week… Fire-destroyed Ranchero finds new home at Murphy Auto Museum

The Woolsey Fire left many cars in ruin. 

Literally hundreds of them litter the ’Bu, and many of them will head to the scrap heap.

But when my friend Thom Panunzio asked me if there was anything we could do with his 1957 Ford Ranchero, I had to take a moment to contemplate. This Ranchero was in Panunzio’s hands for many years and two days before the fire started, it was just completed. His to-do list was done. The next stop for the car was my Wheels and Waves show here in Malibu.

But alas, the fires ripped through the canyon and destroyed his garage, cars and all its contents. 

So I made a call to my friend David Neel at The Murphy Auto Museum. What if we could drag the car out of the ash-littered garage, take it to the museum and put in on display as a piece of history? And to no shock at all, Neel was immediately on board.

A few weeks later, I was heading to Panunzio’s again with my wife, Kathie, and friend, Ken Vela, to grab the car. We posted on Facebook that we needed a trailer and up popped Dennis Burnham from Torrance. He had just purchased a trailer and was eager to help. We arrived at the garage to find that the car sat on its belly and was in park. The only way to get it out was to drag it. So, we did.

It took four hours to get the car on the bed — twice as long as we expected. 

We had to come back the next day and drive it from Malibu all the way to Oxnard, ash flying out the back. The dismount of the ’57 was slightly easier than getting it on the trailer, albeit it falling a few times. But once we got it cleared using a forklift, we set her down in a prime spot where people could see her.

The Murphy is currently closed for the holidays, but will reopen in January if you want to go up and get a closer look.

But as we settled the car in the space, Panunzio called me to express his gratitude that the car that he once had truly loved was going to have a second life. This made me very happy and gave me perspective in regard to the cars, homes and things that people lost in this fire. The attachments we had are not about the things, but about the feelings behind them.

The emotion that was rattled in this year’s fire was what truly shook us. Most things can be replaced and some things can’t, but the feelings we suffered from hit us to our core. Many of us identify ourselves with what we have instead of who we are. And it’s who we are that truly defines us.

Loss of your possessions is horrible. But loss of yourself is worse. And that can only happen if you give up, which is something Malibu will never do — and that’s why I’m grateful to be here with all of you.

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

Ride of the Week: Ken Hower and his 1948 STYLEMASTER

Going to car shows in SoCal is a unique experience in many ways, but one of the things I enjoy most is the unexpected. 

There’s always a car show unicorn that invariably appears and wows the crowd. But it doesn’t have to be a huge show. 

Last month, I headed up PCH to the Murphy Museum for a Chevy show. It was small, at about 15 cars, because of the overwhelming fire activities that were still going on. Those who did come just did so to get a break from the smoke and clear their heads. For me, I had gone about two weeks without seeing anyone smile, so it felt good to see people recovering and trying to make the most of their days.

While there, I met Ken Hower. Normally a printer repair technician, Hower has been on workers’ compensation for the last 17 months while trying to recover from a hand injury. So, a car show was just the thing.

Hower brought in an amazing and super rare 1948 Chevrolet Stylemaster sedan delivery wagon. It is a stunning piece of Chevy history, customized in a beautiful dark aqua and silver leaf. 

“Well, these cars were built on a car chassis as opposed to a truck chassis,” Hower explains. “They were used as work vehicles mostly in and around town for making deliveries, etc. You know, the local grocery store, the hardware store … that kind of thing. This is why they only have a 12-gallon gas tank and [are] not meant for long trips.” 

The car is unusual and rare because it came as a Stylemaster. Hower explained that as all the pretty chrome and stainless appointments. 

“Most sedan delivery wagons were ‘plain Janes,’“ he adds.

Hower has owned this SDW for less than a year and has done most of the mechanical work, fixing a cracked block and more.

“This car runs like a top now,” he said. “ … I actually got this car in a horse trade, so [I am] looking for a new home for it now as I have too many cars! It all sounds good, owning multiple classic cars like this but, truthfully, it’s hard to keep up on seven cars.”

According to Hower, he never saw himself owning this genre of car (known as a Bomb.) But having had this one for a while, he gained a new perspective. 

“I saw similar cars around in clubs and while I appreciated all their time and effort, was never on my radar,” he said. “When I drive it around town, it turns some heads for sure and attracts lots of attention.” 

The paint and silver-leaf striping makes the car a show winner.

