Mike Greener bought his first car before he had a license.
The car was a cherry red 1971 Plymouth Barracuda. His brother had seen it on a car lot and, knowing Greener liked 'Cudas, told him about it. It was his brother who test-drove it for him while Greener talked his mother into co-signing the car loan. To make the car payments, he got an after-school job, but he never quite made enough money to keep up the maintenance, so the condition of the car went steadily downhill. After four years he parked the car and it sat.
“I always had the hope that I would be able to get back to it and restore it,” Greener said.
He had taken auto body and painting at the Regional Vocational Center, now the Anthis Career Center, when he was in high school so he knew how to do it. He was getting ready to restore it one summer when he was a college student at Purdue. But before that could happen someone pulled out in front of him while he was driving the car and he ended up in a ditch. That about totaled the car. He parked it at his parents' house and again the car sat. The passenger door and quarter panel were smashed in, and the rear end was bent. But he didn't get rid of still it planning to someday restore it.
He finally did get to it after he and his wife were married. In 1989, his wife, Jane, began a series of brain surgeries for a tumor, with the last operation in 1997. It was while his wife was recuperating he decided to restore the car. It gave him something to do that took his mind off what he and Jane were going through.
“It was really therapy for me. it was a release,” Greener said.
In 2000 his wife was getting better so they started their family and had a son, Christopher, in 2002. In all it took Greener 18 years to restore the car with a little help along the way from friends who also restore cars. The hunt for parts took him to several states. Greener said he did 98 percent of the restoration himself including the bodywork and paint.
He finished the car three years ago and has entered it in a number of car shows where it's won several trophies. He is a member of a local Mopar club.
Mopar is a word invented by Chrysler for their motor parts division. There are Mopar Clubs and Greener belongs to one of these. He has gone on several hot rod Power Tours, which are put on by GM. During the tour, car owners drive their restored cars from city to city.
Chris, 12, was around through a lot of the restoration. Greener was working on the car one day when he heard a hissing sound. He turned around and Chris, who was six at the time, had poked a hole in his air hose. Greener was able to take his son's interest in the project and use it to give him an extra pair of hands.
“He's had his arms down the cold air vents holding a nut for me, and helped me bleed the brakes,” Greener said.
Greener said he has really enjoyed the father son time the car restoration has provided them. Now they go to car shows and have done a couple of the Power Tours together. Chris is already thinking about what kind of a car he will get when he turns 16.