Andy Gill has always had a strong emotional attachment to his first car, a 1973 Dodge Charger that he proudly says he drove into the ground.
After buying it for $475 at an Everman impound lot, Gill spent his high school years cruising with a carload of classmates around Hulen Park in Cleburne. And there were the frequent races against a friend in his loaded Ford Mustang, when they would go as fast as they could “from red light to red light” around Johnson County.
“I terrorized it,” Gill said. “I went through transmissions. I drove it down country roads like crazy.”
But the car was about more than high school memories. It was also about time spent with his dad, who raised him as a single father.
Strapped for cash eight years later, Gill sold the car for $550 despite a warning from his father that he would regret it.
Until last Saturday, he was convinced he would never see it again.
But walking through a swap meet at Texas Motor Speedway last Saturday, the 45-year-old Gill spotted the Charger from 100 yards.
“I saw it from two rows away,” Gill said. “It’s red. It has a very unique hood.”
The owner of the car, Tulsa classic car dealer Dave Shaw, was 30 minutes away from leaving TMS when he heard Gill shout, “That’s my car!”
Shaw thought Gill was accusing him of having stolen the old vehicle. But he slowly realized he was telling the truth.
“At first, I thought he was kidding around, but he was going all over it,” Shaw said.
Gill told him about modifications to the dashboard and the hood he had placed on the car.
Underneath, a few letters of his first name, Andy, were still visible where he had scrawled them into the car’s frame as a teenager. There was also the dent on the passenger’s side of the car where his friend had once backed into the vehicle.
“But that wasn’t the emotional part,” Gill said.
$475The price Andy Gill paid for the 1973 Dodge Charger in 1987. It would cost him $2,500 to buy it back last week.
When Gill bought the base model car without air conditioning or a radio, he was only 15, so the name of his father, Walter Gill, was placed on the car’s title.
When one of his friends at the swap meet walked up and showed him the car title still had his father’s name on it, Gill had to fight back tears. Walter Gill died in a 2009 motorcycle accident.
It’s like I got a part of him back.
“It’s like I got a part of him back,” Gill said. “He was in the Navy and I went in the Navy. He wasn’t your typical father. He was more like my buddy. We did all that racing stuff, motocross stuff, together.”
As a classic car dealer, Shaw has heard plenty of stories through the years, but this was a first for him.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve never been involved in something like this,” Shaw said.
Gill and Shaw eventually agreed on $2,500 for the car. Shaw pulled it on a trailer to Gill’s rural Johnson County home last Saturday night.
Gill hasn’t decided what he will do with it. He plans to sell some of his motorcycles and other vehicles to pay for the work.
Right now, the car doesn’t have an engine — it had been sitting under a tarp in Hillsboro when Shaw found it.
Gill could restore it as a classic car but he doesn’t believe the “plain Jane” model would ever fetch top dollar. Or he could try to give it as much horsepower as possible.
For now, Gill said, “I’m leaning toward loud and obnoxious. I want it to go really fast.”