But, let’s let Hower explain: “The paint, silver leaf, striping, and airbrushing really works. The paint is a stock GM Color from 1992 called Dark Teal Blue Metallic. There’s a small metal flake in it that really glitters. Depending on the light, it goes from a very deep blue all the way to a really gorgeous blue green. A guy named Mike from the San Bernardino area did the silver striping, but that’s about all I know as I found a receipt for it in the glovebox. Folks ask all the time who did it … and do I have his number.”

Hower basically cruises around to shows and fun events in hopes that his wheels will catch the eye of their next owner. But you’d have to be a very unique individual to own this one. It’s the epitome of “car culture.”

And finally, Hower’s best story goes like this.

“So, I go to the gas station and fill her up with gas and fill some air in the rear bags ([the car] has manual fill rear airbags),” he said. “Then I get ready to put the air in and actually start and the end on the fill line blows apart. The rear end drops down to about 2 inches from the asphalt. I look around and I find the parts, but can’t get the ferule back on correctly. So, [I had] no choice but to drive the car back across town with the butt dragging. Had to cruise and try not to hit any bumps or potholes. Was the weirdest ride I ever had and I was cracking up the whole way blasting ‘Low Rider’ by War.” 

And what does Ken love about driving in Malibu?

“It’s the epitome of the SoCal lifestyle,” Hower said. “When I take my ’62 Vette or the ’68 Camaro convertible out and head south to Malibu … the drive from Mugu Rock to Sunset just couldn’t be any better. Thought about moving once … but then I woke up and realized … it really couldn’t get any better than this.”

Gratitude goes a long way to making your life a complete package. Ken gets this and lives the car lifestyle. Hopefully, he can find someone who loves this car as much as he does. Have a great week, folks!

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

Ride of the Week… Paul Grisanti and his Unicorn AMG MERCEDES WAGON

There are two kinds of people here in the ’Bu.

There are those who move here, check it out for a while and realize that the salt air, beach life and PCH traffic isn’t for them, and then there’s the other kind. You know, the lifers.

Now, the lifers are an interesting bunch. They don’t see the traffic. They don’t notice the salt air and how it permeates everything. All they see is Malibu — an overwhelmingly beautiful and tiny spot on the planet that, if they will allow it, will fill them with the kind of joy and peace that exists nowhere else on the planet. And when your head is in the stars and your feet far below the ground, it’s hard to notice the little irritations of life.

If you don’t know Paul (and Sara) Grisanti, then you have some work to do as a true Malibuite. The reason being that I’m pretty sure Paul has photocopied himself and is in virtually every corner of this town simultaneously.

And, as a result of this, Paul’s understanding of the streets, homes, addresses and current traffic snarls is unsurpassed. As a real estate broker (a la mode), it’s Paul’s job to know virtually every home in this town, and he’s being doing that for the last 40 years as a resident of the ’Bu. (Sorry, Paul, I had to give up the numbers.)

To get around, Paul has chosen a vehicle that scoots this town and its potential buyers into an automotive frenzy. Paul’s ride is a 500-plus horsepower Mercedes-AMG E63 S Shooting Brake Wagon with carbon ceramic brakes. (I only point out the brakes as the car tends to thunder up and distort time. Carbon brakes help to suck you back into this universe.)

The car and its launch capabilities is bone stock and all-wheel-drive. Right out of the box, it’s like the Starship Enterprise already at Warp 10. But let’s hear some more from Paul.

“I bought it through the Mercedes certified pre-owned program last spring when I sold my 2004 Mercedes E500 sedan with 220,000 miles,” he said. “I had been looking for one for about six months that was not black (too menacing), or modified. It came with an unusual interior (most are black or cream colored) and mine was Mystic Red.”

Think Merlot in a $10,000 Baccarat crystal glass.

“This is a unicorn car,” he continues. “It handles like a sports car but has room for clients, family and open house signs. TV screens on the seatbacks provide an entertainment source for grandchildren, too. At the same time, it is discreet enough to blend with traffic and not draw undue attention to itself or the clients within. Car people know what it is immediately and are enthusiastic about seeing it.”

I myself have ridden in this buster and immediately felt that I must respect it.

According to Paul, the best part of owning this car is being able to go to Cars and Coffee events, and seeing the reactions of fellow car guys.

“I use the car for everything short of going to the dump,” he said. “Plenty of room for a foursome and their clubs. With the seats down, my bike fits in the back without taking off the front wheel. When we prepared to evacuate during the fire, I was able to fit the essentials.”

Paul enthusiastically continues, “My clients are not opposed to riding in the car. I love the way the wagon handles on our curvy, mountainous roads without ever feeling tippy or uncertain.”

