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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I got some news earlier this week that wasn't good, and it's been on my mind ever since. I thought I'd lay out my thoughts here. Some of you may appreciate them, others may think they belong on another forum.

I lost a friend. A friend I've met twice, spoken to on the phone 4 times, traded emails maybe a dozen times. But in some ways he is one of my closest friends.

I'm a Lotus fan, BIG Lotus fan. Look at my signature. I lusted for an Europa when I was a teenager. During the slot car craze of the 60's/70's, I went all in and only wanted to race Lotus slot cars.

Shortly out of college, in the late 70's I bought my first 'real' Lotus: a white 1970 S2 Europa that had been bashed under the right front headlight when the owner had hit a cat, at least that was his story. He had done some rough repair, but I bought it thinking I could finish it off. HAH! I had no idea at all what I was getting into in Lotus ownership, and while I enjoyed owning the car, it was soon obvious I was in over my head and the car found a home out west.

The guy who connected me with that seller is a regular here, a dealer. He wasn't a dealer back then, he was just a Lotus enthusiast (who gave me my first rides in a Europa and a 7) with whom I went to both high school and college. You know him here as a dealer in Florida who sells fine sports cars of all kinds, and here he is always selling a rebuilt Elise or Exige.

Life moved along, Lotus came and went. 2 more Europas, An 84 Turbo Esprit. 3 Elise's, 2 Exige's. The latter Exige was an S220, and to the extent one can actually love a car, I did.

Not retired yet, but we're on a glide path. So in doing some planning (something Lotus ownership does not contribute to) I decided the Exige had to go, it would be my last Lotus. Other priorities and all.

We even moved into an over 55 community with two assigned parking spaces, one being a tiny one car garage. I'd painted myself into a corner, no way I could own another Lotus and keep it here.

Life was good, but Lotus-less with the exception of my collection of vintage Lotus slot cars, some of which were quite valuable on the collector market.

But every once in a while I'd look at Lotus for sale, just for grins. Here, ebay, craigslist, Hemmings, Autotrader, etc. It was kind of like looking at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition...can't have any, but fun to look.

Until one day I looked in Craigslist, and for some reason I don't recall looked in the Wilmington, DE. section. There was one of the most beautiful Europas I had ever seen. Dark blue, it had been resprayed a non-Lotus color. But not a bother, it's a given that when you own an Europa you HAVE to change some things around.

There were four pictures in the ad, two exterior, one interior, one of the most immaculate engine bays I've ever seen...new or used...vintage or modern.

Was going to be nice weather that weekend, so what could it hurt to take the 1.5 hour drive up I95 to see the car? So I did. That's when I met my friend.

I arrived at Duane's garage at the appointed hour. Outside was a Fox body Mustang. "My daughter's" he said. She banged it up and I told her I'd fix it. He went on to explain, as we walked around back to the garage entrance, that he was a service manager for a Toyota dealer, but he's always been a car guy. Used to wrench in crews in FF racing 'back in the day.'

We walked through a side door of his cinderblock, free-standing garage and I stopped short. Talk about a man cave. Two boats, two motorcycles, one a chopper, his Mercedes daily driver, the Lotus was over in the corner. It was beautiful, and ordinarily I'd run right to it, but a covered car over in the corner caught my eye.

"What's under there?" I asked. "Something you'll probably only see in a museum." He pulled back the cover and there sat a 1957 BMW 507 in its final stages of restoration. A restoration he was doing for an acquaintance. Those cars change hands for $1 million, and this was near perfect.

I figured if some guy trusted him to restore his million dollar baby, the Lotus must be great.

It was. It is. Nearly everything looked brand new. The engine looked like it was freshly assembled, he had had an aluminum radiator fabricated "I hate things to overheat" he said. Redone interior (except, mysteriously, the wood dash had not been refinished).

I cannot describe the attention to detail here, but let me say the shop that did my post purchase inspection said it was the most detailed car they'd seen there, and they prepare cars for Amelia Island, Pebble Beach, and maintain extensive collections for customers.

He was asking $25K. Absolutely top dollar for the Europa Twin Cam market...that for a near concours car. This car was great, but it wasn't complete yet. The heater fan wasn't there, the parking brake handle wasn't installed, that dash needed to be refinished, and....well, that was about it.

I threw a number at him considerably lower than his asking. I didn't want to insult him, but I told him the number was simply what the car would be worth to me.

