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This is a question that I have found myself asking from time to time throughout my life. Sometimes it is a question I ask in total amazement and appreciation, at other times it is more in disgust or frustration, and sometimes it is a bit of both. As I sit here writing this article that question has popped up in my head yet again, where will I end on this adventure? My name is Chris Holley and I have spent years thinking and reading about automobiles, working on customer vehicles, instructing students, and modifying, fabricating, and racing my own vehicles.
My first experience with Mopar cars was in the late sixties on my 2nd day on this big planet with a simple ride home from the hospital in my Dad’s 1968 Road Runner. While this ride was relatively insignificant in my life, I have no recollection of this car or any photographic proof the ride actually occurred, it is a story I was told and I am sticking with it. That ’68 RR was traded in on a 1970 340 pistol grip 4-speed Cuda sporting a sublime green exterior with a white vinyl top and white interior. My Dad had the Cuda for only four years but that was the vehicle that made a great impression upon me. I can remember working with Dad, actually just watching or holding the droplight usually directed toward his eyes, on the points, changing the oil, installing Thrush mufflers, and touching up the paint chips after another upstate NY winter. Even as a child I thought the lines of the Cuda with a long hood and short decklid looked mean and the fact that Dad’s Cuda had the black steel wheels with the lug nuts exposed (the hub caps where stolen and never replaced) made the Cuda look even tougher to a four-year old boy. That Cuda was the vehicle that took the family (Mom, Dad, my sister and me) on vacations to Columbus, Ohio to attend the NHRA Spring Nationals or the Summer Nationals in Englishtown, New Jersey. There were other trips to Maple Grove in Pennsylvania and smaller tracks throughout the northeast. On every vacation the Cuda towed the small Coleman pop-up camper to the nearest campground by the track we were visiting. In 1974 the Cuda ended up being a victim of growing children that needed more rear seat room, the need for a better tow vehicle, and Oil Embargo in 1973 that resulted in the ever increasing gas prices in conjunction with the rationing of gasoline. After the Cuda was sold, what followed was a succession of fuel efficient non-Mopar vehicles but the Cuda always stuck with me. Recently, I asked my Dad for the VIN so I can attempt to find what became of the Cuda but I have not had any success, yet.
As a child of the '70s and early '80s I was fortunate to get my Mopar vehicles in the form of plastic models and diecasts. For the weekly chores, I was required by my parents to perform, I got a buck in allowance. This was perfect, Mom worked at a pharmacy that sold AMT, Revell, and MPC models for less than a month’s worth of allowance. Also, at the pharmacy were Hot Wheels and Matchbox diecast vehicles for $0.79 and on occasion two for a buck so I could get my fix of car stuff. I got every cool but realistic Hot Wheels or Matchbox car I could. I liked the Hot Wheels that looked like real cars and when the Don “the Snake” Prudhomme Plymouth Arrow and the Tom “the Mongoo$e” McEwen Corvette where made available I quickly snapped those cars up. They were just like the race cars at the track. There were many times that I converted my Hot Wheel’s Thundershift 500 oval track into a makeshift drag strip with the Snake and the Mongoo$e lined up for a quarter mile best of five match race. No offense to Mr. McEwen but the Snake almost always won the match races. In addition to the Hot Wheels, I had various AFX slot car tracks and eventually a TCR (Total Control Racing) slot less track with two cars and a jamb car. With the slot cars I was constantly changing the contacts, the gears on the motors, and playing with the magnets on the motors in hopes of improving the performance of the cars. In 1977, Dad got a drag racing board game by Vallco and this, to me, was the greatest game ever. It had Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Comp; I ran the Funny Car series for the entire 1977 season at least 100 times. I kept points for each season and again the Snake was the man in his Arrow. When I got older I got the 1980 version of the game and I, again, ran that season over and over with Raymond Beadle becoming a force in his “Blue Max” Arrow.
As I grew up I always had an interest in mechanical parts and pieces. I liked to take things apart and see how they worked. After some experimenting I then learned to put things back together correctly (most of the time). In high school I was a college prep student I guess because I got decent grades, I had an interest in taking automotive or auto body classes but I was always directed away from those classes by the counselors that suggested I take all the advanced level classes so I would be ready for college. Remember my statement, “how did I end up here”? Their guidance was extremely frustrating to me. I had no real aspirations to go to college but that was the direction everybody guided me to follow. I eventually did go to college after working for a few years right out of high school but again I was guided, by college advisors, in the direction of non-mechanical classes. I selected computer science a field in which my Dad worked his entire life. Shortly after starting college I got a job at Sears, Roebuck, and Co. in the automotive department. That was a great way to get started in the automotive field and I found it much more exciting than computer science. After about a year at Sears I changed my major to automotive technology and selected a different college, North Metro Technical Institute (now Chattahoochee Technical College located in Acworth, GA). For the next two years I went to school by day and worked at Sears in the evenings and on weekends; I started as nothing more than a tread-head (tire changer) eventually working up to lube, battery installer, and eventually a suspension specialist. Once I my earned Associate of Science degree I was hired by an import high-line manufacturer where I was a bumper-to-bumper ASE certified Master technician. Even though I had a decent career I always thought I could do more with my life. So I started attending college again, while continuing to work, to concentrate on an Information Systems Technology degree. I, eventually, earned my Bachelor of Science from Kennesaw State College (located in Kennesaw, GA) and I temporarily left the automotive field to work in the professional suit and tie business world in various network administration positions.
After about five years in the computer industry I had a chance meeting with a former college professor from North Metro Tech that expressed to me that the college was looking for a new professor to teach first and second year students the latest automotive technology. He thought I would be a good candidate for the position. I applied, prepared a presentation, presented a class lesson to my former professors (very intimidating), an HR representative, and one VP, and was subsequently hired. I was now back in the automotive field and academia has proven to be the most exciting and personally fulfilling career for me. While teaching at North Metro Tech I earned a Master’s Degree in Management from Southern Polytechnic College (located in Marietta, GA). I was a professor at North Metro Tech for five years teaching every automotive class offered at least once but I was usually focused upon teaching the electrical, suspension, engine, HVAC, and transmission classes. After five years of employment I was not offered a new contract as a result of a new college focus that was moving away from automotive and similar trades. I searched for a job nationwide interviewing with several colleges and I selected the offer from Pennsylvania College of Technology.