Further, the brakes are ready to engage when a distracted driver on PCH decides to pull a U-turn from the curb. Yes, people actually do that. In fact, they do a lot worse and it’s important to have a vehicle that can and does respond quickly.

“Despite all the performance of this vehicle, it is still possible to tolerate inching along in a traffic jam on the 405 without losing my temper or having the car misbehave,” Paul continues. “Malibu still has plenty of space between houses and lots of interesting roads in the surrounding hills and mountains. And they will be beautiful again.”

See what I mean? A lifer, Paul is. (Yoda-speak) And as a lifer, he’s seen it all, as I have. As lifers, we realize that our little corner of the planet is unique. And, being unique, it requires a ride that keeps us present in the moment, grateful and open to time travel.

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

Ride of the Week… Actor Badass PATRICK KILPATRICK and his 2017 Jaaaagggg…

You want to know how committed I am to writing Ride of the Week?

Well, as my fingers poke these keys, a massive fire is blazing its way through Malibu, currently at Pt. Dume. But people’s car stories are important, so I’m risking life and limb to bring this week’s column, featuring actor Patrick Kilpatrick and his 2017 Jaguar. Seriously, I gotta write this and then evacuate. So, let’s do this.

As an actor, Patrick has been around a long time, but, according to him, his name wasn’t always Patrick.

“Everyone assumes Patrick Kilpatrick is my made-up stage name, but the truth is a bit more strange,” he explains. “I was born Robert Donald Kilpatrick Jr., but no one ever called me that. That was my father’s name. I was called Pat from Day 1, then ‘Killer’ from age 9 through college.

“At 13 my social security number became Patrick Kilpatrick, then my driver’s license, then passport, marriage certificate all became Patrick. It floated into legality. More easily done in pre-Patriot Act America. When I became an actor, they asked me if I wanted Pat or Patrick for Screen Actors Guild. I chose Patrick — been that way ever since.”

By way of professional evolution, Kilpatrick has been a truck driver (without a license at age 14), dishwasher, camp counselor, swimming/tennis/rowing/sailing instructor, advertising writer/journalist for nearly every magazine in New York City (and most of the ad agencies), playwright, theater founder, assistant director/director on and off Broadway, lead actor in about 160 hit films and TV shows, screenwriter, movie producer, entertainment teacher. (OK, hold on as I need to take a breath.)

And now you can add published book author. But he’s largely known for playing villains against nearly every leading man on Earth (and some leading ladies) and in cinematic outer space.

And what does a villain choose to drive but a 2017 Jaguar XJ with a 340 horsepower V6. Kilpatrick picked up this beast from Galpin Jaguar in Van Nuys. They are very good friends of mine and I recommend them. According to Kilpatrick, “It was love at first glance. I’m a design guy and I really appreciate the lines and details.”

“After putting two fine boys (now young men) through expensive schools and three thrifty Toyota Priuses, I decided I needed to start living in sexy, sleek, deceptively awe-inspiring fast, elegant luxury automotive comfort,” Kilpatrick said. “One look at the car — inside and out — and I knew I was home. One drive and I arrived in engineering heaven. My back and overall health rejoiced and do every time I take it out. I don’t get 50mpg anymore and my insurance went up, but it’s well worth the extra money for the exuberant joy of living. Life is too short.”

But why this particular Jag? Kilpatrick speeds on.

“There are so many truly superb components,” he explains. “I appreciate quiet, stay the line, hyper speed. Everything about the car sings elegant performance precision. The look — black exterior, black leather interior with discreet white piping — is a delight. The dials and circle centric instrumentation are fantastic in simplicity and dynamic visual appeal. Roomy, four doors, electric universe — duel front and rear moon skylights. I can’t say enough about the rich experience of driving the car. All this and more at about half the price of a Tesla. At 110 it feels like you’re doing 50. Excuse me, officer but you’re interrupting an exquisite bonding moment between man and machine.”

This guy has got it goin’ on.

And what do you use it for primarily? Just errands, visiting his sons in Santa Barbara, dinner/movie dates with his fiancé, to slide to the gym and to diss BMWs, he said.

“Every day I will be in the car and imagine I want to be there, I press the accelerator and I am there.”

And, as we drove PCH and did an interview for my show, it felt as if the rest of the town was whizzing by in a panic. (Kind of like right now with the fire!) But to Kilpatrick, Malibu is “the ocean air and view of course, all along Pacific Coast Highway — night, day, sunrise, sunset. In the movie business we call it ‘magic time.’ Glide down the windows, breathe cool negative ions coming off the sea, slide gently but masterfully along the long genteel curves in light. It’s like a massage of the soul, makes living seem infinitely more perfect.”