He had only advertised it in Craigslist. He said he wasn't part of the Lotus community...had never been to this forum, didn't hook up with British car groups. He had taken the car to exactly three British Car days and took first place each time.

His joy was in building the car. He told me a guy from NY was coming down to look at it, so I made the drive home thinking I'd missed out.

The following week, Duane called and asked if I wanted the car for what I offered. "Yup," I do.

A week later I was there with a hired roll back truck. As he was pulling down off the shelves in his shop the original wheels, the old radiator, and all the other useless things one keeps when owning an old British sports car, he said I needed to help him. He had just had gall bladder surgery and he wasn't really cleared to lift anything.

I said 'no problem,' and got up on the ladder. He added "They got my gall bladder, but found cancer." That's all he said about it, I didn't ask anything...all I could do was express my concern. I realized though, that he had already moved on...nothing in this shop was at all important to him anymore. His life focus, his priorities had changed.

I stopped on the way home at a title shop, and by the time the truck got the car home I had plates and registration for it.

It was now Fall, and there were only a few local Cars and Coffee and shows to take it to before putting it up for the winter. Everywhere I took it, people flocked around, complimenting me on the car and its exquisite detail. I told everyone it wasn't my doing, all I did was buy it. I told Duane's story about the restoration being a many year labor of love.

Over the winter, the car got its parking brake, the heater fan, and I installed a GPS speedometer when the gear drive in the trans crapped out. This week I emailed Duane to tell him that the car was near ready for the driving season.

A day or two later, I got an email from his girlfriend. She told me Duane had passed away a few weeks earlier.

I look at that car differently. He spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours dismantling everything on that car. Every nut, bolt, screw, wire...except for that dash.

I didn't know Duane very well. But we will be spending a lot of time together this year as I take his car to Katie's, Hunt Valley, The Original British Car Day, Brits by the Bay, MG's on the Rocks, and the Church of the Holy Donut.

And when people compliment me on what I've done with the car, I will be quick to point out it wasn't me, it was Duane.

I asked the mods to change my user ID to 4380R, it's the VIN for this car. No longer lotusforsale. The car has its 40th birthday coming up, it rolled off the line on 3/27/1974.

Thanks for reading.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
More of Duane's work...
 

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Thanks! I agree that Duane was quite a skilled craftsman, though I don't believe I knew him.

I've known for years that the personal relationships built around my love of Lotus is what makes me happiest. My wife thinks cars are 'OK', but loves the friends we may only see once a year at LOG.

That is truly a beautiful Europa. I had my '72 Twincam from 1980 thru 2001. My VIN was 2481R!
 

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WOW! What an absolutely grand story behind the car and the man! Only a handful of us could ever come close to such a rich history! Thanks for sharing such a fantastic tale of devotion!
 

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Wow, that was a touching post. That car certainly is in immaculate shape. Sorry to hear about the death of a man with that level of devotion.
 

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I really enjoyed that story.
 

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Thanks for telling the story. It's nice to think that your friend will be remembered every time someone appreciates the car.
 

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Great story. Just great.

And glad you explained the screenname change. As I was reading it, I was thinking 'man, this guy sound familiar and has had a lot of Loti, but I don't know who this guy is based on the screen name'

Now, I know. So, hey, welcome to the forum, 4380r! Best first post ever! :)

Seriously, thanks again for taking the time to write this. I put this one up there with the one that the guy posted a few months ago speaking about how his wife surprised him with the Elise in the garage on his 50th bday.
 

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Thank you for sharing. I love when people "get it," whatever "it" may mean to you. This meant something to me.
 

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Awesome story T. thanks for sharing and I can't wait to see the car in person at the Holy Doughnut. :clap:
 

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Great story! Thanks for taking the time to share!
 

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Beautiful story and beautifully expressed. I'm sure he was happy that the car went to someone who truly appreciates it.
 

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A really nice tribute to Duane and the car he restored. Am sure he rests well knowing it's in caring hands. Thanks!


Sent from AutoGuide.com Free App
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks for the kind comments.

BRGreen Katie's Cars and Coffee is in Great Falls, Va. Might be a bit of a hike for you, I live equi-distance between Hunt Valley and Katie's. Check out rcollum's pix from Katie's in the mid Atlantic section. Unbelievable cars show up there, worth the hike at least once.

eliseelise: the original wheels have been at the shop all winter. They've been working on them 'in between.' Stopped by week before last to light a fire under the guys at the shop, should be ready soon.
 
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