Mark Soeldner had always been a die-hard Mustang guy. In fact, over his many years of driving, the Wheaton resident has owned '65 and '67 examples, as well as a 1971 Mach 1.
Needless to say, he was stoked when his mom, Deloris, purchased a new 1984 coupe.
"Knowing how I liked them, she figured she would, too," Mark said.
His passion, however, wasn't contagious. After six months, the disenchanted 63-year-old driving enthusiast traded it back in. Deloris wanted a ride that, like her, had lots of personality.
That quest led her to Haggerty Pontiac in Villa Park. There, she purchased a 1985 Fiero 2m4 Sport Coupe. The little white two-door was simply perfect. For 19 years, she used it to commute, run errands and pick up groceries.
Hungry for more, Deloris' Pontiac passion drove her to join the Northern Illinois Fiero Enthusiasts car club. In 1998 and 1999, she attended the club's annual event, Fierorama, which took place in Oak Brook. In '98, Mark and his wife Debbie tagged along to support Deloris. That year she won a Class Winner award. To make the event even more special, the show coincided with the exact date she purchased the car: Sept. 13.
"She was so proud and happy," Mark said. "She was beaming."
Deloris wasn't alone in her love of driving. Mark's dad, Paul, encouraged spirited jaunts. Mark recalls one such time on the opening of I-355 in 1989. Together, the couple motored from end to end, just to get out and about in their Fiero. Deloris enjoyed the car right up until August 2004 when she suffered a stroke. She was just about to turn 82.
"For the first couple of months, she kept asking, 'When can I drive my Fiero?' " Mark recalls. Her health deteriorated and sadly Deloris never drove again. Her husband brought the car often to the nursing home. Paul wanted to keep it running right in the event Deloris recovered. He only stopped because the precious Pontiac developed an electrical problem.
Two years later, Mark's father informed him that Deloris wanted him to have the car. Deloris passed away in September 2008. After settling the estate, Mark took the car to a local mechanic. He expected the worst for the vehicle, which had been sitting for three years. Surprisingly, all that was needed was basic maintenance.
In all those years, Mark had never once driven his mom's beloved racer. Now, with lots of wheel time, he, too, has fallen in love with it and the Fiero culture. Not only did he join NIFE, too, but he serves on the club's board of directors.
"It's the greatest honor to use the car to preserve the memory of Mom," he says.
Heartfelt motoring stories like this are worth celebrating and sharing. That's the intent of Daily Herald Cruise Nights. The July show took place Wednesday at Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale and featured nearly 300 show cars. The limelight wasn't on the glistening chrome and spotless paint. The focus was on the memories.
Come join us at our next event at 5 p.m. Aug. 17 at Stratford Square.
• Share your car's story with Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.