We had a great time together, just driving and talking about the biz and his new book “Dying for Living.” Grab a copy on Amazon if you want to learn about reincarnation the Hollywood way. Kilpatrick has died and come back to life in so many films that he should start selling lemonade to St. Peter. Now I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again for anyone who loves being evil in movies. “Fall down, pick up check.” There’s no better way to live, die, then live again.

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

Ride of the Week… EFRAIN MORALES and his ’64 Chevy Fleetside

“The truck was a gift from my dad. He found it up in Fresno back in 2010.”

These were the first words spoken by Efrain Morales, whom I met recently at Wheels and Waves here in Malibu. He’s a super nice guy who, in my opinion, performed the perfect truck rescue.

As you may or may not know, 10 percent of our proceeds in my business goes to a Dog Rescue called Hope for Paws in LA. And in many ways, Efrain (Efro) did the same thing with this 1964 Chevy Fleetside Long Bed C10 Pickup.

“It was a farm truck that someone had abandoned at a mechanic shop for over 20 years,” started Morales. “The owner of the shop was getting ready to retire and just wanted to clear out his shop, so my pops got it for $1,000.”

And that, my friends, is what we call a steal.

As the owner of Morales Transport Corporation, Morales is now the proud owner of this big window C10. And since purchasing the “Trokita,” some of the upgrades he’s performed are a 350 engine with 700R4 transmission, front disk brakes and 2 1/2” drop spindles.

“Also, a 2” body drop,” adds Morales. “It’s been C-Notched and bagged, allowing me to lay frame.”

And that, my friends, is what we call slammed. Welcome to the cool school.

Then Morales began to give me more of the background story.

As the owner of a fleet of big rigs, it’s very typical to spend Saturdays driving around picking up parts for his mechanic to keep the trucks on the road.

“I guess you can say it’s a necessity,” Morales said.

“But the best part of my truck is when it takes people on a trip down memory lane,” he said. “Typically, the older folks have the best stories.”

But how does Morales primarily use this truck? His favorite thing to do is to take it on a Sunday cruise, such as one that recently brought him out to Wheels and Waves here in the ’Bu.

But how about a funny story?

“The first cruise after getting it bagged was from Boyle Heights in Venice Beach,” starts Morales. “After hanging out at the beach, I was heading to the freeway at about 2 [inches] off the ground, thinking I looked cool, when I hit a metal plate on the road. It literally stopped me and it felt like I hit a wall. Not having any real way of knowing how low I was, the metal plate made it clear that it was too low. I quickly aired up and drove off.”

And that, my friends, is what we call an oops. I’m sure he left a little C10 divot in the road for good measure.

But, as we always wrap up Ride of the Week with a little love for the ’Bu, according to Morales “the best part about driving from the Boulevard up PCH to Malibu has to be the scenery. A beautiful backdrop for a quick photoshoot. Also, you got to love nicely paved roads where you can cruise low to the ground and enjoy the ocean view.”

(Yep, that’s a plus and what we call freedom.)

Check out Morales on Instagram @efro64 to see more pics of his “Trokita,” from start to finish. And take a moment to ponder how you’d perform a horsepower rescue. Somewhere out there is a lost, lonely vehicle in need of freedom. And you, my friends, are the rescuers. And that’s what we call done.

Have a great week, folks!

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

Get Fireball’s All-New SHARKS Coloring Book! Available now on Amazon!

Ride of the Week: Catching up with a CUSTODIAN of COOL…

When I was a child, I spent many hours under our olive tree with my toy cars — Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Corgis and Dinkys.

I would clear out the leaves from the root systems and create a trail to which I would drive each car completely through. This was what I could control in a family of seven where the unpredictable was predictable.

But I wouldn’t get up until each car had its turn, and I had about 100 cars. So it would take at minimum an hour. When we moved from Palos Verdes to Ojai, I set out to find a new tree, but alas, they were oaks surrounded by ivy. So there were no root systems and I had to find a new car hobby in which to immerse myself.

My parents weren’t into cars, but I was. And I was in deep. I spent my childhood with model kits, car movies, go karts and drawing. Drawing, drawing and drawing.

Guess what? Now, my life is about driving up and down on PCH in a different car every week. And still drawing, drawing, drawing. Seems like a good life, eh? I mean, I was surrounded by all those toy cars my entire upbringing and it’s brought me tremendous joy. What could be better?

Cut to: Pictured here is tiny Max Neel sitting in a 1956 Lincoln Continental. And compared to me and my experience with cars, this kid is a hundred-fold. He spends his days with his dad driving classics, muscle, vintage trailers, classic trucks, antiques and more. I give him my books so he colors like the wind. Every day, he races around a car museum owned by his pop, climbing in and out of every car, capturing the feel, scent and sound of them all. His playground is over 60 years old.

What will life be like for Max in 40 or 50 years? Because of his upbringing with cars, love and passion of his parents and hanging with guys like me and my team, it boggles my mind as to what this kid will be up to. My son Sean was immersed in art, sculpture, movies and Malibu. And now, at 31, he’s a professional sculptor in the film industry having just worked on Star Wars and is a dad himself. And yes, he loves the ocean.

So this week’s Ride of the Week is dedicated to little Max here. And it will stick with him until he’s 50 for sure when he pulls this article out and shows it to me when I’m 90. “Remember this, Fireball?” he’ll say. And on that day, I’ll have the widest smile possible.

Fill your life with those things that give you joy. Immerse your time with those that share your passion. Spend your days doing what you love and loving what you do. And start right now because, in a blink, you’ll be 90, too. And you better hope to God that you’re smiling. I know I will.

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

Ride of the Week! David Neel and his 1964 STUDEBAKER AVANTI…

Classic cars are a big responsibility.

Keeping them clean, restored and fully functional can be a huge headache for some and can take a lot of time. But none of that seems to matter if you love cars.

I mean, who cares really, because the advantages of having a classic car and what you can do with it so far outweighs any headache that it’s not even worth mentioning. Sorry I did, but I have a point and this is Ride of the Week. So, let’s get into this before Christmas shows up.

This is David Neel and his ocean turquoise 1964 Studebaker Avanti R2. Neel is owner of Neel Lighting & Controls (a Ventura County based lighting and controls consulting firm) and executive director of the Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard. According to Neel, both are full-time jobs.

But having known Neel for several years now, I can attest to the fact that he never seems to stop smiling. I would too if I got to play with cars all the time. (Oh wait, I do.) Neel understands the tremendous value of classics these days and the joy they bring. It helps to be near Pacific Coast Highway and the beauty of Malibu, but it’s clear that this man has found his passion.

The Avanti is a factory supercharged car, yielding 290 horsepower from a 289 cubic inch engine and is automatic.

“The car has been rebuilt from the ground up,” starts Neel. “And the builder made sure he built it to factory specs and factory colors. I have the original window sticker and added reproduction Halibrand rims a few years ago. These were a Studebaker dealer option at the time so they are legit to the car.”

Neel has had the car for about five years and it has always been on his checklist of cars to own.

“I ran across it during a car show on the roof of the Petersen Automotive Museum,” he explains. “The owner had it for sale and was taking great care in the presentation and authenticity of the car but was ready to find a new home for it. I knew it was the car for me, called him a few weeks later, and cut a deal. The former owner and I have become good friends and keep in contact from time to time.”

But how about a little bit of Neel’s automotive history? Where did his passion for cars begin?

“When I was a kid walking to the bus stop every day, a lady in the neighborhood would drive by from time to time in her Avanti (this was in the mid 1970s),” he recalled. “I had never seen such a car and was enamored with its one of a kind style and hoped someday I could have one. I have several cars but one thing they all have in common is they are all American brands, unique and built in limited numbers. This makes for better conversation at car shows.”

And there it is, folks. Classic cars give you a chance to share your story. And trust me, people want to hear it.

“It’s one-of-a-kind uniqueness,” David continues. “Every part of the car has a reason for its design. It was designed by famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy and does not have any straight lines, has elliptical wheel wells, pinched Coke bottle design at the center doors when looking down on it, and no grill. ‘Grills are for sewers’ he was quoted as saying.”   

About 5,000 Avantis were built by Studebaker in a two-year period and of that, few were built with a factory supercharger. That makes this very special car. And by the way, it’ll be on display at the Art Center Car Classic on Oct. 26.

“I take the Stoodee out occasionally on pretty weekend days, car rallies and neighborhood car shows,” Neel said. “The demands I place upon it are relatively minor, but it’s always ready to go.”

And Neel’s best short story?

“It’s a recurring story,” he explains. “Most folks under 50 years old do not know what it is, think it’s from an Italian manufacturer and once I tell them it’s a Studebaker, they always respond, ‘Who built Studebakers?’ If you can answer that, then you get a lollipop.”

On Malibu — a paradise where Neel visits frequently — Neel says he enjoys “the amazing scenery, picture opportunities and driving with the windows down, radio off and listening to the supercharger whine.”

It’s pretty clear why we have a hard time getting anything done, but when it comes to putting joy coins in the bank, we’re rich as can be.

Thanks, David. If Rocky were a car, he’d be your Avanti.

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.

Ride of the Week… A DATE WITH CHRISTINE!!

Pretty much everyone on the planet knows of Christine, the 1957 Plymouth Fury who terrorized a small town with her jealous, flaming rage and left havoc in her rearview mirror.

But, I’ll bet you didn’t know that Christine is a very different lady on the weekends? Much more subdued on the jealousy angle than most might think, yet she seems to cause a bit of mayhem wherever she goes.

I got a chance to interview her and take a spin (shotgun of course) and speak with this evil harlet of the silver screen on her likes and dislikes, and what she does around Halloween in the ’Bu. And of course, why she loves Malibu (in a slightly dark, sinister and comical way).

On the outside, while Christine sits still parked at the Country Mart, fans gather and take pictures. But one thing that Christine loves most is that the moment she moves, everyone around her scatters like bugs. Sitting still, she’s an innocent classic, but the moment her tires roll, her movie character comes to life and people really freak. I got to see this first-hand.

“With the slightest roll, I can move everything and everyone out of my way,” Christine said. “It’s a plus when I need to pull out of tight places. People think I’m going to burst into flames and chase them. It’s funny … yet, I might. All depends on how annoying they are. I don’t mind selfies, but don’t sit on my hood or I’ll give you a free ride to the morgue!”

Yeah, that was a little unnerving for a first sit down with Hollywood’s favorite evil car, but I cautiously went with it.

Once on the road up PCH as the sun began to set, I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. But the interview just kept rolling with some of Christine’s likes.

“I like Tesla and think it’s about time for self-driving cars,” she said. “I’ve been doing this since 1983 and it’s why John Carpenter tapped me for the role in the movie. The tech is there and I’m proof. But I just had to get him over my arrest record. I’ve been towed more times than I can count! But sitting on the side of the road in the dark seems to scare people, and I tend to do it in lots of creepy places. I just like the darkness … and, during Halloween, it gets much, much darker.”

We rolled into Pavilions at Point Dume and as the car wound through the parking lot, we got a combination of smiles accompanied by moms grabbing their children and running.

“If I pass someone in a parking lot and then suddenly stop, they scatter like I’m gonna back up and eat them with my trunk,” Christine said. “I might!! But I have to shop also and don’t need a bunch of people trapped in my trunk while I do it. What kind of sense would that make!”

Yeah, I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that, so I just smiled and prayed that I’d make it back home and not end up as a real Fireball. But Christine’s dislikes were far more interesting.

“I don’t like passengers that leave trash on my dashboard or eat in my seats,” she said. “They do that … and I’ll turn them into a charred McNugget, and have. You won’t be seeing them any time soon, except maybe during Halloween as a ghost or goblin,” she said, with a smirk on her polished chrome bumper.

Pretty sure she was kidding. I think.

“I don’t like drivers on PCH who pull U-turns on the bridge, make left turns in the middle of the highway with their butts sticking out or speeders,” she continued. “If I catch you, I won’t be giving you a ticket, but a one-way trip to St. Peter without your car.”

Carpenter will attest to that, as some of his crew would randomly disappear during the shoot.

“I have no recollection of that,” said Christine. “Maybe they just didn’t like working with a star like me. I can be a bit of a bear in my trailer when I haven’t had enough oil.”

On Malibu, Christine’s favorite spots are corner lots in the dark, long driveways of random people’s houses and overgrown backyards.

My time with Christine revealed a lot of things. Mainly, I saw my life flash before my eyes and thanked God I got back. But, also, she revealed to me her inner charm and evil, funny humor regarding everything from Starbucks to zombies. She’s a Zombie Uberist on weekends and likes the fact that they don’t talk much, but tend to leave a few parts behind in the backseat. Not like she can do anything about it, as they are already dead. She’s building up a collection though.

This Halloween, Christine will be cruising up and down PCH, doing her best to scare as many people as possible. Her record is 2,100 and she plans on beating that to a pulp. For some reason, I believe her … and will be on high alert.

Thanks Christine for taking the time to cruise with Fireball! I’m very grateful not to have become a McNugget. And I won’t be pulling any U-turns anytime soon!

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.